At just 49, Dwayne Higgins has already packed more into his lifetime than most.
He’s been swept up in the whirlwind of the high life – extraordinary success, enjoying friendships with celebrities and relishing the glitzy life in Hollywood. He’s also known despair and shattering loss – loss of career, money, family and friends – due to the prison of addiction.
But Higgins, who was born in Ottawa but attended high school in Red Deer at Lindsay Thurber, is now living a new kind of life.
But back to the start – the first stirrings of pursuing a show biz career were sparked during an afternoon class working at CKRD radio during his high school days where he underwent training to be an announcer. His path was set. After graduation, he set off for Tinseltown. “I radio announced for about six months and then said I’m going to be an actor,” he recalled. “I had $3,000 in my pocket, hopped on my motorbike when I was 19 and I went to Los Angeles.”
Through sheer ambition and making the right contacts, a glittering world opened up to him – both in work and in lifestyle. The acting thing didn’t go as he had hoped, but there’s plenty more to the industry then that. He went on to become an extremely successful props master working on projects from commercials to music videos. Along the way, he met and worked with countless celebrities and top name directors.
“I worked with Madonna, Celine Dion, Jennifer Aniston,” he recalls during a recent interview of his time in Hollywood back in the 90s and early 2000s. But the good times would come crashing down as he lost himself in a haze of drugs and drinking. Things drastically changed in just months. “Six years later I’m selling heroin on the corner of Hastings and Main in Vancouver,” he said. “That where addiction took me.”
Prior to this, tragedy had also struck several times.
“I had found out my best friend from high school hung himself.” Another close friend – TV star Glenn Quinn (of the hit show Roseanne) died of a drug overdose in 2002 and that also sent Higgins in a downward spiral.
As the stranglehold of addiction closed in, Higgins also tried to take his own life several times.
At one of his lowest points ever, and through the influence of a nurse here in Red Deer, he found the ‘someone’ he said he’d always been missing – God. Moving in a brand new direction thanks to his vibrant Christian faith, Higgins has a whole new purpose and direction.
He recalls meeting the nurse while being treated at the Red Deer hospital after a suicide attempt in Innisfail.
“We talked about God and what I’d been through and where I was emotionally,” he said. “She told me that I had so much to live for. It touched my heart deeply and stirred up my emotions. But I could not comprehend what she really meant by this powerful statement. God will use people, places and things in our lives to bring us to him,” he reads from his book.
“Something in my heart softened towards this God that I’d known my whole life. But I’d never chosen to acknowledge him.”
Meanwhile, he’s just released a book titled From Reel to Real detailing his journey from his youth living in Europe as part of a military family to his years in Los Angeles. “In 2011, I was travelling all over Ontario speaking and sharing my testimony. Three to four people after every event would come up to me and say, ‘When is the book coming out?’ So God was planting the seed five years ago.”
Shortly after, he spent six months working at an African orphanage and towards the end of his time there, he knew that once he returned to Canada it would be time to start the book.
Not that the road has been clear of obstacles or setbacks.
“Addiction showed up and says, ‘I want to be your friend’,” he explained. “But really, addiction just wants to take everything I love, everything I care about and destroy it. In the end, all addiction wants to do is to destroy you.
“So the book explains my life, my journey. It explains addiction.”
The power of addiction is staggering indeed. He recounts how he lost his long-time fiance, his young daughter, his house, the BMWs and the trappings of wealth and prestige. All the material things he owned – gone – auctioned off at a storage facility.
The career that took 15 years to build – gone. He found his best friend dead on my couch from a heroin overdose. He did three months in L.A. County Jail, which he described as basically hell on earth. Later came the deportation back to Canada. “I pray that this list opens people’s eyes to the incredibly destructive powers of addiction,” he reads. “All of that happened over a two-year period.”
He also recalls the day that he got a bottle of Jack Daniels, and his addictions were so incredibly strong that he picked them over my family. ”That’s how incredibly strong your ‘addict’ can be,” he said.
As mentioned, his career had brought him in touch with many big name stars and directors for various shoots. But he also learned that celebrities have all the same struggles common to anyone. “They have kids with addictions, they have marriage and family problems, they’re not happy all the time. Just because they are on a billboard or a TV show, or on the cover of a magazine, they are just people.”
Today, there is no question that Higgins is a changed man.
And the ‘someone’ he mentions throughout the book that he was always searching for – and finally found – was God, he said, adding that his Christian faith has brought freedom, purpose and peace to a life that was once so ruined and bent on destruction.
It doesn’t mean the struggles have been swept aside, he said. For one thing, he hasn’t seen his daughter in 11 years, he said with sadness. But thankfully they do communicate – so there is healing.
Today, he’s looking straight ahead – fully aware of what he’s been through – but intent on sharing his story to give others hope. “This is a journey ordained by God,” he explained, describing his future in particular. “This is to forward his kingdom, and to let people know about addiction through my story and to tell them about my transformation in coming to Christ. It wasn’t a bolt of lightening – it was a process.
“I will fall, but God will pick me back up again.”
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