In 2017, after losing her brother Lukas to an overdose at just 19 years old, Sofia Goguen started the Lukas House Society to honour her brother’s memory, raise awareness among youth of the dangers of opioids and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and addictions.
However, according to Goguen, the organization got off to a slow start due to the “overwhelming grief” she was feeling from the loss of her brother, which led to her own mental health struggles eventually resulting in a hospital stay.
But despite the ups and downs that persist to this day, it only took a couple weeks after Lukas’ passing for Goguen to find what would become one of the most important components of her healing journey—skateboarding.
“My brother was a skateboarder and when he died, I think maybe a week or two after I had this crazy insane desire to get on a skateboard and ride,” said Goguen. “So I bought my first board and when I was starting, every time I was feeling like my heart was ripped out of my chest and I felt like crying I would just go on my board and that was like my way to cope instead of turning to drugs or abusing other substances.
“And skateboarding became my favourite sport and my way to cope with my grief in a way that I felt connected to my brother still, even though he’s no longer physically with us.”
From that connection with her brother and her new-found love of skateboarding, Goguen and the other board members at Lukas House Society decided to host an overdose awareness skateboard event at the Whistler Skate Park on Aug. 28, to raise awareness of B.C’s growing opioid crisis.
The event takes place from 2 to 6 p.m. and is expected to have upwards of 500 people attend, which would make it one of the biggest overdose awareness events ever held in Whistler.
It will consist of skateboarding, raffle prizes, naloxone training by Whistler Community Services Society, a speech by Goguen about her own mental health struggles and a memorial canvas where people can write messages to all the people who have been lost to overdoses.
“We want to get the [naloxone kits] out into people’s hands that need it most. And Whistler is a party town and there is a lot of recreational drug use happening,” explained Goguen.
“So we just want people to be safe, as we are coming out of a global pandemic where borders have been closed and supply chains have been cut and it’s just the most toxic drug supply that we’ve ever faced. And now stuff is laced with such high concentrations of lethal mixtures of carfentanil, fentanyl, all this stuff that naloxone is almost not enough for anymore, but it’s better to have it than to not.”
According to a statement from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, the drug poisoning crisis across B.C. and every province in the country “has worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Thousands are grief stricken from losing someone they love to overdose and the collective sorrow swells for all those who are missing someone,” continued the statement.”
And it’s experiencing that first-hand that is driving Goguen to spread her message and story to the younger generation, to educate them about how to help someone who is having an overdose.
“One person’s death affects the whole family, the whole friend circle,” she said, adding that five people a day in B.C. are lost to addictions. “Now all those people have to deal with a loss that is unbelievably painful. So each person’s death is affecting a huge circle of people that are all going to have mental health struggles dealing with this trauma and that number is multiplied by five every single day.
“So, it’s really important that [teenagers] know how to respond to an overdose, and they know the steps necessary to get someone help.”
Goguen, who has done public speaking at schools in the past and plans to get back into sharing her story with kids in Sea to Sky schools soon, hopes that if the kids take away anything from her message it’s to spread love and look after those you care about.
“I would want [the takeaway to be], to love each other so much and look after your friends and be there to help them in case of emergency and to support them through any difficulties they are facing in their life,” she said.
“Because I personally wouldn’t have made it through these last seven months if I didn’t have my friends to support me through it. We are all one-of-a-kind, unique individuals in this universe and a loss of anyone is irreplaceable.”