Kyle McCabe’s long road to a fentanyl overdose

Kyle McCabe died in Kelowna on April 30, the result of a fentanyl overdose. His brother Corbett told us Kyle's story of addiction.

Kyle (left) and Corbett McCabe.

Kyle McCabe’s downward journey that resulted in him overdosing on fentanyl began decades before his death.

According to his brother, Corbett, he began drinking as a teenager. Alcohol led to other drugs until April 30, at the age of 42, Kyle was found dead in his bed at a shelter in Kelowna. The coroner said he had taken a non-lethal dose of heroin that was spiked with a lethal amount of fentanyl.

Kyle is one of 308 people to die of an accidental illicit drug overdose in British Columbia up to the end of May this year — a 75 percent increase compared to last year.

More than half those deaths are a result of fentanyl.

While there have been no reported fentanyl deaths in Revelstoke, yet, Corbett, the owner of Thunderbird Massage Therapy, shared his brother’s story as a caution to others who are struggling with addiction, or for those thinking of trying for the first time.

“I want to let families dealing with addiction know they’re not alone,” he said.

***

Kyle McCabe grew up in Regina, the youngest of four siblings. Their father was away working much of the time, and Corbett, as the older brother, was a surrogate father figure of sorts. Kyle started drinking in high school like many have, however “When Kyle started to party, he tended to stay away from me,” Corbett said.

Kyle would drink a lot. Eventually leading to other drugs. “Whiskey and cocaine,” said Corbett.

He was smart, did well in school, was outgoing and liked being around people. One of his goals, as ironic as it is, was to be a social worker and work with youth battling addiction. Sadly, over the years, Kyle’s addictions got the better of him. From the age of 30 onwards he went into 13 different treatment programs, ranging in length from one to ten months. It consumed his life.

“I think of it like half of his time Kyle was thinking about getting high and the other half he was thinking about not getting high,” said Corbett.

Kyle overdosed twice in his 30s. Eventually, at the age of 40, he found himself going back to school and living with a sister in Red Deer.

“He was sober and doing excellent. He was top of his class and midway through his final exams he called an old drug contact and the next morning he was found barely alive in his home,” said Corbett.

He had overdosed and was in a coma.

After this incident, he dropped out of school and was in and out of programs in Red Deer. He was no longer able to stay with his family and began living on the street or in shelters — wherever he could.

***

Photo: The McCabe family snowboards at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. ~ Photo contributed

Just before Christmas 2014, Corbett drove to Red Deer to get him into a detox centre in Calgary. “I said if he was willing to get some help, I would help him and get him to Calgary,” he said.

Kyle spent about a month in Calgary and another month in a different centre south of the city. In February 2015, Corbett drove to Alberta to pick up his brother and bring him to Revelstoke to live with him and his two sons, Liam and Caine. The condition was he would stay sober and be part of the family.

For a while, Kyle did well. For the first time since he was 15 he had been sober for a whole year. He attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings, got a job with Downie Timber and snowboarded at the resort. “We had a lot of fun,” said Corbett. “He did really well for the first six months. He was quite engaged.”

Slowly, he started to drift away. He would retreat to his room and pull away from the family.

“We were suspecting things were getting to the point where he wanted to use,” said Corbett. “He was pulling himself from the good things in his life because ultimately he wanted to drink and get high.”

Even with those signals, Kyle’s relapse was sudden. One day, after 13 months sober, he called a friend of a friend and was able to get hold of some crack cocaine. He did that two days in a row, but tried to hide it from the family before coming clean.

Kyle went off the deep end a week later in February, when Corbett and his two sons were at the BC Winter Games in Penticton for a weekend. While they were gone, Kyle went on a bender, consuming an unseemly amount of alcohol — two 40 ounce bottles of hard alcohol and another four mickeys in less than 24 hours. “I don’t know how he lived,” said Corbett.

He missed three shifts at work and was fired from his job. On Monday, Corbett went to work; the plan was that Kyle would need to move out after breaking his promise to stay sober.

That day, Kyle drank more. When Corbett got home, he kicked him out; Kyle’s first destination was the liquor store. “It was so sad and sickening to see him,” said Corbett.

He called the paramedics to get his brother, and the RCMP showed up as well. Kyle was taken to the hospital, then to a detox centre in Kamloops. After two weeks, Corbett brought him back to Revelstoke.

“We said we could help him, but he couldn’t live with us,” said Corbett. Kyle stayed with them until he was able to get into treatment.

***

Photo: Kyle McCabe (right) with his brother Corbett (left) and Corbett’s sons Caine and Liam. ~ Photo contributed

Kyle went to a treatment program in Kelowna, however after two weeks he was suspended from it for using the powerful opiate oxycontin. He left and found a different program, where the goal was to complete certain steps to get back into treatment.

On Friday, April 29, Corbett sent Kyle money to buy a vaporizer. Corbett had been monitoring his brother’s money, and his spending. Kyle would take pictures of his purchases and receipts as to show that he was responsible enough to deal with small amounts of money. If he asked for more, it raised a red flag, said Corbett.

That night, Kyle didn’t return to the mission. Instead, Corbett assumes he went somewhere and snorted heroin. Later the next day, in the afternoon, he was found dead in his bed at the mission.

“The coroner figures he probably died in the morning,” said Corbett. “He had a casual dosage of heroin and a lethal dosage of fentanyl. “The RCMP and Victims Services showed up at our door just before midnight of May 1st and when they said my brothers name, my heart was broken,” said Corbette.

The next day Corbett and his sons drove to Kelowna to view Kyle and make sure it was him. It was a sad day.

I spoke to Corbett a month after his brother’s death. He didn’t know what exactly led Kyle down this destructive path.

“We don’t know if there was a defining moment that caused it, or if it was a progression from drinking,” he said.

At some point, he started using cocaine, and it was a rollercoaster downhill from there. Corbett doesn’t know if his brother used opiates in the past, or if it was a new drug for him.

Like for so many others, the presence of fentanyl turned a destructive addiction into a deadly one.

“I see it as when you play with fire, sometimes this is what happens,” said Corbett. “Another part of me feels he was murdered.”

More: Fentanyl likely present in Revelstoke, experts say

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