Cyclist Mathew Fee and members of his travelling support team from the John Volken Academy celebrating the end of Fee’s cross-Canada ride in Victoria Oct. 8. (Contributed photo)

Cyclist Mathew Fee and members of his travelling support team from the John Volken Academy celebrating the end of Fee’s cross-Canada ride in Victoria Oct. 8. (Contributed photo)

Former Terracite Mathew Fee finishes cross-Canada trip on BMX bike

Fee biked more than 7,000 kilometres to raise awareness about addiction treatment

Former Terracite Mathew Fee’s 7,000 kilometre six-month bicycle ride across Canada is testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome immense personal challenges and to triumph over adversity.

As if cycling across the country wasn’t challenging enough, the 33-year-old completed the epic journey on a single-speed Haro Citizen BMX bike, not an ideal choice for cycling up hills and through mountain passes.

“Now I know why no one else has tried to do this,” Fee jokes about his gruelling coast-to-coast journey, pedalling through scorching summer weather, rain and wind, at one point covering more than 200 kilometres in a day.

He never stopped for a break while peddling up hill, and says he would tap into a meditative state to get him through the most difficult sections.

“Not stopping on a hill became a symbol of never giving up,” Fee says. “No matter how impossible it seems to get over that hill, no matter how much you’re hurting, you can do it.”

He was quick to point out that while the journey was challenging, it wasn’t as challenging as the events in his life that led up to his cross-country journey.

Then three years ago at the age of 30, Fee lost his job, overdosed and woke up at the Mills Memorial Hospital, the result of a lifetime of suicidal thoughts, addiction and depression following the loss of a close friend when he was only 15 years old.

“I felt completely alone. I went from one treatment program to another but none of them were any help,” said Fee.

Lying in bed in hospital, Fee realized he was in trouble and would have to take drastic action, or face the possibility of another suicide attempt and the possibility of death.

While in recovery, his mother showed him a news clip about the John Volken Academy, a treatment centre in Surrey specializing in a holistic and focussed treatment. Fee says the long-term aspect and therapeutic community model sold him. He applied and was accepted into treatment.

“I got more personal growth within three months at the academy than I did over a year in another program,” he told the Terrace Standard back in April. “Everyone progresses up through leadership programs and different phases of the program, and once you get further you mentor the newer students. It’s really special.”

READ MORE: Cyclist braking the stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Fee says riding his BMX across the country has been a dream since the age of seven. When he was growing up in Terrace, he would often ride around the skate park and fly off dirt jumps in the woods with his friends.

While undergoing therapy, he was reminded of his dream and thought it could be a great way of raising awareness about addiction treatment, and to celebrate his own recovery.

Fee and his travelling addiction recovery team at the John Volkens Academy in travelled to Halifax to begin the ride to Victoria on May 1.

They documented every step of the way on social media with videos and posts, gathering over a thousand followers and inspirational messages from across Canada. During rest days, Fee would stop off in towns and cities along the way to speak with people about his mission.

In Medicine Hat, Alta., Fee remembers talking with a man who also struggled with serious addiction and was able to turn his life around. The man had also biked across Canada with his friends in celebration of his new-found sobriety, though they chose to ride mountain bikes instead.

“Hearing his stories and the fact that I took a similar route that he did meant we really connected. Now he works with police in Medicine Hat on a crisis team helping out other people with addictions on the street. That was one of my favourite success stories,” Fee says.

READ MORE: Province unveils 10-year plan to boost mental health, addiction recovery services

Messages of love and support from Terrace also helped to cheer him on, he says. Given his struggles with addiction in the past, he says at first he didn’t expect to receive such an outpouring of positivity and encouragement from his former classmates, teachers, principals and friends.

As he approached the end of his ride, Fee and his team got as many people together to ride into downtown Vancouver with him on Oct. 6, along with fire ambulances, police cars and cheering crowds.

After getting on a ferry at Horseshoe Bay, Fee finished his ride in Victoria on Oct. 8, marking the occasion with a picture of him hosting his BMX bike over his head on the Pacific Ocean shore.

Despite the physical and mental challenges of the ride, Fee says it was all worth it to be able to inspire others and help fight the stigma of addiction.

“Love and kindness is what’s going to help with addiction,” he says.

“One thing I learned is to never underestimate myself or another person. I used to not believe in myself, and I’d have all this insight that I wanted to convey, but I couldn’t. Through all my long heartfelt posts during the bike ride, it’s just opened my eyes to my own problems. I really learned how to not shrink as a person, but to rise up.”

Now that his ride is over, it’s back to normal life for Fee. He will be going back to his security job at the John Volken Academy, where he will continue to mentor students on addiction recovery. He says it will also take some time to get himself used to a more sedentary lifestyle, not having to get up and cycle hundreds of kilometres every day.

“I was recently asked by [Mayor Carol Leclerc] to come in and do a speech and a slideshow at the REM Lee Theatre on the bike ride, so we’ll be doing that,” Fee says, adding he’s hoping to set a date sometime in the spring.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

Accessibility improvements and more classrooms at the Houston Christian School should be completed by the new school year. (Houston Today photo)
Accessibility improvements coming to Houston Christian School

Construction package includes two classrooms

The soft opening of the nature centre at the Buck Creek CANFOR hatchery took place mid-April. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)
Houston hatchery and nature centre’s upcoming events

The conservation group to host summer students this year

Council wants a say in the expansion of long term care services in Smithers. Pictured here is the Bulkley Lodge facility in that community. (Google photo)
Long term care remains on council priority list

Wants to be involved in expansion plans in Smithers

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Meghan Gilley, a 35-year-old emergency room doctor and new mom was vaccinated from COVID-19 in January, while she was pregnant. She’s encouraging others to do the same. (Submitted)
‘The best decision’: B.C. mom encourages other pregnant women to get COVID-19 shot

Meghan Gilley, 35, delivered a healthy baby after being vaccinated against the virus while pregnant

Most Read