From Hollywood to Hastings: Vancouver actor recounts his struggle with addiction and recovery | PKBNEWS

As part of a special series, PKBNEWS explores the struggles of those living in the Downtown Eastside. In Part 1, a Vancouver man’s journey from Hollywood to Hastings shows how difficult it is to break out of a cycle of addiction.

Bernie Coulson has been called a genius.

The Vancover-born actor and producer was a key figure in the 1998 Hollywood blockbuster The accused opposite Academy Award-winning Jodie Foster and appeared on TV shows X files to Intelligence.

But the man who once shared an apartment with Brad Pitt in Los Angeles now lives in V6A, one of the poorest postal codes in Canada.

The rising star, who is now in his late 50s, has a new role: trying to stay alive in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.


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In a chance encounter with PKBNEWS near Main and Hastings in October, Coulson explains how he snorts government-issued drugs through a straw while waiting for treatment.

“I’m so lucky this last time. Six months ago, when I overdosed, it was over. It was final and it scared me and I don’t want to go back,” he said.

“I really don’t want that anymore. I just want to be me, which caused me to crack a few colds after work.

Bernie Coulson.

World News

When asked if he wanted to stay on a secure supply, he said no and that it was “not so secure”.

Coulson is determined not to become another coroner’s stat revealed in a monthly press release. More than 10,000 people have died in British Columbia from a toxic drug supply since a public health emergency was declared in 2016.

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Giuseppe Ganci describes how he felt when his friend Don Presland died of an overdose.

“When I got to the hospital, that’s when I got angry. I got really mad,” said Ganci, community development director for the Last Door Recovery Society in New Westminster.

“Donnie was in that hospital. He has all these nurses, these people (intensive care unit), these machines. He’s got everything because he’s dying and they’ve been waiting to pull the plug.


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Ganci tells PKBNEWS that Presland did not have the money to pay for private addiction services and that a government-funded bed with full supports was not available when he needed it.

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He estimated the approximate cost of staying in the Presland hospital for less than a week to be over $10,000.

“The system is put where when someone overdoses and dies, it’s a red carpet treatment. Here is the ambulance. Here is the hospital. Here are the services,” he said.

“But the minute you recover and you come out of your overdose and say ‘I need help’, well, stand in line, go to welfare, how much money do you make? you? It changes completely.

Back in the Downtown Eastside, Coulson receives terrible news. A good friend’s brother died of an overdose.

Meanwhile, Coulson remains ready for rehab.

“It’s my choice to go. I’ve been 17 times before for other people. So I want to do it this time. I have nothing to hide and I’m going to make the most of it.

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