Kathy Wagner, Vancouver, BC

Tristan was a sweet, sensitive child with a big goofy sense of humour. He picked up on the emotions of people around him, and wanted everyone to be happy. He was a “pleaser’. As a kid, he loved playing softball, being a boy scout, and doing tae kwon do. He got his first black belt when he was thirteen years old. He loved and looked up to his two older sisters.

Despite all of this, he had a hard time feeling like he was a part of something until he found the drug crowd when he was 14. Looking back, it’s clear he was battling depression even then. By the time he was 15, he was in active addiction, with cocaine his drug of choice. At that time, I was told there were no treatment options for him unless he agreed to go, which he didn’t. So, drawing on his love of martial arts, I went with him to China to check out a Shaolin Kung Fu school. I stayed with him for 5 weeks, and then left him to study Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Chi Gong for a full year by himself. He trained eight hours a day, five days a week and at 16 was the youngest and one of the most talented students there. His Shifu loved him like a son, and the other students like a brother. He was so proud of his accomplishments there.

When he came home, he got a job cooking in a restaurant but quickly turned to drugs again. Refusing to go to treatment, he returned to China for another six months. After that, he decided to pursue a career as a chef and enrolled in a culinary program when he was 18. For a full year, I’d wake up to warm cinnamon buns, freshly baked bread, dozens of doughnuts, or home-made soup stock. He’d make French sauces for almost every meal and needed no reason to make the best caramel sauce on the planet. Pork belly, barbecue…so many delicious things. He graduated and started working in some of the best restaurants in Vancouver, earning credits towards his red seal certification.

But drugs continued to be his constant companion, and it was only a matter of time until they made the rest of his life impossible. After losing a series of jobs, and his apartment, and his dignity, he checked himself into treatment. That’s where he finally discovered who he truly was and who he could be, clean and sober. He connected deeply with the recovery community and made real, deep, lasting friendships. He gained 60 pounds, learned how to smile again, and began treating his depression and rebuilding his confidence. He was always the first to help the new guy, listen to those who continued to struggle, and share his story of experience, strength, an hope. He learned how to love life.

Unfortunately, relapse was part of his story and fourteen months after entering recovery he died from fentanyl poisoning while taking cocaine. He’s remembered for his goofball sense of humour, sage advice, great backrubs, amazing cooking, and his boundless passion and energy for whatever was in front of him.

Son Tristan Kroeker, age 21, died from Fentanyl poisoning while using cocaine on August 23, 2017.

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