Gord Portman, the Penticton man who assisted in saving two lives in a house fire earlier this year, has been honoured with a bravery award by the Royal Canadian Humane Association for his actions during the fire.
After Portman intervened in the fire, he was inspired to get clean and sober.
“I saw that picture of me in the paper and I just looked at myself like ‘oh boy I need help,’” Portman told the Western News after receiving his award. “I needed to get clean and sober after that.”
The Royal Canadian Humane Association’s mission is to “recognize deeds of heroism, by Canadians in civilian life, who, through their alertness, skill and concern, save or attempt to save a life, especially where those actions lie outside the ordinary duties of the person involved.”
Portman would have received the award during a ceremony but due to the pandemic he received his plaque and medal in the mail Friday, Dec. 11.
After saving Linda Paksec and her daughter in the March house fire on Duncan Avenue, Portman checked himself into Discovery House Men’s Treatment Centre to seek help for his substance abuse. Now, over six months later, he’s clean and sober and has moved into a new home where he lives with his dog, Zippy. He’ll be seven months clean and sober Dec. 22.
“I need to thank the Discovery House for saving my life,” he said. “I helped rescue Linda and her daughter but it was me that needed rescuing too.”
Portman believes he would still be using drugs if it wasn’t for the fateful house fire. “I’d still be out there, lost in my addiction, missing in action.”
Looking ahead, Portman hopes his story can inspire others struggling with addiction to seek help. Eventually, he wants to work in addictions counselling himself.
“I have a habit of being in the wrong place at the right time,” Portman said, explaining that he’s intervened in multiple other life-or-death situations. “God’s got a purpose for me.”
Now that Portman is sober and living on his own, he plans to begin taking courses at Okanagan College and one day hopes to work at Discovery House himself.
“I just love helping people, that’s who I am,” he said.
“I want to work in the field of addiction one day, tell my story and help people with addiction and help other addicts.”
A born and raised Pentictonite, Portman said he’s regained many tarnished relationships with friends and family since getting sober after the fire. “I missed a lot of years but I’m back now and I want to help everybody.
“If anyone needs help they can message me on facebook and I can direct them to some resources and tell them how to make things easier.”