Long-term mechanical ventilation (LTMV) is used to support growing numbers of children and adults who develop chronic respiratory failure. The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to explore the subjective meaning of the experience of transition from spontaneous breathing to reliance on LTMV. In-depth, audiorecorded interviews of 11 ventilated individuals living in a western Canadian province were transcribed and analyzed. The transition journey was revealed to be a time of psychological, physical, and spiritual challenge. "Sustaining self " was revealed as the essence of ventilator users' transition experience. Findings underscore the complex nature of transition to technological reliance, illuminating the need for increased health professional knowledge and understanding of the symptom experience and management options for individuals living with chronic respiratory failure. Strategies to support individuals' sense of self as they journey to a life reliant on LTMV are required.