I arrived at Good Shepherd Centre on the day of the big storm this past winter. I sat in the DARE office, a broken man.
My brother had given me money so I could get to Good Shepherd. All I had was a $10 guitar and a suitcase of clothes.
Back in October 2013, I laid off the sales staff at my Mississauga business. I rented a basement room with no windows. And I smoked crack 24 hours a day for five years.
I was down to 130 pounds. I was living on icing sugar and crack, crawling around the floor of my apartment. Every now and then I used to pull myself together and take care of some of my customers so I could get money. Mostly, I just wanted to die.
I had stopped believing in God. But in December 2018, I said a prayer: “If you’re there, give me the willingness to be willing.”
The next day, I picked up the phone, called the number that helps people get treatment, and said: “I need help.” The worker had a list of all the treatment centres. The waiting list was anywhere from six weeks or longer. I told her I wouldn’t last that long.
She called me back the next day and she said she had found the DARE Program. She told me I could stay at DARE until treatment.
DARE saved my life and it brought me back to life. I can’t give enough back for what they’ve done for me. I’m no longer alone. I’m seeing the world differently.
I remember my first day in Bed 25 in DARE. I started journaling that day. I put a tiny dot on the front of that journal – a dot the size of a mustard seed of willingness. Then every day I was sober, I drew a leaf growing from that seed. Now I have 180 leaves – it’s turning into a tree.
I’ve told my story to student volunteer groups 14 times. I told them about my first ‘drunk’ — I was 7 and with my father, who was an alcoholic. I told them about growing up feeling that I was never good enough.
I told them about starting businesses (three times) and using financial success, drugs, and drinking to make me feel like I could measure up. But I never felt good enough.
In DARE, I followed the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I got to Step 4 and I looked at myself and I was a mess. I said “God, I don’t think I have that much time left. Just keep me alive long enough to make amends to my children.” Then my oldest son got in touch with me. And then my daughter — I had not seen her since she was nine.
Christine (Pastoral Care Manager) gave me a list of prayers. There’s a prayer by St. Francis that I wrote up to put on my wall. When I left DARE – I’ve moved into housing now – I gave that prayer to one of the new men in DARE, and I told him “This prayer saved my life, I hope it will save yours.”