I grew up in Regent Park to an alcoholic mother. I was surrounded by a bad environment and poor influences and started boxing to let my anger out. It helped me out in the streets but really it was just a way to beat someone up and get away with it. I started drinking when I was 14. It was easier to talk to people and to socialize when I was drinking but really, it was just liquid courage. Between the ages of 14 and 35 I was in and out of prison, homeless at times, and struggling with addiction. When I was 35, I went into treatment and got cleaned up and sober. I got a job; I worked for various social service agencies. I was a support worker. I helped people who were in my position. I knew what it was like to walk in their shoes. My life went on; I got married, I had a child. But it slowly started to unravel again. In a professional capacity I was coaching people on getting their life back together but after work I was drinking, I was taking drugs, I was violent. Eventually, my wife couldn’t take it anymore and kicked me out.
I was using every drug you can imagine. Crack, cocaine, opiates, alcohol. Soon, I landed in jail. I was in for 14 months on various charges including drug possession and assault. My life was in shambles. Now, I look back and see being arrested as a good thing. I see it as being rescued. I was hurting people including my family and friends and knew I had to change. In jail, I met a worker who introduced me to the Mental Health & Justice Initiative. I filled out an application and was accepted.
I came here nine weeks ago and my life has changed for the better. It’s great being here. Coming here is huge. It’s like one big aftercare. I know I am stable here and I know I’m in Recovery. Before, when I was sober – that was it. I can’t say I was in Recovery before. But now I can. I’ve been sober for 20 months and I’m in Recovery. It’s great.
It’s the first time I’ve lived by myself in all of my 44 years of life – and I won’t lie, it does get a bit lonely at times – but I know if I ever need someone, my worker and all the staff at MHJI are there for me. I know I can go downstairs to the common room and there will be someone there who knows my name and can help me. To know there is always a safe place I can go has helped me a lot. It’s a community and we’ve adopted each other.
Now, I’ve applied for independent housing and been approved. I know that even living in independent housing, I will still have the support of LOFT available to me. That’s so important to me. I trust that my worker will be there. I trust that LOFT will be there. I know that I won’t be judged for who I am and what I’ve done. I can be myself. LOFT challenges me to get better and my journey keeps getting better with LOFT. For those out there who are going through the things I went through…keep your head up – things will get better. Things will work themselves out.