I belonged to an average, middle class Canadian family. Then, when I was about four, I saw my mom kissing a man who was not my father.
My parents split up, the man moved in and everything changed. Something as simple as clothes on the floor would make him start hitting me and she would watch in a rage, spitting out any mean thing that she could say to me. It felt like an automobile wreck.
From 12 to 14 I lived with my dad – sort of. He spent 90% of his time at his girlfriend’s. He’d give me money to pay for groceries instead I bought alcohol and drugs, and partied. He knew.
Eventually – and I’m giving you the super condensed version here – I graduated high school with honours and was accepted at university.
But instead of going I fled. I rented an apartment in the home of a 53-year-old woman named Lou Ellen who became my best friend. After a couple of high-emotion years, I fled again. I came out and got involved in the party scene, including taking hard drugs. I made another great, great friend, Chad.
Lou Ellen and Chad became the parents I’d never had.
Five years ago I hit near rock bottom. I did crystal meth for six days straight. No eating or sleeping, just drugs. Then, I had a panic attack where I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, and couldn’t walk. Chad called 911. I don’t remember being in hospital but apparently I punched some people there and I woke up in jail.
I was 21 and completely exhausted. With nowhere to call home and no idea where to turn next, and then I met Julia from LOFT.
At last my recovery could really, truly begin. Julia got me started on the long journey to become a “functioning member of society”. Now, I have a position in LOFT’s youth program as a peer mentor and I’ve written a life skills book. Because I’m someone who’s been there, I can relate to these young people who are so angry, lost, and afraid. It really helps them to hear my story. To know there’s hope for them.
I’m going to earn a degree so I can make this work my career. Every single living thing on this earth is here for a reason and my reason is to ensure that other young people are not treated like garbage. That they get the same chance I got.
My story could have ended a long time ago, and in a very different way.
I’m eternally grateful to Lou Ellen, Chad, Julia and LOFT. They did more than save my life. They gave me life and purpose.
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