On the road to Cape Breton and abstinence
Dear Dave Brown and outreach staff staff at Lookout in New Westminster.
I wanted to say thanks for the help you and staff have given me. It helped me get my life back on track. You and staff are great role models that help people and never judge. You are the driving force in changing the homelessness situation by doing your part as being good Canadians. These are people that make this country the greatest country on the planet.
My life has changed with 5½ months clean and sober. Without help from everyone at Lookout I would probably still be sleeping in some doorway or worse. It’s not your job to make people become clean and sober, but you provide the help to get information so they can get clean and sober.
After 26 years of suffering, I am going home to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia to a 16-year old daughter.
On the road to total abstinence
I decided it was time to let all of you know how well I am doing. You wouldn't even recognize me now. I now live in my own condo in Campbell River. Things are going well.
You really got me thinking. I realized that I never, ever thought I would live this long, let alone reach this point. This 'point'...is that I have enrolled in a Senior Peer Counselling training program. I didn't realize that I feel I am now able to do that; that I feel I have arrived at the point of feeling like a supporter and not a 'needer.'
My name is (DB) and I am 31 years old. I have been in active addiction for well over a decade and have been heavily involved with crime, dangerous behavior, jails, working the streets and finally living on the streets. While temporarily staying at Elizabeth Fry Gurney House in New Westminster, after getting released from jail once again, I filled out an application for the Lookout Society's Russell building (740 Carnarvon St) and was accepted to be a tenant shortly after.
I moved into the Russell in February, 2012 and, for the first time, was introduced to this non-profit harm reduction building. And it definitely was harm reduction. Although I was still in my very active addiction, I finally had a consistent, safe residence for the first time in years. The Russell gave me the opportunity to relearn how to get a safe night's sleep. I had staff and support workers who were ready to recognize my needs and encouraged me, when I had frustrating desires, to attempt cleaning up and detox when I was ready. I really appreciated their patience, encouragement and welcoming attitude towards my mom and nephew when they carne to visit me fairly regularly. On many nights l would have meaningful talks with staff (some in recovery themselves), who would support me going to detox once again. In July, 2013 I moved on from the Russell, with the staff's strong support and encouragement, to a treatment facility that I currently reside at now.
I feel that it is important to acknowledge how the Russell has played a strong role in giving me a transition from the streets to a safe place with consistency. The Russell helped me through some trying times to finally take the brave step into recovery, which I felt would be impossible. I am now seven and a half months clean off of drugs and alcohol. Thank you Jesus! I am very thankful for the Russell's contribution to my journey.
I just wanted to write this letter to let you know how much I have appreciated the help of two incredible professionals D and C in the years I have lived in this building. A few times they have intervened for my behalf and health, as I was in life-threatening situations, and I believe they saved my life.
Yes, there was a few times that they had to call EMS to get me medical attention. I do have addictions to work on. However, they show so much concern for me that it keeps me trying and get back to a healthy life, rather than reverting to life back on the streets.
I am so thankful for their efforts as even D went as far as getting me proper contact with Native Health Services (she took the time to come with me and get me contact with Corin for counseling). And they monitor my medications so I do not overdose, which at this point is what I need. It’s just so uplifting to know that I can be free to talk about times where I have depression feelings. It helps to talk to them to work feelings out.
I’m at a point where I’m trying to get to the state of full time employment and back to being a contributor to our community again. I have been part of Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) as well as the Downtown Neighbourhood Counsel (DNC) in the past. However, I had some downturns and that’s where this Lookout team has picked me up this year. In fact D made one phone call to one of her contacts that got me into some temp work with M3 to get viable employment moving.
For this I am forever greatful and lucky that this where I live.
I was in Japan for 10 years and for the last two I became quite sick with what I am now told is called schizo-effective bipolar disorder. My last six months there was spent locked up in my house. I was unable to talk to people, unable to step out the door and unable to care for myself.??
After my family got a hold of me, my sister flew to Japan to bring me home. I was told afterwards that I was sleeping in rotting garbage with no empty spaces to walk in the house. It was infested with flies and decomposed food. I would come in and out of what my sister described as a catatonic state where I would not respond to her at all. Had she not have come to Japan, I don't believe I would be alive today.
After a year of going in and out of hospitals and working with different medicines, I found myself in desperate need of housing. As anyone knows, the BC housing list is unreasonably long. As of the time I am writing this letter, I have been on the BC housing wait-list for three years. I am writing this letter now to show my appreciation to the team at Lookout Emergency Aid Society's Yukon Housing Centre.??
My sister was desperately phoning around to find a place for me to live, ideally with some support in becoming self-sufficient again and re-entering society. She got a hold of M at the Yukon Housing Centre and she agreed to meet with my sister to talk about my situation and needs. Little did I know how important that meeting was going to be in my life and the recovery I would start.
??I remember first seeing the room I would be staying in and not able to believe that such a well cared for, beautiful bachelor suite would be mine. I was so afraid of where I would have to live and would never have dreamed of being able to stay in apartment that would allow me to have some dignity.
I remember actually feeling guilty and not deserving of the place. I told this to M and she said that I am wrong about feeling guilty and that the building was put into place for someone exactly like me. I'm not afraid to admit, that made me cry.
??When I first arrived, I was still quite ill and unable to go outside other than for doctor's appointments and grocery shopping. I was in my apartment in a very raw state, overwhelmed with emotions and pain. Part of my agreement in staying here was to keep in touch with M, R, and C every couple of days to check in. What can I say, they were my lifeline. I don't even know if they realize their role in my life.
When I came down to the office, M and C would listen to me. And I mean really listen, and genuinely care about what I was going through. In my life there are very few people who I can say were angels watching over me, but they are two of them. M in particular took a very powerful interest in my recovery. She was always available when I really needed someone to talk to and I always knew she cared about me as if I were her own son.
Another is R. Again, I doubt he knows what he did for me. It is hard to describe. The best way I can put it, is that he related to the part of me that is healthy and strong and didn't give much attention to the part of me that was broken. He was a pillar for me in many ways. He organized the volunteer group that I took part in. Looking back, that program and R's caring for me was simply huge.??
So now here I am, after two years of living here, and I can honestly say I am in the best condition I have been in the three years I have been back in Canada. I am self sufficient, going back to school and even engaged to get married!
?I don't think it is possible for me to get my appreciation on paper. All I can do is say that my recovery would have been a very different story if it weren't for M, R, C and the other staff members whose names I can't remember, but whose faces will never be forgotten. It's no exaggeration to say my life was put in your hands, and whether you know it or not, you saved a life in this world.