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Mar20ThuI help repair The Salvation Army's New Life addictions centre. But 10 years ago, it was me that needed fixing. March 20, 2014 by James M.
If you had told me a decade ago that I would be standing outside of a food bank waiting for my next meal, or that I would end up at a Salvation Army addiction and rehabilitation centre, I would have said you were crazy. How could I veer so far off course that I would need that kind of help?
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But I had, and that's who I was then: an addict who needed help. Fortunately, I've come out on the other side—alive and on top—with the help of the many caring members of The Salvation Army.
I grew up in Dundas, Ont., just west of Hamilton. My parents, younger brother and sister, and me, were a happy family without want. My parents were religious and we attended church regularly.
But things started changing for me when I hit my teens. I didn't want the values my parents were trying to teach me. I felt I could find my own way, and I put my trust not in God but in hard rock and heavy metal. The lifestyle I gravitated to was powerful and attractive, wild and outrageous—something I didn't have in my life.
By the time I was 16, I'd stopped going to church. My grades slipped, and I started partying and doing drugs. I was always insecure, and it seemed more important to fit in with my friends than grow closer to God or to my family.
Barely graduating, I wed a girl I met in high school, but the marriage didn't take. I went to college part-time but even that resolve could not prevent us from growing apart. It was a stressful time. I had a number of jobs during that period, from TV sales to working on a farm, and that lack of stability helped neither my insecurity nor my marriage.
Still, in the back of my mind, I knew that the faith my parents had was still with me. I just couldn't figure out how to unlock the door I had shut.
My marriage disintegrated in 2000 and we went our own ways. While I finally had a good job, I was on my own and even more insecure than I had been in high school. That's when I fell back into partying and drinking, and started using crack cocaine.
At first, crack didn't give me the high I craved. I even joked that it was not all it was cracked up to be! But I soon realized I had become just as much of an addict as the people I saw waiting for food at the local soup kitchen. Losing my job in 2006 only made matters worse.
Despite my addiction, I knew I needed to get clean and stay clean. I tried a treatment centre and attended 12-step meetings, but nothing seemed to stick until a caring counsellor mentioned a Salvation Army facility in Sudbury, Ont., away from old friends and bad habits.
The Way Back
The Salvation Army's substance abuse treatment program was unlike any I had ever experienced. It was very intense. The counsellors dug deep; they knew what they were doing. I resented that because I still felt I was in control, that I could do it all, that I could fix myself. But I got to the point where I had to let go and let them guide me. And that's exactly what they did. I did all the heavy lifting but they were there to guide me to a healthier lifestyle. It didn't happen immediately, but after three months, I had kicked my habits.
Overlayed on all of this was a faith component. As part of the program, we went down to the chapel for morning devotionals every day, where a Salvation Army pastor conducted services.
Singing upbeat and uplifting songs, and participating in the services brought me back to my childhood, and my parents. Working with the counsellors and attending the lectures made me realize that I had to look deep within myself to find the answers that had always been there. During my first week in the program, I broke down spiritually and mentally and found God again, waiting for me. I'm OK, I thought to myself. I'm on my way back.
That was seven years ago. I believe in God again, I'm involved in my local church, and I celebrated seven years of sobriety this month. I am now in charge of the building maintenance for The Salvation Army's New Life Centre in Sudbury. I can cope with life without needing alcohol or drugs to get through it.
I am also in the healthiest relationship I have ever had in my life. God has helped me find someone with whom I can share my life, and I am the proud stepdad of a wonderful young lady.
Though the addiction program at New Life Centre had to be closed, the legacy and work of the program lives on in my testimony and the changed lives of dozens just like me.