“It's the harsh truth of what addiction can do.”
No Place to Call Home
Nikki's grandfather was supposed to protect her from harm. Instead, he drugged and sexually assaulted her. At age 24, the lingering consequences of this traumatic event left Nikki broken and almost beyond repair.
“Facing the reality that my grandfather did this to me was devastating,” says 31-year-old Nikki. Her emotional suffering drove her to a full-blown addiction to OxyContin and then heroin.
“I had a $300-a-day heroin habit,” Nikki continues. “For six years, I supported my dependency by working as a prostitute.” She fed her addiction any way she could. She pawned family jewellery, and stole and sold other people's belongings.
By 2012, Nikki was desperate to find a way out of her destructive lifestyle, so she entered a drug treatment and detoxification centre in Simcoe, Ont. This was a time of intense work and profound learning.
When Nikki's days in rehab came to an end, she couldn't move back to her old neighbourhood. It was unsafe and too hard to live under the burdens of memories there. With no place to call home, she was referred to The Salvation Army's emergency housing program in Dunnville, Ont., which provides housing support for homeless or at-risk individuals and families.
“Not once did The Salvation Army make me feel like an addict,” says Nikki. “When I first met Rob, my caseworker, he shook my hand and looked me in the eye. He didn't judge me. I knew then that I had a cheerleader in my corner.”
As Nikki pushed the reset button on her life, The Salvation Army also provided her with food, counselling and, most importantly, encouragement.
“The Salvation Army wanted me to succeed and never gave up on me.”
Before his death, Nikki met face-to-face with her grandfather and forgave him. This played a powerful role in her healing process.
Now two years clean, Nikki has earned the respect of her family again and is enrolled in college to become a social worker.
“The Salvation Army has everything to do with my career choice,” says Nikki. “I want to be that person who gives someone hope, just as Rob and The Salvation Army did for me.”
(Photo: Linda Leigh)