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Feb25WedJust when I thought I'd lost everything—faith, livelihood, a future—I found The Salvation Army. February 25, 2015 by Lisa Pierce
I felt as if I was in some kind of waking nightmare. I was filthy, bruised and covered with needle marks. I was in the basement of a rundown house, and people were screaming at me to give over the drugs they thought I had stolen from them. The last thing I remembered, I'd been at a coffee shop. But I'd obviously been drugged and brought here to get the truth beaten out of me.
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- Faith & Friends
How had things gotten so bad? I wondered through the drug-induced fog.
From Pioneer to Addict
The drug addict that I'd become was the polar opposite of my former life. I'd been a heavy-equipment operator— one of the few women in that line of work—and was proud to be a pioneer in my field.
But in 2003, I broke my back on the job site. My life changed in an instant. Partially paralyzed, I couldn't walk and was confined to a wheelchair. I was prescribed medication, including opiates to cope with the overwhelming, constant pain. While they were critical to my survival, the drugs clouded my mind and I started making bad decisions. People I thought were my friends introduced me to cocaine and soon I was seriously addicted.
I quickly depleted what funds I had to sustain my habit, and it wasn't very long before I owed some less-than-scrupulous people a lot of money. I started writing bad cheques to cover my expenses, and was coerced into committing crimes such as opening fraudulent accounts and applying for loans under assumed names. I was beaten, abused and threatened with death if I did not pay what I owed.
Inevitably, I was arrested, released and arrested again. The cycle repeated itself for two years as the beatings and abuse became more intense.
I hit the absolute rock bottom of my life when I was accused of hiding a large amount of drugs. I was dragged to a house in another part of town, drugged and beaten. I managed to escape and a Good Samaritan driving along spotted me and brought me to the hospital, where the police were called in. I was free at last.
It was at that lowest point that I encountered The Salvation Army. Incarcerated yet again, I was ordered by my probation officer to The Salvation Army's correctional and justice services at the Centre of Hope in London, Ont.
Slowly, I started reassembling the pieces of my life. Thanks to the caring staff, I was able to see a future and I started to have faith again.
I had believed in God once, but I blamed Him for my accident and for the poor choices I had made. Thanks to the caring pastors, I finally realized that God is a God of love, not hate, and I learned to forgive those who had hurt me. I stopped looking for someone to blame. Instead, I looked to God and looked for hope.
Though I relapsed over the next year, I finally got sober and things started coming around.
I graduated from Fanshawe College in London, Ont., with a diploma from the social service worker program and was one of only four students to be awarded Fanshawe's distinguished student award last year.
The first thing I did after the award ceremony was go to my Salvation Army counsellor to tell her the news. She looked at me with a smile on her face and simply said, “I knew you could do it.”
That simple affirmation of support was more important than any award.
I am now at university working toward a bachelor's degree in social work. I also volunteer with The Salvation Army's correctional and justice services as a facilitator. Many women recognize me from my time on the streets or have heard stories about what I went through. It makes them listen that much more closely to what I have to say. I don't have to pretend when I say I know their trauma. I've been there, I have come full circle and, now, when I go to sleep at night, I actually like the person I am.