On the outside, Spencer was in control. He’d gone to college, received a degree in hotel restaurant management and owned a business. But the reality was that he was deep into substance use. Then a transformative event gave him the courage to change.
Drugs and Prison
Growing up, Spencer had a difficult time figuring out where he belonged. He struggled to identify with the peers in his class and, in an attempt to fit in, he would act out with poor behaviour in school and at home. As a result, he left home in Grade 11, rebelled and started to dabble in drugs and alcohol.
“I was 17,” says Spencer. “As my attachment to drugs got stronger, I spent more time getting high.”
For 20 years, substance use was a priority for Spencer, and he often put his life at risk in order to use.
“I remember overdosing in Toronto’s Regent Park,” he says. “People thought I was dead and dumped my body into an apartment stairwell for someone else to find. I also recall having a gun held to me during a drug deal that had gone bad.”
“It feels so good to be a part of the Salvation Army family.” Spencer
Spencer tried treatment centres many times, but he couldn’t separate himself from the lifestyle. To get more drugs, he engaged in criminal behaviour that often led to incarceration.
Transformation is Possible
In 2017, while in prison, a life-changing experience altered what mattered to Spencer.
“I participated in a Bible study and found Christ,” says Spencer. “I got on my knees, prayed and gave my life over to God.”
In March 2018, Spencer was three months clean when he was accepted into the stabilization program at The Salvation Army’s Booth Centre in Ottawa. This is an abstinence-based residential program for men that provides a safe and supportive environment and encourages clients to pursue goals that are meaningful to them.
“Against all odds, the court overturned my detention order with the understanding that I would explore options for change at The Salvation Army,” Spencer says. “The Salvation Army provided me with guidance and direction as to my next steps. Living there and staying clean kept me alive.”
Spencer eventually moved on, worked part-time, lived in a small basement apartment and attended college.
Today, Spencer is the spiritual formations coach and facilities supervisor at Teen Challenge Canada, working with adult, at-risk men who suffer from life-threatening addictions. In April 2018, he started attending Salvation church services and, in April 2022, he became an official member at Ottawa’s Barrhaven Corps church.
More than 40 of Spencer’s co-workers attended the ceremony.
“It feels so good to be a part of the Salvation Army family,” Spencer says. “They showed me love when I was unlovable. This had a profound impact on my life.”
Spencer is passionate about sharing his faith and influencing the lives of people who suffer from substance-use disorders.
“My desire is to continue being useful and help my community. Sometimes that just means planting a seed.”
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