"I walked in looking like a dead person.”

It was the first time Alex Moncada had ever been to The Salvation Army in Ajax, Ont. “I was not sober,” she says. “I was using anything and everything.”

Alex’s neighbour was the one who brought her to the Army.

“She knew that I was struggling, that I was about to lose everything,” Alex shares. “I didn’t even have money for groceries.”

Once there, Alex met James Dark, community services co-ordinator. Seeing that she was under the influence and covered in visible bruises, James’ heart went out to her.

“We said to her, ‘Let us help you,’ ” he recalls. “And her response was, ‘Yes, I need your help.’ ”

“They welcomed me with open arms, I remember that much,” says Alex. “And they never gave up on me.”


As a young adult living in the Niagara region of Ontario, Alex’s life was on track. She had just graduated from the radio, television and film program at Niagara College and was looking forward to starting a career when a surgery derailed her plans.

“I was prescribed Percocet, and I had an abusive boyfriend who took my pills,” she says. “He used to ditch me all the time because he was an addict, and I wanted to know why he’d choose this pill over me. So I tried it. And then I did it again and again.”

What followed was a roller-coaster of drug use, as Alex moved on from Percocet to heroin, crystal meth and other party drugs.

“Toward the end, I was allowing people to just inject me with all kinds of things,” she remembers.

First Steps

In 2017, after getting kicked out of the place she was living, she wound up at a dilapidated house—a “rock bottom” moment for Alex.

“The house was infested with rats and cockroaches; it was the worst living conditions you could think of,” she says.

Alex celebrates her second sober anniversary at The Salvation Army in Ajax, Ont., with James Dark

Alex left her boyfriend, called her parents for help and moved home to Pickering, Ont.—the first step on her journey to sobriety. Alex was sober for a month before she relapsed and overdosed.

“I woke up in the hospital, extremely angry that I was alive,” she says. “It didn’t make any sense to me. I should have been dead.”

Alex went to detox twice and had a brief stint in rehab in February 2018. But at that point, Alex couldn’t make sobriety stick.

“That was the year that I was trying to get sober,” she recalls. “I was working in Toronto, but I was still going to Niagara to get my fix. And then toward the end, one of my good friends overdosed, and I had to give a speech at their funeral. That was another rock bottom for me.”

Grace of God

It was during that tumultuous year that Alex first came to The Salvation Army and met James and Diane Gauthier, then client advocacy co-ordinator.

While that initial meeting is a bit of a blur, one of the first ways the Army assisted Alex was with groceries.

“I could not believe how much food they gave me,” she says. “And then they gave me a taxi to go home with my food order. I was in tears, I was so happy.”

For Alex, it wasn’t just about the food: “It had been so long since somebody treated me with respect like that and gave me love. I had not felt love like that until I met Diane and James and everybody at The Salvation Army.”

That love was what made the difference for Alex in helping her overcome her addiction. “That’s what brought me to my knees,” she says. “Because I realized I have all these resources and people who were cheering me on, and I wasn’t utilizing them.

“So finally, one day, I decided to utilize everything,” she continues. “I got a sponsor, I went to a Cocaine Anonymous meeting and, by the grace of God, I am clean for more than two years now.”

Cause for Celebration

Since she stopped using drugs on June 3, 2019, Alex has celebrated two sober anniversaries with her friends at The Salvation Army in Ajax. This year, she and the team shared a tiramisu—which James dubbed a “tirama-two”—to mark the occasion.

“We were so happy that she shared the celebration with us,” says James. “She’s the one who deserves all the credit; we were just here to help her when she needed.”

Today, Alex is studying to become a personal support worker, and she still visits The Salvation Army at least once a week.

“I walked in those doors broken, and I have come out stronger than ever,” Alex says. “And it’s because of their support.

“They treated me like a human being,” she continues. “I think that was the most important part—they didn’t treat me like an addict. That’s why I love The Salvation Army.”

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On Monday, February 14, 2022, Major Murray Jaster said:

Thanks Alex for sharing your story! With God and you there's nothing you can't do! God bless.

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