I was born and raised in Calgary, AB. I had a hard childhood, and lost my father to an opioid overdose at a young age. My friend group was much older than I was, and when I was 12 years old, they introduced me to opiods and injecting drugs which landed me in a lifestyle filled with addiction, crime and homelessness.
When I wasn’t living on the streets, I spent my teens in and out of youth jail, foster care and group homes. As I grew older, I struggled to keep a job down, so I would end up involved in crime to survive. When I wasn’t incarcerated, I was homeless. One of the hardest nights for me on the streets was trying to sleep outside in – 30℃. It was so cold and snowy.
I can only describe the hunger I experienced, to what I imagine a diabetic would experience when their blood sugar levels are low. You are so deprived of food, you begin to shake. At one point, I was only 95 lbs. I could count every rib on my body and my eyes looked dark and sunken in.
Addiction, homelessness and being involved in criminal activity made me feel hopeless. Sometimes, I would get arrested on purpose just so I could have access to a bed and three meals a day. Yet it took me racking up a serious amount of charges, losing loved ones, and fearing the growing violence around me, that finally clued me in to realizing I couldn’t do this anymore.
Something needed to change, and I found my way to the Calgary Dream Centre (CDC).
I remember my first night at the CDC, I was able to shower, use fresh towels and eat a meal. I was so grateful to be able to lock my bedroom door, and open the window. That felt like such a luxury, being able to let the air in, and lie down in a clean bed without fear that someone could barge through the door and hurt me.
The CDC has provided me with a safe place to start building a life. Without worrying about where my next meal will come from, or how I can afford my basic needs, I can focus on my recovery first.
I help out here in the CDC kitchen. I’m on the other side of where I once was. I get to serve the other residents, and watch the connection that takes place over a hot meal. They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and I get to be a part of its heartbeat.
When a resident arrives, I can see how starved they are, and I remember how hungry I was in my first days of recovery. Filling up on food those early days brings a feeling of warmth, fullness and comfort in the midst of uncertainty. The light comes back to their eyes, and the gratitude they have for every meal puts a smile on my face.
I’m so grateful for the hope I now have for the future. I’m living a life I never thought was possible. I plan to go back to school to become a nurse, and am working on reconnecting with my family.
This year for Thanksgiving, I look forward to serving meals to those who once were just like me. I’m grateful for a chance to give back.