Calgary Dream Centre
4510 Macleod Trail SW Calgary AB T2G 0A4 (403) 243-5598

I Felt Accepted by My Peers and Learned to Build Friendships HereZach's Story

I had a positive upbringing, my mom and dad both loved me. My dad was in the Navy, so I didn’t see him much. My mom took care of me, and was kind and supportive in everything I did. Despite her care, I had an issue with authority at a young age and desired to live independently of my family.

I had my first job when I was 12 years old, and by the time I turned 14 years old, I dropped out of school to work full time. I moved out of my family home and into a one-bedroom apartment with five other men. This living situation didn’t go so well, and I ended up bouncing from place to place until I was 18 years old.

Dropping out of school, and moving out so young ended up damaging my ability to connect with others socially. I struggled to feel accepted by others, and would befriend anyone who would put up with me. This led to some toxic relationships with people who did not care about my wellbeing. 

Despite living independently from such a young age, I managed to create a successful life for myself. I got my class one driver’s license, and became a crane operator in the oilfield for several years. I finally had my own place, a relationship and a son. 

Although I was successful, I still struggled interpersonally and socially. The only way to socialize where I lived was at the bar.  My addiction to alcohol grew here, and eventually, it would cost me everything.

The first thing I lost to addiction was the ability to see my son. My family didn’t appreciate my behavior when I was under the influence, and had pulled my rights to see him. When I realized how much I had hurt my loved ones, I didn’t feel like living anymore. I shut down, isolated from others and became depressed.

Shortly after losing my family, I lost my driver’s license to a DUI. This resulted in the loss of my job, and my home. It only took one year for me to lose everything to addiction. My family, my home, and my job.

I found myself homeless, with everything I owned in a shopping cart. I spent nights on the streets, in shelters and in unsafe places. I hated who I had become and was growing increasingly anxious by the day. 

I would go up to five days without eating, and up to three days without drinking any water. I found it easier to find free drugs than food. I dropped from 160 lbs to 105 lbs by the time I got off the streets. Every day, I just felt like I had less to live for.

Though these days were painful, I discovered Jesus on the streets during this time. I made a friend, who would read me the Bible. Whenever I felt anxious, or afraid, she would pray and ask for Jesus to protect us. Every time she prayed, I would feel this bubble of protection form around me and my heart was filled with peace. I wouldn’t be afraid anymore.

Eventually, I ended up in the hospital and I knew I needed help. I phoned my dad, and asked if he would take me in. He was willing to take me in, and I lived with him for a month, finally sober but I didn’t feel like I was getting better on the inside. I still felt hopeless. My dad sat me down, and asked if I would consider going to treatment. I agreed it was a good idea.

I remembered my experience on the streets when my friend would pray for me, and decided I wanted to try treatment that had a faith focus this time. I had been living a “godless life” and it had not served me well. I applied to the Calgary Dream Centre, was accepted, and started the Men’s Recovery Program.

I felt safe at the Dream Centre. I didn’t have to worry about where my next meal would come from, or where I would sleep at night. Knowing my belly would be full and all my needs met, I was able to just focus on getting better. I felt accepted by my peers, and learned to build friendships here. 

I had done treatment before, but this time was different. Instead of trying to use knowledge and willpower to keep me sober, I accepted God into my life and let him be my guide. I found hope as I discovered that God had been beside me my whole life, even while in my addiction. 

My program peers coined me the “hope dealer” because I just wanted to share all the new hope I had inside with everyone around me! I was finally experiencing happiness in all its forms. I was living again! 

It took one year to lose everything in my life, and now, one year later, I’ve been given back so much more.

On the streets, I had no hope for my future. Now, I have so much hope and a plan for my future. I’ve gone back to school, am on the honor roll at college, and am employed right here at the Calgary Dream Centre. 

Working at the Dream Centre has taught me to build healthy boundaries and helped me develop communications skills that have enabled me to create healthy friendships. I have my class one license back, and I’ve reconnected with my son again.

I’m super grateful for what the Calgary Dream Centre is for me and others like me. With Easter coming up, I am so excited to not be alone this year. When I was on the streets, I felt hopeless on Easter day as I spent it by myself in a shelter. This Easter, I look forward to eating a big turkey dinner and lots of chocolate with my family and CDC family!

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The Calgary Dream Centre acknowledges with humble gratitude that our organization is located on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Iyarhe Nakoda Nations, the Otipemisiwak Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Alberta District 6, and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.