I grew up with a single mom, and two brothers. We moved around frequently, and I never stayed in one school for more than a year. My childhood was hard, and my brothers and I often were hungry. On a good day, we would be able to find cereal or something in the cupboard to eat. Other days, we went hungry.
We were often sent home from school because we didn’t have washed clothes to wear, or had showed up to school not clean. My mom married a man who drank and abused her, and sometimes us. When I was 11 years-old, he beat us all up badly. After this, my siblings and I ended up in foster care.
I only lasted in foster care for a few years before moving out on the streets at the age of 15. It was here I was introduced to drugs through the crowd I hung around with. I learned to “hustle and grind” to survive through the drug market. I was hungry often, but the drugs I started using would help take the edge off the hunger pains.
My mother’s side of the family lived in Canada, and we moved to be close to them when I was 16 years old. I was excited to be in Canada so I could begin a new chapter of my life. I had several cousins who were close to my age, and they helped make my transition to a new country smooth.. I would keep myself high for up to 6-7 days in a row before I would crash and pass out. When I woke up, I would be starving, but all I could think about was getting my next high.
The odd time, someone would feed me, and I would be so grateful. It was their generosity that was often the reason I and others like me, survived another day on the streets.
It’s hard to find a warm place to sleep on the streets. I slept many nights outside in -40 degrees Celsius. Those cold days were the saddest, because it would make me realize everything I was missing in life. Every moment I wasn’t high, I felt regret for living my life the way I was.
At the age of 50, I had enough of sleeping outside in the cold. All my friends had either passed on or were in jail. I felt like I had wasted half of my life, and I wanted to make the most of the time I had left. I wanted to live and enjoy life. I enrolled into a detox center and later applied to the Calgary Dream Centre.
I chose the Calgary Dream Centre, because they had both a recovery program and a transitional housing program. I knew I didn’t have a place to go once I would finish recovery treatment, so knowing I could stay on afterwards brought me relief.
When I walked through the doors of the Dream Centre, I was nervous, but everyone greeted me kindly and made me feel comfortable. My first meal was sweet and sour meatballs, and I was surprised at how good it tasted!
Having consistent meals, and a roof over my head brought me peace of mind I had not experienced before. It gave me what I needed to start to recover from years of drug abuse and learn how to reintegrate back into society. Simple things, like learning to make my bed each morning and eating three meals a day helped me to learn to establish healthy routines that contributed to my healing.
Having a community around me, and counselors to support me has changed my life. I’ve learned that it is important to be careful about who you surround yourself with. The people I met here helped strengthen me. I feel good about myself now, and I am healthy and happy! I have graduated from the Addiction Recovery Program and found a steady job.
I now have goals for my life, such as getting my driver’s license, reconnecting with my brothers, getting a vehicle and having my own place.
If I were to encourage someone who is walking a similar road to myself, I would tell them it’s never too late to start over. I started my life over at age 50, and you can too!