Growing up, I was very unsure of my identity. My parents were separated and lived very different lives from one another. I didn’t quite fit into either of their lives. This affected my relationships with my peers at school. Hockey was my only outlet and when I played, I felt like I belonged.
When I decided to quit playing hockey, I felt lost. I ended up making friends that were not living a healthy lifestyle. I wanted connection with them so badly, I was willing to do things I wouldn’t normally do. With them, I tried drugs for the first time and was immediately addicted. I then started to become involved in criminal activity.
My life became more and more difficult, I eventually became homeless. I was in and out of jail and the hospital. I found myself completely on my own and drugs helped me cope with the loneliness. I really struggled to feed myself. I would dumpster dive for food and would go to grocery stores asking for leftovers to eat.
Every time I was given food it felt like Christmas day when I was a kid, I would be so excited. One Christmas, a stranger approached me and handed over a bag filled with food and clothes. I just sat on the corner of the street and cried. I was so relieved and grateful.
One day, I decided it was time to make a change. It was either I started walking down the road of recovery, or I knew I would lose my life to addiction. I then decided to come to the Calgary Dream Centre.
When I walked through the doors of the Dream Centre, I was immediately welcomed. Though I felt uncomfortable at times, I finally felt like I was understood. Being surrounded by so many individuals who knew what I was going through helped me make friends who cared about me. I finally felt like I belonged and had a home. My life changed here.
Knowing every day, I was going to be fed and given the basics of life made me feel like a real person again. When you are on the streets, hungry and searching for food, you don’t feel human. Eating three square meals a day gave me structure again, it had been years since I had eaten around a family table at regular mealtimes before coming here. Eating with others and having conversations made me feel like I was a part of something. Consistent food gave me strength to go out and be active again, without being exhausted from hunger.
During the holidays, knowing I would have a place to be with those I cared about made it easier. When I first came, I was not close to my family. Not being alone on Thanksgiving eased the pain of not being with loved ones. It prevented me from considering going back on the streets and relapsing in my sadness.
I’ve been through both the Men’s Recovery Program and the Genesis Program while living here for a long time. I eventually moved in with the same person who helped me on the first day of my program. I’ve rebuilt my relationship with my mother, who I hadn’t seen for six years and reconnected with family.
I started working on staff at the Calgary Dream Centre as an Operational Support Worker and have become the lead of the team. This role means I help take care of the residents needs as soon as they walk into the building. I love this role, because I see people enter the program broken with their heads down and leave with their heads held high and shoulders up. It’s so rewarding to watch others succeed in their journey of recovery. I’ve come a long way since my first day here, I’m back in school studying social work and hope to help people coming out of the judicial system one day.