“I am an alcoholic and drug addict,” Stan declared to the group. “Although I’ve been clean for five and a half years, I am in recovery and take things day by day.” It was this past Saturday that Stan, a formerly street-involved individual, spoke these words to our newest volunteers at our “Urban Intervention Training.” The course, which is a 5-week, fast-track training that covers issues related to street culture, addictions, mental health, and more, gives individuals an opportunity to learn from staff, experienced volunteers, and street friends about what to expect at OIM.
And that is what Stan did.
The trajectory of Stan’s story was typical of many who have spent their adult lives on the streets. Stan came from a violent, alcoholic home. By the time he was a teenager, he was in trouble with the law, spending countless times in jail, and continuing to drink heavily. He thought things could not get worse. Later, he was introduced to crack and, well, things got worse. This led to decades of drinking, using drugs, violence, prison time, as well as a divorce and estrangement from his only son.
When he came to Ottawa six years ago, it was with the intention of finally beating his crack addiction. While the first few months were rocky, he soon had the determination and the drive to stay clean, first one day, then seven, then thirty days, then sixty days! Soon, he found himself commemorating annual anniversaries. It was not easy, however. “Still isn’t,” he told the group. But Stan has come a long way. He has finally reunited with his son and works odd jobs to pay the bills. It was an encouraging story to hear. And yet, there was something more he wished to say. “If you think I could do this alone, you are kidding yourselves,” he added tearfully. “Trying to do this on my own during those first few months was difficult. It made me feel hopeless. But being around caring individuals offering me spiritual and emotional support at OIM gave me the courage to keep going. That is the value of what you do. You give hope to people who have lost all hope.”
To those of you who ever wonder if friendship alone can make a difference in someone’s life, consider Stan’s words. You just never know when the hope that you give may take root and spring forth…