It’s Never Too Late To Change

“The most amazing thing is that I have lived until now,” says Stephen, 69 years old. “Just to have survived is really a miracle… and I have a real sense of gratitude that I am still alive.”

Born in Victoria in 1950, Stephen has lived here most of his life. In fact, he walks by the house he was born in several times a month and had a friend who worked at the original Cool Aid Streetlink shelter nearly 50 years ago.

Stephen’s life changed dramatically on his 19th birthday. A friend offered him a “hit” of drugs, which he tried. He immediately became addicted. “I started narcotics at a really young age and they have been with me my whole life,” he explains matter of factly.

When his son Mark was just eight years old, in 1990, Stephen asked his own mother to look after him, fearful not only that he was killing himself with drugs, but that he would be unable to care for his son. As Stephen points out, “the whole family is addicted because they are living with a drug addict. It’s just that they don’t get the drugs.”

Today, his recovery is strongly motivated by his son and two grandchildren whom he loves dearly. “That’s a big part of it,” says Stephen, “sticking around for my son and my grandkids. And I’m able to do that now,” he says with a smile on his face (and tears on ours). They talk over the phone now every week.

As a result of addiction, Stephen has been homeless off and on over the years, and has had several stays at Cool Aid emergency shelters. “I became homeless earlier this year, and then I became sick and was in the hospital for a really long time.” During this time in Stephen’s life, “most of my thoughts were occupied with suicide… fortunately, I didn’t want to hurt my family.”

Stephen moved from the Rock Bay shelter to Cool Aid’s Mount Edwards Court (affordable seniors homes) in August 2018 and is now in addiction recovery. “When I came here I wasn’t very happy about anything. But in a very short period of time it has allowed me a place to fight for my life. And it is a fight.”

Stephen is thankful to now have a lot of support around him. “Cool Aid starts to open doors; it starts to open hearts to people.”

“A place like Mount Edwards, for me, is one of the main building blocks of recovery. Having a place of safety and security are two major foundations that you need to have before you can do anything.”

“You need to get some people behind you. Start to utilize some of the services downtown where people are willing to help you.”

Friends he has known most of his life are also part of his recovery team. They meet every day for coffee at Tim Hortons.

“For me, all the people I want in my life are right here in Victoria.”

“I would like to stay at Mount Edwards for quite a while,” he says. “I’ve got a ten-year plan that I’d like to follow. My health is the most important thing. So I’m going to eat well.”

He encourages the rest of us to, “come on down and meet the people that work at Cool Aid and see what is going on. You’d be amazed how much good they do.”

It’s never too late to change and start a new life. Let Stephen be our inspiration.