Salvation Army Helps Addict Replace Despair with Dignity


salvationarmy_mark-harbourlightMark Love can’t remember committing a serious crime. He was blacked out drunk. When he was arrested the next day he was told a weapon was involved. He knew he needed professional help for various addictions but, was it too late? His actions could have grim consequences.

As a teen Mark suffered with undiagnosed mental-health conditions. They affected his emotions, actions, moods and thoughts. His family knew something wasn’t right, but never pursued the odd behaviour. Symptoms such as paranoia, isolation, anxiety and depression developed in adolescence and became a real problem in adulthood.

Mark was always shy and, in an attempt to fit in, dabbled in soft drugs and alcohol during high school. “By age 21 I was drinking daily,” says Mark. “I had lost the power of self-control and was a full-blown alcoholic.”

Although Mark held a job and paid rent, he felt he was going out of his mind. He was diagnosed with concurrent disorders (psychiatric disorders and substance abuse). He lost his job and lived amongst cockroaches and bed bugs in a small Hamilton, Ontario, apartment. He became a compulsive hoarder. His food came from soup trucks and kitchens. His source of tobacco came from cigarette butts he collected on the streets. “My whole life was in disarray,” says Mark.

Getting clean and sober was an impossible task for Mark. He had short-term successes, but couldn’t create a new life without alcohol or drugs on his own.

One night police officers arrived at Mark’s door. He was handcuffed and arrested for a crime he was too intoxicated to recall. “It was in the back of the police cruiser I realized I had hit a dead end street with no place to turn around,” says Mark.

Mark was released on bail and, on December 1, 2009, he entered The Salvation Army Harbour Light’s addiction treatment program in Toronto’s downtown core. The year-old, beautifully designed building stands at the corner of Jarvis and Shuter Streets, site of the original Harbour Light Centre that was opened in 1961.

The expanded facility brings together four main ministry components. These include an 86-bed residential substance abuse treatment program, a transitional housing complex with 98 bachelor apartments, the Toronto Harbour Light Community Church and Salvation Army immigrant and refugee services.

“Harbour Light gives me a place to live in dignity while I continue to work on my sobriety, medical and legal issues,” says Mark. “Trained counsellors give me advice for dealing with issues around withdrawal, and medical professionals teach me coping skills to compensate for my disorders.
“I am clean and sober. Family relationships have been restored and I have hope for a better life.”
Mark awaits sentencing for his crime—the last action of the trial court.


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