For as far back as he can remember, Keith was told he was worthless and stupid. The emotional and verbal punches of his father cut deep, but the physical abuse that followed pierced even deeper.
“The only thing I was terrified of as a kid was my dad,” says Keith. While Keith’s father was well-respected in the church, his ‘unfinished business’ from an abusive childhood left him angry, and unpredictable outbursts at home had horrible effects on Keith.
“I was thrown down flights of stairs—food was shoved down my throat until I puked— and when I vomited I was forced to eat it,” says Keith.
At 14 Keith hung out with friends who had reputations as bad boys and bad girls. They gave him the recognition and validation he longed for. But it wasn’t long before Keith became a walking tsunami—on self-destruct.
A Walking Tsunami
At 13 Keith was arrested for grand arson. At 16 he shaved his head and joined a hate movement. At 18 he was using and running illegal drugs. By age 19 he was addicted to opiates, eating 75 Percocet a day. Addiction’s powerful claws had dug in.
Arrest was a common presence in Keith’s life—mostly due to drug-related offences. For years he was either in jail, or homeless in the streets. “I did anything for drugs,” says Keith. “I even sold my children’s clothes.”
But one day, the dangers and risks of Keith’s cocaine use hit.
“My best friend and I had smoked $1,500 worth of crack over 12 hours,” says Keith. “As we took pleasure in the rush I noticed she was suddenly drenched in sweat and her heart beat was rapid. Then her arms and legs shook violently, she fell unconscious, and her breathing stopped.”
Keith totally lost it. He was convinced she had died. Then minutes later, she started breathing again. “It was the worst day of my life,” says Keith.
The terrifying incident forced Keith to acknowledge he had a problem and he took his first step to getting clean. With a warrant out for his arrest, he called the police and informed them of his whereabouts.
While Keith awaited trial he was remanded on bail. Looking for a warm, safe place to stay he checked in at The Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope in London, Ontario. The Centre, located at ‘the gateway’ of downtown, serves men, women and youth who are absolutely homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“At the Army there was no sense of threat, criticism or rejection,” says Keith. “They don’t focus on your past, but help you reclaim your future. They loved me back to life.”
At the Centre Keith pursued sobriety through programs like Withdrawal Management, a 12 Step Program, and life-skills training. All of which addressed the social, physical and emotional aspects of his addiction.
Today Keith hangs out with people who are positive influences. He recently graduated from an Addictions Counselling course and uses his recovery experience to make a difference on the streets he once called home. He has also won an award for the changes he has made in his life.
Says Keith: “Recovery is hard, forgiveness is harder. But with the right supports in place, it’s doable.”