“I didn’t understand the danger I was in,” says Keith of his drug abuse. “I just wanted more and more.”
At age nine, Keith’s mom passed away. “That’s when things changed drastically,” says Keith. The family moved. His dad remarried. Then, after seven years of sobriety, his dad returned to active alcoholism. “He was a violent drunk and I got used to turbulent living.”
At age 13, Keith experienced his first beer. “I drank because others drank,” he says. One drink lead to another and Keith blacked out with no memory of what happened the next morning.
Before long, Keith was smoking marijuana on a daily basis and by age 17, he was using cocaine. “The euphoria was intense, but short-lived,” he says. “I just kept getting high.”
Out of Control
For the next 12 years Keith was a functional addict, holding stable jobs as a taxi driver, restaurant manager and hairdresser. He seemed to have things under control.
Then tragedy struck. When his father and best friend died in the same month, Keith just couldn’t get past it.
“My behaviour was insane,” says Keith. He drank and smoked up any money he earned, at times spending $1,000 a day on drugs. He found himself homeless, in trouble with the law and in-and-out of addiction treatment.
In 2010, after 10 years on the streets, and in a God-given moment of clarity, Keith threw away his drugs and attended a 12-step program that lead to The Salvation Army’s Harbour Light in Toronto. At the Harbour Light he spent 11 months in the transitional housing program, which offered him a safe clean environment, where he learned to set and achieve goals such as paying rent, buying groceries and budgeting—all to assist him with better long-term outcomes.
Today, at age 50, Keith is a successful hairdresser, lives in an apartment, and volunteers his time cutting hair in a shelter that once put a roof over his head and gave him food.
“I thought I could outrun the drug, but that wasn’t the case.”