Byron was 18 years sober, managing mental illness and PTSD, was gainfully employed as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and in a long-term relationship. But just when he thought things were going well, a few curveballs sent him on a downward spiral and he couldn’t see a way out.
“It was Christmastime 2013,” says Byron. “My girlfriend and I split up. Then my mom, who suffered with dementia, had two strokes and was put in a nursing home. For the first time in 92 years she didn’t know who I was.”
Intense anxiety sent Byron into a tail spin. He thought taking pain killers would be the easy way to feel better. But he quickly became addicted to the opiates.
“In 17 days I spent $3,000 on drugs,” says Byron. “I was in financial ruin—couldn’t afford groceries. Ashamed and severely depressed, I overdosed with the intent of taking my life. Thoughts of suicide persisted and at one point I contemplated hanging myself.”
One More Day
“It’s hard to ask for help,” says Byron. “I felt worthless and embarrassed when I walked through the doors of The Salvation Army in North Sydney, N.S. But kindness and a warm smile put me at ease. They didn’t judge me or ask deep questions. They listened and gave me food vouchers—just what I needed to get me through one more day.”
Then Byron’s mother died.
“Mom died in 2014,” says Byron. “I was flat broke with no way to get to her funeral that was 300 kilometres away. I called The Salvation Army who had a return bus ticket waiting for me at the station. I was overwhelmed with happiness.”
“Learning to live without alcohol and drugs is a process,” says Byron. “Add to that PTSD and mental illness.”
Byron hasn’t had an easy life. Flashbacks from trauma as a teen and scenes he witnessed while in the medical profession became disruptive and difficult to manage. He lived on the streets from age 18-24. News reports of war and famine left him feeling powerless and inadequate. For decades he turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.
“Today I’m clean, sober and feel great,” says Byron. “That has a lot to do with a support system that includes The Salvation Army. I can call on them anytime. I didn’t think people like this still existed in the world.”