When Alcohol Takes Over

Joseph, a journeyman cook at The Salvation Army Harbour Light Vancouver prepares a meal
by Linda Leigh
Categories: Articles, Feature, Mobile, Newswire
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After 30 years of drinking on a daily basis, Joseph was offered help with recovery through The Salvation Army. But could he commit to improving his situation? It was a decision only he could make.

“You need to make a choice,” The Salvation Army worker said to Joseph. “You can drink the rest of your life, and more than likely die, or you can do something about it.”

Joseph abused alcohol for the majority of his adult life. He worked in the restaurant industry, which only fueled his addiction. He’d tried to stop drinking many times in the past, but just couldn’t do it by himself.

“Three years ago, I didn’t think I could get any lower than I was,” says Joseph. “You’ve heard the phrase ‘hit rock bottom’―I did. I lost my job, my wife, my family and was homeless.”

Get Sober or Die

Joseph was staying at a shelter in Victoria when he met a man from The Salvation Army. “The man had graduated from an addiction recovery program at The Salvation Army Harbour Light in Vancouver,” says Joseph. “He said it was hard work but thought it was exactly what I needed. I knew I had to stop drinking or I would die.”

The Harbour Light Treatment Program is a residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation program for adult men. Through education, group therapy, and one-on-one counselling, clients are provided with a safe and supportive environment where they can begin the process of change.

“I walked into Harbour Light terrified and hungover,” says Joseph. “I remember someone welcoming me and it took a year for me to remember who that was. That was the shape I was in.  The drinking took a real toll on my mind and body.”

Life after Addiction

At Harbour Light, counsellors and staff taught Joseph coping skills and strategies to maintain sobriety. Their encouragement gave him the inner strength to want to improve. He enrolled in a leadership program, completed high school and an entry-level counselling course, wrote and published a book based on his experience with the program.

“For me, The Salvation Army was more than an addictions treatment centre,” says Joseph. “They helped me rediscover the person I once was and reintegrate into society. I’m no longer ashamed or embarrassed. I enjoy getting up in the morning and coming to work as a journeyman cook at the centre.

“I’ve been sober for three years. Without The Salvation Army I would have drank myself to death,” says Joseph. “It was that bad.”