When Addiction Became a Family Legacy

A man smiling while vacuuming a floor mat
by The Salvation Army in Canada
Categories: Articles, Feature, Newswire

Substance abuse by his parents was a major factor in Matt leaving home at 16. Then he fell into his own cycle of addiction and homelessness that spanned over 10 years.

“We couldn’t function as a family and broke up,” says Matt. “That’s what drugs and alcohol do.”

Matt left home to avoid chaos and instability. He lived on his own and it wasn’t long before peers introduced him to hard drugs. “I wanted to be accepted and escape stress,” says Matt. “My life went downhill from there.”

Before long, Matt was spending $100 a day on drugs. He sold everything, stole from friends and became a drug dealer. “I did anything to get high,” says Matt. “I ended up sleeping in ditches, in dumpsters and on the streets―all because of drugs.”

“If it weren’t for The Salvation Army I’m not sure I’d be alive.”

Matt’s mental health fell apart, his skin was peeling, he had tremors and panic attacks. Completely worn out, he walked through the doors of The Salvation Army in Fort Frances, Ont.

The Salvation Army has had a presence in Fort Frances since 1914 and through its family services, food bank and thrift store support new stories are emerging.

“A year ago I looked like a Raggedy Ann doll,” says Matt. “The Salvation Army officer said he’d help me get clean and assist me with food, clothes and shelter. For the first time in years I had some hope and didn’t feel ashamed or isolated.”

With support from The Salvation Army, Matt’s health has improved and he is living a fulfilling, sober life. He is a groundskeeper and, in his spare time, volunteers with The Salvation Army stocking the food bank shelves, cleaning and maintaining the building.

“If it weren’t for The Salvation Army I’m not sure I’d be alive,” says Matt. “They have helped restore my self-worth and have become my family. I’m happy. I live in a house and have a job and feel safe. That’s what happens when you stay off drugs.”