Hervé, 73 years old
He didn't chose to be homeless...
As a teenager and even when I was a young adult, I was quite a bit of trouble. I’ve done some bad things. I didn’t go to prison for nothing. I did some things wrong and got myself arrested…and that’s how it should be.
I drank alcohol, took drugs and medications. I also injected drugs. I’ve tried everything there is on the market. I was pretty out of it. In the winter, I slept on the heating grates. The one at Place Dupuis was my place.
There came a point when I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was defeated, really down and out.
I came here one evening and they welcomed me in. I had come here a few times like this in the past. But this time was different. The next morning, they invited me to go to Maison du Père’s farm in Disraeli. I didn’t really know where I was going. I was pretty lost. But I had tried everything and nothing had worked, so I was ready.
Something went right there. I got hooked on Alcoholic’s Anonymous. At the time, you put your name on the board if you wanted to go to the meeting that evening. That really worked for me. I was ready for the lifestyle they offered.
At the farm, they helped me understand where this anger came from, all these feelings I had. They helped me understand that it came from my father. The social workers gave me a mass and they had me work in the cow pastures to get the bad out. I often saw my dad’s face on the chopping block. And that did me good.
I don’t know exactly how much time I stayed at the farm. I know they made an exception for me. I was pretty out of it. They let me stay a few extra weeks, maybe five to seven weeks.
When I got back to town, I didn’t let things get out of hand. I continued my treatment program during the day and went to the meeting in the evening. So I didn’t have much time to think about using. Fortunately, I didn’t even make an exception on my last day of therapy. That evening, the guys decided to go out partying with some bottles of the hard stuff. They ended up regretting that night. I was lucky. I did what I had to do and I was protected.
When I left Maison du Père, I moved to Rue Beaudry in the same neighbourhood as some guys I knew. But it wasn’t a good idea. To stop using you sometimes have to keep your distance from certain friends, unfortunately. They aren’t bad, but since they drink, it could become a temptation. So, I moved to the north side of town.
Father Roger helped me a lot when I was at Maison du Père and with his support, I worked at La Piaule for two years. It’s an organization in Saint-Laurent that helps prostitutes, transvestites and transsexuals. I was embarrassed and timid. I wondered what I could do to help others. He told me something that was right on: “Shut up and listen. They don’t want answers, they just want to talk about what’s going on in their lives.”
Not long after that, Sister Georgette, who I also knew from Maison du Père, contacted me. She took me to work with 18- to 30-year-old young people. I followed up with the young people who were at Portage and were going to Lac Écho or those coming back from Mélaric. I also worked at Maison du Père where I was treatment manager for several years.
It’s been 20 years now that I’ve been working at Old Brewery Mission. I was a supervisor for 17 years, but I chose to take a social worker position for personal reasons. I spend time with the guys where they’re at, 40 hours a week. I’m the one at the door. I have a good time with the guys. I like it. I’ve been through the same things they have. With love, I get more than I give. I’m paying it forward to others.
Things are going well for me now days. I live in Montreal during the winter and I have a house in the country for summer. I’ve been with the same woman for 23 years — she’s a saint!
And in April 2017, I got my cake celebrating 35 years of abstinence.
It feels good to give back to others. That’s why I didn’t go back to my bad habits. Without giving to others, I would have gone back to where I’d come from.