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Assistant cook

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Robert, 56 years old

He didn't chose to be homeless...

I was born with rickets: my bones were soft. My father died when I was six years old. He was an alcoholic. He was never home and my mom had to take care of 10 children by herself.

From the age of 10, I was in three different foster homes. In the third, where I was with my sisters, I got myself beaten by the wife. She was far too strict and punished us for nothing. Every time she got angry, I took the blame so they wouldn’t have to take the thrashing…

I was seeing a social worker, but I didn’t tell her anything. I was afraid of the lady. It was horrible.

When I started high school, I met a girl who I fell in love with. She ended up becoming a good friend and I confided in her. And in my teacher. Obviously, it didn’t take too long before they contacted my social worker and got me out of there. I was there for three years total.

Once I was in the new home, I signed up for a vocational secondary school. But that didn’t go very well. Because of my illness at birth, I had a bump on my nose and a piece of flesh on my chin. The students called me all kinds of names and laughed at me. When I got home and they asked how my day had been, I said everything had gone fine. Then I went up to my room and cried. Even in my town, they had nicknamed me Tiquetin [Grimace]. That messed up my confidence quite a bit…

At 17, I decided to get an operation and to go live with my brother, sister and brother-in-law. Even there, the two guys often treated me like a punching bag.

I moved again and went to live with an aunt. She yelled at me all the time and took all my money. She made me believe all kinds of things and I ended up with nothing in my wallet. I found myself a dishwashing job in Saint-Canut, which gave me some spending money…which I spent on using. I partied with my cousin and forgot my problems for a bit.

Not long after, I went back to live with my mom. Things were good with my mom, too good. I could do anything I wanted. At my mom’s, I could come home totally hammered or stoned. I could spend two or three days completely out of it…I did cocaine and my cousin did crystal meth. We had access to every kind of drug. I was completely gone.

I moved to Saint-Jérôme. I worked under the table, I got social assistance and I sold drugs. Despite all that, I didn’t have a cent to my name because I was using.

I got sick of it. I decided to move to Montreal for a change of scenery so I could stop using. But I only stopped for two months. I wasn’t healthy inside.

I ended up finding a good job in recycling. They “strongly advised” that I get treatment. I went to two treatment programs. But a week after, I started using again. Why? I wasn’t doing it for me.

In 2004, I participated in a different treatment: confrontational counselling. The therapists walk around you and yell at you while you stay sitting with your head down, humiliated. And if you make the mistake of disobeying, they give you more chores, each one worse than the previous. I stayed there for nine months…

Instead of giving me strength, this treatment knocked down my self-esteem even further. Two days after I got out, I was back to partying. I was often late to work because of that. I had used up all my chances. One evening, I got wasted and didn’t get up the next morning… I was ashamed and afraid, so I didn’t want to call…and I lost the job.

I was hired at a convenience store in 2007. I stocked shelves and made deliveries. At that time, I was going down-hill fast. I’d get up in the morning and drink beer. I’d get to work and drink beer—secretly in the cellar. I’d leave work and drink beer. Then I went to bed. In the morning when I got up, I’d vomit bile and have blood in my stool. That went on for 2 months. Even though I was getting paid starvation wages, I didn’t want to quit my job. I needed that money to drink.

 

The morning of June 13, I woke up feeling much weaker than usual. Right after I arrived, the cashier had to call an ambulance because I collapsed. At the hospital, they told me I had stomach ulcers, spots on my lungs and that my liver had started to shut down because of all this. When the doctor asked how much I drank every day, I lied to him…before confessing that I was at 12 at least. The doctor told me that if I continued like that, I would be dead in a year and a half or two years.

I went to the Dollard-Cormier detox centre. It took me some time to come out of my isolation. After a disappointing response from a treatment centre, I was accepted at Villa de la Paix in Chertsey. I really liked this treatment program. It was really good for me. Something clicked there because that time, I was doing it for myself. 

After finishing my treatment at Villa de la Paix, I want to Maison du Père on September 28, 2016. I was signed up to work in the kitchen for several weeks. Now, I have a room in the residence! And it’s a nice one with two windows! I spoke with a social worker here at Maison du Père and I was really honest. I know that if I go back into an apartment by myself, I will start using drugs or drinking again. I’m still weak. I froze all of the physical and psychological hurts I had inside me with drugs and alcohol so I wouldn’t have to face them. I still get strong, sudden urges to use. When that happens, I go up to my room and meditate. 

 
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550, René-Lévesque blvd. East
Montreal  (Quebec)  H2L 2L3
514 845-0168