Running towards Hope
a childhood rooted in joy, eclipsed by war
Dalmar’s early childhood was bright. Growing up beside the wide, boundless ocean had its perks. “We used to swim, go to movies, and walk back along the streets late at night,” Dalmar says, describing his hometown Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. “My childhood was so great. Until the Civil War reached our city. After that, you either fought or you left. There was no in between.”
“My father didn’t want to leave the country,” Dalmar recalls. “This was his home—it was all he ever knew. Because my dad didn’t want to leave, my mom didn’t either.” When Dalmar was ten years old, his family packed their belongings into a car and headed for Kenya, where his father had to face a difficult decision.
“The war is getting worse every day,” Dalmar’s father said to him. “I think you and your brother have to cross the border.” Unsure of what would happen next, Dalmar’s aunt welcomed these two brothers into her family while Dalmar’s parents returned to Mogadishu. “My aunt applied for our refugee status,” he says. “After three years in Kenya we emigrated to Holland.”
Life after Somalia
When Dalmar was in high school in Holland, his mother got very sick and passed away. “It was very bad when she died. I was always thinking that one day we’d be reunited and everything would just go back to how it used to be,” he explains. “I was doing so well in school. I wanted her to hear me speak Dutch. I wanted her to see me ice skate for the first time.”
“My trouble with drinking started there,” he recalls. “Before I knew it, I’d lost myself. I was a functioning alcoholic.” Because alcohol was forbidden at home, he crafted lies to cover his behaviour.
At age 19, Dalmar wrecked his first car by drinking and driving. When his guardians confronted him about this, he lied and panicked. The next day he booked a flight to Toronto. “I called my family from Toronto and told them the truth. They were devastated,” he remembers. “They said, ‘Dalmar, this is not what you’re supposed to do! You’re running away!’ ”
“i was always running away”
Dalmar found it difficult to talk to his family, though he now realizes that he’d established a pattern that would follow him for years. “The secrets grew up,” he explains. “I went from hiding my drinking to wandering the streets of Toronto by myself. I didn’t want to tell anyone about my past. I had made a lot of bad decisions that I was ashamed of.” Dalmar was in Toronto for thirteen years before a meltdown lead him to Canada’s western coast: he was working as a truck driver when he got his second arrest for drinking and driving.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone about my past.”
Though his boss responded with compassion, Dalmar felt deep shame. Embarrassed, he left his job and bought a greyhound ticket to Vancouver. “It was the same thing I’d done in Holland,” Dalmar reflects. “I was always running away.”
“he’s telling my story”
After two weeks in Vancouver, Dalmar wandered into UGM for a cup of coffee. An outreach worker named Johnny was speaking during chapel. “He kept saying that we can’t run from our problems,” Dalmar remembers. “As I listened to him, I thought to myself: ‘He’s telling my story.’ I filled out an application for UGM’s Alcohol & Drug Recovery right away. I saw that this pattern would repeat itself forever if I didn’t.”
“If I knew what I learned here earlier,” Dalmar reflects, “I would have done recovery a long time ago. UGM fights addiction from the root. They don’t just ask people to stop using, but instead, try to find out why a person uses to see if they can help with that. Everyone working here was so helpful, so kind. There’s this sense of belonging and no sense of condemnation.”
“UGM fights addiction from the root. They don’t just ask people to stop using, but instead, try to find out why a person uses to see if they can help with that.”
Moving Forward in New Hope
“Before, I felt aimless and did whatever I wanted. Here, I decided to start to learn a little more about God.” Dalmar felt drawn to the compassion in Jesus’ story; it was a compassion that resonated with his feelings of shame. He started asking questions, seeking knowledge, and attending a church. “I saw that Jesus gave people grace,” he explains. “I decided to get baptized at Coastal Church.”
“I can see things clearly now and I see that the pattern has ended,” Dalmar says. “Today, I have a new life. I am so thankful for the donors, counsellors, and UGM staff who played a big role in my recovery. Now I understand what my part is, and what I need to do to move forward. I’m so grateful for this place and the people in it. Without them, I wouldn’t get another day to try.”