Five years ago, Dave came to UGM for a cup of coffee. “I was on my way to the liquor store but it wasn’t open yet, so I stopped by UGM.” Sitting in the Cornerstone, UGM’s Outreach hub in the Downtown Eastside, Dave was shaking so hard that he spilled his coffee everywhere. “I’d been really sick,” he explains, “so I hadn’t had a drink in days.” Dave’s body was detoxing from years of heavy drinking, which had increased following the devastation of losing his wife of 25 years to cancer.
An Outreach worker spotted Dave shaking, and told him about UGM’s Alcohol & Drug Recovery program. Certain his application would take weeks to be processed, he applied, but to his surprise was offered a spot in the program immediately.
The months that followed were a slow climb. An addiction as serious as Dave’s wreaks havoc on one’s cognitive abilities, and after years of drinking heavily, detoxing can be a painful process. “I was eating with my hands because I couldn’t navigate a fork from plate to mouth,” Dave explains. “Around the second or third month of recovery, my brain started to clear up. I figured, well, I stayed this long so I might as well give this place a real shot now.”
Navigating recovery was one thing, but after years of resisting making connections with others, community was another challenge. “When you walk in here, you can feel the love. I hated that feeling, when I walked in here,” Dave says. “It didn’t make any difference who you were, or how messed up you were, or how smelly you were…it didn’t matter! People were going to love on you.”
As time passed, Dave began to feel at ease at UGM, crediting his counsellor and sponsor’s belief in him as being instrumental to his success. “Eventually I started believing in myself,” Dave says. “I started to believe that maybe God wasn’t this horrendous person I thought he might’ve been.”
While preparing to complete the six-month A&D Program in 2011, Dave began making plans to resume working. However, just as he graduated, Dave was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors gave him six months to live. Shortly after he suffered a stroke, paralyzing one side of his body, and leaving him unable to walk.
Today, Dave is five years sober. As well as a safe place to call home, and friends that are like family, Dave also feels as if UGM’s given him new life. “This sounds really cliché,” he says as a disclaimer, “but it’s like I’ve been re-born. These have been the best years of my life.”
Because of his slow-burning cancer, Dave is unable to work. Instead, he gives back to the place he now calls home. Hear him explain how he spends a typical day, in the video below.
As you’ve seen, Dave has found a home and a new life at UGM, and credits the support of donors like you for making his transformation a reality. If you are interested in experiencing first-hand what happens at UGM, we would like to invite you to be a guest at an upcoming Dinner at the Mission.
RSVP to join us for a hot meal prepared by UGM’s chefs, enjoy a tour of our facility, and hear from someone whose life has been transformed, just like Dave’s.