Ed had always longed for a sense of acceptance. As a teenager, alcohol gave him that. But as life continued, the shame of his substance use separated him from those who mattered most. No journey in overcoming homelessness and addiction is easy, but today, Ed is extending to others the same kind of compassion that gave him hope, and transformed his life.

When I first came to UGM, I felt an overwhelming sense that I could be loved and accepted here. But after recovery, there was still this real loneliness. So I threw everything away to go back to drugs.

During that time, I never visited UGM because I was filled with shame. But inside, I knew I had to return. I just didn’t expect the response I got when I walked through the doors again.

Ed took his first sip of alcohol at 13 to fit in with his friends

Growing up, I had always felt different. But when I was drinking, I felt accepted. I could act out the clown and be the fun guy. When I wasn’t, I felt an indescribable emptiness inside me.

From there, partying was pretty much a regular part of what I did. And after getting my driver’s license, I’d get behind the wheel, just obliterated. I put cars in ditches and smashed them into trees.

“I loved the feeling of alcohol.
It was like freedom”

Throughout that time, Ed also attended church and publicly committed himself to God

As long as I lived under my parent’s roof, I was made to go to church. Even though I did it out of obligation, I still remember the joy in my heart when I was there, singing songs.

I believed there was a God, but I didn’t believe He was personally there for me. The way I saw it, you had to be doing good things to receive God’s love. And I didn’t meet those conditions.

Despite that, at 18, I stood in front of my church and committed my life to Jesus. But then, something changed.

A strong feeling of guilt came in. I wasn’t living up to the values I knew to be true. I was hiding how much I was drinking. I wasn’t who I said I was.

That started a double life. I didn’t belong with the people I was partying with, or those in the church. I felt so much guilt and shame.

Ed’s secrecy and shame in drinking started hurting his loved ones

I got married at 19 and brought that into the relationship. I wasn’t honest and was hiding from my partner. I was blindsided when she left with our two kids after five years — I felt like a victim.

But what really happened was the progression of alcoholism. It had taken a turn and consumed me.

“I was living to drink and when I started, I didn’t stop”

One day, my employer said, “Ed, you’re a great guy. You’re a great worker. But you’ve got to do something about your drinking.”

My parents also sat down with me. Our relationship had become superficial at best, and they said, “Son, we love you. But this is hurting us.” Because when one family member hurts, they all hurt.

It left me in a catch-22 because I couldn’t not drink. I had so many problems, but alcohol was my solution.

Ed tried recovery for his family, but his heart wasn’t really in it

Between 1990 and 2003, I went to five treatment centers. I was very successful in recovery. I could do the things people wanted me to — it was like acting.

But I wasn’t doing it for me. It was for you — so that you could be happy.

There was no internal change happening. There was still hurting and loneliness. There was still the pain of disappointing my family and friends that I wasn’t dealing with.

And I couldn’t accept that through all my mistakes, God loved me the way I was. I had heard that message, but I thought, "Well, it’s good for other people. But it's unattainable for me." I got it all wrong — because God says, “Come as you are.”

Ed came to BC in 2003, hoping that changing locations would change him

By that time, I had found crack cocaine. It had taken over my life. And I just wanted the madness to stop.

I hopped on a bus and wound up in Kelowna. I ended up finding Kelowna Gospel Mission and committing to giving recovery another try. Eventually, I was working in their shelter and progressed to Kitchen Manager. I felt really blessed to be part of that.

But there was still a real craving for the drugs. I thought, “Maybe I can still keep living this life where I’m doing good and interacting with people, but dabble in it.”

As soon as I picked up, I did what I’ve always done: run away, rather than face up to it. I ended up in Calgary, finding day labour, staying in shelters, and doing drugs.

“Homelessness was really depressing and discouraging”

Being homeless really brought down my self-esteem. It hurt to realize I couldn’t care for myself.

I started feeling like, “This is what I’m supposed to be. This is what I deserve. And this is all my life is gonna amount to.”

In 2007, Ed ended up in the Downtown Eastside with nothing but the clothes on his back

I found Main and Hastings very quickly. I remember someone had dropped a blanket somewhere, so I picked it up and curled up on a doorstep.

From there, I found a shelter. That’s where I heard about UGM.

“People at UGM are so genuine because God’s love is present”

People said, “UGM is a good place. You can get a good night’s sleep and a meal.” Some days I slept outside, and some days I didn’t have a meal.

So I made my way into UGM’s food line — and found my turning point.

At UGM, I felt a really overwhelming sense that it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, and it doesn’t matter what’s happened. You’re loved and accepted here, and this is a place where you can heal.

Ed started recovery and his healing process at UGM, but something still felt missing

At first, that love felt foreign. When your life has been full of disappointment and hopelessness, it’s hard to grasp. But I wanted to believe it.

I went through the Alcohol & Drug Recovery program and loved it. I recommitted my life to Jesus. I started working in UGM’s Kitchen, living in Affordable Housing, and was set up to go to school for counselling.

But still, inside, there was just this real loneliness. “Everyone around me is happy,” I thought. “Why can’t I be, too?”

So I threw away everything for drugs again. I ended up living on the street and was heavily in addiction for six years.

During that time, I never came back to UGM for shelter or meals. I was filled with shame. I didn’t want to be seen as a failure, which I was.

But inside, I knew I had to return.

Ed gathered up the courage to come back in 2013, and was met with unconditional love

Coming in through UGM’s doors again was — wow — I felt totally accepted and loved. People said, “I’m glad to see you, Ed!” I didn’t expect that response.

Kumar, a counsellor, came and sat down with me while I was having a meal. He had a recovery application with him, and I was ready.

This time, I surrendered to God and learned He just wants to be with me. I’d always thought I had to perform for His love — but here, I practiced being still and allowing Him in.

“I finally accepted that God’s love is like a parent’s love; it doesn’t change”

And in my counsellor Jack, I came to know what a trusting relationship means, and what it looks like to talk openly and honestly. He wasn’t judgemental and had such compassion.

That wasn’t the last time I picked up drugs, but I knew where to go this time. I came back to UGM in 2016 and said, “I need help. I need other people.” That’s part of the journey — having mentors and friends, and sharing struggles and joy.

Today, Ed is a UGM Outreach Worker and has a deep sense of identity, fulfillment, and joy

Once I fully embraced God’s love, he gave me a real sense of excitement, newness, and learning.

In 2017, I completed the Social Service Worker Certificate program at CDI College as an honours student. I want people to know that with hard work and a reliance on God to direct your path, dreams can come true!

As a Front Desk Worker at UGM, I took seriously the fact I was the first person people would see at UGM. We all make an impact on the people we interact with, and I wanted every person who comes into UGM — guest or donor — to have a positive experience.

I especially loved connecting with the men in recovery. I remember having serious talks with guys who were feeling down, and I’d work through issues with them. They’d later tell me they stayed at UGM because of our conversation.

Last year, I ventured into Outreach with the Fraser Valley Mobile Mission. I love the path I’m on; when a person is ready to make a change, it makes such a difference to walk with them. I’m quick to call or drive them to a detox centre, and pray for them as they embark upon that journey.

“I’m humbled and amazed I get to be in the right place at the right time. I’m living out my purpose”

Ed has nothing but gratitude for life’s ups and downs, knowing they’ve shaped him into who God made him to be

One thing that’s impacted my sobriety has been the power of prayer over time. My family and church never gave up on me. Even though they didn't see change, they continued earnestly praying for me — and it’s made a huge difference.

Another significant part is May, a special lady I met in 2014. She stuck with me through my addiction, and helped me finally understand the importance of honesty. She’s become my partner, confidant, and best friend — and together, we’ve built a life based on love.

“I’m so filled, I’m overflowing — I just want to share with other people”

I have a great relationship with my family again, and recently, my older brother who’s a pastor said, “Ed, I’m jealous of you.” I asked what he was talking about — my life’s been a mess! But he said, “Yeah, but you wouldn’t be reaching the people you are today without going through what you did.”

That’s how I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I know what it’s like to be homeless and hungry, feeling hopeless, and in depression and addiction. Where I am today is because of that — so I wouldn’t change a thing about my past.

Through the life I’m living, I get to share a message of hope every day: Everyone faces barriers — some harder than others. But they can be overcome if we let God orchestrate our lives. He has a plan and a purpose — and for me, I live a life of gratitude every day because of that.

Thank you! Your faithful UGM support means that people like Ed will experience unconditional love and acceptance, time and time again — which can lead to incredible transformation.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

As we reach the one year mark of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us may find ourselves feeling reflective, pondering upon what’s unfolded in this past year, and how our lives have changed. We’ve all experienced moments of loneliness, doubt, and fear — and wondered when this will all end.

However, let’s welcome a new season and let it lead us to renewed hope. With the pandemic, we can feel promise in knowing many of us will receive the COVID-19 vaccine — including people living in the Downtown Eastside. But even greater than the light at the end of that tunnel is the radiant love of God, which is ever-present and available, but especially reminded to us at Easter time.

In this issue of Gratitude, you read how Ed is experiencing incredible hope through his faith in God and compassion for the community. He’s learned that when taken off path, the only thing certain and constant is Jesus — and by trusting His direction, Ed has come to a place of insurmountable peace and everlasting joy.

My prayer is that you see how much of an impact you’re making in and through the lives of people like Ed’s. Thank you for giving access to meals, shelter, and recovery, and filling hearts with safety, dignity, and belonging. You’re helping lead countless men, women, and families toward transformation and new life this Easter, and all throughout the Spring.

With gratitude,

William B. Mollard

President

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