“I had a house but I felt empty,” he says. “All the material things in my life didn’t make me happy.” It wasn’t until later—much later, after dealing with the end of his marriage in 2014—that RJ decided to face his addiction for good.
After moving into subsidized housing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, RJ met someone who worked in the kitchen at Union Gospel Mission, an alumnus of UGM’s A&D Recovery Program himself. “At the time, I was asking myself: what am I doing this for?” RJ explains. This friend told RJ to check out UGM.
RJ had tried recovery before, but nothing stuck. But after a difficult divorce, he was hitting a new low. “I was so depressed,” he shares. “That’s when I got a phone call to come on down to UGM.” He had an appointment with an A&D Counsellor named Jack, to discuss a place in the program. “I ended in tears with Jack,” RJ recalls. “An Outreach Worker took my bags and said, ‘don’t worry—we’ll take care of these.’”
God accepts us for who we are, with unconditional love—and that’s what UGM does too.Tweet this
RJ’s addiction to alcohol was deeply rooted in complex emotions about his own worth. “I didn’t know how to let people into my life because I felt a lot of shame about who I was,” he shares. “My dad used to say to me: ‘You’re stupid, you’ll never amount to anything in your life.’ It was how I saw myself, and how I thought people saw me. I was trying to find what was missing in my life, but I didn’t know what was missing. All I knew was that I was in pain.”
In A&D Recovery, RJ learned to work with that pain. Knowing he needed multiple supports to sustain his chances at success, he dove into UGM’s continuum of care. At first, he started volunteering to garden. “Gardening is a healing process for me,” he explains. RJ then completed the Work Internship Program through UGM’s Employment Services, and was an active participant in Career Development classes. “As time went on, I started believing in myself more. Career Development gives you time to regain your confidence. I got that confidence here.”
I was trying to find what was missing in my life, but I didn’t know what was missing. All I knew was that I was in pain.Tweet this
Another invaluable part of RJ’s recovery has been giving back to others who struggle like he once did. Each December, he lovingly serves the Christmas Dinner meals that our generous donors provide. RJ’s confident, friendly demeanor makes each guest feel right at home.
Collectively, RJ’s compassionate volunteer work intersects with all the other pieces of his recovery to create a foundation for his newfound confidence. “I needed all these things to piece together my new life,” he explains.
Today, RJ is an irreplaceable part of UGM’s alumni and an invaluable part of UGM’s Maintenance Team, where a unique role was created just for his specific gifts. “UGM has really believed in me, hasn’t judged me, and has supported me. It’s like what Bill has said so many times: ‘by yourself you’ll have a hard time in life, but with two people back to back, we can do a lot of things.’ God accepts us for who we are, with unconditional love—and that’s what UGM does too.”