Restoring Myself Through Reflection

How You Helped Lennie Find His Meaning

Six years ago, I was at a point where my life had gone straight down. I was sleeping on the streets and working for my addiction. And then my brother asked, “What are you gonna do when our parents pass on?”

I told him I’d get myself sober. And then he replied, “It’s going to have to come from your heart. You’re gonna have to walk into a place like UGM and ask for help.”

Lennie grew up in a tight-knit family and comes from D’Arcy, St’at’imc Nation’s Anderson Lake Band

Back then, it was a good life. There are eight of us kids. We would visit our grandparents in Mount Currie quite a bit, which is one of the largest reserves in Western Canada. We were always close to our family and friends, and had a lot of support around us.

My family survived the residential school system, including my dad. When he talks about it, he tells stories of working on the farms in order to feed themselves, and the people who were ‘taking care’ of them. They had a difficult time, because it wasn’t really school for them.

That resulted in my dad getting into alcohol. Lots of people did. Once it started, it just escalated. Because it was always around, I grew up thinking everybody drank and partied all the time.

Alcohol was just a normal part of life

Alcohol was just a
normal part of life

Lennie had his first drink as a child attending residential school in the 1960’s

My mom thought residential school would make us better people. But she didn’t know what would happen out there. That with all the older students, there’d be bullying — and that alcohol would be shared openly.

I had my first taste of it when I was seven. Just by following my older brother, his friends, and our relatives. They were just following their parents, who drank heavily too.

I had my first taste of it when I was seven. Just by following my older brother, his friends, and our relatives. They were just following their parents, who drank heavily too.

After that, it was almost accepted that I’d had my taste of alcohol.

By the time Lennie was a teen, alcohol had become the centre of his life

My father worked on the BC Rail and was hardly home. But when he was, he drank. It was hard on my mother and affected our family. Later on, she left him and we moved to Vancouver.

By then, I was in high school and putting whatever little money I had — my allowance — into hitting alcohol.

Whenever alcohol was offered,
I wouldn’t turn it down

Whenever alcohol was
offered, I wouldn’t
turn it down

I was a happy-go-lucky drunk; I never got into any violence with other people. But at times, I would implode. Things that weren’t always good would run through my mind, and it had a drastic effect on me.

Lennie earned a living — and fuelled his addiction — by becoming a skilled tradesman

I worked hard, usually under the table, while on-and-off welfare. But I was only able to work up until a certain point: until the money came in. That’s when my life became unmanageable.

I always wanted to upgrade my work equipment: rain gear, boots, vests. But it never happened. Because as soon as I got paid, the first place I’d head to was the bar.

I always wanted to upgrade my work equipment: rain gear, boots, vests. But it never happened. Because as soon as I got paid, the first place I’d head to was the bar.

All my money went toward my addiction
to alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes

All my money went toward
my addiction to alcohol,
marijuana, and cigarettes

My body and mind craved them. I was always looking for that high.

Getting caught up in a 25-year cycle of trying to quit left Lennie feeling hopeless

There were times where life looked really bleak. I got caught up in the circle of addiction for 25 years, trying to quit. But every time I tried, there was the alcohol. There was the marijuana.

As soon as someone offered,
my hand was right there to accept

As soon as someone
offered, my hand was
right there to accept

That’s why it never happened. I was trying on my own, struggling against myself, and not reaching out and asking for help.

Until one day, Lennie had a sobering conversation with his brother

My brother also struggled with addiction. He was down into cocaine and heroin. He went to treatment at UGM a couple times and knew the people and counsellors there, but would only get so far until he walked out.

One day, he said to me, “What are you gonna do when our parents pass on?” Our father had started getting dementia, and our mother always did what she could to look after me.

And I was at a point where my life had gone straight down. I was couch surfing. Sleeping on the streets. Working for my addiction.

And I was at a point where my life had gone straight down. I was couch surfing. Sleeping on the streets. Working for my addiction.

I told him, “I’ll get myself sober.” But he said, “You’re gonna have to want it for yourself. It’ll have to come from your heart. You’re gonna have to walk into a place like UGM and ask for help.”

At the time, I hadn’t accepted that I truly wanted it. But he was the one who pointed me in the right direction.

That led Lennie to UGM four years ago on a cold December day

I came to UGM without food, nowhere to stay, and no money. They fed me warm meals, gave me a bed to sleep in, and I could even shower and do my laundry. I wanted to turn my life around, but any money I came by still went toward my addiction.

While staying in the shelter, I thought about starting recovery. The Case Managers were helping me get back onto social assistance first — and then I realized, if I can stay away from the money, I may be able to finally succeed.

Because at UGM, all the
help is just given

At first, I didn’t think I’d be able to do recovery at UGM since I grew up right on Hastings. But I talked with the counsellors, and Outreach Workers like Mike, who said, “We’re here for you. We’ll help you. We’ve been through the program too, and this is a good place.”

After listening to them, I decided to stay at UGM for Alcohol & Drug Recovery.

In recovery, Lennie did a lot of journaling, giving him a transformative self-compassion

That was quite the experience — my life flashed right before my eyes. I wrote about where I started, and what I’d done.

That was quite the experience — my life flashed right before my eyes. I wrote about where I started, and what I’d done.

I had a good upbringing, but alcohol had always been around me. I’ve always learnt by listening closely to others, but that also meant sometimes I was living into peer pressure.

I’ve come to understand I’ll never catch up from the 47 years of alcoholism, marijuana, and cigarettes. But listening to, and learning from UGM’s counsellors has helped me move on, and find out what life means to me.

While flourishing in recovery, Lennie experienced heartbreaking losses. But thankfully, UGM was walking alongside him

I lost my brother to the fentanyl crisis just as I was finishing recovery. Jack, my counsellor, called me out of class and we sat in his office and talked. And then my mother passed away when I neared the end of the 18-month Aftercare Program.

I’m so grateful for the place that I was at — and that was UGM. I’m grateful for the help I’ve received, and for all the people I’ve met here. Without them, it would have been very difficult.

They helped me turn my life around, and were there through my struggles and loss. They made sure I didn’t fall back into alcohol and drugs. They showed me there are people willing to help.

The people at UGM have
become my family

Lennie now honours his brother’s legacy, Indigenous culture, and connection with God by giving back

I still hang out with friends in the Downtown Eastside. I can still see myself in their shoes. My brother taught me that. Even though he had a troubled life, he always said, “Respect others, even though they’re in their addiction.”

I participate in Sweat Lodge Ceremonies and Pow Wows, which are also about respect and honour. And that’s what the Bible says is important too — my relationships with people, and helping others with what I know.

Now, my life has
come full circle

Now, my life
has come
full circle

I know how much of a difference the help can make to someone. How much it can mean. I try to share what I’ve learned, and point them in the right direction — like my brother did for me.

I know how much of a difference the help can make to someone. How much it can mean. I try to share what I’ve learned, and point them in the right direction — like my brother did for me.

If you meet Lennie today, you’ll immediately notice his humble spirit, introspective nature, and strong sense of hope

By reflecting and taking it all in, I’ve come to understand what life is all about for me: slowing down, and living one day at a time.

I’ve moved back home to Pemberton, am living at my sister’s cabin, and helping my relatives cut and sell firewood. When I’m not working, I like to do beading, and a bit of carving with deer antler and bones, making necklaces and flowers.

I’ve moved back home to Pemberton, am living at my sister’s cabin, and helping my relatives cut and sell firewood. When I’m not working, I like to do beading, and a bit of carving with deer antler and bones, making necklaces and flowers.

See, there will always be things to worry about — like how I feel my body growing old — but I’m very content with what I have. I’m happy with where I’m at.

And that’s because for 47 years, I believed I couldn’t turn my life around. So to be able to do it — that was a miracle. I’m just grateful for all the people who were there when I walked in UGM’s doors.

I pray and hope that those who are still struggling reach out like I did. Because when they do, there are people like me, and places like UGM, who are willing to help.

Thank you! By supporting UGM, you offer people like Lennie essential care, and hope that can flourish into a transformed life — sparking change for countless others.

“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” – Acts 10:34-35

As we’ve continued living through the global pandemic, we’ve all become accustomed to approaching each step we take with incredible care. We all know our actions impact the wellbeing of our communities. Yet, another epidemic has also been unfolding. And it deserves just as much, if not more, of our compassion and intentionality: the painful plight that has historically and is presently being inflicted on minorities — including Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC).

I truly can’t imagine how much racial prejudice and injustice breaks God’s heart. He does not show favouritism, yet knows and loves every single one of us deeply and distinctly. To discriminate — or to even turn a blind eye to the issues — is contrary to His heart. And it is contrary to UGM’s mission. Yet, systematic racism is still pervasive — whether explicitly or unknowingly — in our country, communities, and yes, even within our organization. And so UGM is firmly committing to doing better at being anti-racist, and building an anti-racist community.

For those who follow Christ, this commitment is just like realizing that as humans, we are nowhere near perfect — and so, striving to become more like Jesus every day. For UGM, we know there will always be ways to improve. But a few of our first steps in doing better means actively dignifying, respecting, and celebrating the BIPOC community — especially when the people we serve and seek to lift up are disproportionately Indigenous, and whose suffering has been mainly caused by racial oppression. By committing to this deep care, we can better and more meaningfully contribute to our communities’ social and economic well-being.

In this issue of Gratitude, you read Lennie’s story, and how his family was afflicted by structural racism — leading to generational trauma and cycles of poverty, homelessness, and addiction. My prayer is that by learning his story, your heart to understand and honour marginalized people grows even stronger, just as mine has. I also hope you’re inspired, seeing how your gift of a hearty meal and safe bed to sleep in welcomed him in with the kind of love that can heal deep wounds, and completely transform lives.

This Christmas, you’re making life-giving hope available to men, women, and families in need. Because of you, a warm take-out box of food, a hamper filled with toys and groceries, and an invitation into addiction recovery means so much more. Your kindness means that in a time where people feel scarcity, fear, and division, they are safe, loved, and dignified — with a place to call home, and people to call family, every day.

Merry Christmas and God Bless,

UGM President's Photo
UGM President's Signature

William B. Mollard
President

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