Recovery Restores Families

He died at the age of 25 of a heroin overdose. I was devastated, but still it wasn’t enough to make me quit my drug use.

Ruby and Glenn, mother and son, know first-hand how quickly addiction unravels the cords of family. Ruby raised her two sons Glenn and Dale in West Vancouver, where the boys grew up playing sports and doing outdoor activities together. So when the brothers began drinking and partying as teenagers, they did it as they had done everything else—together. “In my early twenties, I started experimenting with other drugs like marijuana and cocaine,” Glenn says. Dale followed suit, but pursued a different drug: heroin. “He died at the age of 25 of a heroin overdose,” Glenn explains. “I was devastated, but still it wasn’t enough to make me quit my drug use.”

Glenn’s addiction strained many relationships in his life, including the one with his mother. “Glenn and I always had a pretty good relationship but there were times when he was an addict when it was very frustrating,” Ruby admits. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s like the person you love becomes a monster.”

After two decades of drug use that dissolved two marriages and led to many job losses, Glenn was ready to admit his life had become unmanageable: “In addiction, your priorities get all messed up. The drugs just take over. You become very selfish. You know that you’re hurting people you love, but it’s just a vicious, vicious cycle.”

In 1998, Glenn came to Union Gospel Mission for help, but admits he only went through the motions of recovery, not fully committing to the changes he needed to stay clean. Eventually, his old habits arose, and once cocaine was back in the picture, Glenn’s addiction continued to worsen.

I did recovery for me, but I also didn’t want my mom to lose another son.

It was a close family friend who saw Ruby’s worry for her son, and took steps to help get Glenn back into UGM’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program. “I think if he hadn’t got back in at that time, he wouldn’t have made it much longer,” Ruby says. “He was really bad, and great at covering it up, as most addicts are.”

This time, Glenn willingly embraced the hard work of recovery. “I did recovery for me,” Glenn explains, “but I also didn’t want my mom to lose another son. My relationship with mom now is totally different than before. I know she is proud of me today.”

For Glenn, faith has been a cornerstone of his sobriety. “God’s been such a huge impact in my life, and He’s placed wonderful people in my life where they’re supposed to be.” Ruby’s face brightens when she talks about how legacy gifts have brought transformation to her son’s life. “At the end of that six month program he was a changed person,” Ruby says. “Very thoughtful, very caring. Our relationship hasn’t been better.”

You’ve got to hang in there. Maybe it won’t do any good, or maybe it will, but you must never give up.

Glenn has been sober for seven years and has since crafted loving relationships with his mother, other members of the UGM community, and God. He is a jovial employee of UGM’s Thrift Store, has a supportive partner in his life, and is actively involved in UGM’s Alumni Association. “I’ve learned a little bit about what love is all about,” he says. “I’m still learning, and it’s still a journey, but it’s getting better all the time. These have been the best seven years of my life.”

Ruby understands that recovery from addiction leads to restoration, and would encourage others who are struggling to love a family member through their addiction. “Many times people told me with Glenn, and before with Dale, ‘Leave them alone, you’re doing too much,’” says Ruby. “But don’t listen to people who tell you that. You’ve got to hang in there. Maybe it won’t do any good, or maybe it will, but you must never give up. Maybe it’ll turn around. It did for Glenn.”

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