At least that’s what I thought almost 25 years ago when I started my career in law enforcement working in downtown Toronto.
Quickly into my career, I decided to turn my perspective around and try to help those who needed it. The alcoholics, substance users, and vulnerable people in the communities where I worked.
It was well into my career when PTSD, depression, and alcoholism started taking over my life.
To be honest, I never thought that I had PTSD. In the line of work me and a lot of my friends are in, you have to put on your game face. You laugh at things that are actually sad. You stay strong no matter the fear you may have. Kids from the streets that I used to play basketball with or buy ice cream for began dying. Sometimes it was substance use. Other times it was gang life.
PTSD isn’t for our line of work. It’s for soldiers. Or so I thought. Whether it was the PTSD or depression that led me to alcoholism or the other way around, I’ll never know.
Beginning of last year, I was at a local convenience store in uniform near a community where I was working. When I went into the store, I saw a homeless man who I knew from the community. I used the bank machine and quickly took 160 dollars out and left the store.
A few minutes later, he was chasing me down the road. I stopped and he asked me how much money I took out. After hesitating for a moment, I told him. He then asked me to count it. I did — and found I was 40 dollars short. The man held up his two hands with 20 in each and gave me back the money.
I was astounded that this man who lived in our stairwells addicted to heroin and fentanyl, who had nothing but hustling to make money, returned mine.
I wrote a small blurb about it on Facebook and told him I did. He asked me to tag him so his mom didn’t think he was such a bad guy.
The Power Of The Internet
About a month goes by and he adds me on Facebook. I tag him, and my messenger on Facebook explodes from his friends and family including his mother who thought he was dead after not hearing from him for two years.
She flew from Cape Breton to Toronto and began her hunt for her son. She looked all day with no luck. Then by some miracle, he walked past her on the street and said, “Hey I know you, you’re my mom.”
She cleaned him up and sent him to Together We Can in Vancouver, where he got sober and is still sober today for over a year.
Meanwhile, I was struggling with my own issues and burning my life to the ground. I found that I was an addict long before I ever picked up a substance.
I was unable to keep myself sober. I tried my hardest. My family and friends couldn’t help me. No matter how hard I had tried, the alcoholism had taken over. I isolated myself from my kids and my remarkable wife (who I’m still ashamed to talk to). I lost almost everything.
Finally, when I hit my bottom, I reached out to the “once upon a time” homeless man, as well as the people I had met through him including members of TWC (Together We Can).
They had me here within 2 days.
I’m clean and sober today. TWC is now a group of my brothers and sisters.
YOU PEOPLE are now MY PEOPLE.