Testimonial by Ice

Testimonial by Jay

I grew up in the Calgary area.  I was a small kid so I used to get bullied a lot. Because I was told only to stand up for others and not myself, I walked or ran away. In retrospect, it was the wrong thing to do.  I was horribly awkward at 14 years old but sprouted up and things normalized. From high school, I went straight into the military. Both grandparents served in World War II, so since I was three years old, I’ve always wanted to be a soldier.  It was a natural fit but a half good - half bad experience.  I was doing something that I was talented in. At the same time, it was a culture of drinking and manhood, we didn’t talk about anything.  I pushed my feelings down and that was that.

 

In 1997, I had to leave because I was completely broken.  I had a string of deployments and burned out. If I didn’t refuse the last deployment, I’m not sure I’d still be here if I had gone.  I was rudderless. It seemed nothing I knew translated to civilian workplaces. It was a time of wandering as I took on a bunch of different jobs. It was not good. I still had my problems on top of my normal problems. For years I didn’t need to think of food, a roof over my head, or bills.  After some distance, I went back to the military and trained to fight for a war that didn’t happen. It was like training for the Olympics and never going. So I volunteered to go into combat because I needed to know. I expected it to be bad and it was.

 

Needless to say, I ended up leaving again.  By then I had PTSD and had no idea I was bipolar.  I tried to put it all behind me and deal with it. At that point, every decision I made was negatively affecting people. The only emotion I knew was anger and based all my decisions on that.  I had a lot of ex-military friends and we formed a tiny family. The Cadets were looking for experienced personnel and I got the job.  But I should never have put on that uniform again.  If it wasn’t the crime I did, it would have been another crime. I was not on a healthy path.

 

It was terrifying to go to Stony.  But I started coming out of the fog and started seeing things more clearly. Adjusting to the culture inside was difficult because I knew that I had to fight for myself until I moved to the Minimum.  There, it was a huge change.  The psychology department was the best part and finally looked at stuff that I was never treated for.  I made the best of my time, did the work I needed to do and the programming.

 

Eventually, I got out in October to a halfway house. On the bulletin board, there was a concrete forming training opportunity. Even with COVID shutting things down, I got on the phone and was asked to report in on the following Monday!  It was successful training, I had a good time learning and it is what I needed.  It eased me into the community. A month later, I got a full-time job in construction with benefits.

 

I knew I needed structure. The halfway house was good but towards the end of my day parole, I needed more freedom than I had.  Quixote House filled that need for me because I don’t have to follow a schedule but there is some structure.  Actually, without Quixote House, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Two months into moving here, I had a health crisis.  I was able to call Brian and Sr. Peter for help.  They made sure I got to the hospital.  I also couldn’t cover all of the rent, and they understood which I was so grateful for. This has been the most stable place that I’ve lived in for years.

 

At Next Step, I also very much appreciated the help with bus passes. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school or get to my job. Even more than that, it took a lot of pressure off of me and I could tend to things that I needed to do. The work gear was absolutely invaluable. It is durable and doesn’t have to be replaced.

 

In the future, I hope to finish my journeyman carpentry and do well in the apprenticeship program and at school. For fun, I want to see Genesis on tour in Toronto when they start their world tour. Longer-term, I hope to find a place for myself and figure out where I fit in this world. 

 

Many thanks,

Ice

I grew up in a lower middle class family in racist Northern Manitoba town.  My dad is Metis and my mom is white.  Life was hard with the alienation and violence so I grew up as a loner. In elementary school, it wasn’t so bad yet because kids weren’t as judgemental at that point. In high school thought, that changed. It started okay.  During freshie week, I got in with the cool people.  They were over one day, sitting and chatting on the lawn when my dad came home.  One of the guys said “Holy F* Jay, what is that Indian doing entering your house?”  I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. It was so important to me to fit in and it shattered my ego. I then started hanging out with the misfits and felt a sense of belonging there.  This is when I was introduced to drugs.

 

Out of high school, I bounced around between low-paying jobs.  At 27 years old, I landed a mill job.  It was the job to have and I thought it would set me up for life.  Little did I know that 13 years later, the mill would shut down. I collected Employment Insurance and things started to go bad. I drank heavily and to make ends meet, started dealing drugs. I got caught for trafficking and spent 14 months at a treatment center.  I got clean, sober and found a new job to make a decent living.

 

After I was finished with house arrest, the structure and support of a parole officer were gone. I started drinking again and met a girl who was addicted to meth.  Within four months, everything spiraled out of control. I lost my job, started selling drugs again, and then was arrested a second time.  This time it was a federal sentence. In jail, I attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and decided I really wanted to turn my life around.  Shortly after, I met Kathleen on WebEx. 

 

My first step out of prison was to go to Tamarack, a treatment center. I built up some supports there and then moved to a halfway house.  Now I am settled there, and found a new job in construction. I like the stabilizing effects of a job and the feelings of productivity that go with that.  I also started attending Next Step meetings and like the extra support, I get if I need it.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to have supports to depend on. It helps give me positive options to choose from. I really liked Sr. Carol and appreciated learning more about the Enneagram. She was quite the driving force, challenging me and not letting me slack off.

 

At the end of November, I would like to find a stable place to live after I leave the halfway house.  I’m considering Quixote House, a place with people with similar goals. I also welcome the option to mentor other people.  I’d like to get a vehicle which would give me more freedom and a better way to get to work. Longer-term, I’d like to work hard and buy a house.

 

Thank you for supporting Next Step. The help and assistance have kept me grounded, and on a good path.  Kathleen and the volunteers are supportive and available if I have questions or concerns.  Also, the meetings every Thursday night are a good place to get a feeling of belonging and to support one another. It creates a balance in my life.  

 

With gratitude,

Jay

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