Justin’s Transformation Story
My name is Justin and this is my story of how Freedom’s Door changed my life forever!
For me, abuse of several kinds started at a very early age. Alcohol and addiction were always a part of my life. From a young boy, I remember alcohol, cannabis, and several other substances being around. It all became very familiar, and I had no fear of any of it. As a very young child, I lived in the Okanagan, but spent my teen years in Surrey. I can tell many stories of trauma and horrible things that happened to me; awful things I did to myself and others, but there’s really no point. What it all boils down to is this: when I was very young, I was a real mess.
In my late twenties I managed to clean up my act and started a family. I built a career in construction and raised my sons. At some point I fell into depression and drugs but fought it and, thinking I was healthy and all the gangs and drugs were in my past, I pushed on thinking life was good. Then my family fell apart and myself as well. I went deep into a scary depression. Not quite a year after my family broke up, my mother passed away from cancer. A few months later, my little brother died of suicide.
Feeling really lost and totally on my own now, I felt nothing. All I wanted to do was hurt myself and anything close to me. Full of hate and anger, being abandoned by my kids and ex-wife, I left my kids in Alberta and returned to the Okanagan looking for peace. Trying desperately to find myself again, I was slipping further and further into addiction. So much pain and anger, all I had to do was a little bit of drugs and it was all gone. Even though it was just temporary, it was better than feeling so much pain. I spent the winter of 2021/22 on the streets. I was cold, tired and lonely.
One night, I fell asleep, and I can still remember seeing flashing. I opened my eyes to discover I was on fire! I jumped up and took a hard hit to the side of my head, immediately realizing I was in a fight for my life. I was sprayed with lighter fluid and lit on fire. Three men were robbing me and were going to any extreme to steal what little I had left. Somehow, I managed to throw myself to the ground and smother the flames. Badly burned on my hands and body, I fought like a lion to find my way out of there. My jacket had melted to my skin. I was in serious trouble. Barely alive, I began thinking about my children and decided it was time to fight to live, not die on the streets. Surrendering, I finally went to a shelter.
In the shelter, I fought hard to stay clean, but it was a wet shelter. Already seriously hardened by the streets, I was fighting to survive and fitting in on Leon Ave meant using. The truth is, I put myself in more danger by taking a bed in a wet shelter and not using. I became a target and again found myself fighting for survival, literally having to defend myself while getting out of the shelter’s door with a knife in my hand, I was ready to cut someone to get to the safety of the street. I could not see any way out of my situation.
Once I got into a men’s only shelter where drugs and alcohol were not allowed things became a little better. I was able to stay clean for lengths of time, but always being surrounded by it I had slip after slip. It seemed hopeless and I felt like my life was coming to an end. I remember being really confused in the shelter not really knowing what was going on at times. Anger still burning in me and rage was taking over. A night of using was the only relief, or so I thought. I’d had suicidal thoughts over and over and hoped the next hit would be my last breath.
Through all this I thought of my sons and wanting to die but at the same time wanting to see my boys again, so I held on, thinking “Just one more day” over and over again. I started to fight. I began volunteering by doing outreach work and volunteering at thrift stores, but always having relapse after relapse. I guess I stood out in the crowd because one very special lady wouldn’t give up on me. She checked in on me constantly. She helped me any way she could and as long as I tried she walked beside me. Finally, she asked me about God and whether or not I believed in him. I told her “Yes, I swear at him everyday for all the things he’s let happen!”
She told me about Freedom’s Door and asked me to call. I started calling in everyday talking to strangers, scared of the unknown, tired of finding myself in danger, and worn down by the streets. I was calling and waiting to get accepted into a place I knew nothing about. Finally the call came and a friendly voice told me to pack two bags and come to the main office. Worried, scared, and lonely, I had nothing to lose so I took a leap of faith and showed up. I nervously walked into the house and was met by Wanda and the day staff. As an example of where my head was at, I brought a few clothes and several knives and weapons. I think about it now and can’t believe that’s what I brought to the place that ended up saving my life! They took my weapons away and still showed me love. Still on edge and scared I was shown to a room made up with a bed and pillow, sheets, and a bathroom with a lock on the door. Mealtime came and I nervously walking into a room of strange men, yet I was told “You eat first Brother.” Still confused, I was thinking “What do these people want from me?” I had no idea how to be thankful and accept that someone actually cared. I was approached by people that were being so nice to me???
A young guy introduced as my “Case Worker” was really kind and gentle. Then another person who wasn’t even my Case Worker said, “If you need to talk my office is always open to you.” “What do they really want from me?” – that was my question. Confused and foggy from the drugs, barely having control of my body and seriously scared I was going to get robbed, attacked or just cast out, I waited for the next thing to happen. I went to bed and, being clean and sober, I fell asleep. The journey and road to recovery began.
First morning task was Praise and Proverbs, followed by a group class, then a real lunch, and finally an afternoon class. Suddenly in front of me was a pastor who didn’t judge me but just showed me a little love and respect. Then I sat with a biker guy that didn’t know me, but somehow knew me like an open book. I was just a younger version of him. Still confused and with huge thick walls up, I felt like I was in a good place. I started to listen and found I was with similar guys with similar stories. People wanted to get to know me. I slowly regained my physical health. I was learning about myself again, and learning to forgive myself.
I started to learn that God didn’t do these things to me, I did these things, and God wanted to help me and save me. He gave me free will and had stayed with me when I made the wrong choices, always offering me a way out. I learned I could get something out of life if I tried, but if I continued to live a hard life, I would die. I began to learn the science behind what was going on in my brain and the damage I was doing. I studied relationships and how they affected me. I learned truths and not just ideas. I worked my program and studied my steps, working each step carefully and with the guidance of the staff. I started to love God again truly believing that these people wanted me to be healthy and successful at recovering from my sickness and living free.
Freedom now had a new meaning to me. It no longer meant just doing what I want. It meant I got to do what was right; and I’m still fighting everyday. The damage I did to my life and mental heath still haunts me, but Freedom’s Door still walks with me. Depression is still a huge reality and struggle, but for the first time I know I’m not alone and always have someone to talk to when I really need it. As long as I’m open and honest Freedom’s Door will not abandon me and leave me out on the streets to die. I can communicate my emotions and not be ashamed of anymore. I can talk and someone WILL listen. They always try to do what they can to be understanding and give me direction, but it’s up to me to walk my path. Freedom’s Door makes it very clear I’m a part of this community as long as I need to be. As long as I’m staying clean, sober and honest I’m not alone. I know how to love myself again and how to love others even if they don’t love me.
Freedom’s Door saved my life. Its up to me to live now and for this I’m thankful everyday. I’m still healing emotionally, but I’m not alone. I Have God first, then my Freedom’s Door family, and I’m never giving up on me because I know in my heart they won’t. I can’t thank Freedom’s Door enough for loving me until I could love myself again.
Ryan Morrow Testimony
My name is Ryan Morrow. By the grace of God, and with the help of Freedom’s Door I have been sober since April 4, 2019.
I came to Kelowna from Toronto, Ontario, in search of a better life. I was at the end of my rope. I had been suffering from alcohol withdrawal seizures for many years with absolutely no idea how to stop drinking. I tried everything I possibly could to stop and somehow, I would end up doing it again. I had been detoxed medically several times in hospitals and withdrawal management centers. Every time I got out with a clean bill of health, I made a firm decision not to drink again. I had short runs of sobriety that lasted up to a month, but inevitably I would convince myself that it was a good idea to have a drink, and that I would fare better this time knowing how bad it can get. This cycle repeated itself for many years, with it getting worse each time and me ending up in the hospital quicker than the time before.
A notable moment in my journey came in 2018. I was in detox for probably the sixth or seventh time. I spent 10 days there. Usually when I left detox, I would have a strong resolve and motivation not to drink again. This time was different.
It was roughly a ten-minute walk from the detox center to my house and right in the middle of that walk was a liquor store. It was the most bizarre experience I’ve ever had in my life. The whole time walking toward the store I knew I was going in there, and the whole time I was also in my head asking myself what I was thinking. I just spent 10 days in detox and not even 10 minutes after walking out I’m going to start the cycle all over again. I walked in there, picked up a 6-pack or beer, walked to the cash and paid for them. Everything inside of me was telling me not to do it, but it was like I was on autopilot. I walked outside of the store and went to the parking lot and sat on a barrier. I started crying, opened a beer and began to drink. I was thoroughly defeated. I was done pretending it wasn’t going to happen again. I had no resolve. In that moment, I gave up. I quit trying to quit.
During the holiday season of that year, I had a friend visiting from out of town. We were at a bar, and I told him about my struggles with alcohol and my hopelessness. He told me about Freedom’s Door in Kelowna and offered to pay for my flight there if I would go and give it an honest try. I really had nothing to lose at that point, and I honestly figured if it didn’t work, I’d at least get a free trip to BC. I agreed, filled out an application, and began to check in with them. They showed me love from the first phone call. A couple of months later I got the call that it was time to go. I packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and boarded a plane to Kelowna.
I arrived in Kelowna on April 3rd, and tried to check in to the hospital for detox. That’s something that is quite easy to do in a big city like Toronto, but it was not like that in Kelowna, a much smaller city with limited resources and a much larger addiction problem. They weren’t going to take me, and I was in a town where I had never been, and I didn’t know anyone. It was looking like this was all a huge mistake. As I was about to leave the hospital and try to figure out what to do, I ended up having a seizure in the emergency waiting room, and that’s how I was admitted. That would end up being the last seizure I ever had, and one of the biggest saving graces I’ve ever been gifted.
I finished my detox and headed to Freedom’s Door on April 8th, 2019. I was welcomed into their community of recovery with open arms. I enrolled in their 90 day program. The program director Lloyd is a man who has been through the struggle himself, and for the first time I was given information that explained what was happening to me all these years. With the help of the Freedom’s Door program, I began to understand the nature of the disease of alcoholism. While in treatment, they encouraged me to do a deep dive in to relative 12 step programs. It was there that I found people that I could relate to. People that had experienced the same utter hopelessness and defeat that I had and had somehow risen above it. They were living happy, joyous, and free lives in sobriety, and were willing to show me how they did it.
I came to Freedom’s Door agnostic. I was aware that it was a faith-based program, and I was not particularly happy about it, but I promised myself that I would go with an open mind. If I didn’t like it, I would get through it for the greater good. I had the contemptuous standpoint that if I couldn’t see something, it wasn’t real. Well, it didn’t take long for me to see the work that God was doing in peoples lives at Freedom’s Door. I was not forced toward faith, I was shown what God could do. I accepted God into my life, and He filled the hole in my soul that alcohol never could. God relieved me of my obsession with alcohol, and with Him, I haven’t had to look back since.
When I competed my treatment, I moved in to the second stage of the Freedom’s Door
Program called Next Steps. Next Steps goals’ include helping men plan for successful futures while maintaining their recovery. I also began to volunteer in the office. That volunteering turned in to a job in day-to-day operations, and administration, which later led to a job as a full-time Next Steps caseworker. I excelled in that field, but the director, Peter, always told me that I was selling myself short if I didn’t go to school, so after a few years in January of 2022, I decided it was time to pursue my education.
I chose to enroll in a Bachelor of Business Administration with the goal of heading toward human resources management. I felt that it was a field that fit with my values of trying to help people and advocate for them in a professional setting, while also being able to leave my work at work. Something that can be difficult with social work. In my first year I ended up with an 89.0% average, landing myself on the Dean’s List. An accomplishment I’m very proud of, and one I strive to continue toward.
Today, I am an active member of the recovery community in Kelowna. I do service locally at the personal, group and district levels of my 12 step fellowship. I sponsor men. Many of whom are at Freedom’s Door. I do what I can to try to give away what was so freely given to me. To show men in that hopeless place that there is a better way, and that they can have it, too.
Freedom’s Door has supported my journey in every single way imaginable from day one and given me the tools to succeed. They have helped me toward recovery from alcoholism, provided me with housing, career opportunities, and now with financial support through their education program they have granted me the ability to pursue higher education and continue toward an even brighter future. I could not have done any of this without God in my life, and the help of Freedom’s Door, who led me to Him.
Literacy Support Improves Lives
Two years ago, Adam was homeless. He had spent the last 20 years as an alcoholic, going from minimum wage job to job with only a Grade 10 level education.
As he began to get help with his addiction, councillors at Freedom’s Door pointed him to Project Literacy Central Okanagan Society. As a child, Adam did well in school and 20 years later, he had a goal to finish high school and begin college. Adam felt respected by the staff at Project Literacy, describing his first time walking in as “warm, welcoming and uplifting.” Project Literacy’s educators helped Adam to set a goal – to take his LPI and get accepted into the Electronics Engineering program at Okanagan College.
“Part of my journey was rediscovering my born talent – a gift for working with electronics”
He came to Project Literacy on a regular basis, completing practice essays and comprehension tests. One of the most memorable moments of his literacy journey was writing an impressive essay off the top of his head. He says that he’ll never forget the educators “running to the other offices and showing it off to people.” Having his talents and abilities celebrated was a new experience for him.
Adam was able to complete his LPI with a fantastic level 5 score. He has been accepted to Okanagan College and will be starting the Electronics Engineering program in the fall. Adam says that Project Literacy made him feel like “the sky’s the limit” and through that encouragement and support, he’s been able to reach his goals and begin a new chapter in his life.
Sean Graham Testimony
Before coming to Freedom’s Door in October 2019, I had been homeless for close to 2 months. My entire life felt hopeless and without directions. My days consisted of walking around, riding the bus to catch a few minutes sleep here and there, and if I was lucky enough, finding a porta-potty to rest in at night. I knew I could not keep living this way and wanted something different for my life.
I checked myself into detox and that is where I heard about Freedom’s Door men’s recovery centre. I applied and got myself on the waitlist and after two short weeks I was admitted into the program. I finally had a glimmer of hope for my life and my future.
The first few weeks as a client here were amazing. I had a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and structure for my day. Freedom’s Door helped me to turn my life around. Thanks to the amazing staff that welcomed me with a smile and thanks to some much-needed safety I was well on my way to recovery.
Freedom’s Door saved my life. My life would look much different today if it wasn’t for the security, care, and love I received as a client. Freedom’s Door gave me the structure, space, and guidance to begin the path toward a productive life. My journey has not been without struggle and difficulties up until this point. However, when I look at life before coming to Freedom’s Door, wandering around the streets aimlessly, hungry, tired, and more depressed than ever before in my life, I can’t help but be grateful for my life today.
It has been one year since that dark time in my life. I am still a client at Freedom’s Door. I have a job and am currently looking at going to school for a degree in social work. I still have a long way to go on my path toward recovery, but without the foundation Freedom’s door has provided me with, I may not be alive today.
Willen Maclean Testimony
Learning how to ask for help can be one of life’s most daunting tasks for all of us. This specifically was the most important lesson I received from Freedom’s Door. Learning that it was alright to ask for help and getting the upmost support when I did ask. From assisting me through college to one on one counseling sessions, Freedom’s Door provided the means for me to make all the positive changes in life, inching me closer and closer to the blissful existence which every human deserves.
I truly believe that every person deserves a second chance and this is where Freedom’s Door steps in. Each staff has a truly beautiful soul, and each man experiences the full benefit of their love and support during, and even after, their stay. From finding living arrangements after their departure to obtaining jobs and growing into a beneficial citizen in the city of Kelowna, Freedom’s Door helps every step of the way.
I currently reside in beautiful Vancouver, BC, where I am currently working toward my BA at Simon Fraser University. However, even though I am living here, I remain in contact with the blessed soul of Peter Lees, who helps me on every step of my journey moving forward. This is because Freedom’s Door is not just a place to stay for a few months when you are down on your luck. It is a place that builds connections that can provide the support and stability to turn men into kings.
I have the utmost respect for all the staff involved in this amazing men’s center. They provide the stepping stones to make dreams happen and work hard at raising every soul to live up to their full potential.
Bless you all, and most importantly bless Freedom’s Door.