I am a believer in second chances. Mostly because of other people giving me a second chance or, in many cases, a third and even a fourth chance.
The whole point is to never give up on someone who stumbles and falls more often than they are standing. I know people who were so down and out it looked like they would never get themselves up. In fact, I was in many ways one of those people.
I have made no bones of my past struggles with addictions and the revolving door that seems to wait for me in one of the country’s iron-bar hotels.
If there is one thing I learned about addictions, it is that is no one wants to be there. This is especially true with extreme abuse of alcohol and drugs. It’s been a few years since I stopped with extreme drug abuse.
I don’t like to say “I quit” because I know how easy it is to fall back into the spiral abyss. What changed for me was shifting my mindset. Basically, I convinced myself I was on the path of recovery until I said it enough times it came true.
It wasn’t an easy road. I fell down so many times I was scared of getting back up. That was when other people stepped up and helped me. Most of these people were once extreme addicts. Many of them spent years battling their own demons. These were people who understood, because they were there.
After a year or so of staying clean, I decided to try to return the favour and assist those who are seeking help. The best way I know how to do that is to share my own personal experiences. Maybe someone will take something from them that will help in their journey.
There was this one man I took extra time with. His name is Lyle and he was originally from the northern part of the province. When I first moved to Riversdale, I would run into him all the time. Some days he was in happy spirits, and some days even I couldn’t recognize him. But I can tell he had a kind spirit and tried to escape from his lifestyle. After I got to know Lyle a little, I found he was a talented musician with a great sense of humour.
Not one time did he ask for money or anything that would feed his addictions. Mostly he was looking for company. He simply wanted somebody to talk with. That was the least I could do. Lyle had no family in the Saskatoon area.
He had a long list of people he hung around with. This is pivotal when it comes to recovery because a person becomes who they are with. Surround yourself with musicians and see how fast you start playing and singing.
This is basically true with anything else. In Lyle’s situation, he really had no choice, because he always needed a place to sleep and eat. He was staying in a rooming house in the inner city. We tried to find a more decent place for him, but it wasn’t possible with the little income he had from collecting cans and bottles or the odd job he picked up.
The last time I saw him he looked great.
He had stopped everything and was gaining weight. He was telling me how he was looking forward to going back up North. He thanked me for being a friend to him.
He reminded me so much of myself I could almost predict his next move. Early one morning I was listening to the radio when the news came on. There was a report of a stabbing death.
Even though the address of the violence wasn’t released, I had this sinking feeling, because it was close to the place where Lyle lived. I decided to take a walk. Sure enough, it was the same place. I asked around with a couple of the guys I recognized. One of them told me Lyle had been stabbed and killed.
It took me a long time to get over his horrible death. “Maybe if I tried harder,” I would say to myself. Of course I realize there was probably nothing I could have done to prevent the tragedy. However, in the back of my mind, I thought I could have tried something. If only I had a second chance.