Michael, 43, remembers having his first drink at seven years old.
His father worked in the oil industry and the family lived in various Middle Eastern countries when Michael was a child.
“The first time I drank openly in front of my parents I was 10 years old,” says Michael. “My parents were alcoholics and they felt if we were going to drink they would prefer we drank at home where we were safe.”
As a young man, when life became difficult, Michael he struggled to cope. Losing a job or a relationship caused severe anxiety.
“I lost my brother, my mother and my father to alcohol and drug addiction – all in a very short time,” he says. “I felt lost.”
When he could no longer pay rent on his basement suite he took his belongings and began camping in a Surrey park. He was fearful of shelters and distanced himself from those trying to help.
After about a month of “urban camping,” a friend who owned an auto repair shop in Newton let him sleep in some of the cars on his lot. Michael lived that way for nine months.
Eventually he overstayed his welcome and was asked to move on.
He got by with help from Sikh temples that offered him food up to three times a week.
In an attempt to stave off trench foot, a painful ailment caused by wearing the same wet socks for weeks, Michael would often wash his socks in the bathrooms of various fast food outlets.
“When you’re homeless, you beat yourself up 10 times more than the average person,” he says. “You know there’s a better way, but you can’t seem to live up to your own moral codes.”
It was during one of his trips to McDonalds one morning that he met a man who offered to help him.
“He took me to an (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting and that got me started in recovery,” he says. “I wasn’t even drinking at that time. I couldn’t afford alcohol. Remembering my last days on the street keep me on the right path today.”
Michael has been in treatment at Trilogy Recovery House in Surrey for two years.
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