Nearly forty years ago I immigrated to Canada from Holland. I was married and raised three children while running a small horticulture business. Our tree farm, greenhouses and garden center was growing and I became a successful businesswoman. After seventeen years of marriage I found myself divorced, the children grown up and my business and livelihood sold. Feelings of bereavement led to chronic depression and psychological issues which became a serious everyday challenge.
I could not possibly feel any worse, so one day I stopped at the liquor store after work. This eventually became a habit. Following a few addiction treatments I found myself alone on the streets of downtown Calgary I trudged along in the cold of winter, lugging my wheeled suitcase behind me and wearing a fluorescent orange and oversized hoody donated by my buddy from treatment. Someone else provided me with a wraparound scarf and gloves.
What on earth am I doing? How did I stoop this low? I became painfully aware of how people perceived me; another low life, an addict, an inferior, wretched being or even scum perhaps? I stayed in a shelter and if you arrived early you could glean a few rags for blankets. At night I fastened my purse’s shoulder strap to the bedpost and used the purse as a pillow.
All this time I kept my furniture and personal belongings in storage. With all my might I kept paying the rent, since this was my only link to my previous life. Eventually I knew that I had to give up my furniture. I went to the storage place to collect some of my sentimental valuables and my clothing. It was a heart wrenching experience to see the last glimpses of my past vanish. Never had I felt this bereft, so horribly sad and hopeless.
At the shelter we were encouraged to seek permanent housing, so I had an assessment done and was placed on a waiting list. Shortly I was accepted to Keys to Recovery. The case managers picked me up on moving day. They took me to Walmart. I was entitled to spend $200 on groceries and $100 for household goods. How unbelievable was that?
When I got to my new apartment I asked if all the space was for me alone, and they confirmed that it was. My suite was equipped with a bed, couch, chair, table and television. The silver lining with this program is not the materials provided, but it’s the ongoing and personal support that is absolutely priceless. They make me feel like a human being again, with hopes and dreams that are validated and acknowledged. The staff and case managers at Keys to Recovery treat me with care and affection. They celebrate with me when I succeed and they empathize with me in times of difficulty or distress.
Every week I have a visit from a counsellor which I look forward to. There are so many programs within Keys to Recovery; groups, social outings, sobriety anniversary celebrations and much more.
Each morning I am filled with joy and bundles of gratitude. On the fireplace mantle I show my heritage with a display of Delft’s Blue ornaments. In my bedroom hangs a picture my Mom gave me when I was a small child. (Nearly 60 years ago). On my window sill, you will find Dutch flower bulbs in full bloom. My apartment has a sun room. Can you imagine?
I ask myself, where would I be today if it weren’t for this program? More than likely I’d be back on the street without any support at all. My gratitude to Keys to Recovery is beyond words, beyond expression and beyond anyone’s imagination. Never, during my lifetime, will I be able to repay society for what I have received these past two years.
While I am writing this I am blinking back my tears, thinking of each and every person within the Keys to Recovery organization and of how they’ve all touched my heart in so many ways. So thank you, from the very bottom of my heart to everyone involved with the Keys to Recovery program.
“On behalf of my City Council colleagues and the citizens of Calgary, I want to thank the Calgary Keys to Recovery Society for all the good work they do in our community to assist those in need.”
Naheed K. Nenshi
City of Calgary
“Keys to Recovery is an extremely important organization to the city of Calgary. For people seeking continued support for their recovery and the option of a sober, independent living environment, Keys to Recovery is one of the few permanent housing and support resources available. For single women moving on from the Servants Anonymous Society Calgary, Keys to Recovery housing is the option they often prefer, and we have been very pleased with our collaboration with this organization and their attention to the housing needs of those in recovery. It takes a community to help each other create healthy and addiction-free lives."
Marina Giacomin MA., RSW
Past Executive Director
Servants Anonymous Society