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Andy’s Lifeline  

0-4 years old 

Born addicted to heroin.  Biological mother was 15 and a heroin addict.  Biological father was in his thirties and of Italian origin.  He left as soon as he became aware that my mother was pregnant.  My mother came from Khanawake a Mohawk reservation just outside of Montreal Quebec.  No Caucasians are permitted on reserve, and Mohawks are not permitted to date, marry or have children with non-natives.  As a result my mother was forced to move off the reservation.  She did keep me for a while, but she had her own problems.  One night she had left me alone in our apartment.  I remember climbing out of my crib, climbing up a dresser where I found a box of Contact-C on top of the dresser.  I remember thinking they looked good to eat, so I did.  I remember being hurriedly wheeled down a glaringly bright hallway with my mother screaming and crying at my side.  Then a large black thing was placed over my mouth.  I now realize this was a stomach pump.  I remember having electrodes of some sort very painfully attached to my head.  I suspect this was to determine whether I had sustained any brain damage, and if I had; to what degree.  At some point after this I was put up for adoption.  I went through 11 foster families before the age of 4 when I was finally adopted.   A Scottish family were the ones to adopt me.   
  • Prior to being adopted, the last foster family I lived with had attempted to adopt me, but the social service had denied their application based on their age.
  • At this same foster family I remember the only time I was ever physically disciplined.  I was given a spanking with a belt due to my accidentally killing a baby duck
  • 4-11 years old  

  • The day I arrived at the Brown family residence I promptly hid under a table in their basement and would not come out from under it.  Their one biological son did try to coax me out from under it for a short while, but my adoptive parents never even came down to see if I was OK.   

Their Dalmatian dog did come and sit under the table with me as I cried and cried.  To this day I prefer animals to people.    I went to school and always excelled academically.  Behaviorally I was constantly in trouble for fighting, swearing, and not doing as I was told.  In grade 5 I was being bullied by another boy in my grade.  He ran at me and I moved to the side and stuck out my leg to trip him.  He fell with his mouth open and wound up knocking one of his front teeth out on the playground asphalt.  The principal wanted to expel me but the law in Quebec was that if you wanted to expel a student under a certain age you had to find another school willing to take that student.  They were unable to find one for me so I stayed on at that school.       

My adoptive father was a police officer at work and a warden at home.  Needless to say this incident infuriated him.  He sent me to my room for 2 months except for school and meals.  I refused to go to my room and he screamed and yelled something or other.  My response was; “you’re not my real father, so why should I listen to you”. 

In retrospect I believe that this when he decided that he wanted as little as possible to do with me.  Because his subsequent behaviors did in fact indicate that there was no love or nurturing between us.  Things got progressively worse from this point on.     

I began hoarding cookies under my bed, and whenever I was sent to my room I would gorge myself on them.  This I now can see was the first warning sign that addiction would play a big part in my life.  I began shoplifting magazines from the corner store. 

I also began running way from home around this time.  This is when he began sending me to more foster families for short periods of time. ·        

I was strapped during my first 4 years at my elementary school. ·        

I remember being forced into a stranger’s car after throwing a snowball at it.  He took me home and told my adoptive mother what I had done.  Though he did not tell me that was what he was doing.  I was terrified… ·        

I remember an incident where I was playing with matches and a bush next to a neighbors house caught on fire.  I used their hose to put it out, but flooded their basement in doing so.  Grounded for 6 months as a result. 

11-15 years old  

At 11 years old I was sent to a locked unit for juvenile delinquents, despite the law in Quebec prohibiting anyone under the age of 12 being put in one.  I had committed no crimes so I was given a six-month sentence under the youth protection act.  From there they sent me to a youth shelter where I was introduced to other children who were young offenders.  While at this shelter I became aware of sex and drugs, although I participated in neither, yet…  My last evening at this shelter I was choked unconscious by another youth also named Andy.  I was sent back to the locked unit until they found another place for me.  The place they found for me was for all intents and purposes a children’s prison.  There I learned more about violence, and even used it against the staff when they tried to put me in the hole for something or other.  I was given another 6 months under the youth protection act due to my adoptive father not being prepared to have me back at his home.  They tried putting me in a succession of foster families in various municipalities.  None of which ended well.  Enter the judge and yet another 6-month sentence.  At this point I was sent to Shawbridge Youth Centres.  Here they had several open units called cottages, as well as 2 locked units.  I did fairly well here and I was sent to one of their group homes in Laval, a predominantly French-speaking municipality that is also a home base for the Hell’s Angels in Quebec.  While at this group home the house father / mother became convinced that I was using drugs and sent me back to S.Y.C. to one or the other of the locked units for 14 days, known as a “zap”.  It is important to make clear that up to and including this time I had not used any drugs yet.  This cycle repeated itself ad nauseam until I was sent to a different group home also operated by S.Y.C.     

At this point I was enrolled in a public high school where I did begin smoking hash and pot.  I also tried a substance called rush but did not like it.  I also joined my first band at this time and we won a talent competition held by the high school.  Not long after this I was expelled from this school for being on LSD in English class.   Back to S.Y.C. campus I went.  At this point I went A.W.O.L every chance I got; locked unit or not.  During one of my Zaps a friend whom I looked up to started a riot and when the S.W.A.T. team breached the unit he used the top of a soup can to slice his wrist.  He never regained the use of his left hand.  This made a big impression on me as he was kind of like a big brother who looked out for me when other adolescents tried to bully me.  This cycle of open unit, A.W.O.L. locked unit continued until my adoptive mother called me and told me that if I behaved myself I would be taken to Disney World Florida with the family.  So I behaved and did very well in school.  I finished English and French grade 11 while I was still in grade 8.  I continued to do well until the week came when I was supposed to leave for Disney World with the family.  The day before we were to get on the plane, my adoptive mother called me and told me that my adoptive father had decided that I would not be going with them after all.  Due in no small part to his belief that once in the U.S. I would run away and go to Los Angeles to pursue my aspirations of making it in the music industry.   I immediately went A.W.O.L. and was again caught and brought back to a locked unit.  When I was 15 years old I was brought back to court and my adoptive father had the adoption annulled, thus I was now a ward of the court.  I went A.W.O.L. from the courthouse that day.  During this A.W.O.L. I met and was befriended by the president of the “Ghost Riders” motorcycle gang; who introduced me to freebasing cocaine.  It was the best thing I had ever felt.  I also met the love of my life at this point.  Tabatha.  I still love her to this day.  I got a job bagging groceries and an apartment.  I began using crack more and more.  

15-26 years old  

Unbeknownst to Tabatha   I also began collecting welfare, because at that time it was still possible to do this.  Our relationship flourished at first and we got engaged and moved in together.  I maintained my job, and continued collecting welfare.  However it just wasn’t enough to support my growing need for crack cocaine.  So one evening when I was 17 I joined a guy in doing an armed robbery with an unloaded pellet gun.  My relationship with Tabatha began deteriorating around this time as my cocaine use was spiraling very badly out of control.  Although I don’t know why, she hung on with me until the day I sold a stereo her grandma had given her for her birthday, as well as her engagement ring.  That was it; she was done with me.  Around this time I was arrested for robbing a taxi driver.  I was offered a 4-month sentence in exchange for my testimony in regards to several other robberies I had participated in as well the names of the other participants.     So at 17 years old I was sentenced as an adult, and sent to a minimum-security provincial prison.  I began giving the officers at that prison information on the participants in that prison’s drug trade and the ways and means with which they did so.  2 months into my sentence my adoptive mother passed away from ovarian cancer.  2 weeks later I was released on a humanitarian early release.  At this point I went to live with my auntie in a different borough of Montreal.  I began using cocaine again for a short while.  At least until I rekindled a romance with a girl I had fooled around with as an adolescent.  I was using her to assuage my broken heart over messing things up with Tabatha.  This was my longest relationship, however.  We had a son.  Although I did not love her like I had Tabatha, I did try to do the right thing by her.  I loved my son for sure, but cocaine and alcohol had a tight grip on me once again.  I returned to jail many time during this time due to my drinking and our constant fighting which led to me uttering threats, which I had no intention in fulfilling, but the judge didn’t care.  We split up for awhile and I moved back in with my auntie.  I continued drinking and I began smoking pot profusely.  It was paid for by my auntie as a means of keeping me off cocaine; it worked for quite some time.  During this time I went to college and earned a degree in computer assisted sound design.  However by the end of my courses I had begun using cocaine yet again.  I had $4000.00 left over from my student loan and this very quickly went into my cocaine habit.  When the money ran out, I was devastated to find myself homeless with my new girlfriend.  She began prostituting herself to support our drug habits and us.  Shortly after she had begun doing this I got hired as a drug dealer for some very bad people.  I did very well for them until one evening when the Montreal police apprehended me with 75 individually wrapped $20 rocks.  I went to jail but made an agreement to be released on my own recognizance as long as I provided them with information, which would lead to the dismantling and arrest of the individuals within the organization.  I still had to go to court on the P.W.I. charge however and the morning of my preliminary inquiry my girlfriend and I boarded a bus to Toronto.  

26-40 years old  

While in Toronto we quickly found our way into the drug circle.  My girlfriend took off for a few days with another guy.  When she returned we moved to Barrie Ontario.  Again we found ourselves immersed in the drug using populace of Barrie.  At this point she decided to become an escort, and I tolerated it.  Although I was sure I was going straight to hell for having anything to do with it.  At one point my feelings regarding her job became overwhelming and we decided to leave Barrie for Vancouver.  We wanted to clean up and start fresh.  Our thinking was we didn’t know any dealers in BC, so we simply wouldn’t seek out any.  If only it were that simple for me, but it is not.  We were very fortunate and got many rides on the way to Vancouver.  The last fellow that gave us a ride said he would let us out once we got past a certain neighborhood.  I asked why and he replied that this neighbourhood was teeming with junkies, dealers and hookers.  Thinking that this area would also have homeless shelters I requested that he let us out in this neighborhood.  He shook his head and let us out wishing us well…  She returned to prostitution, and I did something I never thought I would ever do.  I became an intravenous drug user.  Things got worse between her and I and we decided to part ways.  This left me in a state of loneliness, the severity of which I have never experienced before or since.  Here I was a junkie, in a strange city, with no one at my side or to turn to.  I was again terrified…  It wasn’t long before a drug dealing ring operating out of the S.R.O. I was living in began sniffing around my door.  Before long I was selling dope for them, I wasn’t good at it though; as I was my own best customer.  I got beat up by one of the gang members, and told that if I did not go into detox my legs would be broken.  I got in very quickly.  While in detox I reflected on certain events that transpired while I was working with these people.  I acknowledged that they represented the family I had always wanted, but I also recognized that my experiences had tarnished the somewhat rosy view I had had of gang life.  I have spent many years in and out of recovery since making the decision to leave that life behind.  I have always done well for varying periods of time, but these periods have historically been followed by a still worse relapse.  About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with HIV and Hepatitis C.  I went on my worst relapse ever.  I was determined to kill myself with drugs.  I did not though, and it was at the end of this relapse that I came back to a recovery facility called King Haven.  This was one of the best summers of my life and I stayed clean for 11 months after attending there.  Something had changed; I was on fire for recovery.  After this I went to Cornerstone Manor recovery homes where I continued to do well.  So well in fact that I became a paid cook as well as a head monitor who represents the authority of the facility’s owner for the clients.  It was during this time that I accepted Jesus into my heart and was baptized.  I also became an active volunteer for my church, and even attended the church’s leadership training.  I stayed at Cornerstone until they closed.  At which time a friend and I opened Redemption House, a Christian discipleship recovery facility.  Our egos clashed however and as he was the financial backer of our ministry I was out on my ear.  This affected me deeply.  The house fell apart under his guidance and it was rescued by our church and is now called Redemption Ministries.  I went back to my addiction as a result of my disappointment at this dream of mine falling apart.  I stayed in my addiction for another 5 years, accumulating for the first time in y 12 years a handful of charges including a few theft unders, and one trafficking charge for selling a $20 rock to an undercover agent of the RCMP in Surrey. .  Last year on March 122012 I was drugged and sexually assaulted.   The Surrey RCMP chose not to investigate or pursue the matter.  This affected me in the most profound way.  Tired of this lifestyle, and very upset at myself for ruining my chances at a pardon for the next 7 years or so I applied to Maple Ridge Treatment Centre and was accepted pending my successful completion of Creek side detox program.  I have since come to many decisions.  Not the least is to never again allow myself to be put into a position where sexual assault is something I may be in danger of.  This can be accomplished by not using drugs anymore.  Dealing with my pain and hurts in a healthy way, instead of running away from my feelings I talk about them with trained professionals, or with some peers whom I trust.  MRTC blessed me with several of these individuals.  I am more determined than I have ever been to make all the necessary changes I have been running from my entire life. 
  • I have always been unwilling to do things someone else’s way.
  • I have always been too cowardly to face my realities in a healthy manner, instead resorting to anger, depression, suicidal, drugs etc…
  • These are my old ways and they stop here.
  • I am now willing to take and use good advice.
  • To make necessary changes.
  • To face my fears and feelings in a healthy manner.
  • I practice humility now, and fully admit that I do not always have the best ideas and someone else might know better or know something that can help me.
  • I can now admit that I do need help, and can accept it when it is offered, and ask for it when needed.
  • I have surrendered myself to the MRTC program based on the bio-psycho-social model of recovery, also known as the wellness wheel.
  • It is my plan to continue living this way and to become a responsible and productive member of society.