“I knew there was a payphone all the way across town. And if I made it to that payphone, I’d call the suicide hotline and try to live. But I had to make it there first.”
It was an early August morning when Tom found himself behind the wheel of his car. He had lost his phone and with it, his connection to his drug dealer. He had no money, was living in emergency shelters and his car, and was estranged from his family. He saw no reason to keep living, but a small voice inside of him was not ready to give up just yet.
“Somehow I made it to that payphone and made that call. Then I called my sister, who had heard it all before,” Tom remembers. “And the very next day, I picked Quintin Warner House off a list of treatment options.”
“I was so twisted up with drugs but I knew I wanted my family back.”
The youngest of five children, Tom describes a happy childhood: his family were well-off, his siblings close and he played sports like football and baseball. His father struggled with alcohol addiction and drinking was normalized in their house. Tom began drinking and using drugs in high school as a way of getting attention among his family and friends.
“It’s weird for me now to realize that not everyone grows up with so much drinking,” Tom says. “That alcohol isn’t at every family dinner or gathering. And not everyone is doing cocaine in high school.”
His parents’ divorce when he was 15 years old left him living with his siblings, and Tom says his addictions grew out of control quickly without any structure or boundaries. He attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at 18 years old, dragged there by his father who was then in recovery.
“I was in and out of different programs,” he says. “Two weeks here, a detox session there. Nothing stuck. My life from the age of 20 – 26 was pretty much a blur. I was either going to end up in prison, an institution or dead.”
When he was offered a place at Quintin Warner House (Mission Services of London’s addiction treatment branch), Tom took the train to London, a city he had never visited before. He describes the trip as terrifying, not knowing anyone in London or what the future held. But he did know he needed distance from triggering relationships and situations that he could not escape in his hometown.
“That’s been the hardest part – knowing I can’t go back there,” he says. “My family saw me at my worst for years, and now they don’t get to see me be productive and healthy. Right now though, my recovery has to come first.”
Recovery has not been easy for Tom. He describes being exhausted after spending all day in therapy sessions, exploring his addiction and trauma. He remembers one addictions counsellor describing how therapy was rewiring his brain to learn different thought patterns, in the hopes that he would be able to make different choices. Outside of structured group therapy, he also learned how to live with others and follow a strict daily schedule to help him transition to life after leaving the program.
Since graduating from the program at Quintin Warner House in May 2021, Tom has maintained his sobriety – the longest he has been able to stay clean. He credits the dedication of staff and the aftercare support, including Quintin Warner House’s post-graduation temporary housing options, for making the difference in his life.
“The people there really went above and beyond, checking in with me after I finished,” he says. “I stayed in annex [transitional] housing for three months after I graduated and that helped me find my feet. They helped me find somewhere to live, a job…. And I’m still in touch with some of them today.”
“I used to look at people pushing strollers by me on the street and think that wasn’t an option for me,” Tom says. “Now I can see that it’s something I want – the white picket fence, the house, the family. I’m in a heathy relationship for the first time and that future seems possible because of the help I got.”
You can help support men like Tom in their work to overcome addiction at Quintin Warner House. Your generosity will help support the expansion of the program, facilitate 24/7 staffing, and provide supportive transitional housing upon graduation.
*Stock imagery is being used to protect Tom’s privacy.