Escaping the Pain of the Past

Kyle in graduation attire holding his certificate of completion

As a child of an addict, Kyle learned early on that he had to take care of himself to survive. For years, he never received the attention he deserved, or the resources needed to overcome his intellectual learning disability. When he finally broke away from the chaos and abuse, he reached out to The Salvation Army for help.

“I had no role models,” says Kyle, 24. “The Salvation Army were the first people who said they would help me and actually did.”

Stealing Food to Avoid Hunger

Kyle’s parents divorced when he was seven. He lived with his mother, who was a landscaper, but when she became addicted, everything was drug-motivated.

“Mom had a successful career and was the nicest person in the world until my stepfather introduced her to pain killers after a back injury,” says Kyle. “An addict himself, the drug use escalated and, before long, drugs were a deadly attraction.”

Kyle’s life quickly became one of instability, fear and abuse. Rent was never paid on time or in full, so the family was evicted and homeless on many occasions. Drugs were chosen over food, and he was consistently belittled for his learning disability.

“We never had more than a box of Kraft Dinner or a loaf of bread in the house”

“We never had more than a box of Kraft Dinner or a loaf of bread in the house,” says Kyle. “I was always told I wasn’t smart. I went to nine different schools, and my shame prevented me from settling in. I never learned to read or write.”

At 13, Kyle worked odd jobs to help fill the kitchen cupboards and have untattered clothes to wear. When he wasn’t working, he was told to steal food if he wanted to eat. So, he did. Meanwhile, Kyle’s parents resorted to any means necessary to feed their habit. This included writing fake prescriptions, robbing pharmacies and lying at emergency room visits.

The Breaking Point

Chronic addiction resulted in new and destructive behaviour by Kyle’s mom. She often hallucinated and kicked in his bedroom door at night. He fell asleep, wondering if this could be that night that she would kill him.

“Drugs were the only thing that mattered,” says Kyle. “I couldn’t change that.“

One day, Kyle was told that the family chaos was his fault, and the wish was that he was never born. He had reached his breaking point. It was time to leave.

“I called my biological father, who lived in Newfoundland and Labrador,” says Kyle. “Our relationship was never healthy, but I had no other place to go. I asked for help and was soon on a plane.”

“Drugs were the only thing that mattered”

In 2017, Kyle moved in with his father on a temporary basis. His goal was to be self-sufficient. He had worked enough to pay his father rent and awaited his disability grant from the government to help with financial costs.

“When my money ran out, my dad felt I was taking advantage of him, so he asked me to leave,” says Kyle. “I was in tears.”

Kyle called a taxi to go to a shelter in Gander, N.L., where the shelter staff recommended that he call The Salvation Army for emergency housing support.

What Do You Need?

“The Salvation Army said they could help with emergency housing and food,” says Kyle. “I soon had a bed, a couch, a toaster, a microwave and groceries. It was such a good feeling.”

Kyle with Danette, who supports each one of his successes

Kyle with Danette, who supports each one of his successes

Danette Hicks, The Salvation Army’s housing support worker, became a role model for Kyle, one that he didn’t want to let down.

“Danette supported and celebrated every one of my successes,” says Kyle.

Kyle went to school for over two years and never missed a day. Teachers poured their efforts into Kyle, teaching him to read and write, which gave him a huge boost in self-confidence. With 14 refresher courses and 36 credits under his belt, he graduated from Grade 12.

“I learned after my first month of school that I was capable of anything,” he says.

“I got lucky finding The Salvation Army”

Kyle has since obtained his driver’s licence and enrolled at the College of the North Atlantic. In a few short months, he will receive his certificate in comprehensive arts and social science. He gives much credit to his tutor, Dania, and The Salvation Army. Both have reminded him that while life may not be easy, anything is possible.

“I got lucky finding The Salvation Army,” says Kyle. “I can’t believe I am alive today, where I’ve come from and how far I’ve made it.”

Kyle’s goal is to enrol in the Canadian Armed Forces and be a firefighter. He wants to make a difference in people’s lives.

By Linda Leigh