The Courage to Change

Spencer with ball cap and a ray of sunshine over him

Spencer went to college, received a degree in hotel restaurant management and owned a business. On the outside, he was in control. But his reality was that he was deep into substance use. Then, one day, a life-changing event gave him the courage to change.

Spencer had a difficult time figuring out where he belonged; he struggled to identify with the peers in his class. To fit in, he would act out with poor behaviour at home and in school. As a result, he left home in Grade 11, rebelled and started to dabble in drugs and alcohol.

“I was 17,” says Spencer. “As my attachment to drugs got stronger, I spent more time getting high.”

For 20 years, substance use was a priority for Spencer, and he often put his life at risk in order to use.

“They showed me love when I was unlovable.”

Spencer before treatment and recovery

Spencer before treatment and recovery

“I remember overdosing in Regent Park, in Toronto,” says Spencer. “People thought I was dead and dumped my body into an apartment stairwell for someone else to find. I also recall having a gun held to me during a drug deal that had gone bad.”

Spencer tried treatment centres many times, but he couldn’t separate himself from the lifestyle. To get more drugs, he engaged in criminal behaviour that often led to incarceration.

Transformation is Possible

In 2017, while in prison, a life-changing experience altered what mattered to Spencer.

“I participated in Bible study and found Christ,” says Spencer. “I got on my knees, prayed and gave my life over to God.”

In March 2018, Spencer was three months clean when he was accepted into the stabilization program at The Salvation Army’s Booth Centre in Ottawa.

“Against all odds, the court overturned my detention order with the understanding that I would explore options for change at The Salvation Army,” he says.

“Living there, eating and staying clean, kept me alive.”

Stabilization is an abstinence-based residential program for men. It provides a safe and supportive environment that encourages clients to pursue goals that are meaningful to them.

“The Salvation Army provided me with guidance and direction as to my next steps,” says Spencer. “Living there, eating and staying clean, kept me alive.”

Spencer eventually moved on, worked part-time, lived in a small basement apartment and attended college.

Life Today

Spencer (fourth from left) becomes a member of The Salvation Army

Spencer (fourth from left) becomes a member of The Salvation Army

Today, Spencer  is the spiritual formations coach, who assists and implements spiritual growth plans, and facilities supervisor at Teen Challenge Canada working with adult, at-risk men who suffer from life-threatening addictions. In April 2018, he became an adherent member of The Salvation Army at the Gladstone church, and in April 2022 he became a soldier at The Salvation Army Barrhaven church.

“My desire is to continue being useful and help my community.”

“It feels so good to be a part of The Salvation Army family,” says Spencer. “They showed me love when I was unlovable. This had a profound impact on my life.”

Spencer is passionate about sharing his faith and influencing the lives of people who suffer from substance-use disorders.

“My desire is to continue being useful and help my community,” says Spencer. “Sometimes that just means planting a seed.”

By Linda Leigh