John White fondly remembers a childhood marked by a love of hockey, art and writing.
“In Grade 7, I came in third in all of Canada in writing,” he says. “I used to get up and help the teacher teach writing.”
But John’s story is also marked by things he was forced to leave behind, and memories he will never be able to.
He was taken into the custody of Child and Family Services immediately after his birth in 1950. He moved into his fourth foster home before turning two years old. John was in his 21st foster home for his 21st birthday when he aged out of the system with nowhere to turn.
“I didn’t have much,” he says. “Every time they moved me, most of my stuff was left behind for their own children.”
But it wasn’t just the moving that affected John. He describes abusive homes and difficult living situations, including a farm where he was abused and used for work for over a year.
“One of the homes – the one I stayed in the longest – was very abusive…it was really rough for me. That was the first time I started sleepwalking. I would go to the kitchen and make myself something to eat because well, I wasn’t even really being fed there.”
John says through the neglect in his life he learned not to like himself.
Shortly after leaving foster care, he moved to Vancouver – with hopes of leaving his trauma behind him – and began working for Sealy and Simmons.
“I jumped around from job to job, spent a lot of years on the streets,” John says. “I survived, but that’s all I was doing was surviving. It’s easy to end up with addictions when you have nothing else.”
The journey has been a long one. As John says, he has been “kicking around” recovery for more than 30 years. But when he came to Siloam Mission in 2015, John enrolled in our Transition Services program, found an apartment, and has now been clean and sober for nearly three years.
“Here I am today, more at ease, more relaxed, and with a lot of love in my heart,” John says. “It gives me a chance to grow and change.”
He says now, he tries to help other people. And he truly is. He is able to use his experiences in life – even the worst ones – to help others get through theirs.
John recently spoke at Recovery Day, an addictions recovery event held at the Millennium Library, helps friends struggling with their addictions, and has now joined the committee of a service expo designed to connect those experiencing homelessness with the care and services they need.
“That’s the great thing about recovery, if you reach out and volunteer and help other people you stay clean and sober yourself. It gives you a purpose.”
John recently moved into a new apartment in a retirement building where he enjoys a beautiful view, a new community, and his beloved collection of movies and music. He stays in touch with those he met at Siloam Mission, and says they’ve been a part of his life ever since.