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Off the streets, the drugs and the alcohol, Vernon men give each other strength and hope

John Howard Society workers Kelly Fehr and Steve Braun with Bill's Place residents Adam Durocher and John Mark.
June 25, 2016 - 9:30 AM


VERNON - The meeting wraps up around 7:30 p.m. and a bunch of the guys amble out to the balcony for a smoke. The official part of the evening is over, but they hang around, chatting with each other and cracking jokes.

One of them is a young man named Adam Durocher. You’d never guess that just three months ago, he was living on the streets hooked on meth and heroin.

“I just gave up on responsibilities,” he says. “It was too much. I didn’t have the skills to cope.”

He reached out to his mom, who suggested Bill’s Place, a men’s recovery program she learned about from a friend. At the time, Adam says he was at his lowest point, despair and pain.

“I think without knowing that ultimate misery I wouldn’t know true happiness today,” Durocher says.

Clean and sober for three months now, Adam is now involved in the John Howard Society’s After Care Program, which brings former residents of Bill’s Place together for support and mentorship once a week. 

It’s how Durocher got to know John Mark, a former drug addict who’s been clean now for 18 months. Heroin, crystal meth, oxycodone, cocaine — he tried it all.

“I started using hard drugs when I was 13,” he says.

He left Calgary and moved back to Vernon after his older brother went to Bill’s Place.

“I didn’t stay the first time. I was there for 30 days and lied so I could leave. I relapsed for six months and then I realized I was going to die so I came back,” he says.

The second time, he completed the program. Now he comes to the after care meeting every Thursday, and without the friends he’s made here — his brothers as he calls them — he’s not sure he could maintain his sobriety.

“In a way my life depends on me maintaining these relationships,” he says. “Even though I’m out of Bill’s Place now, this is essential because it brings me right back to the beginning of my journey. It’s a reminder of where I came from.”

The brotherhood has also led to broader support. Some Bill’s Place alumni have offered employment to those just emerging from the program, and if someone misses a meeting, you can bet they’ll be checked up on by one of the guys. They understand each other, and can open up more freely than with other friends or even family members. As one guy says, "it cuts through all the BS because they’ve been there."

As the meeting winds down, they plan carpooling and rides home. The support system clearly goes far beyond this circle of chairs.

Credit: John Howard Society

Bill’s Place opened three years ago and is the only facility of its kind in the North Okanagan. The sober living apartment is open to men 19 or older struggling with addictions. Unlike private recovery facilities that can charge up to $250 to $350 a day, Bill’s Place doesn’t turn anyone away, no matter what their financial circumstances are.

Bill’s Place receives no government funding and relies on donations from the public.

The After Care Program started up four months ago as a way to keep clients connected after they’ve left Bill’s Place. It’s completely voluntary, and very well attended.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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