When I was a little girl, home life was volatile and filled with anger. When I was 14, my mom told me that my real father had died when I was a baby. I was so confused—and my stepdad saw it as an excuse to yell at me and accuse me of terrible things that I’d never done. By the time I was 16, I was ready to be gone, so I left.
At first, I felt like I’d safely made the leap into adulthood. I was working hard at a nursing home, and I felt responsible. I was a little lonely, but I told myself that I’d get used to the new situation. For many years, everything in my life was good, at least from the outside. All the time, I was still struggling with loneliness, insecurity and a weakness for alcohol, but I didn’t let it get to me until later in life.
“The people at the Mission have become like family, and I don’t know what I would do without them.” —Marina
A number of my friends were also alcoholics, and one friend in particular was a cocaine dealer. I suppose a part of me recognized that he was bad news, but he paid special attention to me when everyone else seemed to look right through me. Once he persuaded me to try cocaine, it was the beginning of the end for me. All too suddenly, I had lost everything and was living on the streets. I was in shock.
After a few months of barely surviving, a fellow member of the street community told me about Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. I was grateful for a free meal, but I was also a little worried that someone would come ask me for something. Instead, it was the first time in a long time that I had conversations where no one was trying to trick me.
Soon, I was going to the Mission every day, and getting to know everyone. I’d been living in addiction for ten years, but they still saw value in me. When the time was right, they encouraged me to try treatment, and today—because they stood by me through my struggles to recover—I’ve been clean and sober for more than three years.
I have my own home again, now, but I return to Kelowna’s Gospel Mission regularly for a delicious meal, or to volunteer on kitchen or cleaning duty. I’m so thankful for the love they’ve shared.