KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It was just past 1:00 AM, and there was snow on the steps. I was freezing, exhausted, disoriented, and past caring. About anything. I was standing in front of a door that I was almost hoping wouldn’t open. The patrol car, which had brought me here, waited. The door opened. Terrified, completely lost, I stepped through it.
That was 17 months ago. The door was to Adsum House. And when that door opened, I moved into a world that I didn’t think could possibly exist. A world where, even when homeless with only a suitcase in hand, I would be treated as a real person without judgement. In my eyes, I was an utter failure. To Adsum, I was a person entitled to dignity, self-respect, and a future. And so it began, slowly, at my pace. A warm bed and sparkling hot showers, meals prepared fresh, with care and attention. Staff who were never intrusive, but always there when I needed them. Programs and activities if I wished to join in, but never pressured to do so. Access to health care support and always, always, safety and security.
Time passed. I started to find my feet again. An option was offered, if I wanted to pursue it, to relocate to Adsum Centre in Lakeside. Living alongside other women, with structured independence. A bedroom of my own, a shared living room, kitchen and bath. Programs three mornings a week providing education, resources, and the tools for self-awareness, insight and personal development. Evening opportunities for additional learning as well as creative expression. Again, staff quietly but consistently available. Staff who would sit with me and help me to figure out who I was, and where I wanted to be.
Thanks to Adsum’s commitment to occupational therapy, I met my bicycle, a refurbished wheeled steed that I named Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse. Like its namesake, and like me, Rocinante was somewhat along in years, definitely the worse for wear and didn’t work perfectly. But was valued nonetheless and became my outlet for channeling the addiction, depression and anxiety demons, which had been with me for so long. I biked and biked and biked, and slowly began to learn how to outpace the demons.
On September 29, 2017, I gathered my new-found courage and biked 50 kilometers in Ride for Refuge, to raise funds for Adsum. I had made the commitment back in late May. I lived up to it. I had said that I would do something, and thanks to Adsum, I did. To my bewildered surprise, I started to feel that maybe, just maybe, I was worthwhile.
Meanwhile, in the preceding August, I had moved again – this time to Adsum Court, a collection of independent-living units providing secure housing in a supportive environment. Once again I found caring and committed staff, respecting my independence but there when I needed them. Opportunities to join in programs and excursions, but only when I wished. Always the message that I was allowed to organize my life as I chose, as I needed to, in my way and in my own home. It was here that I got involved with another Adsum program – Peer Works. I started learning about property management, and, more importantly, re-acclimating to structure and scheduling, task focus, time management, and teamwork. Earnings from paid work validated my growing sense of self-determination. I started saving, bit by bit, for a new bike.
As I write this Rocinante’s successor, Endurance (named for Ernest Shackelton’s ship) is moored in my bedroom. We’re in training for another fundraising ride for Adsum. Tomorrow I’ll be doing some volunteering for newcomers to Halifax. Many have arrived here from war-torn countries, often with not much more than a suitcase. Thanks to Adsum, I can offer them support, respect and dignity. Thanks to Adsum, I can give back. Thanks to Adsum I have Endurance and can outpace the demons. Perhaps never entirely lose them, but outpace them. And I know – absolutely know – that with Adsum, I can keep my balance and move forward continuing to build and explore this marvelous, miraculous new life cycle.
This story was originally published in the Adsum for Women and Children annual report 2017-2018. Republished on our site with the kind permission of Evelyn and Adsum. Stay tuned for one more first-voice story about the Adsum experience in the days to come! And please support the wonderful residents and staff at Adsum for Women and Children.
See also: Freedom 60: A thank you letter to Adsum for Women and Children
With a special thanks also to our generous donors who make it possible to pay writers such as Evelyn for their important stories.