Manitoba·Point of View

For people struggling with addiction and homelessness, compassion may be the hand up that's needed

"Recovery is not for the faint-hearted," says recovering addict Jeremy Raven. And sometimes, something as simple as a kind word may be the hand up that someone who is struggling needs, he says.

'Recovery is not for the faint-hearted,' says recovering addict Jeremy Raven

'The addict doesn't always want the handout,' says Jeremy Raven, who is in recovery. 'Sometimes they just need a hand up.' (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Walk through the inner-city regions — where addiction and criminal activity is all around you. 

Nobody notices the man that sleeps in broad daylight on the sidewalk; but then they complain about the neighborhood and how affected it is by the people who "do not want to help themselves."

Someone asks for a cigarette and my heart breaks.  

The addict cannot support the habit, but still the obsession drives them to ask a complete stranger to fill that desire, to feed that part of the brain — the addiction.

The addict doesn't always want the handout. Sometimes they just need a hand up.

A few kind words may do that.  

My mind was constantly consumed with selfish desires of feeding my addiction.

All I could think about was, where was my next high? How can I get it?

I always wanted what you had. 

The addict always finds ways to convince himself that he can control it this one time. 

But water always finds its lowest point. Reality sets in, drowning me with emotion. Drugs and alcohol will always have the silent whispers, "come back."

To be able to recognize this — also being aware and acknowledging the emotions I'm going through — is a huge part of recovery.

Recovery doesn't get a day off.- Jeremy Raven

I have to be patient and resilient.

My days aren't always good. Recovery doesn't get a day off.

I work hard. I have to fill my days with positive actions and thoughts. Because the reality is, the minute I have free time, I think of using — and then think of how to handle and keep my emotions in check, so there is no slip.

To experience addiction in the mind of an addict is dark. It's negative. 

Recovery is a full-time job.

'I struggle, but my life matters'

Even when I'm with people, I feel so alone. 

Addiction has a way of controlling one's mind, and so I am lost in a world inside my mind, like a prisoner.

But I have a purpose. 

What drives me to work hard is knowing that I am different.

I struggle, but my life matters. It's what I do today that will define the kind of life I lead. 

Jeremy Raven feels compassion for those who are homeless or fighting addiction. 'Someone asks for a cigarette and my heart breaks.' (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

I want the next generation to see that even though we come from different circumstances, we can change and choose a different path; one worth living and fighting for, through the struggles, because that's what shapes us, defines us, makes us unique.

There is only one of me and I have to be my best self for today. 

I am holding myself accountable for my actions and expressing from the heart that everything isn't always as it appears. 

The way one portrays himself on the surface is that "everything is all right — I am OK, strong and confident."  

In reality though, I fear of falling back into the cycle of addiction.

I am the rock upon which I am rebuilding my foundation.- Jeremy Raven

It's not always easy coming from inside a jail cell into society, and not having a plan set for yourself — or even the tools to live a healthy lifestyle.

All I've known was the inside of a jail cell, fantasizing about a better life one day; but not thinking of the work that goes into living a normal life. 

I hope people from my past find a sense of forgiveness; the most important part of making a mistake is the lesson you learn from it.  

Recovery is not for the faint-hearted. But I am the rock upon on which I am rebuilding my foundation.

This column is part of  CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.


Jeremy Raven is a Winnipeg man currently in addictions recovery. His writes about his efforts as a means of "communicating with the intent to understand and be understood."