One on One with Markus - Brad Hale

Brad Hale remembers exactly when alcohol became a part of his life.

Hale has struggled with addiction and homelessness and now helps others

Brad Hale is the chaplain and director of the Elgin Street Mission in Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Brad Hale remembers exactly when alcohol became a part of his life.

Originally from St. Catharines, he says both of his parents were alcoholics.

"My first drink my mom gave to me," he said.

"I was nine years old. It was Christmas eve and we were waiting for a city bus. My mom had a Mickey of whisky and she said 'here, this will keep you warm,' and gave me a shot of whisky."

He says by the time he was 14, he was able to grow a "really nice beard" and was able to get into bars. Eventually, he decided to attend post-secondary school in Thunder Bay.

Hale says during that time, he kept drinking on a regular basis and eventually started using recreational drugs with his good friend Tony.

Becoming homeless

He says both he and Tony came up with an idea to give up their separate apartments to live with each other to save money. That resulted in both of them living in Tony's car.

"We would go behind the Pizza Hut dumpster when pizzas were thrown out and grab pizzas," he said. "We'd show up conveniently at people's houses around dinnertime."

Hale says he finally found a rooming house to live in and graduated. He made his way back to St. Catherines with friends of his who were heading that way, leaving his friend Tony behind.

"We're driving away and I looked back and I saw my friend Tony looking at me through the window with the saddest eyes," he recalled.

Two weeks later, he got a call with news Tony had committed suicide.

"All I could remember was this flashback," he said.

He made his way to Cornwall for Tony's funeral, but says he got drunk the night before and missed it. From there, he went back to Thunder Bay for graduation. Two weeks later, he made the decision to give up drugs for good.

Turning to God

Several years later, Hale got married and started a family. They moved to Massey for work. During this time, Hale says his drinking was starting to get out of hand. After showing up at the store and having his alcohol order waiting for him, he decided to take back control and turn to God.

"I quit drinking and that's [been] for 26 years," he said.

He quit his job, left his house, gave up his belongings and his family moved so he could attend bible college in New York. Financially, it was a difficult time as the family only had $165 a month to live on. But he eventually became a pastor.

Hale was introduced to a pastor from the Sudbury area who said he needed a pastor to work in the family service department. Eventually, he became a youth pastor in his church before moving on to work with a program dealing with drug and alcohol problems.

Celebrating the successes

Now, he's the chaplain and director of the Elgin Street Mission. He says he gets to meet many interesting people in his job, but says it can be tough working with a vulnerable population.

"There was one year I buried six kids, under the [age] of 24 years old," he said.

The Elgin Street Mission in downtown Sudbury provides meals, clothing, showers, laundry facilities and a safe refuge in times of need. (Google Maps)

One person that stands out for him is a young man he helped get clean. The man called Hale on a Wednesday asking him to go for a cup of coffee but he couldn't.

"He overdosed and died on the Friday," he said. "I just wanted to quit. But I didn't."

Hale acknowledges living with an addiction is a struggle and he says it can be overwhelming for the person and their families.

"If it wasn't for the few successes I have had, I probably would have given up a long time ago," he said.


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