Donnie left home at the age of 15, living on and off the streets across Canada for almost his entire life. As well as unhoused, he began using drugs and became part of the criminal culture. “It wasn’t just an addiction, it was an entire lifestyle.” Donnie was in and out of jail for 30 years. While in the prison system, he heard about many different drug treatment programs, including Mission Services’ (MSH) Drug Treatment Court (DTC).

DTC works with partners across the legal, health and social service field to provide case management addiction treatment in support to Hamilton’s court system. DTC is an alternative to incarceration and is done by completing a drug treatment program.

The last time Donnie was arrested, he knew he had had enough. “I wanted to get clean on my own, but I needed help.” Donnie applied to DTC. He knew it was a diffifficult program to get into and that it would take dedication to complete, but with his son and fiancée front of mind, he began the program in October 2019.

Donnie says DTC was a challenging process, especially having to complete most of the program during the pandemic. “Some thought I would never make it through, but I was set on it. I wasn’t going to use, and I’m not going to use.”

A man wearing a red t-shirt, a red baseball hat, a silver necklance, and with tattoos on both arms smiles at the camera. He stands in front of bare trees. You can see the Hamilton skyline behind the trees.

“Some thought I would never make it through, but I was set on it. I wasn’t going to use, and I’m not going to use.”

Donnie’s tenacity, along with the support of DTC staff, led to his success in the program. “[Staff] taught me a lot on how to live a semi-normal, productive life,” he laughed. While a part of DTC, staff helped to secure Donnie a bed at the Men’s Shelter, find him housing, and supported him through other addictions programming such as MSH’s Suntrac and the Hope Place Centres in Halton. He poured much of his time and energy into volunteering at places like Mission Services’ Good Food Centre and Habitat Restore.

“Donnie came into the Hamilton Drug Treatment Program, accepting the need to make significant changes in his life. He wholeheartedly demonstrated dedication to his recovery and the DTC Program. He found success through perseverance, determination and commitment to his goals in everyday life,” said Mercedes, Donnie’s Alternative Justice Case Worker.

On February 24, 2021, Donnie graduated from DTC. Now, he keeps himself busy with attending meetings almost every night of the week, all while working full time. At home, Donnie puts his many talents to use, working on his art and playing his many guitars. Someday, he hopes to go to college for social service work. But for now, he feels his time is best spent continuing on his recovery journey and supporting others in theirs.

The advice Donnie offers to those who are on their recovery journey is: “If you’re honest with yourself [that you need help], then you can be honest with others.”

Donnie’s courage, humility, and commitment to achieving his goals is an inspiration. Despite the pressures of an intensive program and the ongoing pandemic, his resolve never waivered, and he hopes his story can inspire others to do the same.

To read more about the addiction programming at Mission Services visit: 

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