Nanaimo's Ryan Glover credits Vancouver Island University's Adult Basic Education program and a counsellor at a local recovery centre for getting him off the street and keeping him away from the drug use that almost ruined his life.
The former crystal methamphetamine addict will graduate from VIU this summer and wants to help others kick their addictions and become contributing members of society.
Glover, 36, understands what it is like to be homeless, involved with criminals, addicted to crystal methamphetamine and without direction and believes that if he can change others can as well. He knows what it is like to be at the mercy of an addictive substance and how that can lead to a life on the street. It hasn't been easy but since he hit his bottom he has realized that life has a purpose and wants others who are in similar situations to know they can do the same.
Glover hit bottom seven years ago.
"I was on the streets for a very long time," Glover said of his former life. "I guess I started drinking and smoking pot. I had the 'I'll try anything once attitude.'"
Raves, parties and binge drinking Glover could handle. In 1999, he tried crystal meth and learned what being a slave to a drug could be.
"The first time I tried meth, every other drug just seemed like a waste of time," he said of the euphoric effect it had upon him.
From that moment on, all he could think about was getting his next hit of crystal meth.
To afford the drug he pawned everything he owned, borrowed money from friends and family. Finally he got involved in a small-time crime organization but even they grew tired of his addiction, Glover said.
"That was when I hit bottom sometime around 2002," he said. "I'll never forget it was around 4:30 a.m. one day and I was told by this small-time crime gang I was no longer useful to them.
"I was tied down and tortured in a crack shack in Victoria. Then they took me downtown and tossed me out on the street. I had never felt such pain and a feeling of being alone."
Glover said he was sitting on the street feeling sorry for himself when a passerby threw "some spare change at me."
It was at that moment, he realized something had to change.
"It was like I was in a bubble after that," he said. "I sat there and watched people walking by and they seemed happy and content. I finally realized there was something wrong with me."
It took him a while to gather the nerve to ask for help and he said it was a long and difficult process.
Finally, he found himself in a Nanaimo detox centre and then at the Surfside Recovery Centre where a counsellor pointed him towards furthering his education.
"I don't think I even had my Grade 9 before that." Glover has completed ABE's Grade 12 equivalency program and plans to graduate in June with a Bachelor or Arts degree, majoring in Liberal studies.
He now mentors other ABE students who returned to school and helps other addicts try to turn their lives around, something he would like to continue doing once he graduates.
ABE changed his life and the help he received from teachers and other staff at VIU made him want to help others. He now tutors other adults who enter the program and also tries to help other addicts.
"It really is so gratifying. I don't do it because I feel I have to do it," he said of giving back to others who are still suffering. "I do it because it's something I really want to do."
Once he graduates, he has plans to create a broad-based network to help other addicts in the city.
"This community of Nanaimo has supported me immensely and for the first time in my life, I am establishing relationships and feel as though I have a home."