“I’ve been sober 18 months!”
It is the first thing she says to me when I see her. I haven’t seen her in at least 4 years. Not since I worked at the emergency shelter.
I barely recognize her. I am thrilled to see she is alive.
We share a big hug.
Her eyes are clear. She’s grounded. Smiling.
She’s living independently in her own apartment with support from Keys to Recovery. Keys provides housing and supports to individuals leaving addictions treatment who would otherwise end up back in homelessness. It’s hard enough to maintain sobriety after treatment. Living in homelessness multiplies the risks of lapsing.
We are in the apartment of another man in the building. He has offered up his delightful, homey space to our video crew so that other tenants, all clients of Keys, can come in and film Christmas wishes on film. We’ll be putting the wishes up on a website (thegiftproject.ca) which will be live in the next couple of weeks.
Everyone on the film crew is a volunteer.
Corkscrew Media, has volunteered time and energy to be part of The Gift Project.
“It’s been meaningful for all of us,” he says as filming wraps up. “Life-changing even.”
Along with the tenants who have agreed to go on camera, and a staff member from Keys, there are five of us present. Brent Kawchuck, Corskscrew’s Executive Producer, Mike the camera man, Blake the director, Paul Long a Calgary-based writer/creative director and myself. About a month ago I had mentioned my idea for The Gift Project to Paul and asked if he would be willing to help out.
He didn’t hesitate.
He immediately checked in with Brent and suddenly, an idea went from ‘conceptual’ to being ‘in action’. Paul’s also connected with Six Degrees Studios and they agreed to do the sound editing.
All pro bono. All because they want to make a difference by being part of a project that aims to connect people to what lies at the heart of Christmas.
It was a question Blake asked each of the participants yesterday.
“What does Christmas mean to you?”
The answers were heartfelt. Poignant.
Belonging. Love. Hope. Being together. Sharing with family and friends. Childrens’ laughter.
“When I was a kid it was all about gifts, the receiving,” said one of the interviewees. “Now, it’s all about gratitude and what I can give others.”
Sobriety is the gift that keeps on giving. And giving.
For some of the individuals interviewed, this Christmas will be the first time in years, they’ve been sober during the holidays.
It is a gift they all treasure. Value. Cherish.
It is the gift they all said they wanted to share with others.
As one woman so beautiful described it, “I wish I could bottle some of the good things I’ve found in recovery so they could have a sip of it too.”
‘They’ are the people still struggling on the street. Sill searching for a way out, for the courage, the hope that this life, this life of hopelessness and fear, feeling lost and alone, could end.
For the thirteen people we interviewed yesterday, there is life beyond addiction.
It is a miracle kind of place to be.
I sat amidst miracles yesterday. Listened to people tell their stories of struggle, pain, addiction and their journeys into hope, possibility, sobriety.
I felt blessed.
I felt humbled.
I felt grateful.
Thank you Crystal, Gwen, Doug, Tracey, Randy, Kim, Michelle, Jayme, Vivek, Cheryl, Kelly, Brittney.
Your words and courage touched my heart. Your courage is beautiful. Your journeys’ inspiring.
Thank you Keys to Recovery for being part of The Gift Project.
Thank you Paul, Brent, Blake, Mike and Six Degrees.
Your generosity gives me hope. The compassion and care you have brought into this project makes a world of difference.
As The Gift Project comes online, I shall keep you posted.