‘Recovery is not easy; it has to come from within’
By Kevin Woodhouse
Alex Hamilton has a lot to be thankful for this Christmas season and one of the recipients of his thanks comes from West Island Citizen Advocacy’s apartment program in association with St. Michael’s House and All Angels Church.
Hamilton is appreciative for the non-profit agency’s help in getting him into the apartment program as the 35-year-old man, diagnosed in 2000 with paranoid schizophrenia, did not always have a place to call his own.
“I was always getting in trouble with authority, I was pretty rebellious, pushing limits,” Hamilton said. His struggles with mental illness prompted him to live on the streets, resorting to drug and alcohol abuse that saw him come face to face with police.
Hamilton’s trouble began in high school, staying out all night before getting arrested and spending time in a youth detention centre to combat his substance abuse issues.
Following an episode tree planting in the deep woods of Ontario where he experienced “a psychosis. I was very confused, upset and angry. It was so horrible and I couldn’t talk to anyone.”
Hamilton quietly returned to Montreal, never alerting his friends and family and began living on the street. His father James noted that “we spent hours and hours searching for him.
Sometimes we would find a young man sleeping in an alley and we would approach him, often scaring the daylights out of him—and me.”
After living on the streets for more than four months, Hamilton was found by his mother and after two years of hospital visits and therapy, Hamilton feels a lot more confident these days.
Hamilton is still close with his father and brother while his mother has since passed away.
“I feel I’ve let them down when all I wanted was for them to be proud of me, and I think they are,” said Hamilton.
But now that Hamilton is part of WICA’s apartment program, “I don’t have to worry about him anymore,” said Hamilton’s father.
“My life is so much better now. Recovery is not easy; it has to come from within. You have to want it and I want it,” said Hamilton. “My hopes and dreams? All I ever wanted was to be happy and healthy.”
To learn more about West Island Citizens Advocacy Apartment Program and its other services, call  694-5850 or go online at www.volunteerwica.com.
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