Irwin thrives at The Oaks

Oct 5, 2016 by



Irwin is a chronic alcoholic. Drinking has cost him his family and his job. He has progressed from the men’s shelter at Shepherds of Good Hope, and today, he lives at The Oaks, a supportive living residence operated by us.

It hasn’t been easy for Irwin. He has a strong desire to get back to work but alcohol has taken its toll on his health and his life.

Irwin’s downfall began 10 years ago when his step-father died and his grandmother committed suicide. Both people were extremely important to Irwin. He was devastated. Up until that point, he drank but he also held down a job and was with his family. He has fond memories of growing up in British Columbia. He had what you and I would consider a “normal” life. He had two growing boys. His regular routine would include visits to his grandmother and playing cards with his step-father on Friday evenings.

When tragedy struck, his weekend drinking became binge drinking. He started missing work and eventually lost his job. He lost his apartment. The worst part was losing his family.

When Irwin first came to Ottawa, he was hoping for a new start. Unfortunately, he was still trapped in his old life. On some days he drank as many as 8-10 bottles of sherry. He often passed out in stairwells or in the lobby of a bank. He can’t count how often he woke up in the emergency room with no idea of how he got there.

He stayed regularly at Shepherds’ men’s shelter. It was there the staff introduced him to the managed alcohol program. The internationally-renowned program helps chronic alcoholics by managing their alcohol intake. It wasn’t easy. Irwin was kicked out of the program four times and left twice on his own. The desire to drink outside the program with his friends was too tempting.

With lots of support from the staff, he finally committed to the program and the next step was The Oaks. Due to the location on Merivale Road being away from downtown, it wasn’t as easy for Irwin to leave the program and find his friends for binge drinking. As time went on, his health improved and he made new friends. He rediscovered his passion for cooking and loves to play cribbage. His fellow residents nominated him as “the mayor” of The Oaks. He meets regularly with staff to advocate on behalf of the residents. He also works at The Oaks several mornings a week, going from room to room to collect bed sheets so they can be washed.

Irwin is also detoxing. It’s not a requirement at The Oaks but Irwin, a still young 39, wants to find work. He once had steady work as a mover and aspires to do it again.


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