David takes his regular table in the corner of the Dr. Peter Centre café and unfolds his crossword. He calls this place his “daytime home” and his ease in the surroundings reveals that to be true. David started coming to the Dr. Peter Centre two years ago after hearing it was a “nice place with good food.” That decision, he says, saved his life.
“Coming to the Dr. Peter Centre was a turning point in my life,” he says. “It helped me to come out of myself, deal with my addictions -- I can’t say enough good things about this place.”
David was born in Ontario, but moved to BC with his parents and two brothers when he was eight. He suffered abuse as a child and, as a result, became a withdrawn and rebellious teenager. He left school halfway through grade 12 and, not long after, he moved to Alberta to escape a difficult family life.
“It was a pretty dysfunctional family,” he says, “and I was just trying to get away from everything. I had my childhood stolen from me and I wanted to put that all behind me.”
Although it was work in the tar sands that drew him to Alberta, David ended up working as a bouncer in a bar. His drinking began socially but soon became an issue. Then, in the early ‘90s, he was introduced to cocaine by a girlfriend.
What followed was a series of difficult years marked by drug use, bad relationships and estrangement from those he loved. When he moved back to BC in the late ‘90s, David was still trying to put his abuse behind him, only now he was struggling with addiction too.
“I was living in the Downtown Eastside then,” he says. “There was so much misery there that you could feel it in the air.”
In 2001, David was working in shipping and receiving. It was while he was working towards a forklift certificate that he noticed something was wrong.
“I had almost no energy,” he says. “I had to drop the program because I was too exhausted to go. I wasn’t surprised when I was diagnosed but it was still hard to hear.”
For several years, David struggled to manage HIV without any support. It was in 2011, 10 years after his diagnosis, that he finally found the Dr. Peter Centre.
“I’m a quiet person so it took me a little while to settle in,” he says. “Still, the meals and the staff were great and those things kept me coming back. Eventually it was home.”
Today the Dr. Peter Centre is at the heart of David’s social life, addiction recovery, and the daily health care he needs to manage his HIV. After breakfast and the crossword, he’ll see the nurses for his medication, speak to his councilor, and then attend a music therapy session. In his music therapy sessions, he records himself reciting poetry he has written.
“My mom says I used to write poetry when I was a kid,” he says. “Coming here has helped me to re-connect with myself and my loved ones.”
David is one of nearly 400 individuals who rely on the Dr. Peter Centre to help manage their HIV treatment and maintain their health and he knows that it takes a large community of support to run the programs he and his friends need to stay well.
“Just know that your donations are being put to good use,” he says, “and that we’re very grateful.”
David passed away in October 2014.