Sacred Stories Continued…

Duncan G

I was born in Picton, Ontario. My parents were John, a career army man, and Catherine Franci sand I have six brothers and sisters. I lived a very comfortable life with my parents, played a lot of sports, excelled in school, and had a newspaper route of about 220 daily papers.

Every Sunday I would have to dress up in my best clothes and go to church and then Sunday school to learn about the bible. But I was a “person of nature” and had other ideas. I would leave the house in my Sunday clothes and go down to my tree fort and change into my fishing gear, fish along the riverbank during church and Sunday school, then change back to my best clothes and head home. This went on for months.

One day when I got home a surprise was waiting for me. The priest was talking to my parents in the dining room. My mom was waiting to ask me a question in front of the priest. “Duncan, the father here says that you haven’t attended church or Sunday school for some time now, what have you been doing?” I had a ready answer. “I learned a very important thing at church. I don’t have to go to church to talk to God, I can do it when I am fishing by the river because God is everywhere.” The next thing I hear is my dad saying to mom “Francis I think he’s got you there.” We made a deal and I agreed to go to church at least once a month during fishing season. My parents treated us very well, fed us all we could eat and we were one big happy family.

When I met my wife I was living the dream.  I had a good job,  had two beautiful, strong and healthy children and a good home for my family. Everything was going great but then the bottom fell out. My wife left with the two boys, and I came home from work to an empty house. I reacted badly and hit the bottle. I allowed myself to be overtaken by alcohol. I didn’t fight for what was mine, didn’t care anymore, lost my job, lost my house, and lived homeless on the street. No excuses, as far as I was concerned the bottle was my friend. I also got into some financial and legal troubles because of the marriage breakup and the drinking. This only made me angrier, and my situation got worse.  This went on for a couple years, and because of the abuse I was putting my body through I was becoming very unhealthy. Bad diet and alcohol took its toll.

Then somehow, out of the blue I decided enough was enough and I told my roommate that it would be good to quit drinking. I had been trying to but couldn’t seem to stay away from the booze. His sister was an addictions counsellor and 45 minutes later I was in a locked room without my shoes and belt at the Toronto East General Detox Center. Things changed for the better, in time, but I had help.

In 2014 I graduated from the Bridgeway Addiction Program and The North York General Addiction program. I started to put my life back together again and found a place to live at Broadview Homes and continue my journey of abstinence from alcohol. In 2017 I met people from STIR and in February of that year went on a retreat in Guelph. This retreat opened my eyes to realize that I had found my solution to my problems. The retreat added a spiritual side to recovery that made abstinence stick.

Meanwhile, during my recovery I had tried to find my boys, but with no luck.  My life would hit a few more bumps but not bad enough to derail me from my journey. The worst was discovering a lump under my tongue that was diagnosed as stage three oral cancer in the fall of 2021. Before the surgeon put me under the knife, he asked what I wanted for my life. “I told him all I want is to see my two boys again and play one more round of golf” I hadn’t seen them in 25 years at that point.

The surgeon did a good job taking out the cancer and most of my tongue and rebuilding it with muscle from my back. During my post-op I was told that I would possibly never talk clearly again and would have to feed myself through a stomach tube. But with therapy and the surgeon’s skill, I can talk and eat with my re-built tongue.

Almost as miraculously, some pictures showed up on my phone when I awoke from the surgery. Turns out they were my two sons and their families. One of my sisters had found my former wife and told her about the cancer surgery and my wish to see my boys.  God had answered my prayers, and since then I have been through radiation and chemotherapy and pushing hard to overcome my obstacles. In recent checkups the surgeon told me that I had recovered far more than they expected. I am getting stronger at the same time. I am so grateful to a lot of people who have helped me along the way.  In October 2022, I went to see my two boys, who now live on Vancouver Island, and learned that I am a grandfather seven times over. I have played several rounds of golf….but I use a cart.

These days I am frequently a “witness” at STIR men’s retreats. I tell the story of how I stumbled and fell into alcoholism, how I hit bottom and what my life has been like in recovery. When I am down by the river, so to speak, I talk with God and ask to understand how so many good things can come from a life that, at times, felt ruined. I find God even more accessible to me than I had thought. I have no answers for some remarkable happenings, but I am in awe of his power.

Thank You, Duncan G.