Once an alcoholic living on the streets of Victoria

Once an alcoholic living on the streets of Victoria

Breaking addiction: How United Way helped one man get his life back

Chris Hancock often woke up thinking about how he lost his job, girlfriend, house and family due to his alcohol addiction.

After spending another night sleeping on the ground in Beacon Hill Park, Chris Hancock often woke up thinking about how he lost his job, girlfriend, house and family in a five-year span due to his alcohol addiction.

Feeling physically ill and shaking from withdrawal, Hancock knew once he downed a few drinks those thoughts wouldn’t be there anymore. They would go away for at least another day as long as he had his booze.

Every day was spent tracking down more alcohol, money and a place to lay his head for the night. At the height of his addiction, Hancock was drinking between 40 and 60 ounces of rye a day.

“It’s not a hangover, it’s a place of hopelessness. You begin to realize that your survival depends on getting your drug of choice,” said Hancock, noting he was raised by good parents and had a normal childhood.

“In order to survive, you probably will have to do things you don’t really feel are good. One tends to really struggle with the idea of whether it’s worthwhile continuing on.”

Prior to Victoria, Hancock was living in Calgary where he worked as a flight attendant for an airline. He had everything a young man could possibly want, but was also formulating a disease.

Holding down a stable job and life, Hancock never thought he’d be one of those people living on the streets, drinking out of a brown paper bag. In his head he wasn’t an alcoholic, but the disease took hold as he progressed into his early 30s.

Eventually Hancock lost his job and girlfriend, so he decided to move to Victoria where he had his family to help him get back on his feet. But the addiction continued, placing a strain on his loved ones who could no longer stand by and watch him slowly die.

“Over a period of time of me promising to stop drinking and several bouts of detoxes and other treatment programs, they had to start backing away,” said Hancock, noting his lowest point was when his family started to disappear.

His addiction became so severe that his nervous system began shutting down, making it difficult at times to walk or sign his own name.

“It really is amazing how after a couple of drinks you begin to tell yourself that this is acceptable. Your own standards for yourself begin to fall into addiction.”

During one of his last visits to detox, which he attended at least a dozen times, Hancock was approached by a worker with the Umbrella Society for addictions and mental health. He was hooked up with a network of services funded by United Way and eventually managed to get his life back on track.

Now at 38 years old, Hancock is an avid hiker, backpacker and snowboarder, working as an outreach worker for the Umbrella Society. His job is a constant reminder of how lucky he is to be sober and how much work is needed to stay on the right path.

“I feel very sad where I got to, but I’m very happy that I am where I am. It’s been a long and slow process and a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely paid off,” said Hancock, who marked five years of sobriety in September. “I live a beautiful life now and I support myself, have a lovely little place down by the water, a beautiful girlfriend. Life is just good now.”

Hancock credits much of his success to the services he utilized that are funded by United Way. As the region’s largest non-government funder, United Way assists charitable organizations by identifying and funding programs to address immediate needs and underlying causes of the community’s most pressing social challenges.

Last year, the organization and its community partners reached 80,000 individuals, families, children and youth thanks to support from 11,000 donors. This year, United Way hopes to engage 2,000 additional donors through its community campaign that was launched in September. The goal is to raise $6 million.

“The need is great in our community,” said United Way CEO Patricia Jelinski.

“We are asking our donors, both inside and outside of workplaces, to continue to support our cause and introduce a friend or co-worker to United Way. December is a key month when people give back to their community and every donation, big or small, can help change a person’s life.”

Donations to the community campaign are accepted at workplaces, United Way’s office at 1144 Fort St., by calling 250-385-6708 or online at uwgv.ca.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police officers were one group of dozens that submitted dance clips to the Greater Victoria Festival Society, to help create the Dance Across Victoria video montage. (Youtube/Screenshot)
WATCH: Saanich police, Victoria mayor bust some moves in new Dance Across Victoria video

Montage features submitted dance clips from across Greater Victoria

Former Oak Bay High Grade 12 student Brandon Kip plays the $100,000 Steinway piano in the Dave Dunnet Theatre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay High Alumni Association passes torch to new president

The association has given back more than $70,000 in its 16 years

Saanich’s Malia Brodie competed in the Vancouver qualifiers for the 2020 National Championships. (Photo by BC Sport Karate Snaps)
PHOTOS: Saanich teen awarded $1,800 Karate Canada bursary to pursue officiant certification

Malia Brodie, 18, has black belt, nearly 15 years experience in karate

This photo courtesy of Leanne Grover shows the immediate aftermath of the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents. (Leanne Grover/Submitted)
Residents of a Central Saanich duplex ‘fortunate’ to escape Sunday morning fire

Damage to the duplex extensive with one resident said to be ‘catatonic’ after escaping building

After more than a year, open forums will resume at a Saanich committee of the whole meeting on April 19 with up to five residents having the chance to speak for three minutes each about any district-related matter. (Black Press Media file photo)
Public input resumes at Saanich council following lengthy suspension due to pandemic

Up to five residents can present by phone for up to three minutes starting April 19

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Most Read