Decades of drug addiction and living in the Downtown Eastside are etched into "Dreigh's" face. With the aid of a cane, the frail 59-year-old walked slowly into the Richmond News.
Although reluctant to have his photograph taken, the Richmond resident agreed because he wants readers to know just how important the Richmond Food Bank (RFB) is to him and to hundreds like him.
Dreigh (a pseudonym) has been going to the Richmond Food Bank as a customer for five years now.
"They do a really good job of providing healthy foods, organic foods that are important in order to survive," he said adding everyone who uses the RFB has a compelling story to tell.
Dreigh said without the RFB, he would be in dire straights.
"I'm on a limited income, not enough to cover my monthly bills," Dreigh said. "I wouldn't eat as well without the assistance of the food bank."
When he was bedridden after an accident, the RFB even delivered groceries to his home.
The food bank feeds his soul as well.
"My life is pretty lonely and the food bank is an extended family of sorts," he said, almost shyly. "It fills a void and it's a wonderful place filled with great and caring staff with big hearts.
"I get to interact with people and I've made good friends over the last five years."
Recently, Dreigh began to volunteer at the RFB for five to six hours every Saturday. Along with other volunteers, Dreigh breaks down large quantities of pasta into family or individual size portions.
"I always wanted to volunteer because I thought it would be good to give back instead of taking all the time," he said. "It's nice to know I'm helping out a little bit."
He also takes part in the RFB's new program for volunteers, Expressive Art Therapy (Re: "Bank volunteers express minds via art," News, Dec. 9).
"I've experienced a lot of trauma and horrible events in my life," he said. "Johanna Waldorf (RFB volunteer expressive art therapist) is showing me proper ways to deal with my pain and stress.
"I've never had counseling before and I find speaking about my problems very difficult."
With expressive art therapy, Dreigh is able to draw out deep-seated feelings of pain and suffering.
"I've dealt with lots of drug addiction and self harming," he said. "I've been pretty screwed up for much of my life."
Through the therapy, he learns to express his pain and even talk about it with Waldorf.
"She gives me the time to draw and then she'll ask me questions about what's going on with my life," he added. "Sometimes, it's easier to draw your pain than talk about it."
Although, Dreigh doesn't talk about what led him down the road to addiction, he says he started using crystal meth at 14.
"I started using drugs to numb the pain," he said. "By my early 20s, I was living in the Downtown Eastside."
After more than 35 years of drug addiction, Dreigh has been clean four years.
"I feared where my life was heading because I always felt I was a better person than the way I was living," he said. "Finally, I sought help and was admitted to a Richmond recovery house five years ago."
After a relapse that only lasted a few months, Dreigh was able to kick the habit. "I'm in a better place today and that's thanks to the Richmond Food Bank," he said.
For more information about RFB programs and assistance, call 604-271-5609 or visit them at www.richmondfoodbank.org.