Speaking from experience

New book features real stories from the wrong side of the tracks

Chaplain Steve Bradley is releasing a collection of local Victoria stories and poems about addiction and jail. He hopes the real-life experiences help educate high school and criminal justice students.

“Offender, ex-prisoner, heroin addict.”

Steve Bradley’s frank descriptions border on cruel, “egotistical and self serving.”

Bradley is describing himself, of course, or the man he once was, to be more accurate. After multiple jail terms, 18 years as a heroin addict and many more years as an alcoholic, Bradley lays out those stories and more in his new book, Connection to Freedom, in the hopes those that read it take a different journey through life than he did.

“We have tried to emphasize how students (should) not follow the path that we followed. We use our life stories as an example,” he said.

“What we want to do is put it into the library and various institutions as a resource. Believe me, you won’t get a more real life or valuable resource than from the people who have lived these experiences.”

The collection of personal short stories, poems and experiences written by prisoners, ex-prisoners, homeless, addicts and more are aimed at youth, high school students, law and criminal justice students in secondary and post-secondary schools, with an eye on generating compassion and an open mind to the reality of life.

“Either you have the real truth or you have nonsense – I am not putting out a comic book here,” Bradley said. “There is some stuff in there that is really informative, because nothing has been spared.”

Aneil Perwal met Bradley in 2008 after 17 years hopelessly addicted to crack cocaine. Once a promising athlete and student, he fell into good money early, earning more than $200,000 a year working with drug dealers and living a lavish lifestyle. One day he woke up after a binge and his girlfriend had left him, he had no money, no cable and no food in his fridge. He had nothing left.

“I thought I could handle it. I ended up being a money man with the drug dealers and ended up trying the product,” the Spectrum graduate said. “My ego was out of check, I thought I was better than everyone else.”

Perwal went through a drug rehab centre seven times before he finally broke free of the chains of addiction. His story is one of many in Bradley’s collection.

“I grew up in a Christian family and I broke my parents heart like (drugs) broke many parents’ hearts,” Perwal said. “ If you are a lawyer or a gardener, if you get into the drugs nothing good happens. It is called dope for a reason.”

He hopes his story speaks to some of the promising young high school students who might be tracing the path he once walked.

“I have come a long way but there is still a long way to go. I was a guy that in everyone’s eyes was going to make it. I am still going to make it, but I have gotten through a lot of trials and tribulations. I hope I can touch just one kid.”

Like Perwal, Bradley believes stories from people who have “hit rock bottom” may make people think twice about their path and may provide another perspective from those who have made some of the wrong choices he has made.

“I was on heroin for 18 years, with Aneil being on crack for 17 years. We have an obvious connection in our understanding of each other’s challenges and victories,” Bradley said.

“I think that is why I am able to help people, because I am not a book-learned councillor … I have been on the street, I have been in jail and I have lost this and that. I have a connection.”

 

For more information on the book contact steve.bradley@shaw.ca