Last year, Jim Rouse's life spiraled out of control.

The Ottawa man considered himself a lifetime user of drugs and alcohol, but was able to hold down a job in construction. When he lost his job -- and consequently, his apartment -- he began drinking and using drugs heavily. With nowhere to go, he slept outside at Ottawa's Central Experimental Farm.

"I considered myself an alcoholic and drug addict," said the 45-year-old. "I was about being high all the time. I was a human garbage can."


He learned about a detox program at the Ottawa Mission during a chance run-in with a friend. With nothing left to lose, he decided to attend, and soon entered Lifehouse, a five-month drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

Rouse, who was one of two men -- the first of 2009 -- to graduate from the program Wednesday, said he now feels better about himself.

"I feel like I have direction," said Rouse, who shares a house in the community with several fellow graduates and plans on accessing the shelter's post-program counselling for the next 18 months.

"I feel optimistic."

Stories like Rouse's are inspiring, said Troy Thompson, the Ottawa Mission's manager of addiction services.

"It's pretty inspiring that you're seeing people with chronic health issues on the road to recovery, and that we could play a small part in that," he said.

"It's extremely rewarding for us and extremely inspirational for people with similar struggles. The audience at the ceremony is made up of participants from all our programs and they're seeing living, breathing success stories. There's the idea that 'if it worked for that guy, it could work for me.'"

This year, Thompson expects to graduate between 10 and 15 people from the program. Since the opening of Lifehouse in January 2002, the program has graduated 60 people and Thompson estimates 60 per cent of them have remained sober to date.

"In other fields, this is barely a pass, but in addiction treatment, this is extremely high," he said. "The norm is about 25 per cent."

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