Helping save lives for the past 12 years, Jerome Abraham’s own life journey has now taken a turn down an unknown and frightening pathway.
After two years of battling cancer, the man who had become the face of Discovery House, worked his last day as executive director last month due to the progression of the disease.
“This illness really puts into perspective what’s important and I think it’s time for my family to be the most important thing right now and let Discovery House look after Discovery House,” said Abraham who spent his first year at Discovery as a client.
“I’m also really looking forward to working on my health and extending my stay on the planet rather than working until I collapse.
“It’s kind of nice just to step back and smell the roses.”
For Abraham, who long battled addiction, the cancer diagnosis is now in stage four, a sad twist of fate.
“I spent years out there trying to die, trying to kill myself and abusing all the privileges and getting chance after chance after chance… it’s ironic,” he said. “Now it’s like one more time I’m scared.”
Discovery House operates 90-day supportive living recovery homes for men. There are 13 live-in treatment beds at the Winnipeg Street location, four on Wade Ave. and five at Parker Place on Edna Ave. (with an additional three on the way that will be completed by the end of the summer.)
Leaving Discovery House was not easy for Abraham, 48, or the board of directors of Penticton Resource Recovery Society that oversees the operations of the facilities.
In fact, it was the board that initiated the separation.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and hopefully the hardest thing I will ever do,” said board chair and Abraham’s longtime friend Mike Pond. “Jerome was a client years ago and I was there to greet him and I have been with him the whole way through.
“It was very difficult and very scary decision and I spent months crying, but he needed to step down and look after himself.”
Pond saw daily the efforts Abraham made to help those battling addiction.
“He’s passionate and totally thrown his heart into this at personal expense,” said the president. “He has just an unbelievable dedication to helping other people recover and his greatest asset is his willingness to give of himself.”
Abraham admitted being angry at the board’s decision at first but then the realization set in.
“I can now thank them (board) for having the courage to do it,” he said. “I think I would have kept going until I dropped which wouldn’t have been the greatest outcome for myself or my family.
“But having to leave… Discovery House has been everything to me. There’s been some withdrawal and there’s been some grieving but I’m still going to help as much as I can, as long as I’m still kicking.”
For all the people Abraham has helped over the years, in the month since leaving Discovery House, it’s now coming back to him in a big way from others.
“The support I’ve gotten from everyone at Discovery and everyone in the community, it’s been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “Going through the day to day you don’t realize the breadth of caring and love that’s out there for you when you need it. I’m just getting the full picture of that now.”
Among the hundreds of men who have come through Discovery’s doors on their own journey of addiction is Penticton’s Mike Beattie.
“My life had hit rock bottom, my wife and children had left me, I had nowhere to turn,” recalled Beattie, 49, about a time seven years ago. “When I finally came to terms with what I was doing, I reached out to Discovery House and Jerome was the first person I talked to and he reached out to me with open arms.
“Jerome is very dear to my heart. He gave me my life back, he gave my kids their father back and now his commitment and devotion through his own disease is just beyond words.”
Beattie credits Abraham for everything he now has.
“My life could not be better, I have my family back, I have a great job,” he said. “I’m a leader at work. Life is great, life is wonderful, I love my life. Jerome taught me how to get my dignity back, my self love, my self worth.
“I don’t know how I can ever say thank you for all that he has done for me. Maybe, I guess, just leading by example, to take what he has taught me and try to help others the way he helped me.”
Abraham has no definite plans for the future other than healing and spending time with friends and family.
“I hope to get back and do some work with the guys, back to my roots because that’s where it all started for me, at Discovery House,” he said.
His friend and board chair has his own
prediction for the future.
“The situation, it sucks, but to be quite honest I’m excited to see what Jerome does with the next chapter of his life because it will be exciting,” said Pond. “I’m still counting on him to beat this damn thing and stay with us.”
By Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on May 13, 2023 at 08:32