ST. JOHN’S, N.L.
After spending the night sleeping on his parents’ graves in a Grand Bank cemetery, Don Keeping made up his mind.
It was March 13, 2018, and Keeping was tired of the endless cycle of drug abuse his existence had become.
He decided he would walk up through the town and maybe grab a coffee one last time before heading back to the graveyard.
“That was my plan because I was sick of just living like this. I was going to fill up a needle and stick it in and just get out of it,” Keeping told The Southern Gazette in a phone interview Oct. 5.
His plan was to overdose.
Walking through Grand Bank at 7 a.m. in the morning, however, he was stopped by the RCMP.
“They knew I was homeless and addicted to drugs and that, and they talked me into going to the hospital,” he says.
There, after seeing a doctor, a social worker told him they wanted to try to help him.
“I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, I think it’s time.’”
Keeping says he has been sober ever since.
Reflecting on the things that led up to that momentous day in March, Keeping says his downward spiral began after hurting his back while working on a fishing trawler in 2005.
He was prescribed morphine for the pain and was scheduled for back surgery. About a year later, he was abusing opiates.
It was an addiction that would cause him to lose his marriage, friends and family, he says.
He wound up homeless and was “sleeping here and there, sleeping in the softball field, soccer field, sleeping in a little shack up behind the town garage, wherever I could put my head.”
He had come from a good family and had good parents, Keeping says. Still, addiction took him down an ugly path.
Until that early morning walk through Grand Bank, and the encounter with the police.
From the hospital in Grand Bank, Keeping was first sent to the Wiseman Centre in St. John’s, which is run by the Salvation Army and provides an emergency shelter and supportive housing for homeless persons.
It was full, however, so he was moved to the Tommy Sexton Centre in the city. That facility, operated by the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, offers emergency shelter services, transitional and supportive housing, and supports to people over the age of 16.
Keeping spent four weeks essentially detoxing in bed, he said.
This summer, he also spent five weeks at the Grace Centre in Harbour Grace.
He credits both facilities for helping turn his life around.
“I got my six-months’ tag (Sept. 28). I’m pretty proud of that,” Keeping says.
On Wednesday, Oct. 10, he was scheduled to move into an apartment in St. John’s. It’ll be the first time in years he’s had a place to call home. He’s proud of that, too.
Keeping says a treatment facility on the Burin Peninsula would be helpful. Even a homeless shelter for men would be beneficial, he says.
“I won’t be coming back to Grand Bank to live anymore, because all of the services I need are in here,” he said.
Keeping has come a long way in the last seven months and realizes he has far to go. He plans to devote his time and energy from now on helping addicts.
“The sky’s the limit now, you know, for sure,” he says.