Steve Bradley has seen hell and lives to tell his story.
In his self-published memoir, Two Miles West of Inyokern, the Victoria native writes about his 27-year narcotic addiction, and how he came out the other side.
His state is summarised in a passage he wrote after a heroin binge sparked by a painful break-up, “Physically, mentally and spiritually I felt my life slipping away from me. Having a repentant heart was not the way you would have described me; I was more like a madman.”
Bradley’s tale of redemption couldn’t come at a better time, as B.C. currently faces an opioid crisis.
He immigrated to Canada with his family from England at age 12. His life went downhill at age 16 when his father – to whom the book is dedicated to – died from leukemia.
“After he died I just had to get away. I was expelled from school, I tried to join the navy and was turned down,” says Bradley, who, around this time, survived a horrific ordeal when he was kidnapped and abused in the Fraser Valley.
After decades of shuffling between jail cells, psychiatric institutions and the streets, he finally found sobriety at age 42.
“I hit rock bottom in 1989 during an 18-month jail stint. Around that time, I was visiting a lady who was into cocaine; I was on opiates. It was the middle of the day and I went into a pharmacy on Douglas Street.
“My intention was not to rob the place. I saw a guy in a white coat put these pills in bottles, filling prescriptions and I thought, ‘I’m not into pills, I’m not interested in money,’ I was just feeling sorry for myself and angry,” he recalls. “When I saw this guy, I wanted him to pay for everything going wrong in my life.”
An altercation ensued and when police arrived, Bradley told them: “Yeah, just take me to Wilkinson Road jail.”
He surrendered again in jail, this time to his powerlessness over drugs.
“By that time I had tried everything [to quit] and I kept going back to jail. I just wasn’t getting the answer,” he says. During his stay, he attended an alcohol and drug seminar where a man spoke about 12-step recovery programs.
During the talk, one of the inmates interrupted the speaker in jest, saying, “I don’t need the 12 steps, I’ve got Jesus.”
When Bradley returned to his cell, he says, he was overcome with suicidal thoughts. He not only thought about the speaker, but the inmate who had interrupted him.
Then, Bradley thought about God. On his bunk, he prayed: “Well God, if you’re real, I need your help. I’ve destroyed my life.”
The next morning, he says, he felt a signifigant shift.
“Whether it was God, or it was my own spirit – I don’t really know. But what I do know is that my life was changed from that moment on. Before that, it was all ‘me, me, me.’ Then, out of nowhere, I had the urge to help others.”
But his story doesn’t end there. Fourteen years after his sentence ended, Bradley was sober and confronted by his past – in the form of the man he assaulted in the pharmacy.
“This guy comes up to me in Emmanuel Baptist Church, looking like a little angel in a beautiful suit and said –I’m glad you didn’t kill me. And I looked at him, and all we could do was hug each other.”
Bradley has dedicated the last 25 years of his life to social service, from sharing his anti-drug message at Victoria high schools, to corresponding with inmates across Canada.
He served as a chaplin with the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada and is a founding member and executive director of the Connection to Freedom Jail and Street Outreach Society. It’s a program where roughly 40 men meet on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at the Mustard Seed to discuss sobriety and how to stay out of trouble.
Connection with others, Bradley explains, is central to getting better.
“Whether you are struggling with heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, prescription opioids or other drugs, I have found that, as well as faith in God, the most important principle in recovery from addiction is forgiveness for others and forgiveness for self.”
Two Miles West of Inyokern is available at Bolen Books (Hillside Mall) and at Christian Book & Music (3090 Nanaimo St).