When a gentle, but unflinching, family intervention finally made it clear to Umbrella’s founder, Gordon Harper, that he needed immediate help with his addiction issues, he was almost paralyzed by fear and anger and shame. When he hesitantly asked for help, he expected to be treated with the same level of disgust and disdain that he had come to feel toward himself. Imagine his surprise, then, when during his initial contact with each element of the addictions system, he was welcomed with compassion, and without judgement. The whole experience, so frightening at the outset, had become a hopeful and encouraging beginning to his journey of recovery.

A few years later Gordon had some solid sobriety under his belt and was now helping increasing numbers of people with their attempts at recovery, just as others had helped him along the way.

Buoyed by these experiences, he began to seek out other opportunities.  It quickly became clear that a peer support program, with an addiction focus, could really enhance the journeys of those who had been struggling with alcohol and other drugs.

A couple of years later the Archie Courtnall Centre (Psychiatric Emergency Services) opened at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. Although intended primarily to serve folks in mental health crisis, staff soon noticed that they were seeing more and more people for whom substance use had become a serious issue. The team at this new resource invited Gordon to see if, working together, they could make a difference in the lives of these patients. There was some immediate success, and soon he began to get calls from social workers from other parts of RJH, and the area’s other two hospitals. Patients who had been hospitalized because of their substance use issues were amazed that someone who had successfully grappled with addiction would come to visit them in hospital, and help them to develop a plan. And they were even more amazed when they learned that Gordon would also follow up with helpful supports when they returned to the community.

What started as one person helping another has steadily grown into the great organization that Umbrella is today.