Alumni Perspective: Carrying The Message Through Gratitude and Giving

Rick A. was an incredibly committed supporter of Renascent’s recovery community. In the years since he was a client, he had become a sort of Santa Claus, showing up with gifts for those in treatment over the holiday season. Rick passed away on March 28, 2019. Just before his last holiday season with all of us, he shared his story:

I attended the Punanai Centre for men nearly 20 years ago. My first attempt at treatment was to get my wife and my employer off my back. I came into treatment knowing everything and not willing to change. My attitude got in the way and had me thinking “they have nothing to offer me.”

Nearly three months after leaving, I was irritable, discontent, and hated myself, when someone suggested I give it another try. At that moment, the gift of desperation made me willing enough to admit defeat and I re-entered treatment. This time, I was there for me. When I first walked into the centre, the biggest guy walked up to me and shook my hand. He greeted me with compassion and rather than try to take him out, I felt a sense of hope that maybe there was something to this. Instead of blaming everyone and having pity for myself, I started to listen. I connected with the counsellors and peers and I started to feel like I was no longer alone. I identified with others and started to think about them and their pain instead of my own, for the first time.

I was told to get involved, and keep an open mind. The call came: the Alumni program was exactly where I needed to be and I started to think of ways that I could help others feel less alone, to feel like they mattered. I started to purchase socks for the guys in treatment and would come down on Christmas Day to connect with guys who didn’t have family or friends around, and it changed everything. Over the next several years, the holiday gift-giving tradition continued and expanded to include the other men’s centre in Brooklin. Over the years, I’ve had men approach me at AA meetings and say “Hey, you’re that guy that showed up on Christmas Day at Renascent with gifts and food for everyone.” I had no idea of the impact, and it only mattered that I was able to be there for that ‘one’ person without family or hope on Christmas Day.

I have received more gifts than I have given and I hope this tradition continues for years to come. I have been sober since May 14, 2001 and continue to be grateful for the people who have shown me how to live a better life through service.

Happy Holidays,
Rick A. Ho Ho Ho

About the Authors

Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email