Former Executive Director of Discovery House honoured for his work in Penticton

Changed so many lives

Casey Richardson

After more than a decade working for the society with whom he credits helped save his own life, the executive director of Penticton’s Discovery House is stepping down from his role.

Jerome Abraham announced on April 14 that he has been forced to leave his position due to worsening health.

The community responded with support, sadness and appreciation of Abraham’s work.

On Tuesday, Abraham was honoured with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award from the Penticton Sunrise Rotary Club for his extraordinary service to the community.

He said that while it was very nice to be recognized, he also wanted to credit the work of everybody that lifted him up and help grow the society.

Abraham knows what it's like firsthand, both from personal experience and from his work as a now-sober community member helping others leave addiction behind. He recently celebrated 13 years sober.

After going through Discovery House himself all those years ago, Abraham became the night monitor, volunteering and teaching meditation classes, then the house manager and eventually became executive director.

He said he was committed to working at the recovery resource society for the chance to give back.

“I've gotten so much out of just sticking around and it's been amazing just watching other people's journeys, and just being able to be a little part of that,” Abraham said.

“Being an executive director, I think is one of the most challenging positions ever, because you're just sort of right in the middle of everything. You get the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Throughout the challenges, Abraham said he learned to lean on his team.

“I think, going forward into my current health challenges, that's been a really big skill for me that I can use now,” Abraham, who is battling cancer, said.

Throughout the growth of overdoses and the challenges of the opioid epidemic, Abraham said what frustrated him throughout the years was that mental health and addiction challenges are still treated differently.

“A certain segment of society still deems it okay to say the things that they do and, the things that are said about people with mental health and substance use challenges. You wouldn't get away in today's society with saying that about any other group, any other marginalized group, anyone's race, ethnicity, sex, sexual preference, or religion, but yet, it's still deemed okay to call people junkies and crackheads and say ‘I wish they'd all die.’”

“My hope is that we're coming out of that,” he added.

Abraham has long been a strong advocating voice on addiction issues, calling out decisions made by the provincial government and the lack of funding streaming to recovery facilities.

“The only thing that that's really been a struggle is just how slow the assistance for people with substance use and mental health challenges has come and still today, we're only willing to do a little bit as a society.”

But Discovery House still managed to become a model for where those dealing with addictions could go to get help and continue to be supported after working their way through the program.

“Every day, I was proud to be a part of Discovery House,” Abraham said. “I'm proud to be an alumnus.”

“The friendships that we've built in that family, that we've built through Discovery House alumni, I think that's what I'm the most proud of. Whether people are struggling or doing well, or they've exhibited some behaviours, maybe that aren't the most becoming behaviours, and maybe they've been asked to leave, they're still part of that family.”

While stepping down was not easy for the dedicated member, Abraham said that with the way his health has been, it “actually feels like a relief.”

“I've had so much more time in the last two weeks with my son,” he added. “The job was everything, right? It's heartbreaking one minute, it's fantastic, the next minute, it's everything.”

He won’t be leaving his work with the house permanently either, planning to come back in the future to teach classes, lead meditations and continue to show newcomers that it works.

“I'm no different than the guy who just checked in there today. Just give some guys some hope that they can do it as well.”

More Penticton News