(Photo Credit: Mike Rathjen)

Brian Tully sits in a hip, coffee shop just outside of Vancouver’s Chinatown. Dressed in a suit he orders a double espresso and sips it like the gentleman that he is.

Two years ago, after fighting decades of alcohol addiction, Tully finally found his rock bottom. He went into a field, drank a 40-ounce bottle of vodka, and consumed every pill that he had. He then lay down to die. Miraculously he was found by a stranger and woke up in the hospital.

Today the 52-year-old and father of three, is sober. His last drink was on his 50th birthday – a date he will never forget. “I was a drunk since I was 20-years-old. I started drinking when I was twelve. I was a functional alcoholic – extremely functional. I could always go to work,” says Tully.

But over the years alcohol began to destroy his life including his teeth, resulting in severe and painful abscesses. “Alcohol is a great dissolvent. It dissolves relationships, teeth, jobs, money – it dissolves everything,” says Tully.

He cites depression as the force that finally brought him to his knees that almost fateful day in 2008. “For me alcohol was never the issue. Until I figured that out I would continue to fall into the same pattern. I had no purpose in my life.” 

Brian has now been sober for over two years, and with the efforts of support services including work assessment programs, Tully is slowly finding his purpose. He has learned that he has an aptitude for working with seniors and has been volunteering in a seniors centre in Richmond to learn about a career in gerontology.

To prepare him for this career change he was set up with an appointment at Working Gear Clothing Society – a unique non-profit in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that supports work-ready men with free clothing and work gear to match their job and career aspirations.

When asked what the fitting at Working Gear Clothing Society was like Tullys says, “It was a really good experience. It was really fun and relaxed and they (the volunteers) are really great and helpful people.” During his appointment Tully received a pair of DKNY dress pants, shirts, casual pants, a coat, tie, and a dressy wool scarf that he says, “completes the outfit”.

After seeing himself in the mirror with new teeth and new clothes Tully says, “I feel like an alien to be honest with you.” He goes on to share the advice he received from one of the Working Gear Clothing Society volunteers. “He said, ‘wear the clothes…just wear them. Even if you are not going to an interview, put them on and walk around in the new you because it’s like anything – you have to get used to it.’”

Lani Johnson, Vice Chair of Working Gear Clothing Society says, “We aim to provide clothing for low income men that will assist change and open doors. Whether it’s a suit or construction gear we want these men to not only look the part but also to begin to feel real change taking place within. Sometimes it’s just a little thing like a suit or a pair of boots that is keeping someone from getting on the job– and that is why we are here to help.”

Johnson shares that Working Gear is currently in great need of steel toe work boots. “We accept suits and dress clothes, but at the moment we are really needing more new and used boots. We have launched a campaign to raise our need for work boots called “No Small Feet” and are hoping to obtain 400 pairs of boots or financial donations to cover the cost of purchasing them by September 1st.”

When asked where he sees himself in five or so years Tully humbly says, “Working with seniors full time, I would be driving a car again, and I’ll be happy. I don’t have huge plans, it’s not about money anymore – it’s about being content and being happy.”

Information on Working Gear Clothing Society can be found at www.workinggear.ca Donations can be made through www.canadahelps.org.

Updates on the “Not Small Feet” campaign and Working Gear can be followed on Twitter at @WorkingGear, or on the Working Gear Facebook account: Working Gear.