Safe and sober space in Windsor, Ontario. for those struggling with addiction has permanently shut down on financial pressures to keep coffee afloat.
The Spiritual Soldiers Coffee Compound opened in mid-2018 as a public café, but more specifically a haven for anyone seeking help with drugs and alcohol or for those trying to stay clean after their rehab. Co-founder Mike Brown and everyone who worked at the Erie Street store had their own difficulties in sharing their lives with addiction.
“I think it has given a lot of hope to a lot of people,” said Brown. “We have had social events here that have really, really crossed boundaries for people and given them this social outlet to show them that you don’t need a life with alcohol and drugs.”
Over the past two years, Brown estimates that coffee has helped hundreds of people. Not to mention the hundreds of others who contacted him from across Canada, the United States and even abroad after discovering the concept of “sober bar”.
VIDEO: Debra Altland explains why drove from Pennsylvania to see the “sober bar” firsthand:
The coffee was intended to fill a void for those seeking a life after rehabilitation, which is a gap, according to Brown, that exists in our area.
“There is no very strong aftercare program that has solidified for people,” said Brown. “They’re going to a 30-day treatment center, so what?”
His addiction to alcohol and cocaine started when he was only 18 years old. This ultimately led to a suicide attempt and an overdose, which prompted him to seek help and cleanse himself.
Recent relapse brings feelings of shame, guilt
Addiction is something that does not go away after time. At the end of last year, Brown relapsed and immediately felt “guilt and shame, self-doubt, fear of what others will think of me”.
Although it was not a deciding factor in the closure of the cafe, it did play a role.
“You get to a point where you just give, give, give and it’s amazing. But I personally forgot to take care of myself,” said Brown. “I ran into a lot of personal and emotional demons.”
“Nothing beats my sobriety today,” he said.
Watch Jay Arruda explain how this coffee played a key role in helping him stay sober:
Brown said he had received a lot of support from the community to “take me back.” Today he said he was much better and was proud to have returned from the relapse.
Even during this time, he kept the coffee as long as he could, but financially, it quickly became unbearable.
“I’m 40 years old and I looked up here when I had to give this notice to the owner. It was excruciating,” said Brown. “It was my baby.”
The store planned to have its last day later this week, and a few weekend events in April. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, the store has closed last week, probably for good.
Spiritual soldiers to continue
Now Brown is looking to start the next chapter in his life, which isn’t exactly clear yet.
But one thing is for sure, Brown said the spiritual soldiers will continue. A board of directors is in place to move the movement forward in the community, with the aim of raising awareness and helping people struggling with addiction.
Brown hopes to be involved and has said that he will continue to share his story with the hope of helping others.
“I think the best is yet to come,” he said.