"I had no cellphone, no address and the top of my resume was panhandling — not a lot of folks looking for that sort of thing," O'Dea told Daybreak Kamloops.
"But I knocked on doors until somebody said, 'Hey, I think you'd be a good salesman.' And that was the beginning and everything changed."
O'Dea eventually became a celebrated businessman, co-founding coffee retailer Second Cup Coffee and establishing non-profit organizations.
But life wasn't always so easy.
'Dirty and lonely'
O'Dea says he became an alcoholic when he was 13 years old. The substance abuse eventually led him to live on the streets when he was in his 20s.
"It was a very dirty, lonely and sometimes vile existence that was made up of panhandling for nickels and dimes, getting a bottle of wine, and talking about tomorrow, quitting drinking tomorrow, calling my family tomorrow, and getting a job, and tomorrow never coming," he said.
O'Dea says he eventually decided he had to change.
After someone dropped a dime into the cup that he was holding while standing in a busy Toronto intersection, he used the dime to make a phone call, and "never had another drink" since.
On Wednesday, O'Dea will share his story at a United Way event in Kamloops, B.C. to raise funds for the United Way Youth Initiative Grants. He says he hopes his story will inspire other youth to believe in themselves.
"Yes, it's difficult, nobody says it's easy," he said. "Believe in yourself, continue to do what you do, and life will sort it out."
O'Dea will speak will speak at The Art We Are Cafe in Kamloops at 7 a.m. PT on Wednesday. He will also speak at the Kamloops Convention Centre later that day.
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