I have spent the last four weeks traveling across Canada for Recovery Month. I need to share my excitement and respect for the many people trying to recover in today’s drug epidemic. I visited many cities and provinces this month either presenting or providing family interventions. The resilience in each Province was astounding.
One thing is clear.
Addiction is a disease and everyone whether they are in it, affected by it or witness it; all believe it is treatable!
Their hearts are in the right place. I had the honour of sharing two weeks with people like Nuno Capaz from the commission of Drug dissuasion in Portugal, stating that people don’t want to hear the whole Portuguese Model to end the crisis, they just hear decriminalization. They are missing the point of how they as a country changed the epidemic in Portugal.
I hope advocates really believe in the Portugal model because people not only changed an open drug scene but also saved many lives from overdose, and treatment is ready available and initiated with each person that is caught with drugs. They don’t just overlook the behaviours of citizenship. Each person living there including drug users participate in the community. He said he visited DTES and said his streets used to be the same.
This was very hopeful as it’s important to see harm reduction for citizens and community as well.
I was asked to be the Moderator in each city with David Sheff author of Beautiful Boy who spends his time traveling across North America trying to help families suffering , grieving and recovering. He created a foundation called the “Beautiful Boy fund ” to help improve the oriented system of care for treatment in America. He challenges service providers by asking how many in the rooms had naloxone on them …? Meeting him has made me a better person, his message created the space for people to dig deep and heal and to think about the impact of using had on the familied and it helped families feel like they were not alone.
Vicki Reynolds’s who spends her time in Vancouvers DTES advocating for saving lives, she is a strong supporter of recovery and all paths to recovery. She is a strong voice that I hope gets heard by our health system, she knows the issue on the ground and she knows the solutions.
Gabor Mate shared his books and what he is trying to do to help the addiction crisis. We would need a lot of therapists for this type of trauma based solutions.
Johann Hari who is such a lovely man reminded us that addiction is treatable with connection. Dr Best from the UK was nothing short of brilliant in their approach to addiction, initiation and recovery.
Recovery Capital lead by Dr Ray Baker and Jessica Cooksey kept us focused on the Recovery Orientated systems of care that wrap services around every Individual that wants to recover including families. It was-absolutely genius to hear how recovery capital , recovery communities and drug dissuasion could lead us out of this poison infested mess that we are in.
It also gave hope to first point of contact drug users having a recovery assessment tool would allow professionals to understand the capital they have and the capital they need.
Dialogue sessions were very open and honest about how families and people in recovery are feeling and they shared many ideas to help improve our system.
I think it would be reckless if we didn’t listen to families that want more for their children. The families. I met some were struggling with not just opiates, there are many provinces struggling with crystal meth and needing a response and services to support them, they say “we don’t need a crack pipe we need services!! “There fears were that their loved ones would not get help and move to Vancouver to get free drugs.
As one mom cried to us she said “Counsellors are giving us the wrong advise, we are getting slapped around by our addicted son and he is in psychosis and we don’t need to hear he needs safe supply crystal meth. We need help!
They want treatment !! The drug users want treatment and in some provinces there is not much. There were many moms that shared they lost their loved one and were glad we were there to honour them and were advised to advocate for change and don’t settle for just safe supply and to look further to believe that the system can change. Another mom told the crowd “that she was embarrassed that the lobbyists were bullying her to vote for a certain government that doesn’t support treatment and were pressuring moms to vote.
I also heard from a mom that the user advocates were asking for money for lobbying work. They are vulnerable and if this is even a stretch from the truth , I am mad. We can’t prey on our most vulnerable families.
We need to support our families with no agenda just love.
What was truly apparent to me was that the infighting within our healthcare system and needs to stop. I have worked in the thick of the four pillars to services that are abstinence as the goal. I may not be in the Vancouver DTES anymore but I practice harm reduction for 20 years.
Someone said to me “we love you just the way you are Linda BUT we love you enough not to leave you that way” I also hear from every service provider that the perception is that we are old and don’t have evidence that recovery still works. That is downright insulting and besides the fact that it creates STIGMA of recovery services and it’s not ok to be In Recovery does that make us unknowledgeable?.. that would be like saying services providers that have never used drugs can’t help because they just read in academic formats and have no idea how.
12 years ago a streptococcal pneumonia hit the DTES and wiped out about 300 peoples lives. I remember every compromising immune system was to be inoculated and we had to get solutions asap so we held a barbecue in Oppenheimer Park and fed 5000 people, everyone of them immunized to save their lives. We lost many including my ex husband and needed to be there for my daughter to say goodbye to her dad. He did not make it.
I understand when you live or are working in the thick of pain and suffering that it is difficult. We are all fighting for resources and need to stick together and create our own drug strategy starting from the homes of our children and families and save lives.
Come on people now smile on your brother !!!