Sunday, October 21, 2012

Drug Addiction - Asshats & Heroes: Part I

Not a pretty picture?  No arguments here.  

Drug Addiction - Asshats & Heroes: Part I

I have been a staunch supporter of Vancouver’s harm reduction clinic,  InSite, since its inception in 2003.  InSite is a government funded safe injection clinic in the heart of Hastings (Vancouver’s poorest downtown area) providing addicts with 
  •  complete new injection rigs every visit, 
  • a clean & safe environment in which to use their pre-obtained illicit drugs, and 
  •  professional, non-judgmental support by medical personnel, mental health workers, peer staff, and addictions counselors.
InSite is not just a safe injection site, it is also a free-choice path to recovery and a chance for sick people to reclaim themselves from addiction.

“InSite and Onsite are wrap-around programs that exist one above the other in the same Hastings Street location.  When clients, usually InSite users, are ready to access withdrawal management, they can be immediately accommodated at Onsite.  On the second floor of OnSite people have access to 12 rooms with private bathrooms where they can detox.  Mental health workers, counselors, nurses and doctors work together to help people stabilize and plan their next steps. People can then move up to the 3rd floor transitional recovery housing for further stabilization and connection to community support, treatment programs and housing.”

This multi-level, practical, and compassionate approach to dealing with the disease of addiction is what initially excited me about InSite, but it is something else that makes this subject evocative for me.  

His name is Dan.
Dan is a heroin addict in Hastings, Vancouver.
Dan is my little brother.  I have not seen him in 12 years; my parents have not seen him in ten.  

I travel to Vancouver every year, sometimes twice, & each time I troll some very dangerous streets seeking my brother, all the while knowing full well that I could be looking him right in the face and not recognize him at all.  

No one in my family knows that I have ever gone looking.

Every May I contact Vancouver's major crimes division and ask for confirmation of life.  Sadly, Dan is very well known; information on his current no-fixed address but still breathing status is easy to come by.  

Straight up - I am never sure how I should feel at the news. 
Because of my calls, when the beat cops in the lower eastside next see Dan, they might remind my brother to pick up a phone & collect call his mom & dad so that they can wish him a happy birthday. 

Some years he calls, some years he does not. 

But every year I thank God for InSite and all it's dedicated people, because my little brother has a much better chance to turn his life around, should he choose to do so, because InSite is there to help.   

*Blogger is frequently unco-operative with me... and many others.  With this in mind, and my firm intention to publish Part II within the week, reality is that the next installment of this series will appear when Blogger is good & damn ready.*       


  1. What a sad, but all too common story. And even sadder that for most of the world, who do not have a personal connection to an addict, or a felon, or whatever---they just do not care. When it hits close to home though--people pay attention. Maybe your story will help someone else think about these people as people, instead of an entity to be disdained

  2. Wow Venom, this place sounds like an actual good-use of government money to help people in need of good-works. I am just utterly astounded and completely commend your support of such an institution. And I'll pray/send good thoughts to you and your family for your brother's recovery from this debilitating disease.

  3. Paige: You know me Paige, I'm pretty much happy to let felons in prison do their time with no privileges. And my brother IS a felon also - whenever he's been in jail I have felt like he deserved it and didn't feel sorry that he was there; I also felt relieved thinking that at least in jail he can't use drugs.
    Well, wait for Part II...

    Anna: Thank you, but for our family this has not been sharp pain for quite a long time now. Rather, it's a dull ache.
    Addicts have to want to change, that's the straight up truth of it, or it never happens. He's had periods of time where he was a 'dry drunk' or not currently using' (as in when he was in jail) but he's still been an alcoholic and an addict.
    My dad calls my breother 'a waste of a life', knowing he feels that way about his only son is more painful to me than most other aspects of the way it is.
    I accept that I cannot wish my little brother out of his circumstances, he remains a deep, dull ache.

  4. Your post really touched my heart. I hope that one day it will just click for your brother, perhaps when the beat cops remind him that you called or were looking for him, and he will take that step inside the door of InSite.

  5. Wolfie: So long as he breathes, there is always hope.
    One thing you learn when you have someone close to you who is also an addict is that you can't wait for them to figure it out, you have to 'get better' yourself, or everyone is lost.

  6. That is so sad. The hard truth is no one can help him until he decides he wants help. You are in my prayers.


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