Sometimes I’m a judgmental asshole. Not always but sometimes…
Most of the time I consider myself an open minded and non-judgmental person.
Last night was not one of those times.
At the Overdose Awareness vigil last night, I was really paying attention to my body sensations… they’re usually the hint I get for when a big emotion is about to take over.
One of the first people I heard speak was a woman from Valhalla Place. They specialize in addiction and mental health treatment. Reasonable goals are set and they offer harm reduction options and medication assisted recovery among many other things to aid in the attainable goals set. What caught my attention was her piece on their needle exchange program. The purpose of these programs are to stop the spread of infection and disease caused by sharing needles. The needle exchange program is just what it sounds like. You bring in your used needles, where they can dispose of them properly and in exchange, give you clean (new) needles.
There was a knot in my stomach.
I understand the premise of the project… I do. It was the same logic I used when I gave Natalie some of my needles. (For those of you who don’t know me, I am an insulin dependant diabetic and receive a ton of sterile syringes, about 100 a month) Initially she told me she had a friend who was diabetic and he didn’t have insurance. I believed her, for the most part, at first. After a few times, it didn’t make sense why her friend wasn’t getting these needle prescribed himself… I knew she was using them for herself but I hid behind plausible deniability. Finally, I figured if she got them from me, I knew they were clean. After awhile someone asked me (probably my therapist, it sounds therapist-y) “How would you feel if Natalie died using a needle you gave her?” I told her that was it. Her *friend* would have to find another supplier.
Before I had my daughter, I always kinda figured I’d be the kind of parent who’d let her kids and their friends party at my house. At least I can keep an eye on them here. At least I know they’re not driving or riding around with someone under the influence… But now? That sounds insane. No fucking way she’s going to get the ok from me to do that shit. I know she’s probably going to experiment and I will be there for her but she’s not going to do it in front of me. How irresponsible is that? Sounds kind of like giving away free needles to drug users…
But most addicts are not my children. Though some of them are practically babies, they have an addiction. They need a way to get help, either through treatment, AA, NA or harm reduction. And because this is not a 13 year old experimenting with drugs or alcohol for the first time but rather serious users with an addiction, I support the needle exchange programs. As well as people who need Suboxone, Methadone or whatever medication will help with withdrawals, cravings and block the opiate receptors. I was sorry to learn that a lot of people don’t consider addicts who use these methods as “truly clean” or totally “drug free” by not only the general population but by others in the addiction and recovery field!
At one point during the speakers last night, I burst out laughing. Not because anything was funny but because someone had said something so ridiculous, there was no other reaction appropriate. I don’t even remember who was talking now. I thought it was a mother talking about her son, Don said it was a man talking about his brother. Anyway, the statement uttered was “we just thought he was doing crack”!
OMFG. How do you do anything but laugh at that? Cry, I guess.
I’m going to reiterate, I didn’t laugh because it was funny. It was sad. I laughed because I understood. Hey, it’s not heroin. How bad is a heroin addiction when your family is holding onto the idea you’re “just using crack”?
Finally, the part I’ve been putting off… (the part where my judgy self shows through) there were overdose victims themselves who spoke.
At first I was glad to hear they’d survived. I was grateful that the people they were with had Narcan or Naloxone and knew how to administer it when it was needed. I noticed a little sadness as I’d wished Natalie… had it? Was with someone else who had it? Was saved by it, I guess. Then I noticed my jaw tightening. My breathing was getting shallow and my hands were balled into fists.
“I am a three time survivor of overdose. Naloxone saves lives, it saved mine three times.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
You didn’t learn your lesson after the first or even first TWO times? Fuck you. I’m not learning how to do this so you can have fun on a Saturday night. You obviously don’t value your life, why should I?
The ferociousness surprised me.
“Whoa. Where’d that come from?”
Yes, that is how part of me felt. How I still kinda feel… the other part, the bigger part of me says how powerful is that addiction that you almost died two times and you STILL went back for more?
So powerful we need an army. We need warriors. We need not just a day dedicated to overdose and recovery but a lifetime.
Every story is important. Every voice counts. Shame and stigma only serve to keep people sick and using…
Let’s End the Epidemic.
So, that’s the end of my rant and the end of my judgment. I know critism won’t help anyone yet I felt I had to be honest about how I felt. Everybody judges. It’s human nature and sometimes you have to judge- to keep yourself safe.
In any event, I’m sorry if it came out as harsh.