Stigmatization is one of the barriers for individuals stuck in the cycle of addiction and for family members seeking support for themselves and their loved ones. Understanding the deeper personal stories of those who use prescription and illicit drugs as well as those who gamble (some casually, others regularly), is one way of debunking slurs.
Revealing why people choose to try and continue using drugs or gambling is one way of understanding how addiction affects so many people in our community. They are someone’s son/daughter, husband/wife, father/mother, brother/sister, uncle/aunt, nephew/niece, cousin, grandchild.
Their Story is a space for those who are struggling (or have overcome) to share their stories and experiences. It's also a space for family members struggling with addiction within their family. The interviews are compiled by Eileen MacLeod, a retired Kamloops resident who has a passion for social justice.
For privacy reasons, KamloopsMatters will not be publishing the identity of those who contribute to this column. If you or someone you know is interested in participating (family members included), email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-572-0369.
Where do you currently live?
I live in a homeless shelter in Kamloops, at Emerald House. I tried to get into the women's shelter but I was denied because I'm on medical marijuana because I suffer from post-traumatic stress, anxiety and I'm bipolar, and I have drug addictions.
What was the first mind-altering drug you used?
Marijuana when I was 19.
When did you start using drugs on a regular basis?
Right away after marijuana. I used pretty much every week. Then I met a couple of people and things got really messed up in life, ended up literally on the street and prostituted, lost all four of my children and then I met a man and had two kids with him. Out of the four, the two boys, his dad introduced me to crack cocaine.
What made you try crack cocaine?
My boyfriend was trying it and I had two kids with him and I had a few drinks that night and it was there. I had never seen it before in my life. I was sheltered from that kind of drug and not educated in school more about it, so I tried it and then a couple more times and that was it. I was on a roll.
What are you currently addicted to?
Crack cocaine and I take medical marijuana too. I don't abuse it (marijuana).
What benefit do you get from using drugs?
It numbs out the way I feel for being raped and abused and being sexually molested by my step-father. My mother still lives with him. My girls, I gave to my mother, but they swear they've never been touched. Now, there's a granddaughter involved and I really want to fight for that but at the same time, I'm still fighting the inner demons of my addiction and trying to get help. I can't get help because I'm on a widow's pension and it's not enough to go to a treatment centre.
How have drugs impacted your life?
I lost my kids. I lost my whole family life. My aunties, uncles, cousins. I haven't seen any of them in 13 years. Not even spoke to them. I spoke to my four children last Christmas for the very first time.
How did that separation from your support system happen?
When I was on (drugs), I didn't want anything to do with them because I didn't want them to see me in that state, so I wouldn't show up for visits. I wouldn't show up for Christmases and stuff like that. I missed one of those, I remember that. I had to leave Prince George because...I don't know how to put it...I was held hostage at gunpoint. So I had to run and hide, and I missed that Christmas, but I came back in January.
What was your life like before drugs?
It was hard. My step-dad would beat my mom a lot and we would have to run and move all the way from Prince George to Oliver. At least once a month we had to run and hide at grandpa's. She also mentally abused me and he sexually molested me. He took three lie-detector tests and failed all three but nothing ever happened to this day. I've tried several times and nothing be done. Nobody wants to take the fall for any of it so I just suffer.
How do you think people see you as an addict?
No good for nothing.
What does that look like?
If you're a crack head, you're just dirt. You're no good. You're not worth saving, you're not worth taxpayers' dollars to get you the proper recovery; not just a treatment centre that lets you go.
What have you done, if anything, to get help for your addiction?
I've gone to treatment. I've gone to counselling. I go a lot to church and just have God try to work in my life.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I think what you're doing is awesome and I hope that this story helps somebody not to do the things I chose in life or had done to me in my life, and that they speak up before it's too late. Don't be afraid or ashamed to reach out and ask for help.