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. 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, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-572-0369.
What is your current shelter/where do you live?
Westsyde. I rent.
What was the first mind-altering drug you used?
How old were you when you tried it?
What made you try it?
Stupidity, to be honest with you.
Was there something going on in your life at the time?
No, just tried it.
Are you currently addicted to anything (alcohol, gambling, etc.)?
Gambling, at the casino.
What kind of gambling?
I'm not that bad. I at least make sure my rent's paid and everything else, and that I'm not in the poor house or anything.
What benefits did you get from using drugs?
None. I was actually trying to support three habits and that didn't work. The drug habit, the gambling habit and the drinking habit. I didn't benefit from it at all. I wasn't hooked on (drugs) that long, surprisingly. I was hooked on it maybe six months to a year.
How did it impact your life those six months?
It put me in the women's shelter; (didn't) know where the next meal was going to come from. All the money was going into the habit.
What was your life like before you tried cocaine?
Easy going. I was always on the go, constantly doing something. I was doing odd jobs here and there, but nothing steady. Like I said, I always kept a roof over my head. In the circle of friends, I never really ever tied myself to the community or to a group or anything. I just kind of stuck to myself. I wouldn't say I was isolated. I chose to be alone.
Did drugs give you a sense of belonging?
No. I wasn't hooked to the point where I had to feel wanted or into a group or something. I always made my own choices. If I wanted to do it, I did it. If I didn't, I walked away from it. Gambling overpowered everything, including the drinking, the whole nine yards.
So the need to gamble was the strongest craving?
Always. It still is.
How do you think people see drug addicts or any type of addict?
They look at them as losers. They think they're good for nothing, that they're not going to amount to anything. They're just out there existing in society and they feel they shouldn't be getting money in order to support that habit. That's the crazy reality of it. They say, "Get a job, do this, do that, go to school, get more education." Well, it doesn't matter. Whether you're clean, whether you're sober or whatever, it's the cost of living that's killing everybody out there. You can't afford to eat. I only get roughly $1,200 on my disability and that just covers my rent and my groceries.
What, if anything, have you done to get help for your addiction?
Actually, nothing. Like I said, I walked away from it. I stayed away from it. Now, it's learning to curb my gambling addiction.
The weird thing is, just this past year, my sister was diagnosed with lung cancer. As soon as I found out she had lung cancer, the first thought to come to mind was to go back to my drug use. Her having lung cancer triggered that.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Just tell everybody out there that they're in my prayers and that they have the strength within themselves to get the help.