Being involved in harm reduction for 19 years, I have had a long ride of highs and lows. I have seen individuals get their children back, only to relapse and leave them at daycare. I have seen the mostly hopeless of drug user get their life together. I have seen someone hit in their neck and die of a brain aneurysm. I have seen multiple people emerge from prison to later obtain nursing degrees. I have seen two friends die on dialysis at 34 years old. They both used to shoot in their ports. I have seen people leave the streets to find love and happiness. I could go on and on with pairs of the agony and the joys of working with active users. It is the kind of stuff that nourishes the soul. Alternatively, I have spent many sleepless nights worrying about thing cannot change.
Death doesn't come this close to me very often. Both my parents have passed on. The vast majority of people I used with have passed on. There just isn't much of an inner circle left. My friend of 25 years was a father, a counselor, and also very caught up in the relief that substances brought him. The body can only take so much abuse. By the time he was able to pull together some self care, the damage was far too severe. My mind is struggling to reconcile the person in the hospital bed with the strong man I knew for all my adult life.
At the same time as this has been going on, the roller coaster turned upward.
I received this message:
"I wanted to tell you that following your example, I've begun personally funding a pseudo "needle exchange" by ordering hundreds at a time and making sure that the people who I can't convince to reduce their usage are at least equipped properly with alcohol pads and tourniquets and clean rigs.... I'm able to acquire Narcan discretely and for those who know what I do, I'm often used as a knowledge resource for them for harm reduction.
Last night I saved a couple who OD'd in junkie Romeo and Juliette style. Those people are alive in great part because you pushed me to be a better and more care minded user myself..."
Despite the horrors of this world, there is still great beauty. We, drug users, are fundamentally good people who want make a difference in the world. We just don't know how. We are frequently excluded, told that our talents and abilities are secondary to our self medication.
This post is not about death. It is about the resilience of our community. We push forward. We push past loss. We push past stigma. We push past our own inclination towards self destruction. We want to do better, to be better, we don't always have the tools.
I love you. Always.