Downtown Prince George on any given time, day or night, you’re not going to get away from the poverty that consumes the people that are left to fend for themselves. Opportunities taken away and choices made. The stigma that berates the very people that hide in the night and walk around in plain sight during the day. The businesses are affected, garbage meaninglessly thrown around, mental health barriers not being met and others just high as f*** are what society sees and this is the problem.
There’s mental health problems, drug dependency, children that have slipped through the cracks and aged out, a mother who lost her baby and the pain was too much to bare, a man who lost his family in an accident and doesn’t care much about life anymore. These peoples life didn’t pan out or they never got the help or sought for what they needed to succeed. I’ve built relationships with some of these very people who never woke up one day and said, “I’m going to become dependent on drugs” or “I’m going to live on the streets” from now on.
All this stems from patterns they’ve endured from their past. Sure they’ve made their way downtown, made new friends they could half-heartedly depend on cause they’ve found acceptance and connections with them they’ve lost or never found before in their life. With that they are found in a codependency spiral on the streets in a world ladened with hardened criminals, liars, cheaters, druggies and lost souls… Stigma.
Street life sucks, I know this, when I’d seen it in the past and I remember movies I’ve seen when I was younger, the stereo typing and stigmatizing those and turning my blind eye with society is what I did growing up in earlier years. Being subjected to it personally took on a whole new meaning to me, the “just trying” to survive from day to day, scrounging for food, hustling for money, begging for smokes and finding a decent place to sleep in the street life chaos is all too real.
Then there’s coping mechanisms with the drugs and alcohol. Some people don’t know how to cope properly, they weren’t taught simple coping techniques like myself. When something happened like the fact of just being on the streets, being touched from an uncle at a young age, they eventually turned to alcohol or drugs instinctively like it was a normal process, like it was a grown up thing to do.
Another view is normalization of what happens on the streets when “someone goes down,” sirens blare, heads pop up to see where rescue or the ambulance maybe headed. Word starts spreading and whispers of who overdosed. People start asking if they made it or did they die? This seems all to “normal” to everyone down here and only really effects those closest to the fellow friends. Everyone else goes about their business soon afterwards not blinking an eye.
Overdosing is not normal, however it’s been made normal and it is pent up trauma that gets suppressed until it can’t anymore. The new normal is being able to have a naloxone kit to bring the person from a high so deep that they are dying, to a state where they are woken up and pissed off cause their high is gone, their money wasted and they are suddenly dope sick about to scrounge around again for more.
Where does this trauma go for the individuals that overdosed or the bystanders that watch on? It goes somewhere and that is concerning. It shows up as PTSD, suicidal thoughts, survival from sexual abuse, abusive relationships, abandonment, intergenerational trauma, loss and grief among countless other things that in life. These are the very things that drive addictions to the point that dying isn’t such a bad idea anymore. It’s only an option that is right behind being at a mind altering peace for an amount of time, then off to hustle or find more.
Overdosing is a by-product of traumas that haven’t been dealt with. Drugs laced with fentanyl, carfentanil and benzos that are taking people out. A game played with the cosmic joker relying on trauma stricken individuals to keep coming back and participating in his game of chance. People not given the same opportunities as anyone else due to stigma and the misrepresentation of normalization of life they endure.
I wonder to myself when do all these deaths mean something? September is overdose awareness month and these lost people who were loved, they didn’t have to die. I know BC is going through an epidemic opioid crisis right now and the numbers keep rising due to mental health issues arising from this Covid-19 Pandemic however I’m not saying that is justifiable. It seems that nothing is being done and in the northern regions of BC is more apparent because we’re not recognized by the rest of BC with a lower population. When’s enough going to be enough? For myself these deaths do mean something, a few of my friends from the Recovery house I attended have died since they relapsed, a few more people I knew from the streets in Prince George have died since I’ve started working as a Peer Support Worker and recently my aunty overdosed a few days ago and she’s in ICU recovering thankfully.
I do not know how to stop stigma, I find it eery that normalization of overdosing to be a new norm. The only thing that I can think about is the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” We need to be discussing ideas moving towards the future and solving what’s at hand with the seriousness of what’s at stake. Lives.