Advocacy and recovery, recovery and advocacy

by Sean LeBlanc, founder of Ottawa’s Drug Users Advocacy League

sean leblanc ottawa sean leblanc ottawa

I would like to talk a little bit about my journey from opioid addiction to advocacy and how one aspect of my life was able to help the other.

I had a pretty rough life, leaving home at 13 and going through a lot of personal losses. My dealing with that trauma eventually led me to using opioids to cope, and I soon became addicted. It is exhausting being wired to opioids, and I eventually reached a place I call (as my hero Chuck D says) “Sick and tired of being sick and tired,” so eventually I started to change…

It wasn’t easy, and there are several different forms of recovery. I define recovery as “living happier and healthier” and you may define it differently, and that is cool. I guess what matters is how you are feeling and feeling good about being you! For me, what helped SO much was my deciding to advocate for people who use drugs (PWUD), and I am sure glad I did!

I saw that there was very little representation by “us” in programs, services, laws, policies, etc. that were supposedly designed to help us. Like any marginalized group I thought it only right that we have a meaningful role in that which was made to help us. Could you imagine a male-only group deciding women’s reproductive rights, or an all-white group deciding on issues that affect people of colour? Sadly, of course, it happens; but that does not make it right, does it?! So after a bit of nudging those in roles of power I was let in. On my own time and dime, but at least I had a voice for once.

“Advocating for PWUD gave me confidence, gave me a reason to get out of bed everyday, and the woman I have loved for seven plus years actually found me from a printed piece of advocacy from a magazine interview I did.”

It felt good too. I felt I was, for the first time in a long time, contributing. I felt I was giving back, and helping a population I both loved and belong too. It wasn’t easy and it took a lot of teaching, and learning, and patience; but there was an unintended outcome that came from this: it was easier to not have to use drugs! I wasn’t perfect (but who is?), but it helped me so much. And it perhaps even helped others too! Advocating for PWUD gave me confidence, gave me a reason to get out of bed everyday, and the woman I have loved for seven plus years actually found me from a printed piece of advocacy from a magazine interview I did. It also created opportunity, gave me responsibility and eventually I was able to use my expertise to actually pay my bills (mostly) :).

LEARN MORE: Support Ottawa’s Drug Users Advocacy League

Self worth, a career, and even true love—advocating for PWUD has given me all of that, and so much more! So join the fight and you may too may be able to become as happy and healthy as I have been fortunate enough to become. We need your voice for the changes that PWUD so richly deserve!

About Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Advocating for public health- and human rights-based drug policies grounded in evidence, social justice, and compassion. www.drugpolicy.ca