Looking back and looking forward: A letter to my younger self

By MD.  “We need to combat the stigma and discrimination of substance use, so people will feel comfortable using these services or accessing treatment when they are ready.”

This little girl was born near the end of seventies. She was adopted at birth but her life was not good. When she got older, she was sexually abused in her foster home. Before she finished high school, she was pregnant with her high school sweetheart’s son. They weren’t able to care for him and he had to go into adoption.

Soon after she finished school she moved back to Whitehorse, the town where she was born, with her high school sweetheart. He took care of her and they had another child, but they had to give him up for adoption as well. As she got older, they grew apart and broke up. She met someone new and had children with him. He was drug free for a bit after having their children; and she was a good mom, but eventually they split up too. Then, when her boys were quite young, she met another man and together they started using crack cocaine. 

A few years later, she used heroin for the first time and things got really rough. It wasn’t long before she started injecting, and then her children were taken away. Fortunately, they were able to stay with her family during the week and then with her on weekends, but she was totally heartbroken. For a period, she didn’t care about anything except getting high under the weight of the devastation and trauma she had experienced. She ended up using more and more until one weekend when she overdosed and nearly died. This was the moment things changed for her.

Her family helped her get into treatment in another province. This helped her to stop using for a few years. Now she has her children back and they are in high school, but she struggles with addiction to crack and alcohol. Her kids have seen what their parents have gone through and have strong feelings against substance use. They get angry and hurt if they find out she is using, so having them in her life helps her to stay sober and clean.

We need more support for people with addiction in our communities. Having access to continued trauma counselling to help resolve issues with her upbringing and being abandoned would have helped a lot. One-on-one counselling works best for her, especially when she can meet her counsellor multiple times per week. Trauma can’t be resolved in six weekly sessions. It needs to be an ongoing and consistent process with one person, so that there is a chance to develop a relationship.

“Having access to continued trauma counselling to help resolve issues with her upbringing and being abandoned would have helped a lot.”

We also need safe places for people to use drugs, even in the smaller communities. With this, we need to combat the stigma and discrimination of substance use, so people will feel comfortable using these services or accessing treatment when they are ready. In smaller communities such as ours, stigma prevents so many people from accessing the few services that are available, because they’re afraid they’ll see people they know and confidentiality is hard to maintain.

If she is able to get clean and sober, she would love to go back to school to learn how to help other people who have experienced similar situations to her, and help people with their addictions and trauma. She dreams to one day be a one-on-one counsellor or treatment worker who could help people like her younger self avoid some of the difficulties she faced through life.

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