The minute I was labelled…I became a case file

I had lost myself at 11 years old…

when i was labelled when i was labelled

My story is no different than thousands of others. I was born, I grew up, some things happened, and I was left with this feeling of emptiness. I searched everywhere, from things to people, to fill it…I tried. No matter what they tell you, I did.

First it was the teachers: “She’s not happy,” “She’s not reaching her potential,” “She is disruptive,” “She is difficult,” “She is hurt, we have to fix her. Wait, we can’t fix her,” “Lets kick her out.”

The doctors told me, “This is your new label, you will take these pills, don’t ask questions…just do what we say and you will get better.”

Then the group homes: “Her family must have done something,” “Why is she so angry?” “Why won’t she be quiet?” “Let’s have a conference,” “Let’s just keep her in her room away from the others,” “Where will she live?” “Who would take her?”

“The doctors tell me, ‘This is your new label, you will take these pills, don’t ask questions…just do what we say and you will get better.'”

Then it was my aunt: “You will do better here,” “You can work for me at the restaurant…” “Oh, your uncle and I just argue sometimes,” “How about you go outside,” “Let’s go shopping…keep your mouth closed,” “You are going to take these meds,” “Why did you do that?” “Why won’t you come back?”

The doctors say, “This is your new label,” “You will take these pills,” “Don’t ask questions…just do what we say and you will get better.”

Then rehab: “Let’s do crafts,” “Drugs are not good for you,” “People don’t like you,” “You will lose jobs.”

The doctors say, “This is your new label,” “You will take these pills,” “Don’t ask questions…just do what we say and you will get better.”

Wait, she isn’t getting better

Then the streets, freedom, acceptance. I finally had a voice. People listened and they wanted me around. I wasn’t a project or a puppet. Where has this been all my life?

Then the police: “You can’t see these people anymore or go to these places,” “You will take meds and you will see the doctor and your life will get better.”

Life got worse…

This became a cycle of jails, institutions, and death. I was okay with the cycle. It was predictable…it was safe…it did not work, but that did not matter. As long as I knew what the next stop was I could avoid my emotions. I would not get hurt, be sad, or have any expectations.

“All through my life, from the first time I got high, to the last time I woke up attached to machines, or laying in a cell, I have wanted a different life. I had just given up on finding one.”

You see, what has stood in my way is that ever since I could speak nobody has listened. When my words started asking questions, people quit answering. The minute I was labelled “sick, broken, addicted, troubled” I became a case file. My life went from relationships to requirements: be here, go there, do this, don’t do that.

They gave me meds and told me to shut up, so I would go back to the street, the trap houses, the alleys; and each time I returned, I was welcomed. The only requirement was to be myself. The problem with that is, I had no idea who I was.

I had lost myself at 11 years old…

“It was not until I had met some people who came to me without any questions. They would bring me food and sometimes money. And slowly, over a period of time, I began to talk to them. The more I talked, the more I remembered. The more I remembered, the more I used. Still, no matter how high I got, what trouble I was in, or how sick I became, these people just came to listen.”

One day it all changed. Today, I am a grateful human being. I haven’t touched a drug in almost seven years, and I don’t plan on going back. This is not because drugs are bad or wrong, because they are not. I don’t use drugs today because the reason I was using drugs no longer requires me to use them. I used drugs to find purpose and freedom. Today, I find freedom in love and purpose in sacrifice and service.

Today, I get the absolute honour and privilege to just listen. I see people in so many different places who have so many different roles, and my only objective is to let them have a voice. I don’t have any right to question or control people. The only rights I have rest on my responsibility to serve.

This is my story, I would love to hear yours.

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