Don’t make me a project for I, like you, am a person

By Marcie McIlveen

don’t make me a project don’t make me a project

Dear decision makers, lawmakers, and doctors,

You may not know or remember me, but I will never forget you. I am writing to you today in the hopes that we may get reacquainted. You see, I am the person you tried to change, or better yet, tried to hide. I am a substance user; I guess you could say an “addict”… I mean, my substance use has grown to a place where it is no longer a choice. I know you don’t understand that. Maybe you don’t want to believe me, but I lost the power of choice a long time ago.

You question my behaviour, you ignore my questions, you fail to offer me help, you imprison me, you choose things for me, you prevent me from getting well. You do all of this while still saying you want to support me. Your words say you care and want to do something about the rates of overdose, the rates of incarceration, the criminality of addiction, the pain that substance use causes, and the lives of all those it affects. You say this, yet don’t ask me what I need. You say all of this in public, yet criticize in private. You have big meetings, create policies, provide recommendations; hell, you even take out ads and make commercials. Still, not once have I been invited to any meetings, not once has my name appeared on any document, or my face been in the news.

Wait, that last part isn’t true. You plaster my picture all over when you arrest me, when I overdose, when I go missing, and finally when I die. Please stop this. If you want to see a change, then allow me to lead the way. I can show you in an hour what it takes you years to figure out without me.

  • Give me access to medication so I don’t have to rely on toxic and unknown substances.
  • Provide me with shelter or housing that doesn’t evict me for my use.
  • Allow me the space to grow and address my issues in my way and on my time.
  • Stop putting handcuffs on my illness and then questioning my mistrust in you.

I ask that you walk beside me so that we can learn from each other. I beg you to know my name and remember my face before I disappear. I am not sure my letter has made sense… As you already know, you and I, at times, speak in different ways. All I am saying is let me use, let me exist, let me live. Then, when I am ready, be there to help, to care, and to understand. Don’t force me to change when I am not able. Don’t make me a project for I, like you, am a person.

Sincerely,

The person whose name you have forgotten.

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