My story: De-stigmatizing substance use, abuse and addiction

Oct 21, 2021 | 42-2, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Statement, Video | 0 comments

For the past two decades I have been fearful that my past struggles with substance use, abuse and addiction would come back to haunt me.

As the numbers of British Columbians who have died to an illicit drug poisoning continues to climb, and the stigmatization of our friends and family members who struggle with addiction holds us back from implementing the policies we need in place to save lives, I decided to share my experience.

First, I spoke about it at a vigil on August 31st hosted by Mom’s Stop the Harm, then I sat with Rob Shaw from Chek News, and today I spoke about it in the House.

We need to protect people who are struggling and that starts with tackling the stigma’s that are holding us back from delivering the solutions, like a community-led, regulated, de-medicalized safe supply, that we know are successful.

[Transcript]

I stand here today feeling grateful to be alive.

Earlier this summer I was invited by Leslie McBain to speak at the August 31 vigil for Overdose Awareness Day. “I feel like I’m a lucky one,” I said as I looked out from the podium to the audience of family members of those British Columbians who were not so lucky. I felt the love and the understanding of those family members. I felt the love and support of our chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, and our Representative for Children and Youth, Jennifer Charlesworth, who would speak after me about the poisonous drug supply and the thousands of people that they have encountered that were not so lucky to survive.

My twenties were rough — tobacco, coffee, sugar, cannabis, cocaine. I had an unhealthy relationship with myself, and I abused these substances. I am, indeed, a lucky one.

I shared my story yesterday with Rob Shaw, and I’m sharing it in this chamber today because I feel a duty to be a positive voice in breaking down the stigmatization of people who use and abuse or who are addicted to illicit substances.

My peers are dying at a shocking rate. In recent weeks, I have been surrounded by the sadness and despair.

We are not acting quickly enough. Between January and July of this year, 1,204 people perished due to illicit drug toxicity. Seventy-nine percent of the deaths in 2021 were males, mostly 30 to 59, and 85 percent are dying in their residences. Locks should not be the only factor determining whether someone dies or goes on to win four elections, becomes a community leader, a husband and the father of two incredibly amazing children.

I can never be as grateful as I need to be for my partner, Emily. She didn’t know it at the time, but she saved my life.

Now I look to this chamber and ask that we move with great urgency so that more friends and families don’t need luck to make their contribution to their community.

HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.

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