“The Consequence of Stigma on Substance Dependent People”
Four years ago, my sister as a reflection of her kind nature, gave a home to an abused miniature dachshund from Ohio. Three years of appalling mistreatment made the poor little soul a confused insecure bundle of aggression. Untrusting, confused with sad eyes.
Today, Uncle Ernie, named after our great uncle, is a calm, assured, kind, and happy family dog. The transition is a total reflection of my sister, Julie.
We can learn much from our four legged companions - the magicians of the world - including how we should treat our fellow human beings.
Substance addiction is a horrible affliction requiring understanding, compassion and kindness, not a stigmatizing, punishing, isolating approach which still prevails in Canada as it does in most other areas of the world.
The late Christopher Hitchens would turn in his grave knowing in the year 2017 we hadn't yet achieved a humanistic approach to drug policy and as a consequence caring treatment for those in desperate need of support. As the brilliant sorcerer of words professed in 1996, to paraphrase, ‘we will one day look back in shame and embarrassment at the destruction criminal policy facilitated. And when we eventually change our approach we will wonder what all the fuss was about’.
On January 25, 2017, I began my second total starvation hunger strike in ten weeks as a desperate yet very much rational approach to confronting my own circumstances caused by the brutality of self and societal stigma; an appalling approach from the Canadian Judiciary in my case before the courts; and a regretfully callous display from York University, my former employer who apparently would prefer I died rather than accept accountability for their egregious errors and discriminatory treatment of a former employee who gave so much to their institution.
Facilitated by outdated poor government policy towards substance addiction and a misaligned judicial system for dealing with mental health discrimination claims, the conditioned affect on society has been and will continue to be devastating without change.
My personal story as a person with a profile background within the industry I was employed, illuminates the real human tragedy is placed on other far more oppressed and marginalized persons suffering their own substance addictions. I mean...what chance does a street person have? Persons who have the human right to be treated equally and fairly as purported by section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet, as my circumstances illustrate, they have little chance of receiving equal, fair, humane treatment from anyone nor alone legal justice in the event they were ever to confront the reality of the abuse they so often receive.
We have punished too much. Too often. And for far too long. We do not support enough. And even when we do it is most often, not in the right way. And of course, as my claim before the courts proves, if ever errors or abuses are delivered onto substance dependent people, they are done so with impunity. Encapsulated, as a group, we are the most segregated, marginalized and stigmatized of all.
When my story eventually becomes fully transparent, the need to correct the social injustice will be clear and palpable. And with correction it will present an easier path for others suffering terrible pain and indignity to seek and receive unconditional support. It was and is worth putting my life on the line to achieve - although absurdly unnecessary. If only the wheels of justice had an ounce of integrity and honoured the process of truth seeking in this matter - much pain would have been prevented.
To finish on an encouraging note, since January 25 I have been stunned by the reaction, the love and support of so many. In fact, it has very nearly brought me to tears. Fortunately though, my internal chimp has held on, for dear life, the final layer of pride. As he told me I’m a 53 year old man for fuck's sake. And of course, as a strategy to prevent the ultimate display of emotion, he has decided to think of Will Ferrell and Ricky Gervais each time there is nudge from the waterworks facility.
Thank you all for caring.