Step One : "We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable."
I live in a city like most smaller cities - reasonably friendly, a place where you can get everything from a local farmer or mum-and-pop shop. It's a strange kind of community where a mansion with guest houses may be next door to a guy with 4 Chryslers on the lawn. It's the kind of place hardest hit by the economic downturn and free trade. And it is a town ADDICTED.
30 years ago this area used to attract the best and brightest with promises of the most beautiful scenery in the world and one of the highest pay brackets in Canada. It BOOMED. People had the dream they were promised and a playground that seemed to be a gift from a supreme being. People made fortunes and spent their earnings on all of the luxuries deserving of their hard work. There were lavish parties and high-end drugs did surface.
And then something happened. Through a combination of factors, this city lost it all. The wealthy home owners moved away to have their properties converted into tenements and managed by slumlords. The trendy nightclubs degraded into dives occupied by has-beens telling tales of lost fortunes and the one that got away. The local governments of wealthy cities like Vancouver started shipping their mentally ill and destitute here to make their cities seem cleaner while the city shut down rehab facilities and all of the mental health professionals moved on to greener pastures. What remains is a city with only one gynecologist, zero psychiatrists, and a dwindling amount of professionals of all stripes to care for the down-and-out addicted to the cheaper drugs that fuel a depressed city and the stream of hopeless babies born into it. The once-bustling home for the bright has now become one of the worst places in North America to live.
Hopelessness is the match that ignites the lamp of addiction. I have coworkers accustomed to $80 000 a year incomes reduced to barely functioning alcoholics. The old vice principal of a local elementary is a corner-post skeleton that has birthed 12 crackbabies. Most of us who are lucky enough to be employed like myself do so at greatly reduced wages and travel hours to our workplaces . Once-proud fishermen stagger through the alleys collecting beer cans and begging for a fix. For those of us who see the light through the sea, this IS our anti-drug.
I have touched on this in the past, but today a specific event reminded me . The owner of the hardware store my mother works at (she's a multiple trade ticket holder, but that's another story) flew in a young man who he saw potential in. This fellow is an amiable kid from the wrong side of the tracks who seemed deserving of his chance for a future. My mum immediately took a liking to this chap as well as his fellow workers. But strange things began to occur. The janitor picked up on this guy coming in at odd hours and some inventory seemed to vanish from the warehouse. When these things occur, surveillance steps up. The promising man was arrested after being caught on camera stealing firearms, ammunition, bear spray, and power tools at the behest of two thugs outside. He will spend federal time no doubt after becoming ensnared by the local beast, the crack cocaine that has brought this community to its knees and shot it in the skull. His rock bottom is the assurance that his white bottom will be violated in a penitentiary.
The community spirit ignores the weak and vulnerable when it is under such strain. The federal and provincial authorities refuse any assistance and the local magnates live in gated enclaves with a continual police presence whilst the working class fear for their lives. There is an entire generation that knows none of the prosperity but just the easy dollar that drugs and death can bring. Our city council is staffed by a generational hierarchy of the privileged families serving a populace that is too drunk to vote. There is a beautiful hospital with few doctors and a new police station staffed by rookies who transfer out as soon as they get credentials. Many of the old workers that remain are now senior citizens with no resources nor the secure feeling that they will be protected when the good gone addicted come to prey on them.
But I live here despite other opportunities because I firmly believe that if a voice is given to this group it will again become a fellowship. If this place was given more than a spot on a map just maybe the governments would understand that there are human beings just like them living and dying here. Good people have been forgotten as the roads travel past instead of through our city on the paths to the playgrounds of the wealthy tourist. Where is the bailout for the folks who have lost everything but still have so much more to give? There are sentient beings who remain here with the hopes of helping themselves and others discover or reinvent their dreams, but they need a hand up. It could be as simple as hiring a few physicians or as large as enabling lumber processors to function. We still have a university, so why not offer an incentive to remain instead of pushing away the people brave enough to break away from their upbringings and attempt success?
The alcoholic or drug addict that one may be fearful of was once something great, and can be again. I have bore witness to incredible tales of ultimate redemption. But those folks always seemed to have someone to enable their recovery. This city is now a town that needs help. If I can be the written representation of this down admitting Step One and someone listens, I will have lived a good life should I die tomorrow. This is a town addicted to the past that desperately needs a new future.