by K. Lanktree / Studio L Online
The routine of daily trips to the methadone clinic may seem like quite the inconvenience to some.
Add in bi-weekly drug testing and monthly doctors visits, and at times it can all seem like a big pain in the ass. However the morning trips to get my daily dose have become more than just a boring, monotonous part of my routine, akin to brushing my teeth. It has become a big part of my recovery.
How, exactly, has 2-5 minutes worth of waiting in a line full of addicts every morning had such an impact on me and my recovery?
Aside from keeping me in a good routine, getting me out and about each morning and preventing any slips with carry home doses, those daily visits can have a much deeper effect. If you take a close look - and I mean really look - rather than just running in and out each morning because its necessary part of the day, something becomes extremely apparent. The bodies queued up in front and behind me according to the first letter of their surname aren't just faceless 'junkies' and 'addicts' out for their morning 'fix' as stigma and rampant misinformation often represents them to be. Each one of them is a person just like you and me; someone who has a family, a life, a story... and deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.
Most mornings are less than eventful and easily forgettable, but every so often, I unintentionally bear witness to the painful realities of addiction, drugs, relapse, treatment, and homelessness. Those mornings are the ones that impact me deeply. That monotonous trip to the pharmacy for my morning dose can quickly and unexpectedly turn into a visit I won't soon forget.
Yet when these heartbreaking situations occur, the vast majority of people who unintentionally bear witness will choose to simply walk right on by, pretending not to see what is occurring right in front of them. On several occasions I have witnessed a person who is in very clear and obvious distress, yet simply because they fit a certain stereotype they aren't afforded the same compassion and empathy as a 'normal' person would be. Instead, they are ignored, avoided, disregarded and stigmatized.
But what if that person all alone and in distress happened to be you?
How would you feel to have people simply look the other way and continue to walk right past you, ignoring your suffering and pleas for help? Or treated you with disregard and disrespect simply because of your situation and stereotype you happen to fit?
It is an absolutely devastating and dehumanizing experience to have another human being pretend you are non existent, or even go so far as to degrade or berate you during what is quite possibly the darkest hours of your life.
Like most, I never anticipated having to face addiction or homelessness. Neither issue could possibly ever effect me, right? I grew up in a good home, have wonderful parents and family, attended school and got good grades, had a well paying job, married my soul mate and we were settling in to our new life. Destroying relationships, losing everything, ending up homeless and injecting literally every last cent I had ever earned into my veins was certainly not in my plans. No one 'plans' on addiction or homelessness.
Luckily I managed to turn my life around, but it is still a very odd experience to watch another person suffer through a hell that not long ago you once resided in yourself. Now, being able to look at these situations from the outside, but with inside knowledge is honestly both quite haunting and dispiriting. It's as though I can see and feel the distress behind their eyes. I immediately picture myself back in that spot - whether I want to or not.
Several weeks ago I encountered a harmless looking young female crouched on the busy sidewalk outside of the Methadone-dispensing pharmacy crying and in very clear distress, with bags of her few belongings propped up against her sides.
She looked lost, confused and desperate. As I approached, I began to notice person after person pass right by her as though she were totally invisible. There was even the odd passerby who would slow down to a crawl to ensure themselves enough time to gawk and stare at her distress. Yet the closer I got to her, the more compelled I felt to stop. Sure, I could continue walking right on by her and try justifying to myself that "it really wasn't any of my business", "the cops can handle it" or "there isn't really anything I could do to fix her situation," like I imagine the rest of the passersby did. But when did not having all the answers or the perfect solution become an excuse for a complete and utter lack of compassion? I simply couldn't let myself be just one more person who walked right past her.
The fact that I was one of the only people to stop still bothers me to this day. I certainly couldn't have been the only one who was concerned for her wellbeing and had a few moments to spare. Yet why was I the only person who actually stopped and showed her some compassion?
Even though it could happen to just about anyone under the right circumstances, so often those who are struggling with addiction and homelessness are ignored, forgotten, stigmatized and discriminated against. There is no reason to withhold compassion for another human being simply because you do not fully understand their situation, or the factors that led to it. Citing ignorance is no excuse here.
Next time you encounter someone who is homeless, addicted, mentally ill, or some combination of all three or others, take just one minute of your day to open your mind and speak with a person you otherwise never would have. Treating others with compassion and respect rather than disregard and disgust, even in their darkest hours, can help lessen the gap and provide a sense of community and caring, not to mention lessen the stigma. Simply because someone is struggling does NOT mean that they are any less of person, or somehow deserve less respect.
Extend compassion and kindness to others. You could easily be in their shoes one day.