When Will We Matter? (Randy Roberts, @RandySRoberts)

I was just about to go to bed when I got a strange late night phone call. It was strange because no one ever calls me that late at night. It was a friend on the other end and, from her tone, I could tell something was extremely wrong. “Randy?” Yes, I replied. Through sobs I heard “it’s me.” I asked what’s wrong? She went on to tell me that a friend of hers has just died from an overdose.  

I myself have been in her place far too many times. But for my friend, this was her first. I went to her, to comfort her but I was unsure how to do it. How do I comfort her? What do I say? Do I tell her that Amy is in a better place? That she is no longer hurting? I want to think that but I am filled with so much anger. All I can think about is why did another addict have to die? WHY? When really we, as a society, can and should be doing something to help.

Addicts are people too, people with an illness. Cancer, diabetes and Lou Gehrig’s disease are illnesses that we spend billions upon billions of dollars to treat and to try to come up with a cure. Yet addictions get next to nothing. Why? Because in the eyes of the uneducated public WE are just dirty bottom of the barrel addicts, crazy homeless people who are a drain on society. It’s said we brought this upon ourselves and we should reap what we sow.  

Amy was someone’s daughter, someone’s granddaughter. She was a mom and, in the words of her friend: “She was a good friend. Someone I trusted and confided in. Amy loved to make people laugh and she loved to dance.” Sure, Amy was an addict and may have done some things that, in the eyes of society, may have been wrong or criminal to get her drugs. But did she deserve to die for it?

This is the type of people society looks down on. But why? Is Amy not like you? She had dreams and goals and she wanted so badly to get better. She wanted to heal from the wounds that were inflicted upon her. Is it her fault that her childhood was filled with such tragedy and anguish that she felt the need to turn to drugs to help with the pain and to try to forget? No, it wasn’t. She deserved (NO HAD THE RIGHT) to get help, to get better, to be happy and to become a productive member of society.

We need to better educate the public on the disease of addiction. Maybe then society would see that addiction is not a choice but a severely debilitating illness. I don’t know of anyone who has ever woke up one morning and said: “When I grow up, I want to be a drug addict.” Addicts really do want a better life and when we do get help, we are very grateful and filled with passion to give back. Many recovering addicts go back to school and take courses in the health care profession because we have the need, and the want, to give back the help that we were given. We get jobs, a home, pay bills and start paying our share of taxes. We no longer are a drain on your tax dollars but are paying them ourselves. We no longer feel the need to steal, beg or sell ourselves to get the money to buy the drugs that help take the pain of the past away.

I like to think that the people of Brantford are caring and sympathetic to their fellow citizens. It is a loving and caring community. And yet, I don’t think the general public is aware that Brantford doesn’t even have its own facility to care and treat people with addiction issues.

We are shipped out to other communities. We are ripped from our homes, our families and friends in the hopes that we won’t return. We addicts feel like we are driven from our own community. Yes, we are sick, but we can and do get better. But how is this possible without the help of our fellow neighbours? How many more of our brother and sisters must die before enough is enough?

There are good caring people in Brantford who see the need for a Detox/treatment centre here. Our local MPP Dave Levac is one of them. He is leading the fight to get Brantford a detox/treatment centre. He sees the need and the benefits of having one here in Brantford. But we need more people to stand up and say enough is enough! One more death is unacceptable. We, your fellow Brantfordians, need you. Call, write or go to the mayor, MP and MPP and let them know that you do care about your fellow neighbours and that you want, no, you demand that they do something.  Let’s not let Amy’s death be in vain. Maybe, just maybe, if she had a place to turn to in her own community she may still be alive today. So I ask you. When will WE matter?

I myself have lost too many friends to let this go. I will continue the fight! The fight to have a care facility for addicts and to have the public see my fellow brothers and sisters treated with the same respect society treats any other sick person.

My hope is that you will stand with me!

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