First Person Tragedy –
MAY 14, 2018 – As the Canadian physician and addiction specialist Gabor Mate succinctly put it, if we are to successfully treat the current epidemic of addiction, we need to change our thinking and ask “not why the addiction, but why the pain?” … For four years in my early 20s, I was a crack cocaine and heroin addict. I was arrested multiple times for stealing to feed my addiction, frequently shared needles with homeless people, and spent time as an inpatient at a mental hospital. Having tried various treatments with no success, I eventually came off heroin by having the drug naloxone surgically implanted in my abdomen – a treatment made illegal shortly after my operation.
Even without using heroin, for the next 15 years addiction continued to be a destructive force in almost every aspect of my life. I ruined relationships, bankrupted businesses, and binged on cocaine, alcohol and prescription pills whenever I was put under pressure…. For a long time Jimmy denied being an addict, even though his glassy stare, unpredictable behaviour and general demeanour betrayed him, and it wasn’t until I told him my own background that he opened up. With considerable self-awareness, he told me that most people living on the streets have experienced horrendous childhood trauma, often sexual abuse, and that the emotional distress these events created was so great that without heroin to soothe the pain, many of them, himself included, would have taken their own lives.