LETTERS: ‘Good’ label builds stigma

LETTERS: ‘Good’ label builds stigma

Editor: Re: Overdose crisis is ‘hitting good kids,’ May 25.

Editor:

Re: Overdose crisis is ‘hitting good kids,’ May 25.

Your headline was like a fist punched hard into my stomach. All the air went out of me.

Mainstream hypocrisy and judgment is difficult enough to deal with, but when I see it in the very people who claim to be fighting to change public opinion on this issue, it tends to wash away all hope.

Jennifer Hammersmark, of the Surrey Overdose Community Action Team, is quoted as saying at the Stop Overdose event: “I just want people to understand this is hitting good kids. These are (the) faces of good kids from really good families.”

It’s a sad fact of life that this approach might seem necessary in order to impact a community of “good families” who possibly see drug addiction as a skid-row-loser problem. But the term “good kids” – as opposed to “bad” kids – shoots the hell out of their mandate to “start breaking down stigma for people with substance-use disorders,” as stated by Hammersmark’s colleague George Passmore in your May 16 article, This is a crisis.

Stigma is stigma. Certainly evil exists and “bad” can be born with a baby’s first breath. But it is rare. Usually, behind every addict is a back story – most often one of childhood abuse or some other stressful circumstance that causes trauma in ways we don’t yet fully understand.

Do we care only when “good” kids from “good” families are dying? We are all responsible for the conditions give rise to drug use. If we’re serious about erasing the stigma attached to addiction, we might start by rethinking “good” and “bad” and, by implication, “deserving” and “not deserving.” With rare exception, each of us is deserving, including those who don’t fit into our limited perception of “good” and through no fault of their own are dying long before the final hit.

Both my children are drug addicts. On Aug. 7, my eldest will be two years clean. My youngest has been out of touch since January and is quite possibly living on the street again, still using. At last count, he’s had one overdose.

By standard definition, they are both “good” kids and one of the many things they’ve taught me is a recovery mantra that goes like this: “Say what you mean… mean what you say… and do what you say you’re going to do.” It’s tripped me up more than once.

I have great admiration for the Surrey Overdose Community Action Team and the tremendous work they are doing. I would ask only that for those of us who seek change, be the change that we seek.

Look first into our own hearts. Search for the judgments that lie hidden in the best of us and mean what we say. Notice when our words and actions don’t match. Do what we say we’re going to do. We – and they – deserve it.

Maureen Kerr, Surrey