The Power of Connection
I had an experience today that I feel compelled to share, even though the thoughts are a bit disjointed. That’s how I’m feeling – more than a bit disjointed.
As some of you know, I coordinate a cannabis based opiate substitution program near Main and Hastings.
Today, someone in the hotel next door fell to his death. I went over to make sure the staff were ok. His body lay on the sidewalk under a yellow tarp for more than an hour.
In the shop, I encountered a participant in our program who is looking so much better than the first time I met him.
He told me that since enrolling a month ago, he has reduced his alcohol intake by more than 50%, from 12 or more cans of beer a day to 3 or 4 most days. It’s also impacting his financial life, giving him money to spend on better nutrition. He said this is really life changing for him, as a First Nations man who has struggled with alcohol dependency since his early 20s.
These two somewhat diametrically opposed situations occurring almost simultaneously makes me double down on the thought that the opposite of addiction is maybe not sobriety, but instead, connection.
There’s no way to know what prompted the first man to take his own life, the second to consider other options. Maybe that’s oversimplifying.
And although my heart really hurts for a life lost, it’s filled by the potential to change the outcome for others.
Today really sums up my experience of the DTES. It’s a complex puzzle, and solutions can’t come quickly enough. But I’m hopeful that they’re coming. We’re working on it.
Sometimes it’s really freaking hard to remain hopeful. Sometimes the problems seem so deep it’s hard to know where to start. It’s hard to see where our responsibility begins and ends, and it’s tempting to leave the work to people who are willing to devote their lives to it.
I want to ask you to take a look at not just your city, but at your neighbourhood, and push yourself to understand what dynamics are at play, and how your choices play a part in them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of self care. I’m starting to feel like a core aspect of that is believing that you are important enough to have an impact, to make a difference in the every day lives of the people around you. And realizing that doing that doesn’t necessarily make you special – but maybe it can help to make you whole.
Maybe self care necessarily includes connecting with your neighbours. Even if, and maybe especially if, it pushes you out of your comfort zone.
I’m proud and humbled to be engaged in this place, and in this work. I want the same for you, and I thank you for your work, however that looks for you. Every interaction matters. I believe it with all my heart.