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A Day in the Life of a Nelson Injection Drug User: April 2003

by Alex Sherstobitoff


I found this letter in amongst some of my documents and have permission to use it. It's an interesting letter to go back to 2003 when folks who used drugs were housed and had somewhat of a safe supply (i.e., morphine contin, AKA peelers). Twenty years later, we are at a stage of declared medical health emergency because of a toxic drug supply with homelessness and endless overdose deaths.


"I wake up soaking wet and my heart feels like it is powering a turbo charged speed boat.

After I calm myself down a bit, so I can breathe, my mind starts racing; trying to systematically figure out the most likely source of a peeler on the cuff (credit)

or some fast cash.


Next week, I can do a couple of days pruning at one of the grow ops and make enough to score eight peelers. But that doesn't help the sickness engulfing me now. I don't have any money, but because it is well known that I get my morphine prescription once a month, I

can usually get credit from someone.


Nelsonites go to Vancouver and get 100mg morphine peelers for about $6-10 wholesale, and then they turn around and sell them for twenty-five bucks when they get home. This pharmaceutical's protective thin pill coating guarantees no tampering. It is a popular attraction which the over-priced and sugar-sweet buffed street heroin can't provide. For the last two years, I have been trying to make that business trip into Vancouver, but it seems that I am never able to secure a financier. That or the cash in my pocket burns a hole in the tempting convenient supply of peelers already here.


While a lot of the youth hanging out on Baker street use ecstasy and speed, us old scholars go for the morphine or coke. If cocaine's brought into the picture, it usually messes everything up. Every penny goes; prompted by some deluded rationality.


Slowly, over a long period of time, I have become aware of my values changing. For instance, when I started shooting dope, I would absolutely never have considered poking in my jugular. Now, I have to use cover-up to hide the scars. Then there's my consciousness, which stabs at me, when I think about the wife and kid I left fifteen years ago. Does he hate me? Is he just like me?


I mean, it isn't like I've never been clean. And I've learned about how important proximity is to an ex-user keeping his sobriety and triggers. I don't even have the motivation to activate these known antidotes. If I did, I wouldn't keep them up very long. So, I'm left in a situation where I haven't experienced the pleasures of sobriety. I don't even know what I'm missing.


It seems that the addict population in Nelson is growing, especially within the youths circle. There are a lot of addicts and there isn't much opportunity for a successful detox. Nelson offers a lot of counselling and outreach exchange services. But with the location of the closest detox being so far away in Kamloops, it overwhelms one's motivation to go get clean due to the expenses and bother of traveling sick. They should have a guy at the bus station handing out percodans so a person can get motivated enough to just make it to detox. I've considered going on methadone but after all the negative talk I've heard about the program and how it's run, I always eventually pass on the idea.


While I dress, I start psyching myself up for the four mile hike into town. Usually by the time I get to the highway, I'm taking baby steps because my back is throbbing from an old injury as my aching bones and cramping leg muscles seize up, courtesy of withdrawal. The chalk build-up in my arteries and veins, from shooting peelers all the time, must be taking its toll.


It's two weeks before my rent is due. In the back of my mind, there's a thought nagging at me to get caught up on the hydro and pawn shop bills or lose my television and the electricity. All I have in the kitchen cupboards is some oats, sugar and tea that I got from the local Sally Ann. The fridge only has ice in it. Right now, I'm too sick to hold anything down, but I make sure my dog eats well though. Life would be too lonely to lose my only family, Spike.


I arrive at a fellow user's pad and start the hunt. After an interrogation and close inspection of his eyes and runny nose, I reluctantly believe that he doesn't have anything. We have a meeting of the minds and map out our journey. Sometimes when we are out of cash like now, after we pick our targets, our first move is a gas and dash.


When we drive to Cindy's place followed by Mark's and then Joe's, we get the same story from all of them; probably nothing but bold-face lies. That's why telephoning around is useless. It's a lot harder for a guy whose eyes is pinned and is scratching his nose constantly to stand face to face and convince me that nothing is going on.


The longer it takes, the more desperate the situation seems. Time is barely crawling at this point. It looks like we must go to the next town fifty mile away, and if that fails, then to the next one which is another sixty miles. Usually by the time I get the stuff, I don't have enough blood pressure to get a vein up. Then I do the hit and I know I'll need another one in about six hours, so I try to cuff an extra one for the road or contemplate starting the hunt all over again.


In the Kootenays when every town is dry, everybody that uses stays sick in bed or runs from town to town hoping a supply showed up. I don't know why I run around like a hamster on a wheel day in and day out, but I do and I don't think the hamster knows either. So long for now. I've got a town to go search."

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