Homeless in Vancouver: A moment spent pondering the life and death choice of opioid use

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      What if being alive caused you constant pain—whether due to physical injury or emotional trauma, the difference hardy matters, I think.

      You feel so much pain, in fact, that you choose to take a potentially lethal street drug to help keep the hurt at bay.

      The more you take this drug the less it makes you high and—the possibility of death aside—it has a bunch of uncomfortable side affects, including constipation.

      But, it does make it possible for you to ignore the steady distraction of the pain, so that you can focus on other things—or focus on nothing—at least for a while.

      The used contents of a safe injection kit that were scattered on the floor of the recessed doorway.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      And you keep taking the drug, knowing both that it doesn’t really make you very high and that you risk your life every time.

      Why would you do this? The drug is very physically addictive—is that the only reason?

      Besides playing this deadly game of roulette with your life a couple of times each day, what other choices do you feel you have—to feel normal?

      And maybe you don’t fear death from an overdose as much as you fear the pain. Like the drug will stop you from feeling the pain either way.

      Those are some of the thoughts that flashed, unbidden, through my mind this afternoon when I saw an opioid injection rig abandoned in a doorway in an alley off Willow Street and West Broadway.

      It’s all speculation of course—both about someone I do not know and a compulsive behaviour that, as a non-user, I cannot ever entirely understand—even after 14 years of being homeless and keeping my eyes and ears open. But I keep trying and I keep hearing about the pain.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.