Fran started taking heroin when she was 13, and wound up spending 15 years in jail. She is currently on Suboxone treatment and worries about the impact of street drugs on youth.
I lost my mother when I was 13. My family broke down and went their separate ways. I began using drugs. It actually started before my mother died because I couldn’t deal with the pain of listening to her moan. She died of cirrhosis of the liver.
I sold drugs to pay for my drugs. It was either that or prostitution. I did heroin, but I was into meth and speed pretty heavy. I did that for probably five years non-stop. I got into trouble and ended up in jail. Basically I grew up behind walls or with people who were either in jail or had been in jail.
I’ve done every drug in the book. I call my arms golden arms because if I had the money I put into my body, I would probably have a mansion by now. I think a lot of addicts could say the same thing. But it became a lifestyle that I got fed up with. I didn’t like myself. I became very aggressive, very mean. I didn’t care about anybody. I didn’t care about myself, so nothing mattered. When I started to care about myself, that’s when my life started changing.
I did seven years in provincial and eight in federal prisons. Jail saved my life because it gave me the time to get clean again. There were drugs in jail, but I chose not to get involved because there weren’t enough syringes to go around.
I got out in 1989. I knew I had to make changes or I would be dead or in prison for life. Elizabeth Fry totally supported me. Every time I fell, they were there to pick me up. They were there for counselling. They were there for housing. I’ve been in this unit maybe 28 years. Without it, I don’t know where I would be. It’s geared to income. When I was working at the army base, I paid the regular fee. If I’m not working, which is the case now, they take a percent off.
When I came out of jail, I had to learn how to become a citizen in the community. Simple things like opening a bank account. I had to re-wire my thinking because I was still an addict. I’m in recovery, but that never goes away. It’s just a drink away. If you want it bad enough, you do what you have to. And that’s what I’ve done.
I have chronic pain, and I figured I was going to end up going back to the street to get medication and get addicted again. Most doctors will give you so many narcotic pills for a month, and that’s it. Well, sometimes that just isn’t enough! I didn’t want to go on a Suboxone maintenance program for the rest of my life, but what choice was I left with? Either the street or the maintenance program. The Suboxone doesn’t take the pain away, but it’s workable.
When you walk into a medical facility and they know you were a drug addict, you watch how you’re treated. They put all the addicts together and treat them all the same. You can call it racism in a sense, or you can call it whatever. If they know you’re an addict, you are treated totally different. That’s just the way it is. However, I find the support at the clinic where I get my Suboxone very good. They treat you like a patient, not an addict.
Being an addict is like being a hamster going around and around and around. I almost feel that the medical staff wants to keep you there because as long as you’re an addict, they’re making money off you. If it wasn’t for addicts there would be no clinics, there would be no safe places. They’ve got a job to do and I get that. But without all of these addicts they wouldn’t have the jobs they have. It’s created a multi-million dollar industry.
My dad taught me as a kid not to put myself out there in a sexual way because I didn’t want to bring a child into this world while I was an addict. As I got older I realized I was two-spirited, which is lesbian. I’ve had good relationships, and I’ve had bad ones.
I am very grateful for where I am at today. I’ve got good friends. I am not rich, but I can buy a pair of jeans if I need to. I am involved with a lot of healing circles. I stick to my red road and my path that keeps me focused.
I have been given so many nice gifts. I am not talking presents; I am talking emotional stuff. People were there when I needed them. They cared about me. They truly loved me and wanted me to do good. I had to separate who was good for me and who wasn’t. My dad always said, “You lie with the dogs; you get the fleas.”
I didn’t attend groups like AA and NA. They were a trigger for me. I would listen to somebody that was drinking the day before, and, geez, I’d be craving it. Those cravings don’t go away.
There’s so many kids out there using now. It breaks my heart! What is going on? It kind of blows me away, because they weren’t that accessible when I was a drug addict. And what bothers me even more is to see these kids lose their lives with the fentanyl. Kids are experimenting with it and dying from it. They don’t even know what they’re taking. Now there’s a new drug out there that they sprinkle through pot and you don’t even know you could be taking it. It is just so scary nowadays. When I got into drugs, I had nothing and I didn’t want nothing. I just blew it all because I didn’t care. But if you have something to care about, things flow in a different way.