Sunday, 29 September 2013

Prostitution on PEI

While we are tucked safely in our beds at night, there are others who are walking around, almost zombie- like, in complete desperation.  This is about them.... 

A life of hell with no escape. The pain is beginning to set in. The withdrawals are unbearable. The cold and lonely streets are unforgiving. Compassion will not be found here. At least not tonight.

In the darkness, they drive up in their family cars. Willing to pay cash. The very cash that will take away the pain. Take away the withdrawals.

A desperate young woman. Teenager or slightly more.  Looks into the eyes of a man who is old. Old enough to be her father or grandfather. Does she know him? He looks familiar.  She is so desperate. Needs to stop the pain.

Money exchanges hands. Sexual encounter is had. Man goes on his way. Girl feels bad. Feels dirty. Needs to feel better. Finds her dealer. She numbs the pain. Later, she’ll do it all over again. 

As sad as the above scenario is, it happens right here in Charlottetown (and I am sure in other places as well). I know people – reliable sources – who have been solicited. This is very real and it is a complete tragedy on so many levels.

While I can’t say for sure that street prostitution is everywhere on PEI, I know that young women and men everywhere on the Island are selling their bodies in exchange for drugs. We may not see it, but it is happening.

Young women are also being offered up as payment for drug debt by their small time dealer to his much bigger dealer. She is powerless. She is caught up in something too big for her to get out of on her own.

Prostitution at all levels will continue to grow if we do not adequately address addiction treatment on PEI. We have to demand better treatment services so that young men and women can get off the streets, and into a life that is both productive and rewarding. We need to be their voices until such time that they find their own. If we don’t fight for them, who will?

Please speak to your MLA about addiction treatment. Please don’t turn a blind eye.


NOTE:  The purpose of this blog entry is not to provide specific details about where these young women can be located. You may not see them, but they are there. They are discreet. I have no intentions of putting them further in harm’s way nor exposing them in any way. This is no joke and I take their safety and well-being very seriously, which is why I wrote about their plight. I hope to wake people up, and pray that they find their compassion for their fellow human beings, especially youth who need us. I want these young people to get the help they need with their addictions so that they can have the lives they deserve.  We – responsible, caring individuals –  need to take a stand for better treatment options to help them get well.

Related Guardian article: Invisible sex trade exists on PEI

Saturday, 28 September 2013

With love, Opiate

With Love, Opiate
By: Rose Barbour 

I have never been so popular
So important and grand
I have never been so involved
With youth across this great land.

I started out as a simple pill
That would take away great pain
As I was hailed a hero and celebrated
My makers saw gain.

This was the beginning of my rise
And the start of your fall
Billions of dollars were made
While I hooked you all.

I hooked you in my web
Of lies and deceit
I made you trust me
While people died at your feet.

You trusted in my greatness
Said those people were weak
They could stop if they wanted to
Their morals were bleak.

I was a good thing you said
For pains of all type
You bought into the marketing
And all of the hype.

Those who I hooked
Would try to speak out
To warn you of my dangers
But you were devout.

You would not listen to them,
They were not raised right
They were bad people
Who deserved this fight.

Did they not choose me?
Why do they not quit?
You underestimate my power
Although it is legit.

I enjoy your partnership
As I spread across the land
I couldn’t do it without you
I hope you understand.

I want you to know
That you are the best
Thank you for your support
To Hell with the rest.

As people turn a blind eye
To my devastating ways
I will continue to grow
In surprising ways.

I destroy the young
I destroy the old
I destroy communities
But I am not cold.

I take care of my friends
Making them lots of money
That you side with me
Is rather funny.

Because I cost you money
Each and every day
As you pay for my destruction
Every step of the way.

Your courts, your jails
Your hospitals too
I cost them all
Many thanks to you.

Without your support
I could not win
Without your support
The trouble I’d be in.

Your neighbours would get well
and try to break free
But don’t worry, they can’t get past
Our team - you and me.

I know that you will keep those who I ravish
Hidden in shame
You will never let them forget
That they are to blame.

While I steal their lives
Their families, their health
You’ll shake your head                     
While I roll in wealth.

They won’t dare say a word
With your judging eyes
They won’t dare ask for help
While you shame their cries.

With the silence brought on
By your judging words
I‘ll seek out more victims
Their cries barely heard.

The people who could destroy me
With a solid action plan
Will invest in other things
Not his fellow man.

Your indifference, your stigma
Your judging, your hate
Have allowed me to flourish
Far from Heaven’s gate.

Now I have grown
Beyond my wildest dreams
I will continue to prosper
Or so it seems.

I have so many to thank
For my continued success
From the bottom of my heart
Thank you - you're the best.

I couldn’t have done it without you
The destruction, the deaths
The stigma, the shame,
The silence, the quest.

Please keep yourself uninformed,
And your judging eyes turned on,
I have great plans for glory
If you help me along.

You’ll have many opportunities
To stand by my side
As I ravish your young people
And destroy many lives.

Just keep placing blame
Their parents, their homes,
This will ensure silence
While I continue to roam.

Well, I have to run
I spotted a teen all alone
On the schoolyard close
To his family home.

He looks like a nice kid
From a fairly good place
While they are the greatest challenge
With me no one is safe.

I will introduce him
To my charming ways
He’ll love me forever
Until  the end of his days.

So, until next time
It is good-bye to you
My friend, my partner
My dream come true.

Hey there kid.....

With love,

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Lesson Learned

"It’s not a disease! A person with cancer cannot choose to not have the cancer. A person using drugs can choose not to use drugs. It is ridiculous to call it a disease.”

“He is so selfish. Doesn’t he care about what he is doing to his parents?”

“They should just kick him out after what he’s put them through.”

“People should not be able to use drugs or alcohol as an excuse in court. They chose to drink/use drugs. No one forced them to.”

I am ashamed to admit it but the unkind statements above were made by me when I didn’t know anything about addiction, but I thought I knew everything. I would make such comments when I would hear about someone who committed a crime and tried to use the “excuse” of addiction. Or, when I would hear stories about what an addicted individual was doing to his or her family. I just didn’t understand how they could hurt their loved ones so much and still continue to use.

Although, I've always had tremendous compassion for people (and still do!), I had no sympathy for anyone battling an addiction. I thought it was a continuous choice for them to keep using so why should I feel sorry for them.

Part of my lack of compassion comes from the fact that I had no experience with any type of addiction when I was growing up (I was blessed). My father did drink one bottle of beer when I was in my early twenties. I only know about it because my aunt found it shocking enough to tell me. In all my childhood years, I do not ever remember that man with a drink in his hands. My mother drank a few times a year at family functions but that was it.

As for me personally, I only drank a handful of times in my life. I would literally faint about half way through my first glass/bottle of something.  I think I am allergic. When I fainted at the top of the stairs at the Trade Winds nightclub and woke up at the bottom that was enough for me! I was done with trying to drink.

Time heals all wounds so I decided to try it again 8 years later at a staff party. While I didn’t faint this time, I struggled to get it down and was feeling hung over by the time I finished my first drink. Not fun. That ended my attempts to drink alcohol. I am not meant to be one of those classy looking ladies enjoying a glass of wine. I accept that. :)
My lack of experience dealing with addiction, and my lack of any acquired knowledge on the issue, made me very judgmental.  Little did I know that I would have my eyes opened in such a big way!

Now, here I am with an addicted child of my own.  I have been through hell and back with this disease! As a woman of faith, I firmly believe I was given this experience for many reasons. One of them being that it would take away the ugly judgmental attitude that I had toward people who were sick with addiction. 

This experience has driven me to learn everything that I can about addiction in an effort to save my son and others like him. During my journey, I learned just how wrong my opinions were.

Let’s look at my earlier thoughts but this time with an informed mind:

“It’s not a disease! A person with cancer cannot choose not to have the cancer. A person using drugs can choose not to use drugs. It is ridiculous to call it a disease.”  

Many people have a hard time to get their heads around addiction being a disease. After all, it doesn’t fit the description of disease as we know it. We know diseases as something that you get by no fault of your own – things like cancer.  (Didn’t addicts choose to try drugs?) Your body may or may not respond to treatment for the disease. You have no control over that.  (Don’t addicts have the choice to quit?) That is disease as we understand it, right?

Disease is actually defined as:

disease /dis·ease/ (dĭ-zēz´) any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown.

Addiction fits this description completely. It is a chronic, progressive disease, which many people die from each year.  Choice is not a factor in defining a disease.

Yes, an addicted person makes one choice, and that is to use drugs the first time. Depending on a whole lot of different things, including genetics, that individual could be hooked right away or it can take longer. Though we can’t see it, drug use changes the structure of the brain, including the reward system. Brain scans have documented these changes.  The brain is hijacked and becomes dysfunctional. This is the disease.

What we are left with is a person who is out of control and appears to not care about anyone but themselves. These are some of the symptoms of the disease.

While it may seem obvious that they should quit, it is not so simple to do that. Their bodies are physically dependent on drugs just to feel normal. Addiction is very complex.  More people die from addiction each year than car accidents because it is so hard to overcome the disease. The positive thing is that, unlike cancer and other diseases, one can make a decision to stop using but it takes a tremendous amount of effort, support, and a lifetime commitment to do so. 

  “He is so selfish. Doesn’t he care about what he is doing to his parents?”

Behaviours associated with addiction are ugly. Individuals who are addicted are desperate to get their drugs. Drugs to them are as necessary as food is to us. When given the choice, they will choose drugs over food or any other necessity. Addiction is a powerful disease.

Addicted individuals carry tremendous guilt. They care but they are powerless. Their disease is selfish. They are sick. I get that now.

“They should just kick him out after what he’s put them through.”

Ha! How simple and logical this seemed at the time. Throw him out! Yeah right! Having a child who is addicted is so painful. Can you imagine putting your child out if they had a deadly disease? Putting them out knowing that you could get a call any time that they have died? Not an easy thing to do. 

Many of us parents have had to do just that to protect ourselves and others in the home. We’ve taken them back in hoping that things will be different only to have it all start over again.

Parents do the best that we can as we try to ensure our sick children live another day until they get the help that they need. 

Addiction has many victims, including families. There is nothing simple about it.

“People should not be able to use drugs or alcohol as an excuse in court. They chose to drink/use drugs. No one forced them to. They need to go to jail.”

I thought I knew it all. Throw them in jail! That’ll teach them a lesson.

Addiction is a disease of the brain that causes people to do negative things, including breaking the law. It is definitely a mitigating factor in cases before the court and should be considered in sentencing.  The person is sick, not bad. However, I believe that if you do the crime, you do the time but we can’t just throw addicted people in jail. That won’t help. We have to treat the disease.

We either need to divert them to treatment centres as part of sentencing or provide the treatment in jail. Otherwise, they won’t be rehabilitated like they are supposed to be in jail. Like the rest of us, addicted individuals deserve to get the help they need to overcome their disease.

Wow! Have I have come a long way. Because of my experience with addiction, and how I was so wrong about it, I make it a rule to not pass judgment on any issue that I am unfamiliar with.   If I question something, I learn about it before forming an opinion. Lesson learned!

It has also taught me to be patient with people who are judgmental toward my son and others battling addiction. When I read negative comments on media websites, I sometimes feel frustrated but then I remember what I was like when it came to this issue. I then become even more motivated to continue my work of educating about this disease. Education changed my mind. I am sure it will change others too!