Saturday, 25 January 2014

Damned if they do and damned if they don't


"I was so proud of my cousin. We all were. After many years of battling an addiction to opiates, he was in recovery. He was feeling good about life and looking forward to his future. Our family’s prayers had been answered.

One day, I drove him to work, which included a stop at the pharmacy to get his medication. I decided to go in with him. What I witnessed broke my heart.

As he waited in line to get his medication, I stood off to the side. When his turn came around, he was told to “stand over there until I get a chance to get to you.”  I was a bit surprised by that, but he turned around and smiled at me so I didn't say anything.

After about 20 minutes, he was finally waited on (in that time only 2 or 3 people were waited on.....not sure why he was kept waiting). The pharmacist gave him the medication over the counter in plain view of anyone walking by. He was then required to open his mouth and move around his tongue to prove the medication was all gone (again, in full view of anyone walking by). I was horrified.

It seemed so inhumane to me. Why was he not afforded any type of privacy, especially when his disease carries so much stigma and we live in a small community?

I wanted to say something. To stand up for him. My cousin said, “Don’t bother, Laura. It will only make it worse the next day. I am okay. Let’s go now. I have to get to work. I’m running late.”

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was walk out of there without standing up for the rights of someone I love who was just disrespected and, in reality, bullied.

My cousin was trying so hard to rebuild his life. He was now a productive member of society with a job. He was healthy again. Yet, it wasn’t good enough. Instead, at least at that pharmacy, he was treated like a second-class citizen because he is on Methadone, which is a doctor-prescribed medication I might add! There is something very wrong with that.

I honestly don’t know how he does it. It seems to me that people battling addiction are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They are looked down on when they are in active addiction battling a disease that few understand, and now they are looked down on if they are in a treatment program that few understand.

The stigma attached to his Methadone treatment program is unreal. Yet, he keeps his head up and goes through life doing the very best that he can to rebuild it. That takes guts and courage. I’m not sure that I could handle it so gracefully.

It has been 2 years since I witnessed that at the pharmacy, and I still get sick to my stomach thinking about him, and so many others, being treated this way. These people have decided to try to improve their lives. They are on a doctor-prescribed treatment plan, yet they are treated like second-class citizens. Why is this OK? Shouldn't they be applauded for trying?

I know if I was treated like that on a daily basis I would have no self-esteem, no self-worth and after a while, no will to continue. In my cousin's words, “It's a lot easier to just get high!!" After what I witnessed, I can understand that thinking. The stigma is crippling, but it doesn’t have to be. We can change that. We, the people, can decide to stop judging others and support them instead."

This story from Laura represents the experiences of many people who are in recovery with the help of medications like Methadone. I am grateful that my son goes to a wonderful pharmacy where he is given some privacy and treated with dignity and respect. He’s also gotten to know the staff who all say hi to him each morning and ask how he is doing. They seem to really care. 

The kindness shown to people in recovery (by all of us) can make all the difference on whether or not they succeed.  I hope other pharmacies (if not already doing so) will follow the lead of our son’s pharmacy and become part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Thank you to Laura for sharing her powerful story.


  1. that pharmacy should be reported.

    1. Thank you for sharing Laura! My brother is currently an opiate addict and it is sickening how he is being treated and ignored. He is crying for help...REALLY crying for help. He has been to Mt. Herbert for treatment. This past week, he went in on Wednesday, on Friday, they made him wait for 10 hours for his meds...he walked out. 10 hours! Would you make a cancer patient wait 10 hours for his meds?? We are all trying to get him on the methadone program and I even contacted the Village of Hope in NB in hopes that he could get in there because there is absolutely no help here on PEI. But, he needs to be clean for a month before he can get accepted for the Village of Hope. So, of course, that puts him down even more, so what does he do? Takes more pills. They took over his life. He told me yesterday that Opiates have won...he gives up on crying for help. My family has been on the phone, sending emails, trying to find out some information on what we can do to get him the support he needs and so far we are at 0. Pretty sad to see this happening.

    2. Hi Monique, this is Rose. Thank you for your comment. So sorry to hear that your brother and your family are battling this as well. It is so difficult. Dr. Peter Hooley is working with other doctors to open a Methadone clinic in Charlottetown where they'll take on 100 patients. Your brother should get in touch with them to see if he can get on the list. To my knowledge, they haven't opened yet. Even if he can't get on their list, when they open up, Mount Herbert's list will become smaller so he may be able to get help sooner rather than later. Here is the link to the CBC article on the Methadone clinic. Please, tell your brother to not give up. He is so important to so many people and his life is worth fighting for. Let him know that there are a lot of kind, caring strangers who are cheering him on and praying that he gets the help that he needs. He is not alone, although he very likely feels like it at times. You are not alone either. There are many families dealing with this. Take care and God bless all of you.

    3. wow! Thank you so much Rose! This blog is just what I needed! I will certainly take this information to my family and act on it. Thank you so much! I will for sure be visiting this blog on a daily basis! I also shared it with my family members :o)
      God bless

  2. Hi all.... I am part of Monique's brothers support team,... I just wanna say... that I am appalled to see the lack of support and respect to a human life I have seen since i started looking for help for this man. I have placed many many calls to Dr.'s MLA, Addiction services.. etc... with each and every call I starting with this is a matter of life or death. On multiple times I was given the brush off, lied to, and even told can't help, good luck with that! HOW'S THAT FOR HELP!!! So I can sure see the frustration that a sick person would have looking for help with the lack of compassion I have seen trying to help another sick human being. I am now awaiting a call back from what I think is the top Dr. on PEI for addiction/methadone... sure hope he calls or am I gonna get the brush off there too ?? At this point we are no further ahead !

    Some of the abusive stories I have heard in the last few days that this one individual received in his quest for help breaks my heart. I don't blame him for wanting to give up!!!

    Some of the statements he said to me.. "Maybe if I was a horse... I would get better help, as there was 2 million dollar barn built in Charlottetown for ONE horse!!" "Things were better before I disclosed my addiction and started looking for help as I was not degraded, bullied, laughed at.. by the people who are suppose to help me" " No, help.. can't do it on my own.. the opiate wins!! " "Sure hope that a cancer patient is not treated like addict patient is"

    God Bless all these poor souls that are lost, and cannot find their way back due to the supposedly helping doors being slammed in their faces time and time again !!

    1. Thank you for your comment. I know how frustrating it is! My advice to the brother, you and the rest of the support team is to NEVER give up. Keep fighting. I've heard from many people battling addiction who are grateful for my voice because I am not an addict and "nobody listens to addicts". They feel people will listen to me. It is unfair, but it is obviously the reality that they have to face. They need all of our voices to stand up for them. Good luck and God bless you all. I pray that he gets the help that he needs.

  3. I am so sorry you had to witness this Laura..As a parent I see it all to often,,Everywhere! As the numbers of Addicts rise..thus the number of family's affected rise..we need to start speaking out and stepping up or nothing will change.We give them what they want..silence..We all need to speak out together..Great Job Girl :)


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