This week, while watching my grandson play soccer, there was a fellow yelling from the street, towards the mini-soccer fields. He was clearly on some type of drug or a combination of drugs and alcohol and managed to cause quite a scene. He eventually wandered off and retreated to a residence before police arrived, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I wondered what was causing him so much pain that he was in such a state, acting so uncontrollably.
People who live among war-torn, malnourished, impoverished, unclean, unsafe and violent countries of the world would likely give anything to live where we live, how we live and experience the levels of luxury, technology, freedom, resources and abundance that we have, at our fingertips. It just goes to show that individuals can be devastated, alone, afraid, empty and hopeless anywhere, no matter what their outer reality is. It all depends on what is happening in their minds.
I bet that if we showed this individual the video of how he was acting that he would feel embarrassed, ashamed, guilty and stressed over his behaviour. At that moment though, he was likely on something that altered his personality and thoughts. Deep down he may be a wonderful, kind, loving, caring, sweet man who happens to be troubled, hurt, a victim of childhood abuse or someone who has fallen through the cracks and resorted to addictions, to numb his pain.
All I know is that what should be treated as medical emergencies end up spilling into the community, as crimes, in front of young children, citizens and families, due to the risks involved. He is only one of the many people in this condition, in our city. I stumbled across another man the day the downtown mural was unveiled, as I snapped photos of the newest building mural and other murals nearby. He was severely intoxicated, in the early evening, all alone and just wanted to talk.
I felt awful, gently turning down his offer to go for coffee with him, but I knew that he was in no condition to be out in public and I was not safe in this situation, with a perfect stranger, who was heavily under the influence of a substance. He needed someone to talk to though. My heart ached and I felt concerned, sad and impacted by these two men. What is it that is causing so many people to become addicted to opioids, alcohol, unsafe street drugs and other substances, on a continent where we apparently have it all?
If many of us feel empty, lonely, sad, stressed, depressed or drained, with all of the friends and family who we have in our lives who love us and who we love and with the abundance we have, can you imagine when people feel these same things without anyone to love, spend time with, call or be around and with little money or resources?
Many people live alone, are isolated, are living in poverty and have a limited circle of contact and support. Many can’t read, have anger issues, criminal records, limited education and lack basic healthy nutritional, hygiene, sleep and social habits. When they are hurting, they are easily swayed, lured, enticed or enchanted by a substance that will temporarily take their pain away and transport them into an altered state, where they can forget for a while.
When I am having a bad day, for any reason, I acknowledge the feelings I am having but then attempt to shift my perspective to notice how many people and things I have to be grateful for, unlike many others. I force myself, if necessary, to notice the good, find joy in the little things, reconnect with nature, the outdoors, my loved ones or activities that lift my mood.
Many people, in our community, don’t have those same tools, skills, tips or energy to make the changes needed to seek help, reach out or make new decisions. Many want to get better but addictions have taken over. Although I am one of the most assertive people, to step up during any potentially unsafe or volatile situations and protect anyone at risk, I also know the other side of the story. I have seen what pain, victimization, loneliness and lack of life and social skills can do to cause dysfunction in generations of families.
What are we going to do about it? What can we do to help? What needs to change in our community? What shift in perspectives do we need to have, in order to address the root causes of crime, addiction and destruction in the lives of people who are our neighbours and walking in the parks and streets, among our children and grandchildren?
I know that there has been more of an effort to create teams of crisis responders, with medical and police involvement; however, there needs to be more of this, along with followup, addictions treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy, supportive housing and outreach aftercare. These individuals continue to be involved with police and emergency services, but the vicious cycle is perpetuated. These individuals need help.
Since there is still plenty of work to do in this area, I will pray. I invite you to, as well. I hope to generate ideas and be a part of the solutions. I hope that we will continue to make progress to reach out to those who are lost and alone and feeling helpless and confused, right here, where we are living. I hope that we will find sustainable actions and systems that identify those at risk, assist in healing those who are hurting and encourage recovery from the substances and choices that have caused them to stray so far off track from the healthiest version of themselves.
In the meantime, whenever life seems hard, I attempt to put my issues in perspective and be grateful for all of the things that are good in my life. I hope that if you are dealing with loss, financial issues, job issues, family issues, legal issues, addictions, health issues or otherwise, that you will, as well.
I hope that we all choose to walk through life seeking out blessings, finding beauty, getting fresh air, getting emotionally and physically healthier, noticing things to appreciate in our daily lives and choosing to create, pay attention to and embrace anything that brings us healthy joy. This is the key. Looking around you right now, what are you grateful for?
“There are people who would love to have your bad days.” ~ Author Unknown
For Addictions & Mental Health Community Resources: NorthEastHealthLine.ca
Photo Slideshow this Week of our Robertson Cliffs Adventure: