My hometown, where I once was homeless… I walked these tracks daily for a year. I walked them wearing green coveralls and a baseball cap over my shaved head and carried my skateboard under my arm and a messenger bag with everything I owned inside of it, which wasn’t much. I wore these clothes to disguise the fact that I was a girl. Being a female on the streets was a liability, I had something to lose, I was a commodity. The fact that I was homeless and hungry made me even more vulnerable.
21 years old, there I was. Bruised, skin and bones, dark circles under my eyes. Eyes that once were bright and full of hope, now dull and lifeless. I was lost beyond finding, I was starving for more than just food. I was one of the outcasts, broken, lined up at the Catholic charity accepting a hot plate of food with embarrassment and shame with so many others in the same position. this was the aftermath of addiction. My choices had led me to this and as a result I had lost everyone and everything that I had ever cared about. I felt completely responsible all the while blaming everyone else.
Thinking back on it now I can visit that young girl. I can return to her in the attic of the flop house she was squatting in. She is staring at her reflection in the cracked mirror wishing she had the courage to end it all. This 21 year old who came from such healthy beginnings. She had a good family upbringing, raised in a Christian home. Mom and Dad together since forever. There was no excuse. She had started off with so much potential and it had all been lost in a whirlwind of bad influences, even worse choices and addiction to a substance no one ever thought to warn her about. She had been smacked down by the reality that evil exists in the world and preys on the pure, innocent and emotionally vulnerable. I visit her in the depths of her despair and I tell her that she is beautiful, she has value, she is going to make it and someday she is going to be ok…. but she doesn’t hear me, she just stares back at her reflection, so scarred by her reality, she is cold, empty, numb.
During this time and in the years that followed I was told that I was selfish, stupid, weak, worthless and hopelessly flawed. I was used in every way a woman could be used and taken advantage of. I was beaten and drugged and told that I couldn’t ask for help from the law because I was the scum that they were trying to remove from society. Socially unacceptable, the filth that no one wants to acknowledge in our shiny, clean society. This is only a small part of my story, but this same situation is affecting so many woman and men today. Right now, somewhere in this country, maybe even in this neighbourhood there is a young girl living this hell that I found myself in with no way out. Is it her fault that she is in this mess…Maybe. Does that mean she is worthless and we should give up on her? NO!! I want to help, I want to visit that girl and tell her she is loved and that there is hope, there is love and there is a way out. It is not ok to be taken advantage of even if you have done the wrong thing. I walked those dark alleys and I met those monsters face to face and I survived, now I want to help others as well. I am not a statistic, I am the exception, but I did not survive hell on earth to keep it hidden and go on to pretend that I have a normal perfect life. I survived and now I want to give back.
I went online recently looking for programs or a rehab facility that I could donate some time to. I didn’t gather any useful information and I was saddened by how difficult it seems to find avenues to help others. I know that there is a drug problem in this country and I know intimately how it affects woman. I want to put it out there that we need to build ourselves around these people that exist in our community no matter how unlovely they seem. Throw me some ideas on how we can initiate a change, lets start a conversation. Drug addiction affects so many more than just the addict. My hope is that in sharing my story, it will reach others. Its not a pretty story to tell and I have had to get past my fear of even further judgement. But the desire to help as many as I can outweighs the risk. So this is just the beginning for me.