Sitting at Tinseltown Starbucks, a young-looking 35 year-old man approached asking a question. Well groomed and dressed, the mannerisms and speech seemed incongruent with the shell. Being curious, rather than avoiding, it was discovered that a long history of abuses crushed his spirit leading to drug and alcohol abuse. Having recently cleaned up, his ties and relationship to the Downtown Eastside, and particularly people he cared about, was creating an internal conflict of wanting to rescue them versus saving himself. The trapdoor was waiting to pull him back in.
Speaking further with him, it is apparent there is a lot more going on in the lives of many of these unfortunate people. Abuse is a pattern established early in life, and abuses take many shapes and forms. The city and our Vancouver society has struggled for years with how to deal with the problems. There is an undercurrent attitude that suggests people get what they deserve. Unfortunately, this doesn’t rectify the problem, and rarely will it empower anyone to create change. Judgement is what typically leads people to accept their failure and fall deeper into the patterns of abuse.
Rather than encouraging the young man to follow his heart and rescue these other ghosts of the Eastside, the suggestions left with him were to focus on his healing first and foremost. Get the help that is available, stay with the program, get away from the environment, don’t worry about anyone else, and get re-training. His passion and caring were obvious and if he successfully pulls himself out of this nightmare life he has helped create, he could be a potentially valuable resource for the DTES and its’ population in need of recovery.
Saying good-bye he said, “Thanks for taking the time to listen and hear me. Most people don’t treat me this way.” His eyes were sad and downcast. Let’s hope he is one of those who will make it.