Label Me Person

97- Label-Me-Person-Picture.jpg

Source

Description

When it launched in 2019, the Label Me Person campaign was meant to be a city-wide "travelling community display"; over the course of a year, its home base relocated to different organizations in Windsor. The pop-up started at Windsor Regional Hospital's Ouellette Campus and made its way to Devonshire Mall and the University of Windsor before the pandemic hit. Since then, the campaign has shifted online and widened in scope. What began as a physical display of "six personal narratives from people who are recovering, or have recovered, from an opioid addiction" in Windsor, is now a website with videos, podcast episodes, and virtual workshops and webinars. The website aims to:
  1. "frame multiple crises": the opioid crisis, overdose crisis, and drug policy crisis;
  2. "frame the community response"; and
  3. answer "what we can do" to counteract stigma as community members, service providers, people who use substances, and people impacted by substance use.
Note: Since the launch of this campaign, the "AIDS Committee of Windsor" has changed its name to "Pozitive Pathways".

Date

2019-09-25

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Roy's Story:

I am a son, friend, husband, brother, worker, father, uncle. I am a person that cares about people who use substances as a way to avoid what they are feeling. ...

I’ve been out of prison since 1988 and working in the Harm Reduction Program at the AIDS Committee of Windsor since 1993. I was part of the first Outreach Team to go into houses where people were using drugs. By listening to how people are feeling, their stories, and where it has taken them. I want them to know that they are someone that people care about and not just a “Junkie”. When some of the people I knew stopped using drugs, I was proud of them. When some started using drugs again, I would encourage them by reminding them how well they did and offer my support. I have seen people using drugs run from things that have happened to them or do drugs to hide from feeling pain or sadness when someone they care about or love, dies. I won’t judge them or anyone else because I was in that same spot and I know how it feels.

Harm Reduction is just not words to say. For me, it means that I care and want to help keep you safe. I’ve seen people over the years at their lowest turn their lives around and I have seen some that were on top hit their lowest. It’s hard to do the work I do. I care about the people I work with. With the support I get in recovery, I am able to keep doing this work.

Stephanie Bertrand’s Story

My ex-husband was one of the smartest people I had ever met. He was a foreman for a construction company and was diligent and hard-working. When we started dating, we were both in recovery from cocaine use and thought we could support each other. I soon learned that I was wrong when he began using again. I remained hopeful and supportive. After resuming substance use several times such as cocaine and occasional opiates, he became substance free and was doing well. One night, after celebrating with friends for his birthday, he came home with a serious arm injury. A trip to the hospital and surgery later, he was given a prescription for Percocet. The catalyst that would eventually end our relationship. When the Percocet ran out, he started buying pain pills off the street, graduated to OxyContin and then to any opioid he could get. He would get very angry and abusive while using. Everything of value that we owned was sold to feed the habit. Mindful of his underlying issues and struggles with self-worth, I tried to help connect him to care; he always managed to find a way out. His addiction affected my own recovery and I soon fell back into use. I struggled to navigate recovery for the both of us. I eventually couldn’t keep up; I got out of active use for the last time in 2016. I was then faced with one of the most difficult and painful choices of my life, either I had to lose the husband I loved or lose my children. Three years later, I am still in recovery.

Unfortunately, my children are still missing their father and conversations are ongoing explaining that “daddy is sick and when he gets better he will call.” There is a hole in their hearts that can’t be filled. I felt like a failure for not being able to help him and for not being able to help my children. I was grieving for a long time. Every time I would feel like I had reached a good point and was through the grief, I would see him again and the cycle would start all over. Seeing him ridiculed has been especially difficult for me and my family.

Addiction is the symptom of an underlying cause and I hope that we can be mindful of this and display some empathy and compassion before we pass judgments; please, remember that person who uses substances is someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, brother, or child.


Label Me Person - Lived Experience - Stephanie Bertrand

00:00:08 Well, I got into addiction about 15 years ago. I had just become a wife and a mom, and I really had no idea what I was doing. And, so, I was constantly second guessing myself, and I- I- my self-esteem was shot at this point, and I had no idea what to do. I- I felt like I was failing as a mom, failing as a wife.

00:00:28 And so, I had gotten a job at a bar, and somebody had offered me something, and it made me feel ten feet tall and bulletproof. And, instantly, all these problems went away. And I was able to kinda like- I felt like I knew, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do.

00:00:43 Unfortunately, one led to more led to more led to more led to me not coming home, led to me not being the mom I wanted to be, not being the wife that I wanted to be. At this point, I had two k- I had had my second child, um, and everything just fell apart. I got so wrapped up in my addiction I lost my- my husband. I was a struggling single mom with two kids, and I met another person, and he was in recovery, too, and I thought it was going to be amazing, we’d understand each other, we’d be able to get through this together. 

00:01:13 And about a couple months in, I- I broke. I- he was using, and I started using with him. And it led me right back down the same- same path, so I kept running into this cycle all the time over and over again. I would get clean for a couple of months, I would be doing good, and then I would fall back into addiction.

00:01:34 When I was laying on my couch and I was starting to get the withdrawals from the opiates and- and my son- my baby son at the time, he was only about a year and a half, two years old, and he’s trying, “Mummy come play with me, Mummy come play with me,” and I couldn’t even get off the couch. And then I thought about it. What happens if I don’t make it through this, and what if I- if I die on my couch? What if he’s sitting there and he’s going, “Mommy come play with me” and I’m not waking up? And that was pretty much the breaking point, because I didn’t want my kids to ever have to bury me. Not like that.

00:02:02 And so I went and I talked to a doctor and I- I got put on Suboxone, and I started to get my life back in order. He got put on the same program as me, and we were both on the same path, but I kept going and he didn’t. So, he ended up homeless. We haven’t seen him in probably about a year and a half now. Uh, he hasn’t talked to his kids, and every day I’m constantly having to hear, “I miss Dad, I miss Dad, where’s my dad? Have you seen my dad?” And those are questions I hate answering, because I don’t want to tell my kids something… bad about their father, but I also don’t want to tell them the truth about their father. So I spend a lot of time saying, you know, “Dad is sick,” and I think the worst question my daughter had ever asked me was, “Mom, if you were sick and you could get better, why can’t Dad get better?” And that was just a question I couldn’t answer.

00:02:52 So, about a year after I started into my recovery and I was on the Suboxone, that’s when I decided that I wanted to help people like that, I wanted to help the people that didn’t have a support system like I had, I- I wanted to help the people that didn’t have family, didn’t have friends, didn’t have people that- that actually cared about them. And I see a lot of that in the city now, so I’m hoping that, with this campaign and with everything that I’ve said today, that people will realize that, yes, there are people out there that understand what you’ve been through, and we understand why you’re there.

00:03:21 The AIDS Committee of Windsor is an amazing, amazing place. Um, I got into it when I was in my first year of recovery, and it helped m- helped me to get the communication skills to be able to talk to people in the first place. When I came out- into recovery, I- I couldn’t communicate what was going on with me, so going through some of the programming there in their peer engagement department, um, helped me to be able to communicate. Using their harm reduction department, I was able to get clean gear that I didn’t end up losing an arm or- or even worse, dying from some infection or something like that. And there’s always somebody willing to listen there. Whether it’s somebody in the harm reduction department or in peer engagement, there’s always somebody willing to listen and try and get you the right supports.

00:04:01 It doesn’t have to be like this. Your life doesn’t have to be like this. It doesn’t have to be unmanageable. There are ways to get help. Just keep asking. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else.

Stephanie Ermatinger’s Story

Boozhoo! Meaning “hello” in my indigenous language. My story starts with my birth on the beautiful island of Walpole. My childhood was full of family birthdays, trips, hunting, fishing and learning my culture. I was unaware of the abuse my mother suffered in residential schools so when I was nine years old I was sexually abused and didn’t know what to do. I bottled in this trauma due to fear of breaking up my family. In trying to hide my emotions, I turned to binge eating, drugs and alcohol at the age of 13. Throughout adolescence, I was raped at parties while unconscious. I staggered into my first relationship and stayed sober the nine months I carried my daughter. It wasn’t long after she was born that I was enduring abuse from my partner. I thought the abuse was better than being alone. At 21, I was introduced to methamphetamine, heroin, and other opioids. The drugs took away my habits of binge eating and dulled my shame and guilt. I felt so good, even knowing this was a false sense of happiness. Between ages 27-39 I was in and out of jail and recovery homes. While I was in a recovery home, my spirit name was given to me by a Northern shaman where I learned to love myself.

Today, I am six months substance-free and belong to several community groups. My spirit name is Red Thunder Bird Woman for the blood and tears I experienced and for my ability to share my journey to help and support others. The Thunderbird Spirit was one of the first created and is the most protective spirits known in Indigenous culture. Having experienced cultural shame and abuse, I am now proud to be a recovering Indigenous woman. I now know that it’s okay to be happy, even when others are not. That “no” is a full sentence. And that we are never alone. Through trauma, addictions, and homelessness, I came out a SURVIVOR.

“Bama pii”- (‘til we meet again)


Label Me Person - A Moment of Lived Experience - Stephanie Ermatinger


Time Code

Video

Audio

00:00:01

Extreme close shot of the right side of Stephanie’s face. Stephanie wears black sunglasses. Camera pans right.

The age of seven, I was molested or touched by somebody that I thought was a figurehead in my family.

00:00:10

Extreme close shot of Stephanie hugging her knee.

[Someone who] I loved, I could trust.

00:00:13

Close shot of Stephanie’s knees and sneakers while she sits on wooden stairs. Camera tilts down.

I started to notice myself getting more and more distant from the class,

00:00:17

Stephanie walks away from the camera next to a graffitied wall.

uhh, not being able to talk to anybody.

00:00:20

Stephanie runs her right hand along the graffitied wall while walking.

So at fourteen, I was introduced to alcohol at a friend’s house

00:00:24

Extreme close shot over Stephanie’s shoulder. The cameraperson walks slightly faster than Stephanie.

so when I took this alcohol it gave me a sensation and a warm feeling that 

00:00:29

Extreme close shot. Stephanie removes her sunglasses. In slow motion, the camera pans left as she blinks.

I was able to be myself. By the time I was 21, I tried my first needle.

00:00:36

Close shot of an orange needle cap on the pavement by Stephanie’s feet. Camera pans right.

I… instantly became addicted to it.

00:00:40

Close shot of Stephanie. Camera remains still.

It wasn’t till my first recovery home, which was, uh, in New Credit, Ontario, I started to get the trauma out,

00:00:48

Extreme close shot of Stephanie holding an ovular smudge bowl in her left hand and waves at the smoke with a smudging feather in her right hand.

like, unlayering that onion, peeling the onion away, talking about what happened to me.

00:00:53

Fades to black.

Citation

Pozitive Pathways, “Label Me Person,” Anti-Stigma Archive, accessed June 17, 2024, http://antistigma.info/items/show/23.