“Addiction can happen to anybody, and that’s why education is so important”
Darcy has been coming to the Medicine Hat Cares Centre for years. He is 52 years old and left home when he was 14. His parents were separated and he had a tough childhood, moving from one foster home to another until the age of 10. He was living with his mother in Vancouver when he met his wife. “Life became pretty good.” Darcy describes how he spent “the best years of his life” with her and their two children. They moved to Prince George in 1987 and it was there that he slowly got into using drugs. “I started to get into a little bit of trouble.” He was growing marijuana on the side to make some extra money, and through working for some drug dealers tried hard drugs for the first time.
A few years later, Darcy moved to Medicine Hat to be near his father whose health was deteriorating. He wanted his boys to know their grandfather and his wife found a good job, so the family ended up staying in Medicine Hat.
Darcy was working as a mechanic and running his own shop. One day he met a neighbour who was involved in dealing cocaine. Darcy had used cocaine in Prince George, so slipped into some old habits with the neighbour and started using again. Soon after he was also dealing drugs, in the beginning to help a friend out, but quickly progressing to supporting his cocaine habit. As Darcy went deeper and deeper into this business, he was eventually arrested, and lost everything.
Darcy spent five months in jail. When he was released and returned to his family, they had to downsize and move to a smaller house. “I slipped back into using and I served another two months in prison. During those months, my wife filed for a divorce, which really blew me off my feet. We were legally married for 23 years and were together for 27,” Darcy recalls his devastation.
Over time, Darcy moved forward from these experiences. He met another woman, returned to his work as a mechanic, and life was good. Darcy had two more kids. “The day my little girl was born was absolutely the best day of my life, I always wanted a daughter,” says Darcy.
But then, disaster struck again. Darcy had some serious injuries, and began taking medication to control his pain. His doctor prescribed OxyContin, a strong opioid, and he became dependent. As his tolerance increased, Darcy had difficulty controlling the pain. He describes: “One day, curiosity got the best of me because I was told injecting would help so much with pain,” he said, so he started injecting his pills. His dependence progressed, and he was going through many OxyContin pills each day. He started buying them off the street.
Then, he tried heroin, and his use drug use escalated more and more. “The addiction accelerated, and this went on for two or three years. Someone told me that there was a needle exchange here in Medicine Hat at the Cares Centre. And here I was, one of the first clients for the centre. They helped at Christmas time, all kind of resources in the community, and just to talk to the people here was important.”
Eventually, through conversation with the staff at the Medicine Hat Cares Centre, Darcy decided to reduce his drug use. He planned it for months, determined to access addiction treatment services. “At Christmas time last year, I decided that it was time for me to quit, and I did just that. December 27 was the last time when I ever touched a pill. I went to detox, and I am now on methadone as a replacement therapy.” Darcy, now separated from his wife, is trying to regain access to his children.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without this place, without the people at Medicine Hat Cares Centre who continue to listen to me and talk to me, and just be there for me, regardless. They were absolutely irreplaceable,” says Darcy. He is a strong believer in harm reduction, and believes that supervised consumption services save lives and keep people safe. “In this day and age, you have no idea what you are about to inject. Doesn’t matter how many times you had gotten the same thing from the same person. None of that matters. Drugs out there are so unsafe now.”
Darcy now regularly carries naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, and tries to convince people to learn how to use it. Naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. “Addiction can happen to anybody, and that’s why education is so important. I’ve lost more friends than I could keep count of. I was trained here at the centre on how to use naloxone. Even though I’ve saved 9 people’s lives, 2 of them twice, I wasn’t able to save one of my closest friends. But I will continue to help and educate people.”