As part of our Opioid Awareness project, in partnership with Fruit Loop and the Edmonton 2 Spirit Society, the EMHC is speaking with community members about their substance use experiences. We recognize that everyone’s substance use experience looks different. Some people use substances in a way they feel comfortable with, which doesn’t negatively impact their health. For others, their experiences of substance use are more challenging. This short interview provides a glimpse into one person’s experience: Kane.
[Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity]
Interviewer: Tell us a little about who you are. How would you describe your identity?
Kane: I am a gender-queer person. However, more recently, I’ve gained a better understanding of the term Two-Spirit. I never thought that I, as a Metis person, could identify as Two-Spirit. I didn’t really know much about it. But, as I learn more, I’ve come to realize that I do kind of identify that way.
But, right now, I don’t think I’m fully comfortable openly identifying as Two-Spirit yet because I don’t think I understand enough about my culture. Unfortunately, colonization and the eradication of our culture within my family has had a significant impact on this part of my identity. Some Métis families I know celebrate the culture and speak Indigenous languages but I don’t. But I’ve really been trying to understand and learn more about my culture.
Can you tell us a little about your own experiences of substance use?
I started using cocaine at 16. It wasn’t daily at the beginning – mainly because I couldn’t afford it. But then that led to trying out other drugs like MDMA and acid. Soon, it really just became my way of life. I know that some people can handle drug use without major problems but, for me, it really affected my schooling and my connection with family and friends.
When I turned 18, I decided to stop using drugs. I didn’t use for over two years. Then, I ended up in a relationship. We would go out and party a lot. We would have friends over who’d be using drugs and then we’d do some too. We started going to afterhours clubs, which would always lead to drugs for me. So, over time, I just started getting back into more frequent use. Over the past few months, I was using almost daily again.
When you’re using substances, what are some ways you keep yourself safe?
I know you’re probably looking for me to share some harm reduction strategies that I found useful when using. But, to be honest, when I used I didn’t ever really think about how I was or wasn’t being safe. It was just like, if it was there, I would do it. I was usually just too fucked up to even think about being safe.
And it wasn’t just my decision-making around harm reduction or safer drug use that was affected. It also affected my sex life too. When I’m high, I hook up with people I normally wouldn’t feel comfortable with or I end up in a situation where everyone is doing a bunch of drugs and people are having group sex – things that I wouldn’t be interested in if I was sober.
Sometimes, I would have unprotected sex because I just wouldn’t think about it. Or I would convince myself that it was okay because I trusted the person enough. Using substances during sex makes me want to do anything and be open to everything. I feel unstoppable. But, then, the next day, It’s awful. I’m physically exhausted but I just can’t sleep. I’m just left there with my thoughts, regretting the previous night. Like, “Why the fuck did I do that?”
Recently, you’ve begun to access some support from the EMHC’s Peer N Peer program. Would you mind sharing a little about what this support looks like and how it’s impacted you?
Sure. I started seeing a peer worker who’s been really open and available for me whenever I need them. In our sessions, we talk about a bunch of things, like drug use and sexual health. The sessions really help me identify the things in my life that I feel negative about and decide on a course of action to deal with them. It’s also really helped me open up about my substance use. Not just in our counselling sessions but in my day-to-day life. I’ve even had the opportunity to begin speaking about my substance use with my mom.
Since accessing the Peer N Peer program, I’ve stopped using drugs again. But it’s also reassuring to know that the program provides tools and supports that would help me stay healthier and safer if I did end up using again. For example, knowing that the program offers free harm reduction supplies and information about how to use substances more safely is empowering. It means that if I start using again, I don’t have to just think, “Well, fuck it,” like I did before – without thinking about my health. Instead, I know that there are tools and supports at my disposal to help me think smarter and safer about my use.
If you need to speak to someone about your substance use – whether you want to stop using substances, use substances more safely, or change how substances impact your sex life, contact the Peer N Peer team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 587-599-7290. We offer one-on-one counselling, screening and referrals services, and access to harm reduction supplies. All of our services are free-of-charge.
The Opioid Awareness project is made possible by Alberta Health. The Peer n Peer project is made possible by the Public Health Agency of Canada.