The Pacific Northwest is using a cutting edge and novel approach to combat drug addiction many places would balk at — Just letting people use drugs — and it’s working. (Photo Credit: University of Washington)

The 4/20 Piece: How To Not Judge Others, or, Being An Asshole On Facebook Has Consequences

A Tale Of Two Different Men From Two Different Coasts And The Lessons They Learned On Drugs And Those Who Use Them

InSite stands for safe injection site, where injection drug users can use under medical supervision, with clean supplies, free from the threat of arrest, and seek assistance with safer use management, and find resources to reduce or cease their use when they are ready to seek it (Photo credit, Metro News Canada).

Happy 4/20, you guys! Let’s talk about drugs!

So, I had to badger a guy on Facebook recently, which I don’t like doing, and in fact, threatened him with posting this very article in order to drive home a point about judging others, but it was for the greater good, and I’m very happy to say that it had a great ending — for some of us, at least.

For those of you who are reading this having read the title, grabbed your popcorn, and expected to see a keyboard smack-down of your right-wing uncle, I’m sorry to disappoint. Next time, promise!

This piece is about judging others for not meeting our own personal moral standards of behaviour, and why that’s never, ever, a good idea. But, first, a little background.

Let My People Use — It’s The Only Way They’ll Stop

We have it pretty well in the Pacific Northwest. We are the last bastion of progressivism in the age of Donald Trump, full equality for We The Gays™, death with dignity laws, legal marijuana (and governments that are keeping it, Trump or No-Trump), the right to choose enshrined as rights of the people in our constitutions, awnings over sidewalks built in to design plans of most new buildings by default (helpful for pedestrians in a place where it rains far more often than it doesn’t!), and… places where you can use drugs without consequence that are being used as a way to combat drug addiction — and it’s working.

No, we’re not talking about weed this time.

Having started in Vancouver, BC, Seattle will soon be the second city in Cascadia and the first in the US to host it’s own version of InSite. The InSite program is a series of places where drug users can go to have access to clean supplies like needles and rigs, where they can test the drugs they have purchased on the street for purity, and where they can use their drugs in sterile environments and under medical supervision, to minimize risks of overdosing, self-injury, and the spread of blood borne illnesses.

InSite is free to use and users looking to utilize its resources pay nothing out of pocket. The program is funded publicly by the BC Government, by the City of Vancouver, by Health Canada, and through donations of various organizations, non-profits, and private individuals. The program is privately administered by Vancouver Coastal Health.

Drug counselors are also on hand to offer assistance in helping users find safer ways to use drugs, to reduce the risk of harm to themselves or others, and for providing resources to help users manage their use better, reduce their use, or, cease their use altogether — but only when the user is ready.

Sound crazy to you? It may, but it’s certainly working. According to statistics collected by the Government of British Columbia, currently 60% of injection drug users that use InSites later return to voluntarily seek assistance with use reduction or use cessation; and of that 60%, there is an 80% success rate in successfully getting users off of the needle entirely.

No, that isn’t a typo: InSites have an 80% success rate in getting their returning users off of drugs; good information to know as we here in Seattle begin to set up the groundwork our own InSite program.

Selling drugs in or around InSite locations is illegal, and dealers can be prosecuted for attempting to do so. For ‘end-users’, however, InSites are green zones where they are free from the threat of arrest and the judgement of others. Medical personnel and counselors that work at the site follow a strict no-judgement rule, seeing patrons as “patients and human beings, deserving of respect and dignity, no matter what.”

Marty’s Story

“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen for me,” said ‘Marty’, a former heroin user from the Bellingham area, Washington, just south of the BC border, who has used InSite before, and credits the program with saving his life. Although enthusiastic to contribute to this article, he asked not to be identified by his real name for fear of his “very strict” Mormon family in his native Utah finding out about his past use, whom he says “wouldn’t understand”.

A user for over two years, Marty says he used with such frequency that he w0uld grow abscesses on his skin. “It happens if you hit the same spot a few times,” Marty told me over Skype. “I ran out of veins to stab and places to stab them. I even tried to hit underneath my fingernail once, and it didn’t turn out too good for me,” he said with a melancholy chuckle.

Although he was a “multiple times, daily” heroin user, Marty has been completely heroin free for over a year and a half, having taken his last hit after he made his third trip to InSite in late 2015. Today, having reclaimed his life, Marty is an activist for greater compassion toward users, and works at an organization that helps users get off the needle — he is also about to complete his Master of Divinity degree, and hopes to become a minister.

Why didn’t he pursue help sooner?

“Judgement, straight up, dawg, mother fucking judgement,” he instantly replied. “You go to the doctor, they treat you like you’re a junkie, and I never wanted to be a junkie, even if I was one and just didn’t want to look in the mirror and see it. Everyone, family, friends, can’t go to them because you’re hiding it from them, and your heroin friends don’t wan’t to do nothing but shoot up more heroin. Who do you go to for help when you don’t want anyone to know because they’ll make you feel like you’re the scum of the earth for just existing? Why would you even want to go?”

He continued, “Sure, you’ll get their help, only after they make you feel even lower than you already feel and lecture and belittle and interrogate you first. Plus, they could call the cops on you at any moment, and you know how cops are, even if you done nothing wrong they don’t care, they ain’t there to help you, just nail you. They’ll threaten you into giving up your friends all cause you went and told a suit [authority figure] you were ready to get off junk.”

“And even if you strong enough to be honest with yourself and face their judgement and go through the treatment and get off it, the second when you walk out of the clinic, snitches still get stitches, so you end up going right back in.”

I asked Marty if his experience meant that drugs are bad for everyone, and when it is acceptable to use drugs, if ever.

“I tell my kids, you do you, you do what’s best for you,” he said. “I don’t tell them not to use drugs, I tell them what can happen if they abuse drugs, big diff, you know? They are going to eventually put a pipe in their mouth whether that’s weed, meth, tobacco, whatever. I view my job as to teach them how to recognize themselves if they ever get out of control, not everybody does. Best I can do is tell people how to be safe about it and give them a hand getting help if they ever need it.”

And as for whether or not it’s acceptable for responsible adults?

“Sobriety is great, you know, if everyone were to do it, but the fact is there isn’t anyone alive today I think that lives a completely sober life. We need to recognize that about ourselves and admit that we are all people who dabble, even if it’s just once,” he said. “Heroin, man, that shit is just fucking poison, but most of us today aren’t on heroin, we’re on coke, we’re on speed, and we’re on molly, and we’re vaping and drinking and smoking weed. If they [responsible adults] do it, if they do it socially, and they got control in their lives, then that’s their business, not mine,” he said. “It’s about control and whether or not you got it.”

Adrion’s Story

One of Adrion Beitler’s Facebook profile pictures, captioned, “All I ever wanted was the world. I cant help that I want it all” (Photo Credit: Adrion Beitler, Facebook).

“I've always been strong enough to stand on my own, and if someone mistreats me or is undeserving of being in my life, I simply kick them out. I've also consistently surrounded myself with strong, kind, successful people who have my back,” Adrion Stephen Beitler, of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, told me after asking me how I entered into homelessness during discussion on Facebook of which this article is the result, about drugs, drug users, and the morality of use.

Adrion calls himself drug-free and is proud to be, and not only does he wish that for everyone else both within and outside of his sphere of influence, he actually insists upon it.

Although he did not say as much, it is reasonable to assume given the context of the conversation (which began in a post from last March and for unknown reasons was revived yesterday by Adrion, who issued a belittling comment to me after more than a month of inactivity), that he expected my answer to his question as to why I came into my previous homelessness to be drug related.

I told him what many of my readers know from reading some of my past articles, or from knowing me personally, which was that I left a toxic and dangerous relationship with a former partner that I shared a home with that was so bad that I plunged myself into certain homelessness and an uncertain future rather than remain in it any longer.

“Sorry to hear that. Bye,” Adrion replied to me when the answer wasn’t the one he likely expected it to be. It didn’t fit into the drug narrative he was trying to cast me with. More on that in a few minutes.

Some Expert Advice

So many opinions exist about drugs, as I discovered on this beautiful 4/20 day. Some, like Adrion, deem any drug use at all unacceptable. Others, like Marty, view it with a more libertarian approach. Some believe people can or should be able to indulge, others do not.

Interestingly it was only Adrion who insisted that drug use tainted the entirety of who you are negatively, regardless of whatever accomplishments you have under your belt, struggles you have overcome, or whether or not you objectively had a “problem”. To Adrion, using drugs even once and not regretting it meant you must seek assistance from a drug therapist in order for him to possibly consider you worthy of his or anyone else’s dignity or respect — or else receive some ‘therapeutic assistance’ from a police officer. His argument is the only one with validity, from his point of view.

It is impossible to determine validity of an opinion — after all, as my great grandmother, a tiny Welsh woman named Melva with a sassy Welsh attitude to boot, used to say, “Opinions are like arseholes, and everyone’s got one of those, too.”

However, it is possible to determine which arguments are helpful or hurtful on the effort to fight addiction and the negative impacts of drugs and alcohol. For assistance, I decided I needed some expert advice.

Sky Hilton works with Public Health of Seattle — King County, and is a licensed Chemical Dependence Therapist in Washington State.

“The system has it set so you fail,” Sky said. I asked him what some of the reasons were why people like Marty might not go in to seek treatment. “You could find yourself in trouble with the law for any kind of drug related infraction; and it’s not that people are always scared or afraid of seeking treatment. Sometimes people just aren’t ready to quit.”

Sky’s comments echoed the rationale behind Vancouver’s InSite program — that offering that support network for the user whenever the user is ready — is a crucial component for a complete recovery .

Recall, also, that the ominous and ever present threat of a heavy-handed reaction from law enforcement, especially from departments that may have a history with police brutality, excessive force, coercive stings and manipulative pressure tactics, was one that was reflected in Marty’s voice earlier today (‘they aren’t there to help you, they’re there to nail you’).

Prior to working with Public Health of Seattle — King County, Sky worked for ProjectNEON, a divisionary program of Seattle Counseling Services, specifically aimed at assisting young gay, bisexual, and transgender men affected by methamphetamine use. A pillar organization of the LGBTQ and recovery communities in Seattle, ProjectNEON is now in its 20th year of operation.

ProjectNEON helps LGBTQ persons struggling with meth abuse through both peer and professional assistance and counseling, being able to directly set up those who are ready to reduce or quit with sober housing placement programs, peer mentoring and positive reinforcement support networks, and intake to both outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation programs for chemical dependency. They also help young gay, bi, and trans men with getting enrolled in Washington State’s PREP-DAP program (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Drug Assistance Program), which provides Truvada — the central drug at the heart of new and nearly 100% efficacious efforts to prevent HIV transmission through a once-a-day pill — to anyone who wants it.

Truvada, without health insurance, costs about $25,000 per year. However, Washington State picks up the whole tab, and funds the entirety of the program for all enrollees through the WA Health Care Authority, the state-run health care organization. Washingtonians enrolled in the program pay nothing for it out of pocket, and receive Truvada every month for free.

For those that aren’t ready to quit, ProjectNEON operates a needle exchange, where users can swap out used needles for clean and unused ones, condoms, and offers information and resources on safer methods of use, such as smoking and hot-railing. They do not judge users nor do they pressure them into quitting or even reducing their use if they do not want to — but they do always stress the importance for users have control over their use and themselves.

In his current capacity with the governmental department that oversees the public health of the City of Seattle and its residents, Sky has kept a no-judgement policy in place, both professionally as well as personally.

“It is never ok to use the word ‘druggie’ or ‘junkie’, no matter how you mean to use it,” Sky said. “It still is negative. It is still hate terminology.”

Earlier today, when Marty was getting off of Skype, I asked him what the consequences of perspectives like Adrion’s might have on people who may have issues with drugs but may be hesitant to seek help.

“What is the end result, in your opinion, of those who judge all drug users the same — negatively, that you are a failure, a bad person, etc; what is the tangible, real-world, practical consequence to that line of thinking being so pervasive, in your view?” I asked him.

Marty didn’t hesitate.

“Death,” he immediately responded with a somber, dark tone in his voice. “They never go in for help when they need it, and because of that, they die. Not everyone, no. Big majority of people that use drugs never need to see a doctor or a therapist, they got a handle on themselves, and they the ones you never hear about or see because they aren’t on the streets, they at work, doing their jobs. But for those that got a problem, and that’s a lot of people, that mindset causes death, no question in my mind. Overdose, HIV, doesn’t matter how you died, you still dead.”

Casey’s Story

Your intrepid writer, me, at a rave here in Seattle, Washington, from March of 2017, having a great — and sober — time at the Get Happy party at the Fred Wildlife Refuge in Capitol Hill (Photo Credit: Mac Rafen Photography).

Hey, look, it’s me! :-)

During the comment thread that prompted this article, I declared myself to be “open and honest” about me and my life, and admitted that I, being a former raver (HAPPY HARDCORE FOR THE WIN!) have done “everything but the injectables” and have therefore used drugs recreationally, though unlike Marty, I have never before used heroin or opiates, nor would I ever.

Yes, your intrepid writer has met Molly before. He’s gone on trips with Cousin Cid, won an incredible game of table tennis once after enjoying a taste of Coca-Cola, and even gobbled a few mushrooms like Mario, but for the most part, that was part of my younger years. If I could have fun with it, you name it, I probably did it.

These days, at the age of 30, although on rare occasion I may indulge in so-called ‘party drugs’ like should the mood strike me, I almost exclusively use drugs for spiritual enlightenment: I’ve lifted the veil to the Otherworld to consult with the spirits of the dead thanks to Peyote. The Soma Mushroom and Datura Flower helped me find my inner self. Ergot (grown from Rye) helped me confront my innermost darkness, and thanks to that experience, I found I had the drive to address all of my personal demons. The near-death experience that DMT gives a person can plunge you into your own personal Underworld — even a ‘hell’ of sorts — which you are expected to pick yourself out of and return from on your own power, with lessons learned, and stronger for having done so — I did, and it allowed me to love myself again for the first time in years.

I am not ashamed to say that I know what it is like to be sucked into a washing machine universe with Salvia Divinorum, and made incredible art thereafter when I put paintbush to canvas. As I type this, I have a San Pedro Cactus hanging out in my living room that I will eventually turn into Ayahuasca — considered to be sacred medicine by the Amazonian spiritworkers and healers, the Ayahuasceros — to attain a gnosis and equilibrium between myself and the universe around me. Coincidentally, these two things are unlawful to possess in Adrion’s Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but are legal in my own state of Washington.

All of these things, I have done — and what’s more, I enjoyed it, too! — and during this conversation with Adrion and his small and super-aggro cabal of anti-drug zealots, I argued that not all drug users are necessarily drug abusers, and that some who use can do so as responsible adults — as Washington State voters agreed marijuana users can do in 2012, when I-502 passed into law, legalizing marijuana and birthed our state’s booming marijuana industry.

Such adults, I argued, can find success, happiness, and fulfillment in life not in spite of, but regardless of, their chosen vices, provided they “get their shit done, comport themselves well in public and in private, don’t allow it to consume or dictate their lives, and above all, do so with class and a certain dignity”.

Adrion disagrees with that opinion quite strongly, and calls himself “anti-drug”, though from his commentary, he could be more accurately described as “anti-drug user”, as his opinions on the people affected by drugs (whether positively or negatively) are just as strong, if not stronger, than his opinion on drugs in general. His views are very pointed on the subject: people that use drugs are doing it to escape some pain in their lives, fill some hole in their hearts, or make up for some personal failing.

Those that aren’t?

They don’t exist, according to Adrion.

I Feel This Way, So Should Everyone Else, Right?

Adrion says he feels this way due to several of his close acquaintances and family members having struggled with drugs in the past, which he cites as proof that, in his own myopic view, there cannot possibly be any other reason for a person to use or consider using drugs.

Apparently the phrases “everything in moderation” and “some people may enjoy it,” never entered into the mind of the young manager, who works for a successful and small corporation local to eastern Pennsylvania; drugs are the only vice Mr. Beitler takes issue with other people doing, interesting, considering the number of alcoholics in his home Commonwealth being significantly higher than that of drug users.

Although Adrion admits that he has never before faced issues of homelessness, joblessness, or poverty (unlike both Marty and this author), and that he has always had a support network of “strong, kind, successful” people — the kind of people that Marty unfortunately did not have access to — Adrion curiously claimed that he has always “always struggled” throughout his life, though when asked, did not elaborate how.

He also called me “lazy”, and said that he “felt sorry” for me, both because of my past and current use, and unwilling to entertain any notion contrary to his own, repeatedly insisted that I “get help”.

Adrion and I have never personally met, and have only rarely before spoken on one another’s pages.

But the true impetus for this article? How smug and full of himself he was during this discussion. It was then that I decided to make him “asshole famous”.

Full of an uncomfortable amount of self-righteousness, and the apparent knowledge of what is best for everyone, Adrion was adamant that he stood by everything he typed, “did not care” about me, my “weak ideas or opinions” (weak because I have used drugs before, of course), or that I was writing this piece (that no one will ever read or will care about, according to him).

He repeatedly stated that he was unafraid of anything he said or typed, and that he was, beyond any doubt, correct in his view that any drug use of any kind makes you a essentially horrible person, is a sign of inherent weakness (as opposed to himself, a “strong” person), that such people were undesirable, who “needed help” regardless of their method or manner of use or any other factor of their life.

Most disturbing of all, there seems to have been the flirtation with the concept of actually outing someone, by name, who Adrion suspected of being on drugs. That was the point that incensed me to the point that I commented in the first place.

No one should ever, ever be outed without their knowledge or consent. To do so is to ruin a life, ruin the relationships, and jeopardize an entire future of someone else for no reason other than to pass judgement, and make one’s self feel superior at the expense of someone else.

Adrion, it can be reasonably surmized, might argue the point that that person should, then, have never engaged in drugs in the first place, and such an outing would not occur. I would argue that it isn’t Adrion’s place to judge, or to involve himself at all, in someone else’s private life, regardless of his opinion on them or what they’re doing, or ever say or do anything that he knows would likely impact their lives in a negative way, just so he could make his point (hence why this article exist, to instead, teach him that point).

Whether or not Adrion still stands by his words is up for debate, but as of this writing, the post is still publicly accessible and viewable on Facebook. If he does still stand by his words, you will be able to view it here, and read the entire conversation for yourself. If not, I have it saved, in its entirety, on Google Drive, for reference for this article, to save article space, and will supplement it if the need arises.

Included in that is the adorable attempt at intimidation that his brother — who calls himself a former user that’s allegedly “under investigation” by the “gang unit” of his small, Pennsylvania locality — made to me.

When I mentioned I was writing this article, Adrion’s brother made an implied threat of… something, presumably if I went ahead and posted it. What that something was, I’m not quite sure, but when I asked if he was attempting intimidation, he told me I “could take it however” I liked.

I suppose that tactic must work in some more provincial quarters amongst provincially minded people but certainly wouldn’t work in Seattle; and so after I laughed hard enough to spit my coffee out out of my mouth at the most pathetic attempt at appearing to be badass I have literally ever seen, I put on my “come at me bro” face, and told him that being the baddest ass in Whogivesafuck, PA, was the equivalent of “being the toughest kid at the home school.” Why did I say that? Because it is.

I mention this because I want him to understand when he reads this just how terrified of his old podunk gang of Pennsylvania cow-tippers I actually am — which is to say, not at all. =P …Moving on.

“Be Drug-Free Or Else” vs “Please Drug Responsibly”

Tying it all together, what do InSites, Marty, Adrion, and I all have to do with one another? I called Marty back after he left his office for the day to follow up on our morning conversation, and after reading to him, verbatim, the commentary from Adrion, his brother, and others in the comment thread, he and I shared a laugh at the brother’s poorly veiled attempt at intimidation (and he agreed with me on the cow-tipping).

Other than that one bright moment, Marty’s feelings on the comments could be politely described as complicated.

Over Skype, I was watching him in the corner of my screen as I read aloud to him what the posters had to say about drug users, former drug users (which was only slightly better), and by proxy, the young people with whom Marty works to get off of the streets, and into homes, schools, and jobs: midway through the read, I watched him look away to wipe a tear away from his left eye.

“It brings up, for me, I think, a lot of emotions, memories,” he said after I was finished, visibly and audibly disturbed. “This is what I mean, this is why I never went in to go see anyone [about his addiction], these are the attitudes that keep people from getting help.”

“That it is everywhere is obvious, and you know here on the West Coast, we live in our own bubble, and people here put out their public face and say, ‘yeah, let’s legalize drugs, let’s get treatment going, let’s help people’, but then when you’re in front of them at 711 and you use your Quest card [Washington State’s food benefit program] to buy a pizza, you get comments from people behind you in line, ‘oh he’s spending our money on food so he can spend his on drugs.’ There is this attitude people got, particularly white people, who think like this kid does, but if you ask them, they’re all progressive, you know, until you turn your back.”

He continued. “I guess wherever this kid lives they don’t even pretend to be open minded on it, it is ‘be drug free or else’, and they say so, and they’re proud of it, and they call us failures, and all these terrible names, and as I’m listening to everything they say, I’m thinking, ‘this is what I didn’t want to go through when I wanted to go in [to get help] but didn’t’. These are the mindsets that need to change.”

“Instead of saying, ‘be drug free or else’, maybe if these folk started saying ‘please drug responsibly’, that is a little change that can make a big difference in getting people to go in to InSite or to their doctor or to their family or to their pastor maybe, for help. If my family said that to me, I might have gone for help sooner before I got to the place I was in my life where I had no other choice.”

Resolute, Marty went on to say, “I see it with the kids from the streets, if they had people who understood them influencing them, they’d probably rather be asking their moms and dads to help them instead of a guy like me, you know, a stranger of a different colour who don’t know the first thing about them.”

The Lesson To Be Learned Here

Almost one year ago, Seattle Weekly published a piece entitled It’s Time To Talk About Legalizing Drugs , written in the wake of the revelation that President Nixon’s Drug Czar lied about the premise of the War on Drugs that he and Nixon started, and that the actual reason for its inception was to scapegoat people of colour and young people for political purposes.

It is now known that the Nixon Administration knew even then that marijuana and most other drugs were medically harmless, yet still pursued the War on Drugs and Drug Users. Today, marijuana is already legal here in Washington State, and now, legal in all of Cascadia and along the entirety of the West Coast.

In one of the more recent editions of Rolling Stone magazine, MDMA (molly, the purer form of the club drug Ecstasy, which was my personal favourite) is being hailed as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to recent case and test studies, the results of which have consistently been called “beyond promising, a downright success” by researchers.

In addition to marijuana and MDMA, cocaine, speed, LSD, ketamine, and mushrooms, are all named by these articles and a growing number of others both inside and outside of the Pacific Northwest as drugs whose problems mostly stem far more from their illegality than they do from the effects of the drugs themselves.

Likewise, their illegality has also historically led to the seeking out of other drugs for other highs, and this has almost always ended in making drug abuse worse, not better — after all, why would anyone huff paint if not because it was the last option we left them with?

K2, “Spice”, and “Bath Salts” would never have become a thing if we had been more reasonable and more compassionate about our drug laws and our attitudes toward drugs and users.

The social ills that plague most drug abusers and their families are neither cured nor remedied by drugs continuing to be illegal for the end user, holding only a future of financial debt, loss of opportunities, and a criminal record if one is caught with them in their possession. There are records, studies, statistics, articles, and expert opinions dating back four decades that say the same: that the War on Drugs is not winnable by banning drugs and jailing their end-users.

And those who benefit and profit from continuing prohibition — namely the for-profit and private prison industry in the United States as well as much of the law enforcement community — are the only ones left (apart from Adrion and his Uptight Citizens Brigade) arguing that drugs cannot be enjoyed responsibly, and that legalization is out of the question.

Marty and others would not have been afraid to go in for help, in large part, if it weren’t for the stigmatization that all drug users, including marijuana users outside of Cascadia, face from their friends, family, and society; and wouldn’t have had to wait until the inception of the wonderfully successful InSite program and its judgement-free environment to do it.

They also would have gone in for help sooner if they didn’t have to fear the legal and criminal consequences for them if they came forward and admitted they had issues with drugs and needed help to retake their lives.

The bottom line is simply this: The Adrions of the world and the Uptight CItizen Brigades that they lead are simply flat-out wrong — their opinions are based on assumption and innuendo, and are the result of four decades of misguided social laws which caused the very problems they were purported to have been put in place to prevent.

More to the point, the result of perspectives like those? Put simply: Stigma=Death.

Adrion judges books by their covers, and the purpose of this article was to teach him that lesson that he should have learned in Pre-K from some singing muppet on public television (that, and knock his smug attitude down a peg or two into something resembling humility) but really, the lesson is for us all:

We must recognize that there is a major difference between someone who uses drugs and someone who abuses drugs.

Using drugs, in and of itself, does not make you a bad person. It does not make you a failure. It does not mean that you are compensating for any personal failing or trying to escape something negative about your life. If you enjoy drugs, then use drugs responsibly, and be objective enough to know your limits, surround yourself with friends who will serve as your personal check against overdoing it, and as always, be classy.

Abusing drugs doesn’t make you a bad person either, and asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness nor of failure. When you are ready to seek help for yourself, seek help for yourself, and on your own schedule; to do it at the behest of someone else or at someone else’s order has almost always, statistically, ended in failure and relapse.

The InSite program is so successful because its treatment portion is made available upon the voluntary request of the program’s patrons, and free from the threat of ruining their lives with legal problems and a criminal record. Unfettered by judgement or stigmatization, they seek help on their own, and more than that, see their treatment through successfully 80% of the time.

Do Your Part and Start The Change

In order for us to end the epidemic of opiate abuse and all other forms of addiction, we need to rethink, completely, how we think about drugs, drug users, drug abusers, drug laws, and how we approach drug treatment and harm reduction.

I agree with and endorse Seattle Weekly’s article as guidance, and the idea that all drugs should be at the very least decriminalized for end users, across the board; and that most of the drugs I’ve mentioned in this article, with the exception of heroin, should be legalized in the same fashion that we legalized marijuana.

If marijuana users didn’t come forward about marijuana all of those years ago, and showed the real picture of what most marijuana users looked like, beyond the stereotype portrayed by media and by those who could not control themselves, it never would have been legalized in 2012.

They had to show us that they can be successful, happy, and healthy too, and that marijuana did not supplant, replace, or serve as a band-aid for anything in their lives, but rather, made their lives more enjoyable; and perhaps was even beneficial for them.

But surely we can all agree that ‘drug free or else’ is not fucking helping anyone.

And so, to be the change I want to see in the world, as a certain revolutionary Hindu once taught us, I start.

I’m Casey, I’m 30, and I live in Seattle. I’m happy with my life. I pay all of my bills on time, I have never once missed a rent payment, and I am active in social circles. I volunteer for causes I believe in, and I’m an activist who cares about his community. I’ve gotten laws changed, stood up for people that needed to be stood up for, and I make awesome discoveries in old books! I am a successful and well read writer, accomplished classical guitarist and vocalist, soon to be author of what I hope will be a successful book, I live in the city I love in my own apartment with my awesome (and appropriately black coated) cat Sebastian, and I’m doing what I love, and living my dream.

I enjoy a glass of wine every once in a while, as I do a good IPA and a bong full of weed… and if I indulge in anything beyond that, I do so as a responsible, informed adult, with class, dignity, discretion, and good judgement, and most importantly: it’s no one’s god damned business but my own.

And look, the sky didn’t fall down! =P

To the Adrions of the world, get over what I do in my life, and start worrying about the insecurities you have in your life that prompt you to feel it necessary to put others down in order to pick yourself up; and perhaps, together, if we are a little more honest and more open with ourselves and with others, and surely far more compassionate toward one another, we can make our communities better, safer, and healthier places for us and for every generation to come.

Happy 4/20.

Epilogue — Whatever happened to Marty, Adrion, and Casey?

Marty decided that, after the second Skype call, he was going to do his part to end the stigma, too, and decided to call his family in Utah, and come out of the closet about his past. “Change starts with me, it starts within before it can grow without.” It was him saying that that led to this article ending how it did.

Adrion believe it or not seemed to learn his lesson on judging others. Well, at least partially. He messaged on Facebook and began to ask actual questions and attempt to understand where I was coming from, which is progress. Despite his insistence to the contrary, his animated reaction to the prospect of this article showed how much he actually did care what people thought about him, and although he dug his heels deeper into a knee-deep ‘pile of smug’, I’m betting he’ll think twice before judging someone too harshly in the future, and instead of entertaining the notion of outing or shaming them for not meeting his own moral standards, may consider instead offering a shoulder to lean on and a helping hand to someone who may need it. If he doesn’t, then he really is just a privileged, stuck up, bro from the Pennsylvania suburbs, and I’ll be extraordinarily disappointed.

As for Casey? He made coffee and went back to work on the DeClaremont Code series. His future plans going home to feed his cat, making dinner, calling his parents, and reading a book. If you are looking to assist in a positive effort to help combat addiction and drug abuse, Casey asks that you donate or volunteer with the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, a group of drug users and former users who operate needle exchanges and offer users assistance in making safer decisions and in seeking treatment.

If you are in the Seattle area and someone who uses drugs and needs clean supplies, such as needles and pipes, information on safer methods of use, risk and harm reduction, or help with use management, reduction, or cessation, please check out the following organizations. They’re there to help you with whatever you need and on your schedule, will never judge you, and will treat you with love, decency, respect, compassion, and understanding:
The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance
ProjectNEON
Seattle Counseling Services
Washington State Department of Health
HealthWA — Washington State Health Care Authority
WA Prep-DAP Program (Information) (English/Español)
WA Prep-DAP Program (Enrollment Form PDF)

Casey Evans is a writer, activist, and musician based in Seattle, WA. A Proud Cascadian, Casey reports and offers commentary on politics, culture, spirituality, and life in the Pacific Northwest.

Corrections and Clarifications:
An earlier version of this article stated that I asked Mr. Beitler if he drank alcohol and received no response. It turned out, due to my travelling between WiFi hot spots as I was posting that question, that question failed to post, and as such I removed that sentence from the article, as Mr. Beitler could not be expected to respond to a question he never had the opportunity to see.

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