I want you to see the 'real' me -- a man who has been running his entire life, a man who has travelled so far, only to come back to himself. My name is Jean-Paul, and I am a survivor of sexual violence, but I am so much more than that. I am a husband. I am a father. I am a writer. I am an elite athlete. I am an advocate for survivors all around the world.
In my work as a neonatologist, I've looked after many, many babies. I've seen families of all ages, cultures and circumstances. But I've never seen a mother who wanted to harm her growing baby. Yet too often I still see mothers who use alcohol during pregnancy despite extensive educational campaigns about its harmful effects on the growing fetus.
I'm one of those alcoholics who became an alcoholic from my first drink. My life truly went downhill from there. I made bad decisions, made myself a bad reputation and drank more to ease my depression. Having alienated myself from people to stop them from witnessing this mess I was, I started to drink alone. I would binge for days at a time. Enough drinks in me would get me into the beds of complete strangers. It would not be considered consensual in a legal sense with my state of intoxication, thinking back to it now. The guilt and shame overwhelmed me. I had to keep myself intoxicated to keep my depression and anxiety at bay.
Many loved ones of addicts are people pleasers and have been that way for a long time. They may have even learned those codependent behaviours in their own families of origin, not knowing how else to get along in the world. Saying "no" to anyone, especially a potentially rageful or manipulative addict who is still in active addiction, can be a very foreign and scary concept for them.
I was a hard rock miner at the time and fortunately my union, the United Steelworkers, had an Employee Assistance Program whose staff guided me to the treatment I needed. They accepted me as a person who has a problem, not a problem person, and put me on the road to recovering my sobriety and my dignity.
Recently, a lot of media have been reporting on the dispute between Ontario's doctors and the Liberal government headed by Kathleen Wynne, and her Health Minister, Dr. Eric Hoskins. But what is lost in the shuffle is that in addition to the across the board fee reductions, there are a number of targeted fee cuts that have significant implications for patient care going forward.
I drank while taking care of an infant. I was full of fire, ready to tell my story. The book got published; it became a bestseller; I received lots of praise, but also lots of criticism and even the occasional death threat. One of the most challenging and interesting gigs that Drunk Mom brought on was ghostwriting somebody else's memoir. We recognized each other beyond our differences. We were both addicts.
People with lived experience like myself have historically been excluded from being on the same committees, councils and boards as the people who are in charge of making decisions that will affect and impact people like us the most. After many years of waiting, we're finally starting to see organizations comprised solely of people with lived experience and -- even more rarely -- bodies with representation from patients, their families and healthcare professionals. It has always puzzled me as to how you could have committees and councils dedicated to patients with mental illness without having anybody from their community on them -- and it appears those who are working to improve Canada's health system are realizing this as well.
As humans, we need to sleep. It is a biologically unavoidable act. Yet, on both sides of the border, "sleeping" can be considered a criminal act, especially if you are homeless and have no place to rest your head other than in public spaces such as parks. How have cities and states been able to impose and enforce by-laws and ordinances that clearly violate one's right to occupy public space for this very purpose? This summer several cases are putting this longstanding question to the legal test. The outcome might just change the way we view homelessness.
Earlier this summer, Canada's first transitional housing dedicated to LGBT youth opened in Toronto--the YMCA's Sprott House. Reading about this great initiative raised our awareness about an issue that needs to be on the radar of all Canadians -- the unacceptable rate of LGBT youth who have no place to call home. LGBT youth become homeless for much of the same reasons as other young people -- family conflict, abuse, mental health issues and addiction. LGBT youth also experience higher rates of mental health and addiction issues in large part because of discrimination.
Talking to kids about drugs can be difficult, even intimidating for a parent, teacher, or counsellor. It's hard when the children we care about so deeply roll their eyes at us and say, "Yeah, I know!!" But often they don't know, not until someone's death touches them -- and when it comes to this malicious and criminal spread of fentanyl, we have to make sure they do know.
People say that Tinder is addictive, and I can see why. It provides no joy, no closeness, no meaning. It's superficially stimulating and gives a false promise of fulfillment; just enough to compel the user to repeat the activity over and over again, in the hopes that eventually, they'll find what they're looking for.
Conversations about cannabis policy are heating up. So it's no surprise that we suddenly seem immersed in claims and counterclaims on a slew of topics related to cannabis use and regulation. The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy has tasked itself with determining the strength of scientific support for such claims. Over the past year, we've been working diligently on scanning the news media and online conversations about cannabis to identify the most oft-repeated or high-profile claims including the ones above related to its use and regulation.
Two years before I entered high school, I was the victim of a violent rape that took place a mere few kilometres from the football locker room I was now standing in. From the moment of that assault, I chose to disappear, fractured into different people -- the person I was afraid to let you see, the person I wanted you to see, and the young man who struggled with that internal turmoil every day for the next 30 years. I've heard that living as a survivor of rape is like living with a secret tumor. It metastasizes in the dark hollows of shame, and it continues to destabilize and corrupt every bond and every relationship in a survivor's life.
It is not a loving act to allow addicts to get away with self-destructive behaviour. If someone in active addiction is consistently being rescued from the potentially negative and harmful consequences of his or her behaviour by his family, friends, teachers, bosses, or colleagues, then why should he ever change anything?
Over the past few years, I've written extensively about, and on many occasions have spoken candidly of my struggles with addiction, mental health issues, and sexual violence. I have grown to believe that the greatest antidote to fear is honesty, and it's with this in mind, that I share the following with you. For the past few months, I've engaged in a convoluted relationship with time. It all started out rather innocent. Hours were slipping away from me, and I had absolutely no idea how to account for that lost time.
My name is Jean-Paul, and I am in treatment for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Hearing me say that usually elicits one of two responses in people -- abject pity or recoiling fear. I want you to know that I understand where you're coming from, but allow me a few minutes to see if we can change this dialogue.