Thierry Rebiffe's poster on compassion matters

Thierry Rebiffe, age 24, is a person who has used drugs and has survived several overdoses.

This story is part of Fraser Health’s Compassion Matters campaign – a series of stories about compassion in the face of the overdose crisis, as told by some of those most impacted by the crisis. Read more of these stories.

I first used drugs when I was 14 and it came from a sense of self-hatred, I guess I would call it.

When I was six, I was treated for a rare blood disease that caused blood flow to stop to my legs. I spent 15 months strapped in a wheelchair, with hip-to-ankle casts on both of my legs. And you know, kids are mean. It was a terrible, terrible time. I didn’t have a lot of friends in school and I’d get shut out of groups.

I started being my own worst enemy. I’d find things that would dull my pain of not fitting in, like fighting a lot, so if I couldn’t ‘fit in,’ at least I could be tougher than them. I started cutting myself as well. I hurt myself physically so that if I could handle that pain, then the pain of everything else would seem less, but then other people saw the cuts and made fun of me for that.

When I was 13, I was drinking and smoking weed and doing other drugs. What people fail to understand is that nobody makes the choice early on to have their quality of life taken away, to eat garbage and be an addict – nobody chooses that. If they did, then they could choose not to be an addict and it would be easy, right?

When your drug use becomes a drug dependency, there’s no choice left.

When I overdosed the first time, I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I was so depressed and torn up inside. I didn’t think that anything was going to be any different now.

Two months later, I overdosed three more times, and I still didn’t want to stop using because it was the only thing I had to numb my pain.

The turning point for me was when I got into a car accident and ended up in the hospital. Having someone there talk to me about getting help, gave me a moment to think, ”Maybe I can do this.” A man who worked there talked to me about his struggles of growing up in poverty, surrounded by incredible racism and violence. He told me you can move past things like that and still get what you want out of life. It made me think about myself, how I’d been through my own struggle, and I started to think, just because I suffer now doesn’t mean I’m always going to suffer.

If I had known people out there understood what I was going through, my life could’ve been a lot different. Once society stops looking at people who are addicted like human garbage, it will make people feel more confident to confront their addiction. All you have to do is treat people like your neighbour, and you’ll get a way better response.

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