A Celebration of (Us)ers’ – We know who we are

Today is International Drug Users’ Day.
There’s no doubt that for all of us, life can be a bit crap sometimes. However, today is not a day for whinging about how crap it is to be us. Today we are “celebrating the strength of our community, our solidarity and our empowerment”. So today, I want to write a little ode to the people, the places, and the substances I love.

Junky Generosity
Illicit drug users are poor most of the time, it’s one of the consequences of making drugs illegal. But when we have a dollar to spare we are often the first people to give it away, and we don’t feel the need to make moral judgements about what it’s going to be used for: “You want a dollar to put petrol in your car? Go ahead, I hope you get enough so you can score too! In fact, I hope you score and have some left for whatever other crap you want to spend it on, like maybe scoring again tomorrow! Yay!”
If I had a dollar for every time I have heard those “normal” people justify why they don’t give money to people who beg for it, or why they don’t tip, or why they are basically tightarses, I could probably fund every homeless drug users’ habits for a year. It seems like the more money people have the less likely they are to share it. But I have seen so many people who have almost nothing give their last few dollars to someone who needs it so that they can have something to eat or pick up their methadone dose for the day or get some medicine for their cat. Drug users don’t need to know what it’s for, and don’t usually care. But the “straight” person on the street will refuse to give money to someone with a story because they assume it will be used for drugs and they don’t think it’s right. They aren’t going to pay for some “dole bludgers drugs”, or even better, they “don’t like being lied to”. What would they do if the person didn’t have a story about having to feed their kids or whatever it is, and just came up to them and said “can I have a few dollars to put towards getting on?”
People make up stories because they don’t have a chance of getting any money if they tell the truth. What gives all these people the right to judge a person for using drugs? I guess they believe they have the right. We make our choices and we have to live with them. Maybe they’re right, but goddamn it, what business is it of theirs? Either give it to someone who clearly doesn’t have much of their own or don’t. Refuse to give it away and then go spend it on a drink to recover from the crap day you’ve had, Mr or Mrs High and Mighty. And while you’re at it, maybe think about how crap your day would have been if you’d been homeless, desperate, hanging out sick, penniless, and had no way of making money other than asking for it from strangers who in turn make you feel even more crap. And while you’re at it, have a little think about why spending money on alcohol is more worthy and justifiable than spending it on other drugs. It’s just another moral judgement based on laws that have nothing to do with right and wrong, designed to keep the powerful people at the top of the pile. And it seems to me it’s an excuse for these people to feel superior about their miserly tendencies.
Meanwhile, drug users will be busy sharing whatever they’ve been able to get for the day in whatever form it comes in.
So good on you, drug users of the world, for your generosity and for refusing to succumb to the unjust moral judgmentalism of the masses.

The Arts and Culture
I’m going to get a little personal here. I was surrounded by users long before I ever tried it myself. I may be one of those people who wants to try everything on offer, but I also noticed early on that being a drug user didn’t necessarily make a person a stereotype. One of the things that made me curious about some of these drugs was the amazing people I knew who used them.
People who use drugs, junkies, speedfreaks, trippers, whatever you use and whatever you want to call yourself, I’m talking about you and I’m using these as terms of endearments. Because you are among the most intelligent and creative people I know. I believe the using community as a whole is filled with talent, ideas, culture, art, music, poetry, political debate, everything that makes a culture vibrant and exciting. We all know the famous users who have given the world some of the best music, art and literature the world has known. Lou Reed, Keith Richards, Brett Whitely, Nick Cave, Hunter S. Thompson, Iggy Pop, Amy Winehouse, William S. Burroughs, Sarah Bernhardt, John Belushi, Kurt Cobain, Jean Cocteau, Sigmund Freud, Robin Williams, Barack Obama, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, John Keats, Billie Holliday, Janis Joplin, Steve Jobs, to name a few. Many of the world’s greatest thinkers and doers, past and present, have used at least one of the drugs known to humankind. Some of them, like Steve Jobs, credit drugs for some of their success and drugs have undeniably been an important part of the creation of many works of art, literature and music.
Of course, I’m not trying to say it’s all good. Whitney Huston and Bobby Brown are also well known users. I think Britney Spears might have given some a go as well, not to mention Lindsay Lohan.
Anyway…….I don’t want to talk about famous people. I don’t know any famous users, but I still know many brilliant, interesting, creative people who use drugs. I friend of mine who creates incredible, intelligent music has been getting up before dawn a few times a week and going to the same location to busk through the morning rush hour for years and years, even when he isn’t feeling the greatest. Many more of my friends have been creating artworks that they use in self-published zines, or they give it to friends, or they create it because they want to. Many other users I know have been integral to grassroots political movements, trying to create a better world for all of us and protesting about issues like drug law reform, the environment, women’s rights and animal welfare.
Drug users have always been here making some of the most valuable contributions to the history of humankind that we have. We will continue to be part of the world for as long as there are humans, and we will continue to be interesting, creative and valuable. I have hope that one day no one will have to hide their drug use, but until that day comes, thank you to all the people who have refused to be crushed by the crap society heaps upon us. Keep up the good work.

Dealers – I Won’t Name Any Names
Dealers are amongst THE most despised people in the world. When people advocate for decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs, they concentrate on the legality of drug possession; dealing is almost always the exception. Drug users might be sick, victims, in need of help, misguided; drug dealers are another thing altogether. They are evil.
For example, I was watching one of those dodgy cop shows a couple of years ago. One week, the main character talked about their respect for some amazingly disgusting rapist serial killer who they described as being so awful they are “almost an artist”. The very next week, without skipping a beat, the same character described a small time dealer as the scum of the earth and thanked the lord this kid was brutally murdered. I mean, why bother even looking for the perpetrator, right? They’d done the world a favour.
That’s how dealers are portrayed in the media and in pop culture. They are alleged to prey on little kids in schools, be violent and greedy, have no morals and no redeeming features, and generally take the role of Satan’s helpers. Then these myths get spread around and taken on as truth.
Most of the dealers I have ever known are just trying to make ends meet. They want enough money to pay for their own small habit and the other things you need in life, like rent and food. They don’t have loads of money and flashy cars and gold teeth. They don’t pimp out their many fragile girlfriends. They don’t hang around schools targeting kids with free drugs. They don’t need to. They provide a service that is asked for and needed by a small part of the population and they aren’t trying to steal anyone’s milk money. Many of them deal only to a few friends. They work long hours with no sick leave or annual leave.
Not only that, the good ones have compassion that is rarely seen in the health system that is supposed to be helping us. Most users have had a dealer who would help them out when they were feeling really sick even if they didn’t have money at the time. And the very best ones are quick, on time, and don’t play any power games with you. They care about their own and our safety and do their best not to put us in any awkward or dangerous positions. Many of them become our friends if they weren’t our friends in the first place.
And let’s face it, as drug users, where would we be without dealers? Not very happy, I reckon.
So I would like to acknowledge all the dealers out there who look after the users out there. You know who you are. Thank you, and happy international drug users’ (and dealers’) day. Oh, and in recognition of that fact, could I have some tick?

Parents Can Be Users Too
Some of the best, most loving, caring, parents I have ever known are users. They might not always have loads of spare cash to buy off their kid’s goodwill, but they have time, love, generosity and all the things kids actually need from their parents. If you think parents make sacrifices for their kids, think of some of the things using parents have had to go through. They go without to make sure their kids have the physical things they need, but it’s the way they are with their kids that makes the most difference, in my opinion.
I’m not saying every user is the best parent in the world, but the stereotype is that you can’t be a good parent and use drugs, and that is so wrong. Not only is it wrong, it’s dangerous. It’s very easy for health and social workers to automatically assume users are neglecting or abusing their children without bothering to look at the actual evidence. Users have their kids taken from them, and have to fight to get them back. They can spend years and years doing piss tests to prove they aren’t using when using drugs is not and has never been the problem. You can have all the money in the world and still abuse or neglect your kids. And you can have very little money, use drugs, and love your kids more than anything in the world.
I know many people won’t believe this, but I have seen it not just once, many times. So happy international drug users’ day, mums and dads. I hope you get to do something nice for yourself to celebrate your achievements today (whatever ridiculous, unspellable names you may have given him or her), because you’ve earned it.

One of, if not the very first drug user organisations was Junkiebonden in Amsterdam. I don’t actually know what that means in Dutch, but what I do know is that wherever you go in the world, there are drug users who we bond with in a way we can’t with other people. We share something that is not just about using drugs together, though that can be an enjoyable and bonding experience in itself.
We often have a black sense of humour that is probably the result of being stepped on, beaten up, and spat on repeatedly, without stopping us from doing what we love. How can you live as the scourge of society and not see the funny side of it, eh? I have travelled to countries that are completely different from Australia economically, culturally, in every way, and as soon as I meet people who are users I know I am with friends. A few weeks ago I was sitting in a café in Bangkok with some Indonesian and Indian drug users, and we were laughing so hard that more than one group of people at tables around us got up and moved. That was after they’d given us a lot of dirty looks.
In Australia, we recently started doing trials of naloxone in different states and territories. All the trials are slightly different and the results are coming in. A newspaper article was published a few weeks ago and two non-users involved with the management side of the trials were interviewed. One spoke of the fact naloxone hadn’t been available in the community in the past because drug users hadn’t “put up their hands” and asked doctors for it, while the other spoke of the fact you wouldn’t normally attribute “altruism” to drug users, as if it was surprising we might save our friends when they were dying in front of us.
It’s bullshit, pure and simple. Drug users have always wanted to look after their friends, and when allowed to we have done it. The results of these naloxone trials are testament to the fact. The trials that give naloxone to actual drug users have been really successful, while the ones that aren’t based on peer distribution of this life saving drug have failed. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, critics.

A Final Note
Drug users are part of the character of our cities. The stereotype of drug users as lazy, useless, dribbling, stupid losers is (in my humble opinion) clearly, plainly, obviously wrong. The idea that we have to stop using to be able to “reintegrate into society” and become “worthwhile members of the community” is also as wrong as can be. We are already worthwhile members of the community. We are already here and the straight people of the world should be thanking us for it, because without us their community would be as dull and lifeless as I imagine hell would be. So let’s say it loud and proud. Hell is a world without junkies. So today, I want you to think of the amazing experiences you’ve had, and the beautiful people you’ve known, and thank the world that it contains drugs. I’d say have one on me, but I’m sorry, I can’t afford it.


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