Sudden Silence: Hidden Voices
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Sudden Silence: Hidden Voices is an adaptation of a photo voice project funded through a Vancouver Community Action Grant. The purpose of this project is to highlight the tragedy of the overdose crisis and introduce some of those who have been lost. Their loss is most keenly felt through their loved ones. Their grief cannot be described in words and is their constant companion. This project also focusses on the impact of the stigma for using drugs and of how safe supply might have made a difference.
Photo by Gabrielle Beer
Loyal, Passionate, Curious
Nate was passionate and curious. He was very loyal and had a wonderful sense of humour. As a little kid he was outgoing and hilarious. He loved to skateboard, and he was very talented. He had attracted a sponsor with his boarding skills and, at one time, hoped to make a career in the skateboard industry.
When Nate was 14, he first began to use pot with friends who hung out at the skateboard park. Later in his teens, he and his friends tried alcohol and mushrooms. As a young adult, Nate used cocaine on the weekends when he was out partying with friends.
Although Nate was skilled in many areas, he was anxious about not being good enough and was concerned that his progress through life was behind many of his peers. Nate felt that his friends were "moving on”, getting married, and having children, and becoming addicted put him even further behind. Drug use helped him with some of the social discomfort of these thoughts. Nate also had some struggles because he felt that his bio dad had essentially abandoned him. Nate was very much loved and supported by many just as he loved those around him right back.
Nate worked in construction as a concrete former. At work he fell from a second level scaffolding and was injured. He could not return to work for three weeks. To help him deal with the pain from his injury he was prescribed Percocet. When the prescription ran out, Nate found that he had become addicted to them and so he started to purchase these from street level dealers. Nate was ashamed that he had become addicted. He hid these difficulties from his friends. Due to the shame he was feeling, he felt unable to confide in others. Nate’s mom, Tiffany, said that Nate confided in her that he was “100% ashamed” of the addiction that prevented him from getting on with his life.
Nate, with the support of his mom, tried treatment for his addiction many times. He was in and out of treatment for the next three years. He would do well at first and then relapse. Then when COVID hit, support meetings stopped and Nate felt isolated. During this time he got into fentanyl.
Tiffany, Nate’s mom, felt that if a regulated safe supply would have been an option, Nate would have used these during times he relapsed. Relapsing back to drug use is common and it is estimated that 40 to 60 of those who are addicted relapse as they attempt to disentangle themselves from drugs. This relapse rate for addiction is comparable to other physical illnesses, such as high blood pressure, for which the rate of relapse is between 50-70%. Relapses in addiction however are often accompanied by increased shame as the individual feels that they have failed. Ideally to deal with relapsing, people should be able to enter treatment, begin an OAT(Opioid Agonist Treatment) program, or obtain a regulated safe supply without delay. However, this is not aways possible due to waitlists and the lack of available treatment options. Therefore, someone relapsing will often seek drugs from street dealers. Now those who relapse run the risk of getting drugs that are toxic and of uncertain strength and composition. These drugs are poisoning and killing people.
Nate is very missed by his family and friends. Nate had a real passion for helping others, even those who were struggling in active addiction. He kept in touch with people and continued supporting and encouraging them. He and his mom often did outreach together. After Nate died, many made it a point to mention to his mom how Nate had really helped and stood by them during their difficult times.