Harm Reduction

Recently I began volunteering for an organization that I have been eyeing for quite some time. My volunteering basically consists of hanging out in a steel van (that looks more like a HUGE bus) in an alley, getting to meet new people, provide clean and safer instruments for injection drug use, provide testings for infectious diseases and learning more about “the least of these”.  I’ve only volunteered a couple of times so far, but I’m really liking it.

Not only is it an excellent way for me to meet my own wants and needs of advocating and working for and with the poor, I am learning so much about those that have been cast out of society.  This is a completely hands on experience.

So of course there have been some inquiry on how and why I would want to be volunteering for such an organization that provides cleaner ways for substance users to use… And I completely welcome the questions (obviously it gives me the opportunity to talk about such needed work in the United States).  I don’t have it all figured out and I continue to have some troubles in wrapping my brain around the entire issue.  But, what I do know and am certain about is, this is a very needed service.  Providing clean needles (of all gauges), clean “cookers”, clean cotton pads, clean small cotton balls, vitamin C packets, access to Naloxone… are so needed in a society where we are living with or dying of completely  preventable diseases.

I guess the most common question (or statement, rather) that I have been receiving (more or less) is, “You know that you are just enabling druggies, don’t you?”  Well, I guess you can see it that way, and I can see why you see it that way, but I don’t agree with the sentiment.  Users are going to use and unless they personally decide to stop, they’re not going to be able to… So why not provide a cleaner and safer way for those who are using?  Self determination…we should all understand that (I was going to write, “allow for that”, but who are we to allow for anything).  After all, the last thing I want or need in my own life is for someone (who has their own issues) to tell me what to do.  I change when I want to. When I’m ready to.  So while substance users continue to use, this organization believes that they are worth the services, worth the education, worth the advocacy… because they are people too.

This approach is called Harm Reduction.  I first learned of this while I was interning for my master’s program.  The easiest way to explain is this, “meeting people where they’re at”.  For example, instead of not allowing the homeless population to receive housing services because they are substance users is a ridiculous notion.  Can we all agree that housing should be/is a human right? So to place stipulations on receiving a human right must be therefore…wrong… Right? This may not be a good comparison to providing cleaner and safer ways for injection drug use, but it’s the approach I’m trying to define.

So this is the approach, and I’m liking it.  I like the idea of “meeting people where they’re at”.  Perhaps this is because those that work with this approach are not imposing of their personal views and beliefs on those they’re working with…and that’s admirable.  As I continue to go out there on the weekends, I’m positive that I will learn more about humanity from this experience than from other more “socially acceptable” ones.  Feel free to ask me what I’m learning.

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Tattoo Day.

SOOOOOOOO… Here’s my tattoo!

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I’m pretty excited about it still…although, just days later,  it is totally becoming a natural thing to see on my wrist.  I went to Metamorph Tattoo and Tiny was my tattoo artist. She was SO sweet and made me feel so much better about the whole pain thing.  You know, leading up to tattoo day, I had people tell me different things about the pain.  Most said that it wouldn’t hurt at all. LIARS! It hurt. I mean, I am proud of myself that I didn’t cry or try kicking Tiny, but it HURT… less than what I was prepared for, but it STILL HURT.

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Metamorph Tattoo was SPOTLESS. The people that worked there were down to earth, no attitude, and didn’t look at me or speak to me like I was stupid.  I had called a few places, looked at ratings on yelp and city search, and checked out a bunch of websites.  This seemed like the best fit for me.  I was SO right. They had a Vday special, Couples: Buy one get one free… Nope, couldn’t convince Sean to get one, but he loves mine! Yay!

You can check out the rest of my pictures on my facebook!

V day

9 days till V day and I’m so excited. and nervous. and scared. I’ve been wanting to get a tattoo for quite some time now but it’s kind of been on the back burner because I (especially Sean) wanted to make sure I was positively and absolutely ready and sure that I wanted something so permanently etched into my wrist.  It almost happened during Christmas/New Years, but Sean just about had a panic attack…so we compromised and decided on 02.14.2009.

I realize that this is going to be kind of a big deal because it’s just so permanent… I’ve felt some resistance about this idea.  But, perhaps I can clear up any misunderstandings.  There is a stigma that comes with tattooing; we all know what we see in our minds when most people mention tattooing, sometimes it can be something trendy or wanting to make a statement, some people just like tattoos, or for some it might be a drunken accident.  All are fine reasons…

But, for me (& most people I know that have tattoos), this tattoo that I have sketched out means something on a whole different level.   For me, it’s a commitment to peace. justice. mercy. hope. love. It’s oh so permanent, which surprisingly doesn’t freak me out, not even a little bit.  The part that freaks me out, the part that I can’t really think about too much because I might pee my pants, is the getting ink on my skin with a sharp needle part.  I have NEVER liked needles, although, I guess, who really does?  But I vividly remember at the end of 8th grade when everyone needed to get some shot for high school, I kicked my doctor repeatedly because he was getting too close to me with that huge needle.  I’d like to hope that I have gotten better.  But alas, we shall see.

So. Wish me some luck, send up a prayer.  I will show you the end result!

it’s official.

Registration Confirmation for:

Dear Alice,

Congratulations! You are now registered for Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Please check the event’s official website for updates: http://www.chicagomarathon.com

Congratulations! You are entered to run in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 11, 2009. The Marathon will take place at 7:30 a.m. in Grant Park, Chicago. For additional Race details visit chicagomarathon.com

**Today was the first day to register for the Chicago Marathon.  I didn’t want to take any chances on the race meeting capacity before signing up!  I’m pretty excited about the race; I’m going into it this time knowing exactly what I’m up against.  I do have a goal time this year (I’ll keep it to myself for now) and I also have a fundraising goal ($3,000!!!).  Don’t you worry…I’m not asking for you to donate…yet. 🙂  I am running with Team World Vision again (they were amazing last year!), I’ll need to get some more info on how the donated $ will be put to good this year.

Anyhow, I am really excited.  Hopefully making it official will push me to be more consistent in my runs for the remainder of this horribly cold winter.  If you’ve ever thought about running a marathon, take the plunge! It’s an incredible experience; you’ll push your body to the limits and you’ll come away learning so much about yourself.