I’m on my way to a certain football club to talk to certain doctors and other health professionals. I’ve never driven to Brisbane before, never. I used to train it to Biala to pick up my dose and score until they transferred me to the Coast and I found a good dealer here. My heart is racing for two reasons:
1. I’ll probably get lost and might not make it there (unthinkable)
2. I’m going to talk to General Practitioners, who by their very nature intimidate the shit out of me, that’s just a fact (hopefully changeable).
I make it to the club and drop and my keys getting out of the car, breaking them, thereby locking myself out of the car, and all my information inside. I quickly (through sheer panic) channel someone who knows how to put electronic keys back together and manage to do just that. I tell myself I am awesome and remind myself a few short years ago no one would be silly enough to let me borrow their car let alone pay me to drive it through the city so I could talk for 30 minutes.
I wouldn’t mind a shot to calm down then I remind myself I don’t use any more and haven’t had a shot for 6 years, sometimes when stressed though my body forgets and yearns for the quickest stress relief. It seems recovery really is an endless journey. And besides I am here today to talk about Harm Minimisation and discrimination to health professionals; being on the nod might take the impact out of my message.
I walk into the room and immediately start to hyperventilate. I tell myself these guys and girls are only GP’s, not much more than glorified plumbers really. And I have walked on their side of life (having grown up in a very well to do family) but I doubt any of them have walked on mine. So clearly, I am much better informed than them in many areas.
Well that didn’t work I am still as anxious as hell.
I stand up in front of 60 professionals all presumably waiting for me to enlighten them in some way so I begin with a joke to put everyone (most of all me) at ease. The whole room erupts with laughter. I am taken by surprise and immediately forget everything I am supposed to say. My notes rearrange themselves so I can’t find anything to put me back on track. The power point I am using was put together by someone else and I can’t follow it. I start to make things up as I go along making sure I stick to facts and being embarrassingly honest about my past. I talk too fast and finish my segment 10 minutes early (an eternity in workshop time). I came here to explain Harm Minimisation and to change people’s perceptions of what someone who uses or has used illicit drugs looks like and to show them one can be or become whoever one chooses to. Now I am thinking maybe that’s not the case, but I gave it my best shot and know exactly what not to do if I am ever asked to give another talk.
The session is over and I am relieved if a little doubtful that I have made my point. I try to make it to the bathroom where I can maybe drown myself in the hand basin; but I don’t make it to the bathroom because so many people want to speak to me about my journey and congratulate me on the honesty of my talk and to point out they never would have picked me as someone who had used illicit drugs and had a blood borne virus.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d made my point. I’d changed perceptions. Not with statistics and incredible organizing abilities; but by being myself, by being truthful, by appealing to people’s compassion and common sense; by educating the participants the way I crave to be educated and treating them the way I like being treated. I made many positive contacts that day and left feeling like I deserved the faith put in me by my employers when they asked me to come here. I could definitely do this again; I just hope no one asks me too soon.