John grew up in a small town outside of Ottawa, with his mom and step-father. He attended public school, and had already done a year of high school when he asked to go live with his father in Ottawa, seeking more freedoms. He says his house was pretty strict, which was in some ways paradoxical.

“My mom smokes pot all the time! So I was like…I want to do these things too! And I knew my dad was cool—he’s a Dead Head [Grateful Dead devotee].”

He had already tried smoking pot and drinking, because some of his friends back home were into that during his first year of high school. Then, he came to Ottawa to discover a whole new world of partying.

“Throughout high school, we tried all kinds of drugs. We were a little out of control at some points but mostly we were just having a good time. We were as responsible as we could be, I guess.”

However, on his visits back to his hometown, he was introduced to something harder—injecting drugs. When he got back to Ottawa, his experimenting came with him.

“Before I knew it there were a number of us all using needles. Looking back, it seems so messed up that we were doing it, but there was this group mentality of ‘It’s cool, we know what we’re doing.’ And we really didn’t! A couple of us got infected with Hep C, because some of us became long-term users.”

He slowly started spending more time on the streets, looking for drugs and panhandling to support his habit. A couple of his friends from high-school became long-term users, and he is still in touch with them.

“It was like a brotherhood—there were four of us and we were inseparable. No matter what happened we’d stick together. If one of us went to jail it was such a big deal, we’d all miss that person so much until they got released.

“We all hung out at the Drop-In, and once we did we started learning things we had never heard before—using needles can get you sick! What a revelation—something we should have known right from the beginning. So we get tested, and as I said two of us tested positive for Hep C.”

He is now living in Windsor, and is on methadone to deal with his addiction issues.

“I know a lot of people bash methadone, and think it’s not a good solution, but if you’re doing it for the right reasons, it helps a lot.” He credits methadone for helping him become stable enough to get an apartment and a job. He wants to start treatment for his Hepatitis C, and is looking for a doctor. Moving to Windsor also helped, he adds

“Sometimes you just need to get away from everything in order to move on.”

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