My name’s K. Night; that makes me the human form of all of the stars in the sky. Night is actually my mother’s last name. I have her last name because my parents never got married; it was common law.
I’m not originally from Vancouver; I’m from Saskatchewan. I grew up in a broken family and my mom had me when she was young. She was trying to raise her family and go to school at the same time. I remember that my dad would come home from work every day and beat my mom because she was drinking rather than taking care of the kids. I used to confront him and yell, “Dad! Why are you hitting mom?” However, he would just kick me into a corner and yell back at me, “That’s none of your business, ya little twerp.”
Both of my parents were alcoholics. When you’re an alcoholic, you consume anything with alcohol in it: hairspray, listerine, you name it. Do you know what my mom got drunk on? Vanilla oil. Who gets drunk on vanilla oil? My brother was also an alcoholic. He died from drinking too much listerine, it probably destroyed his gut.
Back in Saskatchewan, I committed a lot of armed robberies. I had a competition going with my cousin Robby Night to see who could commit the most armed robberies. I committed 11 armed robberies, but he got 12. I don’t regret the decisions I made and I would never rat on my cousin. We’re family. You have to keep a family secret for at least 10-20 years.
I moved to Vancouver in 2008 to seek a sober life. I just couldn’t live that way anymore. When I first moved here, I asked my relatives for help, but they wouldn’t offer any and even turned against me. I reached out to my sister, Anita, who is one year older. One night when I was with her, she decided to mix alcohol with pure cocaine. I told her that it was a bad idea, but she kept saying, “I can handle it”. She ended up swiping out two butcher knives and attempted to kill me, but she only managed to cut my hand with one of the knives. After that, I never contacted her again. She eventually died from alcohol poisoning.
I’ve been sober since I’ve moved to Vancouver, but I take morphine as a painkiller to keep myself calm. Without it, I would probably be committing armed robberies again.
I’ve been part of the Downtown Eastside community for a while now and I’ve realized that I’m better off by myself. There are some really crazy people here. They like to show off; some say they killed 200 people a day, taken children at night, or committed armed robberies. I would never do any of that; that’s just not me.
What I’ve learned so far from my life is that I don’t want to interact with people. I don’t want to have close friends or start a family. It’s very hard to trust people because even family can turn against you. My best advice is to try and keep to yourself and mind your own business to live and protect yourself.
Although I am against drug abuse, I can empathize with why he’s turning to drugs to not have to feel pain again, especially after hearing all the hardship that he’s encountered throughout his life. I admire him for being strong enough to move all the way to Vancouver in order to distance himself from the negative environment that he grew up in and to improve himself as a person. He could have easily decided to continue down the same path as his family, but he chose to change his ways and sober up since moving here.
Being curious, I asked him what drugs he typically takes and his reason for taking them. He candidly explained that it was the only way that he knew how to control his feelings and to keep calm. He firmly believes that his consumption of morphine is preventing him from slipping into old habits of committing armed robberies and turning back to who he was. I felt that it was a valid reason for him to turn to drug use, even if I don’t agree with this choice.
After multiple interactions with residents of the Downtown Eastside and hearing their stories, I wanted to learn more about their thoughts of drug use for the general public, especially since they offer valid reasons as to why they have chosen this avenue to relieve their pain and or stress. I asked him if he would recommend that I take drugs since I am currently under constant stress and unhealthy amounts of pressure as a student.
He looked up and stared at me for a moment. “No, you should use something that you can take orally, like aspirin or tylenol,” he replied. He rolled up his leather jacket to reveal all of his bandages. “Morphine is something you need to inject directly into your veins and if you miss, you can get an infection and maybe even lose your whole arm. You see, I use it because my ex-friends taught me how to use it back in Saskatchewan. I wanted to escape it all so I took it. I still take it now because it’s something I’m familiar with. It’s also much more accessible and cheaper down here than aspirin and tylenol you find in stores.”
I never realized how inexpensive drugs like morphine are and how easily accessible they can be if you know the right people in the area. Perhaps one of the reasons that many residents of the Downtown Eastside turn to an array of drugs to relieve their pain is simply due to their cheap price and their availability relative to less addicting drugstore alternatives. It was an eye-opening conversation to learn more about how drug abuse arises by listening to someone share their personal experiences. As a student, it’s difficult to have these conversations and to know that we don’t have the power to initiate changes that would make a significant impact on these individuals’ lives. However, I am optimistic that if we take the time to understand the situations of the residents of the Downtown Eastside through these types of conversations and share them with the community, we will be able to shed light on the policy changes that need to be put into place to provide the resources these residents need to turn their lives around.