Once again the topic of drug use and abuse is high on the agenda of news media and talk show radio phone ins. Should heroin be handed out by GP's on prescription, should all drugs be legalised, should prisoners be allowed to claim compensation for having to go through unsupported cold turkey on arrival in jail, should the prison chaplain caught on camera smoking crack keep his job? These and a myriad of other questions all from just the past few days.
Despite having been around and in the company of many people with addictions and lifestyles revolving around substance abuse, I have never been a user myself, (have never fealt the need or the urge despite plenty of opportunity), and I realise this leaves me open to missing part of the issue. I have though, seen friends die - some rapidly, some painfully slowly, I have seen highly skilled craftsmen and academics lose the plot and placid caring individuals behave like monsters as a result of their chemical explorations. All of this and much more would indicate to me that whatever the substance, the addiction and usage these are possibly merely symptoms of much deeper issues.
For me this whole issue leaves more questions than answers. Questions like; How come is it in a 'civilized' western society with a generation that is more entertained than ever we discover real 'men' can't party without several lines of coke? If we're so clever and much more sorted than other third world regions, then why are our family structures so fragmented, victims of abuse are forced to run away to the the streets and shoot heroin to block out the pain and the unwanted, unencouraged child grows into a recluse with a chronic alcohol addiction?
The problems of drug abuse will only be really be dealt with when the deeper issues are not swept under the carpet. Unfortunately those issues are social issues - people, relationships, both personal and corporate responsibilities - shaping families, maintaining communities, providing safe space, disciplined environments, enforced boundaries, treating people as just that - people.
Having read this weeks paragraph of shite in the local freebie paper, relating to the prescence of rough sleepers and addicts in Swansea City centre and immediate areas around St. Helens Road which includes Zac's Place, I can only conclude that a large number of 'upstanding citizens' are unbelievably narrow minded and well, just plain selfish.
I'm not wanting to make excuses for loutish behaviour or the irresponsible disposal of syringes or shitting in doorways, because there aren't any, but I do find it rather bizarre that a local trader can be reported about 'throwing hot water and disinfectant over some tramps sprawled outside his shop one morning'. If I did the same over a politician, or someone who insists on parking their car on the pavement across the Zac's main doors or any number of dozy drivers that try and run me off the road, I'd end up in court. Just because someone has no home and no vote should not mean they have no voice. Please excuse me if I seem a little irrate about the double standards. Also reported was a local club owner making similar complaints, worrying about his £500,000 investment. Poor fella, I can only assume that his night club won't be contributing to any behaviour that resembles drunken, breast flashing, butt bearing, vomitting, 'come on then if you think your hard enough - when I've finished m'kebab', binge drinkers that's more than likely to see one of the windows in our place smashed over this festive period.
Leading up to last Christmas I was out on our regular Thursday night soup run. There was at the time being enforced the 'move the beggars away from Wind Street' thing - (it will have been called something flashy like 'operation not on my doorstep'). I was sat in the gutter with one of the local characters - who's tale of how he ended up in the predicament he is in, is a genuine love story tragedy. We chatted as I poured him some soup and shared some food. As he placed his bottle of white lightening on the path to recieve the soup, he stared at a doorway opposite and shook his head slowly. Through his matted beard he muttered almost with tears in his eyes - 'it's a shame isn't it'. As I looked I saw a young woman all dressed up for the night - hair, make up and Wind Street party dress; there she was, sprawled in a doorway with vomit running down her floral pattern dress and naked thighs. That week the local paper had also run a story about how winos, addicts and beggars were making the town look untidy.