Pubdate: Sat, 18 Apr 2009
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Bill Kaufmann


I was expecting to meet Sister Morphine and Keith Richards circa 1971.
I found directional drilling technician Kent instead.

Kent - who looks like the next guy in the lineup at the video store -
had already downed his methadone in the dispensary at Second Chance
Recovery (SCR), a place Calgarians think is swell as long as it's
somewhere else. It's an agency I've driven past countless times
without knowing it's there.

"Without this place, I'd have lost my job, my family and maybe my own
life," says Kent. "People are afraid of what they don't understand ...
I've met people here who are oil company executives."

Like many of the clients I meet at SCR, Kent's problems stemmed from
pain management that used legal opiates like potently addictive Oxycontin.

It's 9 a.m. and the morning rush for the daily liberating dose of
methadone is on, with people lined up three deep in the gleaming white

Office-type plastic in-out trays hold clients' documentation
paperclipped with their photos.

A restaurant-style fountain machine supplies the orange juice
recovering addicts drink with the substitute opiate from a colourful
paper cup. A liquid food supplement is also handed out by the
mini-pharmacy that stocks Advil, Pepto-Bismol and Tums.

Pharmacist Steve Miller says he's previously worked at Safeway and
Shoppers Drug Mart. "I had as many problems at the local Safeway -
people are very respectful because we're helping them," says Miller.

Almost all offer a "thank you" on their way out.

Some of the those who show up are what many would consider "street
scruffy" but most aren't. A middle-aged woman gulps her medication,
saying "I've got to get my dog a hair cut now."

An attractive blond woman in Flames attire does her dose and chats
playoff hockey before darting out.

Single father Gord, 40, arrives with a wooden cane and talks about the
numerous back and leg surgeries that led him to Oxycontin and now methadone.

"Doctors haven't managed the problem of addiction, they've left it
behind," he says.

Restaurant waitress Blanche sits in front of the dispensary, stringing
bead jewelry while other clients, including a taxi driver, file in. "I
used to be sick every day shooting up ... this saved my life," she

John, 33, provides a classic tale of how a space dreaded by so many
keeps them safe.

"Coming here, I can't get high any more -- I've been here and I
haven't been in jail," says ponytailed John, who admits to having
robbed homes to pay for his addiction. Now he wants to go to chef school.

Past the dispensary in an office space painted in contemporary
colours, clients chat amiably with staff.

A sign in the agency entrance frowns on the one beef its upstairs
neighbours have: Clients' cigarette smoke.

I recall the drunken brawls I've witnessed at bars where patrons are
beaten to a bloody pulp, how they're almost socially acceptable and
just another Saturday night for their neighbours.

SCR psychiatrist Ian Postnikoff agrees the runaround foisted on his
agency, first downtown and now in the northeast, is a product of the
drug war's dehumanization. "It's this attitude that 'they're only
junkies anyway,' " says Postnikoff, noting after SCR was chased from
the downtown, opiate use there remained.

Leaving Second Chance, the most menacing sight is of client Kevin, 50,
hobbling down the street on a dislocated hip. He thanks me for
stopping by. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake