I am writing to bring light to the other side of the recent discussion about aggressive panhandling and related matters.
For eight years now, I have attended the “drug treatment center on Fourth Street” in downtown Winston-Salem. I’m a recovering addict. I was addicted to heroin and other opiates and it took me to rock bottom.
I gave up all I had or watched it fade away. Thank God, I never had to resort to stealing from my family or crime of any sort to support my habit — other than breaking the law by buying and using illegal drugs. I am lucky for that.
For eight years now, I have been clean. Completely clean. I have rebuilt my life. I now have a great paying full-time job. I have my own place. My own car. No money problems. Drugs are a stain on my past, not a cloud hanging over me currently or an obstacle in my future. Were it not for that “drug treatment center,” I would not be living a successful life today, nor would many others. In fact, we might not still be living at all.
Every place, person and thing on this planet has good and bad, light and dark. Yes, there are some fairly unfortunate folks at that clinic who have no interest in actual healing and betterment — they’re just there to try to score a high. Not only does the drug treatment center keep very watchful eyes on the goings on outside and in the building, I can assure you that I, and those like me, are as vigilant as we can be when there. I have never failed to report other clients who are breaking the law and/or violating the fairly strict rules and regulations of the clinic.
In my opinion, if someone isn’t there to heal and improve, they’re only making it harder for the rest of us. They also cause all of us addicts, recovering or not, to be lumped into the same, negative categories.
Honestly, I totally understand why the clinic and its clients are viewed this way.
Please understand that this is an ongoing battle for the greater good. Those of us who owe our lives and success to the drug treatment center really do want what most other citizens want for Winston-Salem: a beautiful place to live with wonderful people. That doesn’t happen overnight. Remember, just as there are plenty of bad apples at the clinic, there are plenty of wonderful ones as well. Client/patient privacy is paramount, but I’ll tell you this: We are your friends and family. We are your doctors and nurses. We are your law enforcement officers and paramedics. We are your restaurant servers and cooks. We are your co-workers, your fellow church members, your neighbors. We are the man or woman on the treadmill beside you at the gym. We are your city, county and state employees. We are your elected officials and representatives. We are among the people helping with “all the progress that has been made downtown.” And we want what you want.
The drug treatment center is a blessing for so many — many you don’t even know and never will. Attempting to relocate that blessing because of some bad apples would probably have a negative effect on so many good people and good things. A solution is definitely needed, but the old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” is simply not the correct one.