Open letter to Yukon government on addictions

All your efforts to help Yukoners with addiction issues are of good intentions and worthy.

All your efforts to help Yukoners with addiction issues are of good intentions and worthy.

But you have a serious problem which must be overcome. If not, then all those degrees and offices and travelling counsellors are a big waste of time and money.

Many years ago, I was involved with the first alcohol treatment centre in the territory. It got started in an old house on Elliott Street, on the same piece of land where Yukon Office Supply now sells pens and invoice books.

Two middle-aged, sober alcoholics were running the show. For the record, their names were Bernie Mortimer and Bill Pratt, both deceased. If a drunk like myself woke up one morning, lying in blood and broken glass in a shack somewhere and decided, “Never again,” he had an alternative.

He or she could go to Crossroads and knock on the door. A gruff voice would answer and say, “What do you want?”

“Well, I want to quit drinking.”

“Good,” was the answer. “Come on in. We’ll show you your bed and you will attend your first session at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.”

Besides your name, that was all the information that got passed around.

It worked for me and many more sober (and old) denizens of the North.

Then, bit by bit, the government took over Crossroads. Now it is an entire government department with a brand new building on Sixth Avenue in Whitehorse.

You go there and tell them you are motivated, right now, this day, to get sober and clean.

“Well, first we have to do an assessment. Your first appointment is in three weeks. If you successfully complete a series of interviews, then you might be eligible for treatment. Then we have to complete an intake assessment. Why, by this time next year or the year after, you might even be addiction-free or, your episodes might be reduced so that less harm is done to you and society. Then all we have to concentrate on are your relapse syndrome tendencies.”

So you go away feeling hopeless and sit on a bench waiting for a friend to come along with the entrance fee. That means enough money to go into a bar and order one drink. The hope is that someone you know will be on a toot and will buy rounds for the table until closing time.

All thoughts of sobriety are gone, often for good.

In other words, bureaucratic red tape has wrapped itself around another good cause. And people are dying because that is so.

Sam Holloway

Ross River