“If I go back to doing dope, I know I’m going to die.”

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by Lora Grindlay

When asked where she grew up, Juniper Abbott doesn’t name a city or a neighbourhood.

She says this: “On the street. In abandoned buildings. Pretty much everything I learned, I learned on the street — affection, friendship, love, happiness, safety.” The 34-year-old has been at the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction for nine months. When she arrived, her life was falling apart.

“I was on the street all the time, panhandling, begging for money, out in the cold, getting soaked, getting sick, getting pneumonia,” she recalled in an interview. “Just being cold and saying, ‘Just one more hit, one more hit.’ It was never just one more.” The only thought she entertained about her future was her death.

“I think almost every drug addict, in the back of their head, always has that option of overdosing . . . and that’s not a good thing,” said Abbott.

Born into a bad situation, it has fallen on the shoulders of a clean and adult Abbott to relearn how to live, how to deal with the depression that keeps her in bed some days and how to douse the flames of anger that take over other days.

She is also being treated for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“I never even knew I had that until I came here,” she says of the anxiety disorder. “It took me a long time to even realize that the way I grew up and the way I was treated was wrong.” “Pretty bad” is how she now sees her early life. Her parents divorced when she was two, she was sexually abused as a child by a family member, her mom killed herself when Abbott was 10 and she was sent to live with the dad she didn’t know.

“My stepmother was really cruel to me. She was so cruel to me that I couldn’t look people in the eye until I was 20 years old,” she said.

Abbott waited three months to get into the Burnaby treatment centre after staff at OnSite, the detox centre above the supervised injection facility Insite, helped her fill out the application.

“If it wasn’t for going to Insite and being around the people, being around the idea of detox and being able to talk to people when you are really strung out . . . I would not be here in the Burnaby centre,” she said. “It gave me hope.” It took four months of “slipping and relapsing” until she got through her first clean month.

She’s upgrading her high-school education. She goes to the library. She attends group-therapy sessions. It’s been “a real eye- opener.” “Although I had no control over the things that have happened to me, I have control over what my future is going to be,” said Abbott. “If I go back to doing dope, I know I’m going to die.” lgrindlay@theprovince.com

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