By Anna Burns, Now-Leader staff
Today (Aug. 31) is International Overdose Awareness Day, when people remember those who have lost their lives to the toxic drug crisis. Individuals wear purple ribbons to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of those struggling with substance abuse.
“Today is a day to mourn with the families and friends who have lost loved ones. This is an unimaginable loss to bear,” said Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a news release.
Between January and July 2022, 1,095 British Columbians lost their lives due to the toxic drug supply, according to government statistics.
Brady Pawlyshyn is one of those 1,095.
In April 2022, Pawlyshyn passed away from a drug overdose in Surrey.
He was 37.
Brady had struggled with drug addiction for 15 years and had fought hard to get off them.
He had a job as a head chef at a restaurant in White Rock, and from the outside, no one knew about his drug addiction.
Jim Pawlyshyn, Brady’s father, spoke with Black Press Media on Tuesday (Aug. 30).
Pawlyshyn said, “there is this stigma that gets put on every addict.”
“That stigma is what really defines whether that addict is going to get better, or whether he or she is going to fall into the drug’s power.”
“The stigma is not the drug itself. It’s the shame, the embarrassment of using the drug,”
Pawlysyn said that for Brady, and likely others, using drugs becomes so second nature, like closing your garage door when you leave the house. You have done it so many times that it often does not register anymore.
Pawlysyn explains because of the repetitive action, it is often not until after they have taken the drug that they realize what they have done.
“They need to take ownership of who and what they are. They need to not be embarrassed, not be ashamed of being a drug addict.”
“They need to own it and be proud that they’re getting off of it, because it’s one of the hardest things anybody to do,” said Pawlysyn.
He also said those helping need to empower those struggling.
Pawlysyn encourages parents to keep their doors open to their struggling children, although with strict boundaries.
He also said health-care workers need to listen to the family when they say something is wrong, as they often know their loved one best.
Health care workers know the medical side very well, but Pawlysyn said that the family members and the addicts often know the addict’s health history better than anyone else and might be able to provide critical information that could save the addict’s life.
Pawlysyn said it is not about the addict hitting rock-bottom.
Brady had overdosed many times over the years and was revived with Narcan.
“How much more rock-bottom can you get when you’ve died, and come back.”
“These addicts need to be empowered, but to themselves. They need to know that they are strong, and they can get off this,” Pawlysyn added.