A piece written by Soma Navidson on the run up to International Overdose Awareness Day.

5 Sep 2016

Wednesday is International Overdose Awareness Day. Days like this used to feel weird to me: I spend most of my time working with and loving people who use drugs—providing trainings, working at syringe-access programs, doing street outreach, and fighting against harmful and racist drug war policies. Being around overdose deaths and communities affected by them is the norm. So official awareness days can feel disconnected from my daily struggle.

This isn't to say I don't want people to know about overdose—though perhaps we should more often talk about "drug-related deaths," since many involve combinations of different drugs, rather than too much of one.

I do want people to know.

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I want people to know how horrible it is to have lost so many people that you stop dressing nicely for funerals and eventually stop going altogether. By the time I was 21, I had more dead friends than fingers. I stopped being able to tell the difference between suicides and accidental overdoses—I stopped thinking that differentiation mattered. I leaned into the temporary nature of friendships and relationships, celebrating connection hard because it could very well dissolve at any moment.

I often want to scream and cry about overdose, to make people know about how crushing it is—but usually this sentiment is strongest when people I know or am connected to die, or when something in particular makes me remember them.

August 31 isn't always that day.

But there's something to be said about holding space. Time for reflection and collective consciousness can be both beautiful and useful. As I've grown and lost more people, I've learned to value sharing the weight of the world with others, the weight that impacts them and me.

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