I made a poster for a class project, entitled “Overcoming Addiction“, a topic that I’ve become all too familiar with over the past year. The person depicted is my dear friend, Jordan. A year ago, while still working as hotel manager at the YMCA Hotel, I came across Jordan on a downtown street. He was busking with his green violin. In the evening when I left work, he was still sitting in the same place, playing with the same intensity. His music was astonishingly beautiful and hypnotic. I sat mesmerized and became lost in the sorrowful strains.
A few days later, I struck up a conversation and learned that he was living on the streets for the past 10 years and had a serious heroin addiction. I asked him if he wanted to quit. He said yes. This began a labyrinthine journey for both of us, Jordan towards a better life, and me towards a deeper understanding of the affliction of heroin addiction.
I took him in to our Hotel, along with his pitbull, Zero. I charged only the nominal amount that social services allocates, although the room cost was much higher. Despite his addiction, Jordan often surprised me with his depth and insight. One day while helping him pack, I came across an unfinished verse. It sent shivers up my spine and completely moved me. Here’s Jordan’s verse:
I lost desire so long ago
The boy I once was, turned half a man I don’t know
What dreams I had fell silently like snow
Who am I? Where did I go?
All feelings are dismissed
Warmth of a lover’s tender kiss
Friends and family I may never miss
How did I become this?
There must be some way out but oh I’ve tried
I’ve fought, I’ve stole, I’ve cheated and lied
The needle holds a place to hide
I wish to bring myself back to the day …
the day when Jordan died
After the YMCA closed in December, 2006 (to rebuild a new facility), I found him a room in a Gastown hotel where the manager was willing to take a gamble on a young person who had not yet overcome his addiction. In addition, the hotel allowed his pitbull, so we were happy to overlook the minor inconvenience of hordes of mice and cockroaches.
Days passed with bitter struggles, Jordan crying in pain and in need of a ‘hit’. I witnessed the wretchedness and hopelessness of addiction, the vomitting, intense fevers, wasted time spent in alleys waiting for dealers to show up. I saw his frustration when the needle would no longer penetrate hardened veins, I saw the open sores. My eyes were opened. Such a vicious and desolate cycle. My heart ached to see such futility, especially in someone who had become as dear to me as a brother.
Finally some light began to appear at the end of a long, blackened tunnel, at first a mere shard, then gradually expanding into a glowing beacon. Jordan started a methadone program, stopped using heroin, then finally over a period of two months, weaned himself off the methadone. Today he is completely free of heroin. Looking back at the long road travelled, it feels as though we’ve been comrades through an exhausting battle, a horrific bloody war …
I’ve kept a photo journal throughout his year’s struggle. Many of the images are heart wrenching and extremely graphic. (they are not among the links below). For now, they remain tucked away. One day Jordan may want to tell his story. If he does, I’ve told him the photos are there. (I offered to do the layout and provide the photos and digital art). 🙂
This poster is far more raw than my other fantasy art, yet it holds an equal place. I oscillate freely between both worlds, never averting my eyes from reality, but afterwards retreating to a more gentle realm to recharge my energy.
More images of Jordan:
You may notice I have placed a goulish face in the window. I tried out some variations: