Dangerous Compassions

needle exchange

A friend did harm reduction needle exchange in the Central Valley of California.  I enjoyed seeing this video of his work there.

I’d heard of needle exchange but didn’t know much about it.  This video helped me learn a little about the materials given and collected, that it could happen in a park, how police can mess it up, and some stories of the people who need the service.

Maybe this particular harm reduction group isn’t doing things in this way, anymore–the video is old.  But I get a feel for the possibilities of the project, which happens in many places.  I was interested in the yellow laminated card with the law on the back, the kind attitude of the volunteers, and the DO they had as supervising doctor.

heart for addicts

I have a heart for addicts, as I’ve experienced problems of addiction from multiple angles, all of my life.  I’ve been the lost child, suffering and hiding out, withdrawn, trying to avoid violence.  That childhood experience of family drug violence shaped who I am today!

Also I’ve loved the addict.  I’ve suffered in a dance of deception, denial, and painful tenderness that couldn’t feel right, until I had to leave.

As for myself, I smoked cigarettes for eight years as a young person, addicted.  I’ve never been addicted to alcohol or other drugs, but I’ve made poor choices in love that endangered my life and the lives of others.  So something like touch addiction or love addiction.  I’m not sure how to name it, but I’m familiar with having a fucked reward pathway and doing things I didn’t want to do.

Addicts are valid people trapped in a painful situation.  I wish for our well being and honor our experience as part of the human experience.  Addicts are welcome at my table.


Some questions I had while watching this video were–why are there no women-appearing needle exchange volunteers in this video?  Were there none, or did none of the women volunteers want to appear on camera?  Is needle exchange less oppressed now in 2021?  What goes on in Las Vegas, with harm reduction?  I found this website.

It reminds me of radical mental health.  Seeing people as they are–talking to the person in front of you, rather than the person that culture wants them to be.  Meeting people where they are with honestly.  Being real about behaviors and needs, with no veneer of fake decorum.  Feels like radical acceptance, a healthy spiritual practice of service.

It reminds me also of Food Not Bombs but with a different emphasis.  It’s increasing the well-being of oppressed people.  I like the literature table.   Yeah, I’ll make a zine for your table!

So much I do already, and so much more I wish I could do.  Love to all people who help drug addicts.  There but for the grace of Mother God go I.

urban river

Ming did harm reduction work a long time ago.


By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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