ILLICIT in Kamloops July 18th!

Our tour has begun in earnest! Another packed and appreciative audience (with not a dry eye) at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria, and a successful tour with the cast coming home full of smiles and fresh island air. Now we’re ready to take the show inland to the sage and pine – Kamloops here we come!

ILLICIT: A Shadow Story
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
7pm (lobby PhotoVoice showcase opens at 5:30)
Stagehouse Theatre
422 Tranquille Road
Kamloops, BC V2B 3G8

Tickets: $10 in advance at
Or pay-what-you-can at the door – no one turned away for lack of funds

ILLICIT is proud to partner with the Addiction Matters Coalition, comprised of 18 partner organizations working within the City of Kamloops to foster community understanding, empathy, and inclusion around issues related to substance use. Led by the Addiction Matters Coalition and the Kamloops Arts Council, the PhotoVoice project provided individuals with lived or family experience of substance use with cameras so that they could create images that represent their personal experience of substance use and stigma; helping others begin to see the world through their eyes. The resulting images capture their perspectives and their voices. Visit the Addiction Matters facebook site for more info:


ILLICIT tour to Victoria July 11!

Well, we did it! ILLICIT: A Shadow Story debuted in Vancouver this week, and the audience response was phenomenal. After packed houses both nights at the Orpheum Annex, we are ready to take the show on the road by traveling to Victoria, Lekwungen Territories! We are thrilled to be partnering with the historic Belfry Theatre to share this vital performance & dialogue with the Victoria community.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Belfry Theatre Studio A
1291 Gladstone Avenue
Victoria, BC V8T 1G5

Tickets: $15 in advance at
Or pay-what-you-can at the door – no one turned away for lack of funds


Orpheum Annex July 3 & 4!

We are thrilled to announce that with renewed funding, Illicit will be presenting its first full production at the Orpheum Annex on July 3 & 4! After our Vancouver debut, we’ll be touring the play to Victoria and Kamloops later in July. Stay tuned for more details about tour dates.



Illicit: Performance & Dialogue

Tuesday, July 3, 1pm – community performance, pay-what-you-can at the door

July 3 & 4, 7pm – ticketed performances, $15 in advance

Thanks to Canada Council for the Arts, Community Action Initiative, and Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research for their generous support

Treat the Disease, not the Symptom

Posted on behalf of Jim McLeod (italics added)


“Come on, just one more – I swear this will be the last time.”

“Yeah, that’s what you said last time – fuck, you say that every time, but tomorrow it’ll be another day, another needle.”

“No, no, I don’t claim it’s the last time every time, YOU keep trying to tell yourself that. And tomorrow will be another day another dozen hits – I just meant this’ll be the last one of the night.”

“Yeah, of course, I shoulda known – I can’t even try to just, like, take one day off or go on a vacation. Hell, you want to go even harder tomorrow.”

“Hey, hey, relax – come on, where would you be without me?”

“Without you? I dunno, probably at work, or at home, since without you I’d probably still have a real job and a home.”

“You’ve got a home again…”

“Yeah, and what a home. Don’t have my own kitchen or bathroom, but I do have to put up with more rules than when I lived with my parents.”


Drug abuse is not a disease, it’s a symptom.

If people still insist on calling it a disease, it would be like the chest cold that’s getting worse and it’s becoming pneumonia because you are HIV+. No matter how bad the cold or pneumonia gets, the cold isn’t really your problem, it is merely a manifestation of your real problem – the HIV. In the same way, no matter how bad your addiction becomes, how many different things you become addicted to, or to what depths your addictions drive you, they will never be anything more than indicators of your real problems and the severity of those problems. Symptoms. This is why there are countless people who use chemicals problematically but, comparatively, there are very few addicts with truly problematic use. These are the people with real problems who truly need help. Unfortunately, most people [who try to help] just end up making addicts’ lives that much worse and wasting their time because they try to “cure” the addiction. All the time ignoring the people’s real problems and trying to deny them their coping mechanisms. All this – shaming and belittling them, invalidating their true profound fears and pains, marginalizing them and the countless other things inflicted upon them (often with the best intentions) – usually serve to make the addictions worse and to drive the addicts further away from the people and services claiming to want to help.

I have more than enough problems, I don’t need your guilt, shame, anger, and disappointment too while you second guess and judge me. This is just fuel to a fire causing endless, horrific cycles. People trying to “cure” addictions are often just as bad as greedy quack doctors, there’s little money in cures, so you don’t treat the disease, you treat the symptom. As long as you only treat their symptoms, the poor bastards will constantly be forced to come back over and over again because the temporary appearance of health is a façade, since you haven’t treated the disease. It’s still there – growing and festering, waiting to resurface.

For years when I went to WAHRS or various user support groups, I would say what pretty much every one said: “I’m Jim, and I struggle with addiction.” But eventually I realized that wasn’t quite accurate. The truth is, I rarely struggle with addiction. For the most part, I’ve come to accept my addictions and the needs for them – in reality, what I struggle with is life as an addict. In a society that refuses to accept the truth about addiction and the reasons behind it, what I really struggle with is stigma, marginalization, lacks of real, effective supports, and things which only serve to exaggerate the problems.

Also, there’s the failure to realize that getting me to quit drinking and using drugs might actually be a bad idea. Like down in the States they had this shot that basically “inoculates” you to heroin so you can’t get high anymore (I guess it was a long-lasting uptake agonist). The problem is that doesn’t really ‘cure’ anything, it just takes away one of the person’s coping mechanisms. If you do that to someone without actually dealing with the issues that led to the addiction in the first place, who knows what they’ll turn to next. Their next coping mechanism could be far more dangerous or harmful to themselves or others. They might become addicted to sex, petty theft, gambling, violence – it could be anything, but you can be pretty sure it will be something. If the full extent of the treatment was to take away their ability to get high from heroin without healing the trauma that led to it, they’ll just need to find something else – hell, some people are addicted to cutting themselves.

It’s like I said earlier – drug abuse is not a disease, it’s a symptom. Until we as a society and the policy makers realize this, we aren’t going to get very far.

The Agenda is Gone

My name is Brie. i am a transgender female who takes part in this Illicit project with my DURC family/new friends. when i started this project first thoughts were:  can i do this? maybe? however i knew i was with Peers i have become friends with. so the nerves settled down – meeting the new faces was easy (i am a social butterfly) – i love meeting people.

over time addiction took over. as i say, “Shit happens”. i then fought about not going on the march 5 workshop. a friend gave me advice, i thought more about it, it was 11 am. i said i will go. i am glad i went – it was hard to focus at first and i felt my head was not in the right state of mind to be there. then the facilitator described a way energy can ground you. it was cool how when we connected fingers and let the energy take over what it did. then when we did a tableau about dope. the first thought was “just jump in” then i thought some more and it happened – my heart was 100 percent into the group.

at the end of the group we saw the [shadow] play a few members put together. it was touching, heart filled, and for me it hit home. now it is time to think and maybe think again.

a quote from the group that may stick in my head: “THE AGENDA IS GONE”. to me this means that i can’t have a plan in front of me i am learning how to just let things go and watch where i am walking because one day if i keep the “agenda” i will miss all the other options that are out there.

– published on behalf of Brie Leader. photo credit Dayna Szyndrowski


Our latest research session, the first of the new year, shifted us into an exciting new phase. Having met for a total of 5 sessions now, playing with tableaux creation, forum theatre, movement, improv, writing, spoken prose, and music, things are starting to take shape and we can see the outlines of a performance on the horizon!

This emerging clarity comes at a high price, as the state of emergency in the neighbourhood due to the opiate overdose crisis is lending a sense of urgency to our work. In December, some of us attended the Town Hall meeting on the overdose crisis at City Hall. The searing speeches from panelists including Leslie McBain of Moms Stop the Harm, Patrick Smith of Culture Saves Lives, and others galvanized us to see our work differently.

Widespread stigma about illicit drugs and illicit drug users is killing people. This stigma permeates every level of our social systems and institutions, with the result that meaningful action is not taken to stop the loss of life until it is far, far too late. We have seen this firsthand, as frontline activists and drug users took matters into their own hands this fall by founding the Overdose Prevention Society, operating overdose response sites and administering Narcan in tents set up in alleys, unsanctioned and unhelped by local government or the health authority. Now that overdose rates have hit historic highs and ever more deadly opiates are found in drugs of all kinds, governments and the health authorities are responding. Many of the co-researchers for the Illicit project are administering Narcan and saving lives every day, not to mention losing loved ones.

All this as the Drug Users Resource Centre (DURC), has finally been closed and is now operating with only bare-bones programming as a Rapid Overdose Response site. The timing of this closure could not be more ill-conceived, to put it mildly.

In light of these realities, the ability for the 15 of us to meet for creative time together to reflect on and express what the community is going through is deeply needed. We see our work as an essential part of the effort to reduce stigma and therefore contribute to harm reduction as a public health strategy. The arts have a way of opening our eyes and hearts to the experiences of others. This is our hope with Illicit. One co-researcher, Tina, called it a “shift in consciousness“, saying:

What we are doing here is going to be so much bigger than any of us realize! … I believe that [Illicit] is going to have an impact that will be a catalyst for changing mindsets and perceptions, policies and procedures and current antiquated and ineffective laws where illicit drugs are concerned…

So, we start out the new  year having identified four major areas of inquiry:

1) Humanize people who use drugs

2) Destigmatize and demystify illicit drug culture 

3) Reveal the War on Drugs as a war on drug users

4) Confront a lack of political will to act on behalf of the lives of drug users

There is a great deal of grief, sadness, and anger at the situation this community is facing. Yet, one of the clear directives from the group is that our work should inform, not alienate. We aim to invite audiences into the emotional reality of the world of illicit drug users with the intent of widening the circle of understanding, care, and compassion.

And, have a little fun while we are at it! Because one of the best ways to humanize is with HUMOUR. And the amount of laughter that happens during our research sessions is a testament to the resilience and liveliness of everyone involved.


Instruments of harm reduction

On November 27 we had our third research meeting, and this time explored some of the tangible, iconic items that staff at DURC handle every day in service of harm reduction. Each participant chose an item and introduced it the group as their guest. We then did some writing in the first-person from the perspective of that item. We asked questions such as: what is my name? What is my job? What are the best and worst parts of my job? What do I see, smell, hear, taste, touch in the course of my day? What is my role in harm reduction? We heard from the daily Job Draw jar, the office keys, a packet of Zig Zag cigarette papers, a meth pipe, a Brew Coop bottle, and a pair of latex gloves, among other guests. All essential players in the day-to-day work of saving lives!

This exercise helped us to imaginatively open our minds to the sensory realities of our work on the frontlines. Some powerful poetry and performances came out of just this short process, and we are excited to develop the pieces further when we meet again in the new year.