Recently I worked with Storyturns in partnership with Providence Healthcare’s SALOME program to facilitate a digital storytelling workshop for recovering heroin addicts. *Spike was one of the participants at the workshop. The first thing I noticed about Spike was his hair. It was well past his shoulders.
I followed Spike to Bryan of London Barbershop located in Gastown, Vancouver. Upon sitting in the barber chair, immediately Spike asked to be turned away from the mirror. He did not want to see his reflection while Bryan cut his hair.
As a child he was forced to keep his hair short. “I always said when I was in charge, things would be different,” said Spike. He honored his words and grew out his hair.
In 2007 he was in a traumatic car accident that left him in a coma. When he woke up he found that his head had been shaven to treat a brain injury.
The accident left him with permanent brain damage and a long and painful recovery. “It was challenging to accept my new life with my new limitations,” he said. He lost his job, his family, and his home. He developed a drug addiction and has spent years living on the streets.
The only thing that remained in Spike’s life was his hair. It began to grow again. “With my life in disarray, I was comforted by my long curls,” he said.
Spike admits that there are consequences to wearing his hair long. “Unfortunately people often judge me without knowing anything about me.”
Spike is a participant of The Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness (SALOME) clinical study that tests alternative treatments for people with chronic heroin addiction. SALOME also helps participants achieve stability, find employment, and find housing. The decision to cut his hair was made as one step on his journey to recovery. Spike explained, “Once I cut my hair, I won’t be judged as harshly. I predict that I will be more welcome in society.”