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by anna herdlein

Covid-19 kicked my ass and then, bestowed upon me the gift of connection to The Urban Survivors Union. This past Spring I was out of my straight work and, due to my living under the crushing weight of capitalism, thought it best to acquire at least one new “marketable” skill during lockdown so that, perhaps, I could gain employment which wouldn’t evaporate during the second wave of The Virus. I thought, since I am routinely adjacent to non-profits, I should learn how to write grants and become gainfully employed as a “Grant Writer.” That sounds like meaningful employment! Sounds like a strictly skill-based job that wouldn’t ask too many questions. Surely that is the type of job that wouldn’t piss test me!

In March of this year, I spotted an advertisement for the following afternoon from a shared social media post titled “Don’t Be Scared of Grant Writing!” I nervously joined the free webinar and was met by 2 wonderful, beyond intelligent, and absolute gifts; Caty and Lindsay. I was so grateful to be welcomed into The Grant Writing Call for The Urbans Survivors Union. I was suspicious… “Are these two and everyone else actually this nice? Everyone seems to know each other…” I googled up a storm while everyone was doing check-in’s and found that I had stumbled upon, in the wilds of social media, The Urban Survivors Union! Further research told me how USU operates, their position on various topics, where they are located, etc. I was fucking floored to have happened to bump into a fucking Drug User Union call?! Jenna from down the street had just told me about a Drug User union starting a few towns over. Needless to say, I was not versed on the ways of recognized and structured drug user organizing.

However, I am beyond well versed in my struggles as a drug user and sex worker who uses drugs. I had survived and operated within underground economies, lost several friends, straight jobs, and family members due to the drug war, oh, pardon me, “my actions.” What I am trying to say, my dear reader, is that I felt I have been battling aspects of the drug war my whole life. But to stand up to the powers that be in an organized and systematic way?! I couldn’t imagine it. I have since gone on to be welcomed onto The Grant Writing Call on a routine basis and have learned more about grant writing than I could have ever hoped for. I began improving my ability to write and have already contributed to ACTUAL (!!!) grants. Skill building aside, I have joined a small group of respectful, inventive, and genius human beings. I count myself as very lucky to learn from this warrior group each call. From there, I encountered The Advocacy Academy on Basecamp and was, somehow, yet again, welcomed onto this twice weekly call.

Once more, I was overwhelmed with how kind Aly, Knina, TerL, and everyone on The Advocacy Academy call was to me! Due to Advocacy Academy, I have been able to see the unique background and insights I possess as a drug user for what they are; highly sought after and rare skills. I had been trying to suppress all these drug user skills we all have due to shame, such as being an expert in drug diversion and theft, knowing how to de escalate an irate client, and knowing, first hand, how exactly the drug war has vilified me, to even myself. Now, I love learning about how to properly display my unique talents in a way that highlights how fucking much I, and many others, have suffered and gained due to being a survivor of the drug war.

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