I just started working at the local needle exchange, and I am very relieved to see that my perceptions are still in tact after a week or so. I, like most people, feel uncomfortable around intervenous drug users, and I may have crossed the street to avoid more than one in the past.
My relief comes from how darned normal they seem. My imagination has played tricks with me, telling me that needle addicts had "lost their souls," or had become "subhuman." I have been in a lot of nasty places, but I have never spent much time with this group of people, and hence, my position has perhaps come from ignorance. In reality, they couldn't be any more passionate, more funny, or more insightful. The conversations have been great so far, and I would say that the violence level has been about one tenth of what you would find at a local pub. Not bad for a group of people I had written off. But that's why I took this job.