Please Know...

As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

This Week with Tabitha and Melanie

I started working as a driver at RCA[1] in October of last year.  Shortly after my start date, as I was visiting Emerald City, I mentioned my new employment to a few people.  "Tabitha" told me that she had been there as a patient maybe 6 months earlier and had recently relapsed.  She wanted to go back.  We talked about it each time that I visited this under-the-Conrail-overpass community.  I started to realize that I was more annoying to her with my urgings than I was helpful.  I dropped the subject and waited for her to mention it.

From time to time, she would say that she'd like to go.  There was one day, maybe two months ago, when she marched up to me very determined…  "I'm ready to go to RCA."  " Let's make that phone call."  I said with a smile.  Her response:  "Well, not now…"

This past Wednesday, as I was sitting at my computer composing a letter to a judge for Melanie who is in this jail and had a court hearing the next day, Tabitha texted me:  

"I want to go to detox now.  Please come get me before I change my mind!"  

Following some brief texting discussion and determining a place to meet, I drove to Kensington and Somerset.  I found Tabitha right where she said she would be.  She got right into my car and said "Let's go!"

Within three hours of that initial text, Tabitha was entering the RCA facility of her choosing and beginning her experience of five-star level services for her Substance Use Disorder.

Tabitha has private insurance.


The following morning, I put the final touches on my letter to Melanie's judge, drove to the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice building and found my way to courtroom 906.  After sitting for almost two hours, Melanie, who has been in jail for about nine days at this point, was escorted to her chair next to her public defender who she had never met until this moment by a deputy who had her in handcuffs.  She remained in those cuffs for the duration of her hearing.  Prior to Melanie entering the room, this judge casually mentioned that she had been handling "Miss (Family Name's)" case (many years).

With no evidence of compassion for Melanie as a person, the judge proceeded with "the case."  She mildly lectured Melanie for failing to do this and that.  In the end, the judge decided to keep Melanie in custody while an evaluation of needs is done and a report provided to the court.  This process takes six to eight weeks and sometimes longer.

Six to Eight Weeks!

That's 42 to 56 days of sitting in[2] an oversized toilet stall[3] with no privacy around the toilet and sharing that toilet stall with some other woman she doesn't know, having two cots in that toilet stall with something that's supposed to resemble a mattress and one sheet to cover herself at night.  That's 42 to 56 days of no therapy.  That's 42 to 56 days of living inside one's own head and reliving the emotional traumas that escorted her into addiction and convincing herself more and more that she's just not worth it.  That's 42 to 56 days of "mental rot" as described to me by another person in a similar situation not long ago.

Melanie has Medicaid.[4]

Tabitha and Melanie both have Substance Use Disorder, a medical situation officially recognized in the DSM-5.  With private insurance, as you read this, Tabitha is receiving 5-star services so that she can reclaim her life of health.  With Medicaid, as you read this, Melanie is mentally rotting in an oversized shared toilet stall.


Please pray for both of these ladies who do know each other but are not aware of these events in the other's life!



[2] (in the cleaned up words of another person I visited earlier this year)
[3] The jail cell
[4] As a patient reliant on Medicaid, Melanie does not have the option of "making that phone call" and going to a detox/rehab that offers the dignity and respect that is deserved by all human beings.  There is, obviously, much more to this issue than is presented in this blog.  For additional understanding, please click here.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Opposite of Addiction...


"The Opposite of Addiction IS NOT Sobriety. 
  The Opposite of Addiction IS Connection."


This is the closing statement in this TED Talk.  Here are a couple of real-life examples:

"Sally" and her Mom…  I've known Sally for my entire time of visiting the streets of Kensington.  She's an awesome woman who knows her mind.  From time to time, she's even given me a piece of her mind but that's a topic for another day…  J  

Sally was one of the first people I met when I started visiting Emerald City almost three years ago.  She was there on that dangerously cold winter morning this past January when the police evicted everyone from the connection of their community under that railroad bridge nicknamed "Emerald City".

For most - if not all - of these three years, Sally had a weekly lunch date with her Mom.  Mom would come to the area and Sally would meet her.  They would spend some time together.  From time to time, they would even go on an extended day out.  Mom showed respect for Sally and her decisions.  For as tough as it was for Sally and her Mom, they maintained connection one with the other.  Sally is finding her way away from what was to what can be mostly because of the positive connection that was maintained between her and her Mom. 

"The Opposite of Addiction IS NOT Sobriety.  
 The Opposite of Addiction IS Connection."

"Emmy" and her Mom…  Emmy has been on the streets of Kensington for a couple of years.  I've known her most of that time.  She recently had her 23rd birthday - on the street with no family or Non-street friends around to celebrate.  When I saw her yesterday, I gave her a birthday card.  Her tough exterior melted a bit as she took it from me.  She carried that card down Kensington Avenue.  I saw from a distance her opening it. 

An hour or so later, Emmy asked me if she could call home to talk to her Mom.  I said "Of course!"  She sat in the passenger side of my car.  Using my phone, she called her Mom.  One of the first sentences Emmy said with tucked in tears of attempted street toughness was "It's so nice to hear your voice Mom!"

"The Opposite of Addiction IS NOT Sobriety.  
 The Opposite of Addiction IS Connection."

When people who suffer from Substance Use Disorder are ostracized to the streets, connection with family, friends and the positive aspects of society have been broken or severely strained.

When the city breaks up "tent communities" because they don't look nice and are believed to be a danger to the established residents of the area, the connection among members of that tent community is broken or severely strained.  Connection between these former tent community residents and outreach groups become strained as well since outreach folks struggle to find those former residents.

When police walk along the public sidewalks evicting Substance Use Disorder patients from sidewalks that have become makeshift, grassroots hospital wards, they are breaking what little connection exists between these patients and the established preexisting community. 

"The Opposite of Addiction IS NOT Sobriety.  The Opposite of Addiction IS Connection."

In all that we do in our efforts to reduce the suffering and death related to addiction and homelessness, WE MUST find new ways and strengthen existing positive ways to build connections with these fine men and women! 

We must find a way to create a culture of connection because:

"The Opposite of Addiction IS NOT Sobriety.  
 The Opposite of Addiction IS Connection."