This blog is my public diary of experiences that I've had as I become increasingly involved in the area of Kensington, Pa. I am including experiences that I am having as I sit down, one on one, with homeless people who are dealing with Substance Use Disorder.
All Names have been changed and, occasionally, I share a story using the opposite pronoun (he/she him/her), as an additional way to assure privacy.
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.
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You can't do this for me and yet the opposite of addiction is connection.
Earlier this week, I saw the following
statement posted on Facebook on one of the outreach group sites that I
follow. I copied it into my word
processor and then it happened… My
computer burped… I lost the original post and, in the absence of my morning
coffee, could not recall where I had been reading it.
I wanted to know more about this disturbing statement that was making me wonder if I should stop doing what I do in
Kensington.I Googled the first sentence
of it and found the statement in its entirety in this post from 2005.
I suddenly started wondering if I was
reading something that is very accurate to today's current situation in Substance
Use Disorder and addiction or was this something more along the lines of coming
from an excellent but outdated textbook from two decades ago?Here's the statement:
"If you love me let me fall all by myself. Don't
try to spread a net out to catch me, don't throw a pillow under my ass to
cushion the pain so I don't have to feel it, don't stand in the place I am
going to land so that you can break the fall (allowing yourself to get hurt
instead of me) ... Let me fall as far down as my addiction is going to take me,
let me walk the valley alone all by myself, let me reach the bottom of the pit
... trust that there is a bottom there somewhere even if you can't see it.
The sooner you stop saving me from myself, stop rescuing
me, trying to fix my brokenness, trying to understand me to a fault, enabling
me ... The sooner you allow me to feel the loss and consequences, the burden of
my addiction on my shoulders and not yours ... the sooner I will arrive ... and
on time ... just right where I need to be ... me, alone, all by myself in the
rubble of the lifestyle I lead ... resist the urge to pull me out because that
will only put me back at square one ...
If I am allowed to stay at the bottom and live there
for a while ... I am free to get sick of it on my own, free to begin to want
out, free to look for a way out, and free to plan how I will climb back up to
the top. In the beginning, as I start to climb out .. I just might slide back
down, but don't worry I might have to hit bottom a couple more times before I
make it out safe and sound ...
Don't you see ?? Don't you know ?? You can't do this
for me ...
I have to do it for myself, but if you are always
breaking the fall how am I ever supposed to feel the pain that is part of the
driving force to want to get well. It is my burden to carry, not yours ... I
know you love me and that you mean well and a lot of what you do is because you
don't know what to do and you act from your heart not from knowledge of what is
best for me ... but if you truly love me let me go my own way, make my own
choices be they bad or good ... don't clip my wings before I can learn to fly
... Nudge me out of your safety net ... trust the process and pray for me ...
that one day I will not only fly but maybe even soar."
If this statement is accurate
to today's situation and we take it at face value, anyone who does anything
for/with people on the streets and in the addiction phase of their officially
recognized Substance Use Disorder, might as well go home and find something
else to do with our time.
There is something for us to do even if the statement above is 100% accurate:
Develop and Maintain Connection for that time when our loved ones on
the streets are "ready"!I
encourage you to watch the following video which addresses the importance of
connecting with Substance Use Disorder patients who are in the addiction phase
of their disease:
Here's the takeaway statement from this video:
And what I've tried to do now, and I can't tell you I
do it consistently and I can't tell you it's easy, is to say to the
addicts in my life that I want to deepen the connection with them, to
say to them, I love you whether you're using or you're not. I love you,
whatever state you're in, and if you need me, I'll come and sit with
you because I love you and I don't want you to be alone or to feel
And I think the core of that message -- you're
not alone, we love you -- has to be at every level of how we respond to
addicts, socially, politically and individually. For 100 years now,
we've been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along we should
have been singing love songs to them, because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of
addiction is connection.
So what do we do in our connection with
our loved ones when they are "ready"?
The answer is actually easy and yet our
society can't seem to do it: Connection may lead them to seek treatment. Medical facilities must treat them and
treat them without delay as a medical patient of their Substance Use Disorder!Connect with and treat them in an environment of
dignity and respect.
Patients of Substance Use Disorder who
are reliant on Medicaid for financial coverage of their disease's expenses
face the requirement of climbing"Medicaid Mountain."Many of our nation's daughters and sons fall from and die as they hike in their weakened
condition along the high and narrow cliff trails (that do not have guard rails of dignity and respect) that lead to the health care
that they need and now want.
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