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.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Reaching "Ready" Before Overdose Overtakes

From time to time, I must use some harsh words and offensive language so as to describe an event.  

This is one of those times.


Imagine being a young woman living on the streets of Kensington with Substance Use Disorder, fully addicted to some combination of drugs that have occupied your mind and body for months or years, being reliant on "dating" to support the financial expense of buying those drugs and then having on top of all that a guy screaming in your face on a public sidewalk as loud as a human being can scream: 

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

 

You scream back through panicked tears: 

"Get away from me!"

"Get away from me!"

"Get away from me!"

 

You try to escape and he continues in your face for all in the vicinity to hear and witness: 

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

"You're nothing but a god-dammed, mother-fucking whore junkie!"

 

You try to get away and finally do.  

You're shaking and walking alone and those words are giving a third-degree burn to your soul.  The last two words burn deepest as they are both derogatory words used by far too many people - who don't know you - to describe your current situation. 

The fire of those words continues to burn through you as you tearfully walk toward two men who do outreach work, both of whom you know.  One calls over to you: 


" 'Candice,' You are a fine and decent woman.  You are made in the image of God.  You are worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love." 


You walk over to him, bury your face in his chest and ask to be hugged.  You wail with soul burning agony.  Too many emotions to describe create a flash flood of tears rushing down your cheeks.  The pain is beyond staggering and absolutely immense. 

After a couple of minutes, you calm a bit.  You back away.  You gather your composure.  You try to engage in some degree of pleasant conversation with the two men and then you turn and walk away.  

The next thing that you must focus on is to find in the next few minutes that the next date who doesn't currently know you exist.  You will provide him with some degree of sexual "service” so as to support the financial expense of buying those drugs that your dope sickness demands you consume so as to avoid its return.  

This scene played out in front of me this past Wednesday as I stood in front of an old Fidelity Bank Building at the corner of Kensington and Huntington Avenues.   

********** 

For most of my life, I've called Glen Mills, Pa. my home.  For about five years of her life, 'Candice' did too.  We both know of and have been in Elam United Methodist Church, Saint John's Episcopal Church and Chester Heights Market.  

'Candice' is not now, nor has she ever been what she was accused of being that day. 

If you claim Glen Mills or vicinity as your address then 'Candice' is your literal, actual, and factual misplaced neighbor.  She suffers from a combination of Substance Use Disorder in its active drug consumption phase and the gross incompetence of the Medicaid system of health care reimbursement to promptly provide detox/rehab to her with the spirit of dignity and respect that she deserves. 

'Candice,' and thousands of other human beings like her, do not have the private medical insurance with its higher rates of reimbursement that make it possible for her to make one phone call and be picked up to enter proven best practices treatment before half the day has passed.  

In the absence of proper reimbursement by Medicaid, the moment of being "ready" for treatment for people reliant on Medicaid must reach such a staggering level of hideousness that many people don't find it before overdose finds them. 


There's a simple solution to this death inviting issue.  

Medicaid must reimburse all detox/rehabs at a level equal to private insurance.  People who understand society's distribution of finances could easily rearrange available dollars so patients of Substance Use Disorder can sleep on a rehab bed and not a sidewalk nor jailhouse cot and visit with a nurse and doctor and therapist and not a judge and public defender and prosecutor. 

Once again, just as I did in this blog, I'm calling on all persons who have any degree of official standing within this topic to look deep within your realm of influence and  to work with others to make the changes that must be made so that neighbors such as 'Candice' can know that detox is one phone call and not more than two hours away.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Crucial Connections when Dealing with BOTH sides of Addiction…

Jolene and I have decided to write a topic or two together, each from our own perspectives.  This is our first attempt.  You can find Jolene's first entry of this dialogue on her blog site by clicking here.  I've copied that text into this blog reading.  We hope you find this helpful.       

I look forward to this ongoing discussion.        

Chris 

**********

Crucial Connections when Dealing with BOTH sides of Addiction… 

Jolene: 

In my personal opinion, obtaining and sustaining any level of personal connections with others is of the utmost importance in the recovery process. In my own addiction, I was an extremely self-loathing and self-destructive person. I was fortunate, however, to have created some wonderful & helpful connections with others that aided in strengthening my desire to stop actively using drugs, as well as showing support, especially early in my recovery. I truly believe that if it were not for those few connections I had, I would’ve not been very successful in my recovery. I recall saying that “I know that you mean more to me, than I do to you, but I appreciate the support cuz a little goes a long way”. Mainly, because I felt as though I was just another “face” to them in their outreach work. I, personally, lost any family support a long time ago and was, I feel, very fortunate to have any connections/ friendships during that point in time in my life. I felt as though I would’ve disappointed my support people if I went back to actively using once I’d gotten off of drugs. That was a huge part of my decision-making process at that time. I also did it for myself, but due to my low self-esteem, it was “easier” for me to care more about what others felt than myself at that time. 

Chris: 

As a person doing street outreach and having never dealt with Substance Use Disorder in my own life, I was sure that my goal was to get at least one person into detox each and every time I visited the streets.  I came to understand that my efforts, for as well-intended as they were, were misplaced and inappropriate.  

The more I listened and casually chatted with people without any specific goal beyond that - basic conversation - , the more they[1] opened their lives to me.  I have heard stories of blood-curdling agony the likes of which would drive any child, young adult, high school dropout or soon to be surgeon to consume whatever pain killer they could find.  I never would have heard these accurate accounts of life behind closed family doors if I had continued to be focused solely on putting another notch in my belt of getting one more into detox.  

The result of this has been profound.  I can't put into words what it's like 

  • To sit on a sidewalk while someone's son/daughter injects in front of me and explains how much they despise doing so but MUST because they need their medicine. 
  • To have a dealer ask me what he needs to do to stop doing what he does because he's sick of knowing that he's potentially killing people is a role that I never expected to be in. 
  • To give a bottle of water to someone's daughter as she hops out of one car and immediately into the next while saying to her loud enough that she and the two drivers can hear "(First Name), you are made in the image of God and you are worthy of the highest dignity, honor, respect and love." is a setting I would never be in if belt notching was my goal. 

I've made a few mistakes along the way but overall, I've come to understand that through connection, doors open and healings happen.  The following TedTalk presents this topic nicely: 

 

 



[1] "They" is a term that I've grown to find as inappropriate in one way.  We must remember that "they," the people trapped in Substance Use Disorder and homelessness, are very literally an extension of "us," the non Substance Use Disorder and non homeless members of our one society.


Sunday, July 19, 2020

This Isn't the Rainbow Bridge!

The number one thought that goes through the mind of a kitten is this: 

"It's time to run over there!" 

And it does…  

It runs over there and then over there and then over there and then stops to eat and then over there and then over there and then to stops to use the little box and then over there and then over there and then takes a nap and then over there and then over there and it goes on and on and on… 

That kitten grows and runs and eats and poops and loves and gets older and then that day comes when for as much as you don't want to do so, you know it's time to take it to the veterinarian for that shot that will put your loved one to 'sleep' and transport its soul over the rainbow bridge. 

 **********

Your child, that flesh of your flesh, plays, and poops and eats and naps and grows.  He or she gets injured in high school sports, or gets 'played with' by his/her uncle or biological father or witnesses any number of horrors around them in the young day to day of life. 

It's too much pain to bear and pain can be relieved by pain meds:   legal or street. 

And your child injects and physically fades with the same slumping as your dear former kitten upon that injection so as to be put to 'sleep' by the veterinarian.    

Unlike your cat/vet relationship, this injection is self administered with the same intellectual knowledge that this may bring about death and or final peace from the miseries experienced throughout life.

********** 

When will the powers that be: 

  • the elected officials who set societal policy 

decide that they need to treat these men and women not as soon to be dead pets but as human beings in need of dignity, honor, respect, love and healing?

 

When?

 

When?

 

When?


This Isn't the Rainbow Bridge!


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Photographic Memory

Maintaining confidentiality in the midst of telling a true story in a blog can be especially challenging at times.  This blog is one of those moments.  Some of what I'm going to share won't make sense in the absence of the whole story which, for reasons of confidentiality, cannot be shared… 
So, when something doesn't make sense, just know I'm maintaining the privacy of the person… 

**********

We sat near the corner of This and That Streets as I gave her a cell phone for her birthday.  The corner heroin dealer - or lookout - or whatever his role is  - looked on as I, this white guy from the suburbs, sat on the sidewalk in the birthday celebration of one of his clients.

As the gift-giving concluded, she told me that she needed to take her next dose of medicine.  She prepared it, injected it, and faded into a lump of bilingual, God imaged humanity with her photographic memory waiting to be developed through detox and rehab - but not today.

And we sat,

and sat,

and sat…

45 minutes later, her high came down and my friend reawakened for conversation and kindness.  The dealer looked on, still seemingly confused by the sitting-on-the-sidewalk white guy from the suburbs and his client, the birthday girl.

Six weeks of continuous guarding of that phone by this previous birthday girl gave way to a brief moment of theft.  The phone was gone, never to be found by her again.

I called it twice a day for the next three days.  It rang each time which I thought odd for a phone whose battery should have died within the first few hours of waywardness.

On the third day, just before my decision to suspend the account, I called one more time…

It rang four times and then,


"Hola"


The woman on the other end of the phone explained that she had found this phone in a trash can[1] three days earlier, knew it belonged to someone, kept it charged and hoped for a call in search of it.

She and I met an hour later at another corner of This and That Streets in the Heart of Kensington, a section of Philadelphia, in the bull's-eye of the heroin epidemic on the east coast of the United States of America.

In a day or so, I hope to re-gift this phone to its original recipient with her photographic memory waiting to be developed through detox - maybe that day.



[1] With a passcode having been created for this phone, the thief would have found the phone useless and, therefore, thrown it away as soon as possible.