Who is this delightful individual with the tremendous smile and the seemingly always perky personality? I needed to know. All I knew about her was that she is from a suburban county not all that far from my own. We sat down at table 103 at the local McDonald's and she shared with me who she is when she's not trapped in her addiction and living homeless on the streets of Kensington.
The reality of her essence jumped out of her as she shared with me how she had been working toward her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at a Main Line University. She went on to explain to me many of the pharmacology aspects of the illicit drugs and the healing drugs that are involved or would like to be involved in her world. In follow-up conversations since then, I asked her what type of nursing she would like to be involved in when she gets back into it. She didn't have to think long.
“Neonatal intensive care…” was her response.
In the very few weeks since that lunch at McDonald's, she has told me that she knows that she's the only person getting in her way of getting to detox and yet she cannot bring herself to make that leap from the street. And so she tolerates for reasons that she can explain but can not fight the continuous need to do dates to provide funding for her drugs and to be held up at gunpoint when the guy who has just had her for his own purposes demands his money back.
The next time that any medical professional sees any man or woman coming into their care for substance use disorder related issues, they should look beyond whatever emaciation or self-inflicted injection injuries there may be and realize the individual in front of them may be a nurse in waiting or a professional counselor in waiting or a social worker in waiting or a neurosurgeon in waiting, etc etc etc.
Look past the current situation in front of you, medical professional. See the dreams trapped inside the individual and do your part to release those dreams back into reality.