TURN the CORNER
We have a lot of sayings here. Some are meaningful and some aren’t. If you hang around the program for any length of time you’ll begin to catch wind of them. It seems like everyone has their favorite one. Most of them are born from desperation, or sarcasm resulting from desperation. My favorite one is:
“I believe you believe that!”
There are times that I want to so badly follow up with, “However, I don’t believe a single word of it!” But I don’t. I just keep repeating the same thing.
Samm enlightened me with a short list of my sayings:
“You didn’t get in this mess overnight, it won’t be fixed overnight.”
“These skills can and will save your life if you choose to use them.”
“Please do that out of doors.”
“Homie don’t play!”
“What ever helps you sleep at night.”
“I will bury you in the back yard, no one is looking for you anyway,” I reserve that particulate saying for when they eat my gluten free food!!!!!
“God didn’t bring you out here to die.”
And then, there is the one that has been the full motherlode of saying around here pretty consistently,
“You need to turn the corner. Sooner rather than later.”
We have a few people here that really need to turn the corner. What that means here is that more times than not they choose to do the next right thing. It means that they are very aware of who they have been and who they are capable of becoming and they now choose not to have any part of that old character. They will now do what ever it takes to change.
It’s one of those situations that you may find yourself in from time to time. You know you need to move forward and have to decide what you are going to leave behind in order to get there.
You can’t take it all with you.
Turning the corner is hard. It happens in a moment. It’s kind of like an “ah ha” moment. To me it seems like God just rips open the can of rotten worms in your heart and let’s you see and smell it all at once. It’s so repulsive to you that you quickly run around the corner to get away. And then you build a strong barricade to prevent it from returning. You’ll use anything anyone suggests that is strong enough to keep it away. But until you are hit with the can of worms…. good luck turning the corner.
We have TWO corner hoverers. They want so badly to move forward. They can even almost fake corner turning, but alas the worms seem to keep winning.
I’m not sure what is currently making the worms seem so attractive to them. Perhaps they don’t think the worms are a problem. Or even yet maybe, they are comfortable in the smelly dirt.
I would love to say… well it’s their dime and patiently wait it out. But that just isn’t the case here at all. If I had to hazard a guess as to which are the smelliest, it would be the Pride and Ego worms. These are looking more like tape worms to me. They have their hooks imbedded pretty deep. It’s like the closer they get to the corner the deeper the hooks go. If I could give them a big shove around I would.
Not to long ago, LT2 was a corner hoverer. I tried absolutely everything to get her to go. No luck, it was the same as the the others. The harder we tried the deeper she was dug in. She wanted to change. I believe she really, really did. But what’s there just around the corner is scary.
Who will you be if you surrender your way of doing things? What’s even left of you if you let what you think is that last yucky part of you go? What will you do now if manipulation isn’t a daily game you play? Fear struck deep in her heart each time she neared it.
Hope clearly sees the corner. She can tell you exactly what she wants to be and what she doesn’t want to be. Hers’ seems to be an endless maze of little corners leading up to the big one. She teases the others unknowingly as she turns and turns each time she needs to.
The TWO….. they watch Hope, they watch LT2, almost with their breath held waiting to see what happens to them on the other side.
On the other side is Mighty.
Mighty turned in a second one day in the midst of a crisis. In a millisecond of madness he decided that he wanted no part in shenanigans any longer. He wanted to go to bed each night with the knowledge that he did the very best that day. He wanted to be able to rest in the fact that he has nothing hidden, no lies to remember the details about, that he, to the best of his ability, had treated people as fairly as he could and for today his life has purpose.
“God promises you an abundant life, not a long one!” I always say.
“You could choke on a jellybean at any moment so make the best of each moment,” I continue with.
Mighty taunts them with the other side of the corner. It’s not perfectly smooth sailing for him. But around the corner …….. decisions are quicker and easier to make.
You can see it on the two of them. They don’t wear it very well. I looks like anxiety and fear mixed together and compressed in a magic snake can. The kind of can that might, the moment it’s unscrewed, shoot into your face or across the room.
The TWO, they are a part of the impending next intermediate group. If they had it their way, they would skip this hard part and just go straight to the next phase. But they wouldn’t make it there. You have to decide, the key word is DECIDE what you are going to leave behind in order to move ahead. I can say that 100 times a day and it won’t matter until the decision is made.
Is there no other way? No there is no other way. No grey area. Either drop it and run or hover and hold. One or the other.
Think about it. We all have corners. Most of us right now, if really pressed, know exactly what we need to leave behind in order to go ahead.
Here is the good part. I can guarantee to all if us, to the TWO, that…
“God did not bring us this far to just let us die.”
Our view of what we are holding on to is distorted. Life with it isn’t better.
We aren’t leaving behind pots of meat. None of us are stepping into the unknown.
We, the TWO, all of us can know what’s around the corner if we just trust that God has our best interest in mind and what lies there is PEACE.
“As much as you can, just today, trust God. Just today. And if you make it to the next day do it again,” I always say to corner waiters.
There is peace on the other side. I promise. And there is always another corner waiting down the line. Each one seems just a bit easier to conquer.
The payoff is worth it. For Mighty it means he gets to graduate February 28th at 7:00 pm.
For the TWO? I think it will be freedom they have never known…… if they choose to take the chance.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 ESV
We survived SNOWmageddon! What an ordeal. I am actually surprised how much time and effort went into surviving a less than 72 hour snow storm.
I’m sure, like most of you, fear struck our hearts last Thursday as word of the impending storm began to infiltrate everything. Tim was going out of town for a retreat and was going to be gone for the whole epic ordeal.
Trash Panda started to get wound up at the thought of a snow storm. Hope and LT2 rivaled the best weather forecasters with hour by hour up-dates. It was like CNN central here. I am pretty sure I even heard something about barometric pressure one time or another.
They took an inventory of milk, toilet paper, and what ever other survival things they could think of. I tried to remind them that we are in the United States and if all else failed we could walk someplace for help. I didn’t actually think it was going to end up as bad as it sounded. Possible but not probable. Trash Panda would have none if it. It sounded bad and would be bad, the end, no other options.
Tim got off on his retreat without a hitch Friday morning. We had the weekend pretty packed. Friday was moderately full and then Saturday we were volunteers at Winter Jam. Sunday, church and groups and visits. All seemed well and organized.
I gave Tim a detailed list of things I needed before he left. Things like: drivers license, money, who can spend what, gas in the car and car keys. I honestly don’t know how I survived before Tim. He takes very good care of me in my absentmindedness and forgetfulness. This would be a test, SNOWmageddon and me. Sounds like a great combo weekend.
Sometime Saturday it became pretty clear that the city anticipated complete doom.
They cancelled Winter Jam. Keith was the concert coordinator for us and had to let all of recovery know that it was a no go. Taylor, Samm and I closed the women’s center early in anticipation of doom. We passed out extra blankets and coats to the women. We closed and headed home to hunker down.
By 4:00 p.m. Saturday we were bored. No snow and nonstop news made me want to pluck my eyes out. I am not a good sitter arounder. The girls started picking at each other. I wasn’t sure how much I could actually tolerate.
Someplace during a lengthy explanation of something that initially sounded interesting I tuned out. I started thinking about everyone that was in the program and what was ahead for them. Soon Mighty would be graduating and half of the program would move into Intermediate. Soon, as in, not longer than 6 months. That’s soon around here.
We have never had that many people in Intermediate before. For that matter if they all make it, they will be our largest graduating class to date. I started to wonder what life would be like this time next year and who would be here and how long would it take them to get through the program. Then I was back to, How will we manage five people in Intermediate at the same time?
One by one I ran their time here through my head, the good the bad and the ugly. Some of them I would not have even imagined would still be here. I have almost thrown the towel in on LT2 more times than not. For some reason she has hung on. I have hung on. She has lost more visits than she has been on. Yet she has hung on. I get used to people. I am in fact actually used to her. I even get used to the repeat offenders.
“Are you even listening to me?” Trash Panda demanded.
“No. as a matter of fact I’m not. I have no idea what you’re even talking about,” I answered matter of factly.
“Ugh Beeeth, I am trying to tell you about this snow and I am using a skill…. Improve in the moment,” she firmly declared.
“Why you gotta announce every skill you use everytime Trash Panda?” Hope wanted to know. “I don’t do that. No one does that. Why do you have to do that?” Hope went on.
“Because. That’s why,” Trash Panda answered.
“Why you gotta bicker like this all the time?” I asked.
And then I checked out again as they both went on to explain the value of bickering.
I wondered if these two would make it to Intermediate? And then Snappy came to mind, would she make it another month? Sometimes their time here sneaks up on me and I don’t realize where they are in their work. It’s sort of like having a child grow up while you aren’t watching. That is actually what’s happening here. They are growing up, some more than others and some faster than others.
“You know…. when you guys aren’t fighting I actually enjoy my time with you,” I interjected in their stream of unconscious chatter.
“Really?” Hope asked.
“I really do. When you guys aren’t being yahoo’s it seems like your supposed to be here,” I added.
“WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE BETH!” Trash Panda yelled.
“Trash….. that’s what she is talking about. Shut up and quit being so loud,” LT2 reprimanded her.
“Beth, where is the snow?” TP asked.
“I don’t know. You should know. You have given me a play by play all day.”
I went back to the dining room and the dreaded administrative work that has become my life, that and an online class. Eventually I had enough and went to bed to await the storm. Tim meanwhile was living it up in Hilton Head and warmish weather.
I was eventually startled awake by an ungodly screeching of tree branches on the siding of the house.
The storm had started. I logged on to the churches thermostat to see if it was holding its own in the sanctuary. I made my way to the window dragging my dang boot with me. It was in fact SNOWmageddon. I fought the urge to go wake the girls up to see the disaster unfold.
“How long have you been awake?” Tim text.
“How did he know I was awake?” I wondered.
“Since 1:30,” I answered.
It was now 4:30 and the storm was blowing. The news was full of cancellations. As of yet I hadn’t decided what to do about church. I could only imagine trying to shovel my way out of our development to then shovel my way in to the church, all with this dumb boot on. The alternative was to cancel and be stuck in the house for another fun filled day of banter and bickering. Tim meanwhile was living it up in the warmth.
7:00 am after quite a few texts between Tim and I, I cancelled church. The ornery part of me let the girls get up and shower and do their hair before I told them it was cancelled.
“What? It’s cancelled. HA, I told you it would be,” Trash Panda taunted both Hope and LT2.
“It’s dangerous out there. That’s what I know!” she went on.
“What skill is that? Huh?” Hope shot back.
Once again I tuned out for the day only to imagine what life will be like with them grown up.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children…” Ephesians 5:1 NIV
Wow, all I can think about this morning, as I once again find myself sitting at the probation office, is how I am both nervous and excited for this year. Nervous because at 10:35 last night both Tim and I signed a contract offer for a new house for the program. We need a total of four houses right now. Rent is through the roof at our current Intermediate House, so we need to purchase one. That should do it for a while for us.
Buying a house for me is one of the most nerve wracking things that we do. I truly don’t know why it bothers me. I don’t do any of the work on it at all. I just sign where they say sign and pray like it’s the end of days. Tim on the other hand does it all. I appreciate him in so many ways, but this way has to be close to the top of ways. I am well aware that just because we put an offer on the table that this might not go through. I get it. And …. I still get nervous.
If they accept the offer then the daunting ordeal of raising the down payment begins. Again not my cup of tea! But it is exciting. It’s a great way to kick off the new year!
Maybe, just maybe this year will be easier than last year? Hmm.
If the condition of the people in the program is any indication of how this year will go it’s not looking good. Like I said before, we have a few that have their feet pretty firmly dug in. Sometimes it’s like we are playing the increasingly fun game of, “How to beat the system.”
It actually gets sort of fun for me. Its like a brain teaser:
Who is actually doing their work when they are supposed to?
Who is doing it at AA?
Who is doing it in the morning and rushing before group?
Who is not following through on their conflict conversations?
Who is trying to beat the system and stay in the down low?
There are at least three, if not four, of our beloved residents that seem to be partaking in this great game. I hope we can squash it. I am about as optimistic as I am for our house offer to go through on the first shot… not so much.
On my end this usually calls for a face to face, one on one conversation. I am pretty sure I have had it before with at least one of the three opponents.
I know it sounded a lot like this conversation is going to go…
Me: “So, you are wondering why you’re here now with me correct?”
Cherry: “Yes,” he sheepishly answered.
Me: “And you’re wondering why you are stopped in your work correct?”
Me: “I have an answer for you. My expectation at this point in your recovery looks like this. More times than not you do what you are supposed to do. That means over 50% of the time you are doing the right thing. And I don’t think that’s what is happening here. Do you?”
“I mean do you actually believe that instead of doing your work when you are required to do it is more beneficial for your over all mental health to cram it all in the next morning before group? You can honestly tell me that it’s a better more efficient way to get well?”
Cherry: “…umm no I guess not.”
Me: “Yeah, me either.”
Cherry: “Well I figured I have been here long enough to just do it in my head.”
Me: “Think again. We never ask you to do it in your head. It’s not math. Listen, there is a corner you need to turn here, it’s clouding your vision of yourself. It seems that with a certain person you are working on a large filing cabinet of wrongs and unmet expectations. That causes blackness in your heart. And that blackness will only grow and get worse. Someplace in your head you have justified that thought process. I can assure you that the person doesn’t know or care what you think. So it’s only causing you grief, not them.”
“I do know that you will be judged by the same magnifying glass you are using on them. And quite frankly you just might get burned up by it. It’s a pretty harsh one. Do you understand?”
Cherry: “I do. I actually do. I have been praying for more patience and understanding with this person and it just seems the same.”
Me: (now laughing) “If you have been actually praying for that then God answered your prayer.”
Cherry: “How do you figure?”
Me: “Asked and answered. God has been giving you more situations in which you can practice being patient and understanding with His help. The more you ask, the more situations He gives you! Funny how that works. I can tell you He is also judging you as harshly as you are judging the other, so by now the situations may be getting worse!”
Cherry: “YES! That’s exactly it. What do I do?”
Me: “What we ask you to do to begin with, WRITE THIS STUFF DOWN. Get it all out. Empty the filing cabinet. Start the year with it empty. Once it’s out then you can practice keeping it cleared out. If you are relying on your own ability you will fail. You need to rely on God. He has your back and the strength to empty it.”
“Listen, I have never seen a person that is determined to get the ‘Icky’ out of their heart and do what it takes…. actually get worse. I have seen people that do the work and say, ‘Uncle!’ — finally get well. Minus effort yields minimal change. Then eventually that yuck grows and takes over. Trust me. Never once has a black heart brought about love and forgiveness. Never once. If you want to be new, choose new. Understand?”
Cherry : “I do. I really think I do.”
Me: “Get rid of the yuck then we can move ahead. If not we will be stuck waiting for the cloud that you see through to just go away. Not possible. Just do it! (to coin a term)”
Cherry: “I will. I want to. I want to just get better.”
Me: “Cool! That’s it then for me!”
I think it will go like that. As for the other yahoo’s, I’m not sure what that conversation will sound like.
In case your wondering, Snappy had a come to Jesus talk as well. She is currently still here on a 30 day anti-snappy trial period.
It’s a New Year …… Let’s all be new!
My God is able, my God is good
My God is able, He’ll pull me through
My God is able, my God is good
He’ll pull me through, yeah, that’s what He do
Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death
He is there and I ain’t scared – Crowder
It’s been almost two weeks since I sat down to write a blog. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to write about, it was actually that I had too much to write about. I have had so much running through my mind all at once that it was actually almost blank. I needed to just get through the holidays and see how it played out. Each day just piled more and more on top of what I was already thinking about. I am pretty sure I went on autopilot.
We went straight from the girl wanting to leave the life style, to an overdose in the center. It was crazy.
I saw the girl walk into the kitchen super high. I was sort of shocked how high she was. Supposedly she had just gotten out of rehab and was doing well. She walked into the kitchen and gave me that blank stare. Her eyes were half open and she clearly wasn’t there.
“Are you ready to eat?” I half heartedly asked her.
“Huh? Oh no not yet momma, I am going to take a nap first. I’ll eat when I get up,” her words came out like thick slush.
“Okey dokey, let me know when you’re ready,” I said to the back of her as she slowly turned and snuck up on the chair she was going to “rest” in.
Some time went by and I hadn’t seen her come back for food yet so I wandered out of the kitchen just curious. She was lying in a chair with her head propped in a most peculiar way. Samm happened to be walking by at that exact time.
“Hey, have you checked her lately?” I asked Samm.
“Just a few minutes ago. She doesn’t look good. I propped her head up. I am keeping an eye on her,” Samm replied.
“Responsive?” I asked as I started to shake the girl and pat her hands.
“She was a minute ago,” Samm answered. Now fully alert.
I grabbed the girls hands and started patting them while yelling at her. No response. I rubbed her chest .. hard. No response.
By now I had the full attention of every person in the center, who all decided to give me their opinion of what drug she in fact was on.
I yanked my watch off my wrist and slapped it on hers and hit the heart monitor.
“Please stop talking to me,” I shouted at the girls that were trying to tell me not to ruin her high, that it was only Xanax and that’s what happens with Xanax so I should just let her alone.
“Call 911,” I yelled as I ran to get the narcan kit.
We got her on the floor ready to begin CPR. The monitor indicated that her heart rate was almost gone. I jammed the NARCAN up her nose and gave her a dose.
“That’s one in,” I yelled to Samm who was only inches from me. And helping.
BOOM! She gasped for air and opened her eyes.
YES!!! She sat up as the squad crew entered the building. After some coaxing she let them take her in. As fast as it began it ended. We debriefed our new volunteers and went back to business. As I was cooking I started to get mad.
What a battle this is.
Down at the center it’s all so real and urgent.
At home, in the program, it begins to lose the urgency to some. The life and death-ness of it just goes away and we begin to haggle over socks and dishes and laundry and phone calls. Entitlement creeps its ugly head pretty quick.
We have a girl that just passed 40 days. At first she was pleasant enough, but sort of snappy. I get it. To just get dropped into the mix is hard. But ole Snappy isn’t making it any easier for herself. Her and Trash Panda daily go at it.
Trash Panda has her own set of issues right now also. In fact almost everyone in the program does. There is a giant rut and they are stuck firmly in it. Between the new guy Zippy and the new girl Snappy, it is getting interesting, if you like junior high drama.
Dead on the floor in the center vs. I have too much homework.
It seems like Superman vs. Batman. What’s the point in the battle, just do what it takes to get well.
I came home from the center and casually told them all we had an overdose there that day. Trash Panda shook her head. Hope looked sad. LT2 and Snappy seemed unfazed but for different reasons.
“Sad isn’t it? She lived though,” I said.
“That’s good,” said one of them as they turned back to watch the one hour of TV like it was their last hour on earth.
“Ya, it was good,” I said with a twinge of anger.
I wanted to yell at them, “DONT BE FOOLED INTO THINKING THAT CANT OR WONT BE YOU!”
Mud, they are stuck in the mud. It hasn’t even been winter long enough to get cabin fever. But there is serious mud here. We can’t own their recovery or their pace. We can only be the rope that gets thrown into the quicksand.
Maybe it was always this way here, I wondered. Maybe before I just didn’t have the startling contrast of death to compare against the program. Maybe my urgency gets higher each time we save someone.
The cold weather is coming soon. I wonder if the program people will remember what it’s like to sleep in the cold or a half heated trap house. Snappy is close to finding out, if some of the snappiness doesn’t lose its sting shortly… Maybe I am a wee bit biased towards life instead of death that complacency brings.
As quick as the urge for drugs wear off their behaviors, so lovingly, begin to rule their lives here in the program.
The back and forth from the center to the program keep it real for me. For the program, they are like the Israelites.
“Did you bring us out in this desert to die?” they shake their fists at the sky and yell at God.
“We left the pots of meat we had to eat and the good life for this?” they continue.
And then came Christmas. The peace of Christmas. That will help my brain clear.
We made our yearly cookie tins the program gives out to their families and people they love. We left them at home.
I made gallons of gourmet ice cream as a gift for our congregation for Christmas Eve.
Nope. Left at home.
Still, as of yesterday, I can’t seem to remember to take the darn ice cream to church. My brain is on strike. Everyone in the program knows it also.
I had a slight accident and broke a bone in the bottom of my foot. I now have a boot on that slows me down. Between my empty brain and slow walking they think I can’t pay attention to what’s happening around here. Hmm, maybe I can’t.
But I wouldn’t bet on it!
“Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.” Genesis 18:4 NIV
Peace 😳 Joy 🤔
Advent for me has been very different this year. I made a deal with myself at the lighting of the first candle that I would attempt to be a bringer of what ever the candle represented each week. Last week was PEACE and this week is JOY. I thought it would be an easy way to direct my attention to what was already present in my environment and just, you know…. enhance it a little bit. The week between PEACE and JOY seemed like someone popped the lid off of crazy and set it free.
Thursday at 4:02 Samm yelled the warning call back to me in the kitchen of THREE.
“Are you ready?”
I did a quick food/juice check. Everything seemed to be in order, taco meat, chips, nacho cheese, salsa, sweets, two gallons of juice… yep ready.
“Yep, ready!” I yelled back.
Peace, be the bringer of Peace.
“For here or to go?”
And it started. The line was immediately backed up. I had prepared a very easy meal to serve that day. It was supposed to be taco salad, except we forgot the lettuce, so it was plain old nachos. It seems to be a favorite down at the center so I assumed it would be well received. By the third person in the grumbling had started.
“Do you have lettuce?”
“NO, I forgot it!” I peacefully answered.
“How do you forget lettuce, when it’s taco salad?” the fourth person in line asked.
“It’s just nachos,” the fifth person answered.
“I hate spicy food, is this spicy? If it’s spicy then I don’t want it. Is it spicy? Is that salsa spicy? how bout that meat is it spicy?” the sixth person yelled through the door into the kitchen.
“Shut the @$%^ up. You need ta eat what ever the %^%$# Miss Beth made for you and be happy she ain’t putting it up on yo head. Now be quiet and wait your turn. Yo tongue will tell you if it spicy or not,” said the seventh person in line to the sixth person.
I laughed. Well put, I thought as the line zoomed as fast as I could dole out the nachos.
“Peace, Peace, Peace….. smile, say Merry Christmas,” I kept telling myself.
I quickly started to run low on the melted cheese stuff. I shouldn’t be running low this fast. We have only been open twenty minutes, I thought.
I decided to put a bit less cheese on the nachos in an effort to not run out in the middle of the line.
“Hey…. she got more cheese than me,” I immediately heard.
I knew it. I knew it would be spotted right away. Everyone seemed so cranky and on edge. So I re-upped the cheese and waited for a break in the line.
“I need a lot of cheese and a lot of Nachos,” the next person said.
“Oh? Why is that?” I jovially asked.
“I just found out I am pregnant,” the woman answered.
“WHAT REALLY?” I said in disbelief to the older looking woman standing there.
“Yes really,” she answered.
“Do you think I am too old to get pregnant? Well you can still get pregnant at 48. I am here to tell you,” she went on.
“Wow! I actually thought you were kidding. I’m 55 and I would pass out if I got pregnant at 48. Are you ok? I really didn’t mean to offend you at all,” I answered.
“No… I am not ok. I don’t want this baby and I don’t want and won’t get an abortion. I don’t know what to do, I just found out today, ” she answered, now with tears in her eyes.
“I think I can help you, we have some time here. There are some options we can look at, but we have some time,” I assured her.
And she went on.
“I need six to go,” the next lady said.
“Six? For who?”
As soon as that was out of my mouth five kids pushed through the line and ran around the table screaming and yelling and pushing each other. I looked down. No cheese. I got so caught up in the pregnant story I forgot about the cheese.
“Hey it’s going to be about 10 minutes while I reheat some more cheese so you guys can go sit and watch a movie for a few,” I told all of them.
You would have thought I asked them to build a bridge by their response. PEACE… Peace…
“Miss Beth, how long?” a tiny voice asked.
I looked up and the new girl on the street was standing there, beat up. She was so pretty last week. I couldn’t believe how much a week had changed her. It was startling to me.
“About 10 minutes sweetie,” I answered.
She sat down in the kitchen and waited. I thought she wanted to talk but she didn’t say a word at first. Another girl came in and started picking on her. They argued back and forth. The older one was clearly putting her in place. It’s how it goes here. The new young girls make more money than the older ones. The older ones both take the new ones under their wings and bully them into submission at the same time. You can’t step in. You just have to sort of moderate the meanness.
The cheese finished and the line finally dwindled down. We served 47 women in the first 48 minutes. The second hour was a slow trickle compared to the first hour. The clock was running out on the day there. I was trying to shift my brain to the rest of the night. As soon as we finish up at the center we jump in the car and rush to church, run in, jump up on stage for band practice and then church at 7:00. I usually speak so I needed to think about PEACE.
My mind was whirling as the last girl came in. She was a repeat from earlier. It was the new girl.
“Hey, can I have more if you have extra? It’s to go.”
“Sure, I can give you everything I have left,” I said as I looked right at her. I dead stopped and stared at her. I stared so long she felt uncomfortable.
“I KNOW HER FACE! Where do I know her from? THINK, THINK, THINK!!!!!” my brain was screaming.
I calmly handed her her food box.
“I know, where I know her from, she is a missing person. I just got a message with her picture not to long ago. Her family is looking for her. Go find out her last name,” I blurted to Ashley.
She took off for the front. She mouthed to Samm to find her last name. As soon as Samm asked the girl dropped into the chair and began to sob and tell her story.
“I cant go back out there. I didn’t make enough money to go back to the house. I don’t want to work any more. I don’t want to jump into cars any more. They make me use Fentanyl. I can’t. I want to go home,” and she sobbed.
“Your a missing person. I got a picture of you. Your family is looking for you. They love you. They are worried. If you want to leave here right now, I will take you. You say the word and you will be gone from here,” I quietly said.
She went on to tell her story. She had left once and the dope boy came to look for here at her moms house. She owed him money. She made him too much money for him to let her go that easy. She is young and pretty. Between the deep sobs she told the story of the other girls in the house taking her food and beating her into submission. They stole her new coat we gave her and the new shoes we gave her. Everything we gave her they took.
“They know I am back here now. They will know if you take me away from here,” she said with pleading eyes.
“I am not worried about them. I know them. They won’t bother me. If you want to go… I will take you. But you have to say AND you have to want to leave here and get well. Do you want to go?” I asked very softly.
“No, not today. But will you talk to my mom and let he know I am ok? Don’t tell her where I am, just tell her I am ok.”
She gave Samm the number to call then had Samm hang up on her mom. The phone rang back.
“I am going to talk to your mom,” I said as I answered the phone and left the room.
I quickly introduced myself to her mom on the phone and explained why I was calling.
“I have your daughter with me now, I recognized her from a picture that ended up in my inbox. She is alive. She won’t let me tell you where we are but I see her three times a week. I want you to know that the very second she say she wants to leave, I am going to get her out of here. It might take a few times for her, but I will do my best to get her out. I’m so glad I recognized her today.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone for a minute. At first I thought she hung up. Then as I listened more closely I heard her mom take a deep breath and begin to cry. She had been holding her breath the whole time I was talking to her.
“Please, please help my baby. Please bring her home. Please do anything you can to get her to me. Bless you, bless you. Thank you so much for calling. We didn’t even know if she was alive. We haven’t heard from her for quite awhile. We love her so much. Thank you for giving me peace tonight. This will be the first night I have slept since she left. I can’t tell you how grateful I am you called.”
I explained that I couldn’t tell her where she was. But I assured her that IF her daughter wanted to go that I would help. And then I hung up.
I walked back out front and the girl had stopped crying, started packing, and stood up.
“The very second you want to leave, I will take you,” I said again.
“Thanks!” she said. She wiped her last tear away, grabbed her stuff and walked out.
We packed up, left the building and got in the van to leave. As we pulled out onto Sullivant Avenue there she was, standing by the stop sign.
We drove away. Just for that one moment, I remembered her mom saying that for tonight she had PEACE.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” Luke 2:14 CSB
COMO – This Is Us
It occurred to me, while once again sitting in Franklin County Adult Probation, that I have been writing this blog now for just over two years. It also occurred to me that many of you just jumped in and might not actually know really who we are and for that matter, what we do.
It’s possible that we come across as a bunch of Rag Tag Yahoo’s just living life together with some addicts. Well, that last part is somewhat true. However there is actually more to it than that. I would like to take time to re-familiarize you with us, if you know us and if you don’t know us very well I would like to introduce you to our cause.
We are C.O.M.O. Compassion Outreach Ministries of Ohio. We are a 501c3 non-profit whose target area of focus is addiction recovery, human trafficking and inner city children. I am the Executive Director of C.O.M.O. I spend about 65% of my time working with the recovery program. The other 35% I spend working at the women’s respite drop in center “THREE” in Franklinton.
Our Recovery program, COMO Recovery, is a long term, faith based, residential, recovery program. That is surely a mouth full. However, in a nutshell that is what it is. The longer version of what we do goes like this.
Como Recovery is a faith based therapeutic community.
The therapeutic community is a long term evidence based approach to addiction treatment.
The key word here is COMMUNITY. For us community equals – we all live together. It’s an evidence based approach that currently offers the greatest success rate with opiate addiction.
It just makes sense.
The group leaders and clients interact all day everyday, just like a family with a giant extended family.
It’s group based and peer lead. Which also makes sense. When we introduce complex concepts that are aimed at changing attitudes and behaviors and instill hope, foster emotional growth including self management abilities, it is all taught from a peer that has been right where they are. The peer offers hope and credibility. Personally, I haven’t met anyone yet in recovery that listens to anyone that hasn’t gone through it themselves.
We are long term. That means from start to finish an average stay with us is between 18-24 months. There are three phases to our program and each client progresses at their own speed. However, they must actually progress.
Our first phase is the Induction phase or Immigration.
During this time the immersion into this drug-free community is meant to disrupt the individual’s identification with and ties to his or her previous drug-using life. We replace these affiliations with new pro-social attitudes, behaviors, and responsibilities, and increase his or her knowledge about the nature of addiction.
When they enter they surrender their phone, job, car, money, caffeine, Internet and contact with everyone outside of the community. In the first stage, the individual assimilates into Como Recovery and is expected to fully participate in all activities.
The second phase of the program we call the Journey Inward.
It is during this phase that we begin to introduce behavioral altering concepts through daily group, work, play, cooking and family living. We address, distress tolerance, reality acceptance, emotional regulation and mindfulness skill just to name a few. After the resident has a firm grasp of coping skills we begin Relapse Prevention to look at how and why these behaviors manifested themselves. We look at behavior that was present prior to active addiction and where and how to correctly incorporate the giant host of coping skills they now have.
Intermediate is what we call the third phase of the program, it begins sometime after 12 months. The participant prepares for separation from the Community and successful re-entry into the larger community by seeking employment or making educational or training arrangements with our help.
Research clearly demonstrates that longer time in treatment is associated with better outcomes. Recovery is an ongoing process, participants are strongly encouraged to continue serving and connecting with the community upon graduation, now as a giver instead of taker.
Residents are with us a long time. They become part of our families. We spend holidays together and are a part of each holiday together. We share program traditions together that grads come back to participate in. We bake together and laugh together. I laugh more than cry. They might tell you that they cry more than laugh, but I don’t believe that’s true.
Last week in my group we did group with snoring strip thingy’s on their noses. Now that was funny.
It’s a long journey, for all of us. Sometimes we think we won’t make it. There are times we are sure we won’t make it. And then, there is a turn and something changes, we go again and continue on the way.
There are times when the staff is just beating their heads against the wall to get someone to make progress and it feels like the weight of the world is on us. And then in a second… it all changes when my granddaughter crawls over to a resident and puts her little hands up for a helping hand to stand up. You watch all the angst melt away as humanity intervenes. A non judging little bundle of love erases the thought that held them captive. That is the love of community that heals.
We believe that God can and will make them completely new if they choose to be. But it must be their choice, not ours. We live our lives so opposite of how society does. We offer an example of a God of abundance. Everything that we have, we share.
That generally stands in stark contrast to the selfishness that defines addiction. We are honest with who we are and who they can be if they choose. But make no mistake, it isn’t just the staff or the graduates, it isn’t any single person, place, concept, model, skill, that makes COMO work. It is the community that surrounds all of us with the grace of God that brings all of these pieces together.
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-5 NIV
Everything That’s Wrong with the World
The week before Thanksgiving is the best time to schedule all probation visits in Franklin county. Not a lot is going on here right now. Normally at 10:00 am the waiting room is jam packed. A very unique community gathers for the ritualistic monthly gathering. No one is supposed to be gathering with anyone here so there is a discrete nod here and there. But no high fives and atta boys. Head down and straight to the blue hard plastic row chairs with rocking backs.
As I was sitting here I decided that I would be a good bail bonds person. I think I have the fortitude to hang with the job. Maybe when I retire.
Sitting here waiting for my person is interesting. Of the few faces that are here several are familiar to me. I see some of them around the center. Some men and some women. The room is an extension of everything that is wrong in the world. When it’s crowded the brokenness here can become overwhelming. But it’s a holiday week.
I like to use my time wisely while I wait. So I watched and wrote my To Do list for Thanksgiving at the Center. I needed to have two food boxes prepared by today to send to two Trap houses. We won’t be open Thanksgiving. I want the girls to be able to have a meal.
Have Dave set out two turkeys.
Gather veggies / stuffing and instant potatoes.
Find fresh pies.
And the list goes on.
For our Thanksgiving at the center on Saturday I want a feast to end all feasts for that day. I really want the girls to see what a God of abundance looks like.
There are many new girls there now. So sad to me that the start of the Holidays is kicking off with a fresh batch of young women on the street.
One in particular caught my eye.
She came in with a regular girl. The regular one is a bit older and knows the ropes down here. She currently is sporting a shiner from getting snatched off the street, beaten in a SUV and thrown back out. She brought the new girl in and stayed motheringly close to her. She introduced her to me. I stopped, she looked so young. She is actually 28 but looks only 18. That tells me she hasn’t been using very long. Her hair is still shiny and her eyes are still bright, her clothes are still very new and clean looking. She was soo high that she couldn’t stand still for a minute.
I think I was actually shocked that she was as “fresh” to the streets as she was. I wanted to grab her and run and tell to to go and never look back.
“Hi, what can I get you to eat?” I asked instead.
“Everything… I want everything. To go.. to go, to go,” she rapidly spit out.
She grabbed a piece of cake and stuffed the whole piece in her mouth at once while looking at her mentor. The mentor told me that she hadn’t eaten in three days.
“She’s on a binge. Down here from the Hilltop. I worry. I remember when I first got here, Ha .. I actually had teeth!” she explained.
The new girl must have heard part of that and reached up to feel her own teeth. Like maybe she lost them all and just didn’t know it.
Teeth, check. She quickly went back to grabbing and gobbling.
I made her an over-stuffed to go plate and told her my name. As she looked straight into my eyes I vowed to remember how sparkly they were. I know that soon enough they will loose the sparkle if she stays down here.
Her mentor was watching me watch her.
“I’ll watch her momma, I got it covered. I’ll take care of her, “ she assured me. With the same whirlwind they came in, they left.
“JOHN, Please come back!”
The voice of the probation officer brought me back to the waiting room as the big man stood up to go meet his PO. He was the one that sat directly in front of me and very visibly described himself getting shot on his front porch six times. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that combination of swear words rapid fired before. It was almost like listening to a foreign language. The other guy sitting next to me repeated what he said back to him and then added that something happened to his woman.
My mind quickly went to one of the new girls at the center. The day I met her I was so stunned I almost couldn’t say my name. She walked up to me and asked me for some juice, AKA Beth’s special Kool aid. I had my back mostly to her and turned to answer her and ask her name.
From her jaw down to her collar bone was completely black and blue.
Her right eye was almost swollen shut.
And her cheek on the opposite side had a definite fist mark.
I did my best not to look shocked. I quickly introduced myself and shook her hand. She wouldn’t really look at me directly. She reached up and pulled her hat down over her bruises. I couldn’t imagine what happened to her. I didn’t want to even think about what happened to her. But there she was clearly, directly in front of me.
John came back out from his appointment. His colorful vocabulary started back up the very second the door shut behind him. I was amazed at how loudly he berated his PO and how much he seemed to have an overall dislike for females. And yet he marched right back in front of me to his acquaintance with the shiny blue shoes and picked his story up where he left off.
The longer he talked the more amazed I was that he was actually alive, that he has only been shot six times. I can’t imagine the neighborhood he lives in likes his attitude very much. Incidentally I do know his address, he told blue shoes where he was staying about six times.
His anger was making the air thick around him. And I once again, the thought of the bruises on the new girl. I could feel the darkness and the fear that she must have endured.
“Well that was the best @#%4#^%%#}} funeral I ever been to, ya know?” Blue shoes said excitedly.
“100,” John answered.
“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39 NIV
I just read that addiction lies to you in the scariest voice you know…. your own.
How true. How real. How common.
Ugh, there is almost no combatting that voice either. By the time someone has decided to listen to themselves, they have already made up their dumb mind. Their dumb side of the brain is listening to every word they have to say to themselves. And…. not only do they agree, but they even think that it’s the smartest thing they have heard in quite awhile.
What other voice would tell you?
“You got this!”
“You are healthy enough now.”
“You can beat the odds.”
“You aren’t like all of the other addicts …. your special.”
“You won’t die.”
Addiction convinces people of the most bizarre thoughts, in their own voice. Strange isn’t it.
As we come up on Thanksgiving this year, dread has already begun to sit heavy on my heart. For some weird reason Thanksgiving is the hardest holiday for people in the program. I think it’s a two fold issue really. First, for most it’s the first holiday they will experience sober and then second, there seems to be a lot more extended family that comes to Thanksgiving.
Along with extended families come extended opinions. And extended opinions lead to extended stress and angst. Then the extended angst leads to an extended headache for us.
We do an assessment each year before Thanksgiving. We attempt to gather as much information from the family so that each one can be armed with a plan, an escape, and skills.
Interestingly enough this is the time that we encounter a battle with that addiction voice. Sometimes it sounds like this.
“So who all will be at your holiday?” I ask.
“My Mom Dad brother sister aunt uncle nephews cousin,” they answer.
“Who, if anyone, do you have issues with?” I ask knowing that the family needs time to heal now as well.
“I actually don’t like any of them except my sister,” they answer.
“Really? Why?” I ask.
“I stole from them and they are angry.”
“They get high and fight.”
“All they do is criticize me for my use.”
“A bunch of drunks.”
And the list goes on.
“Will there be drugs or alcohol there?” I ask.
“Are those triggers for you?”
“Do you think this is a good idea for you?”
“Yes,” says addiction voice.
“Really, why is that?”
“I think I can handle it now,” says addiction voice again.
“What makes you think that?”
“I have never been sober this long before.”
“So suddenly since you are more sober than ever before you can suddenly handle almost anything? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Yes!” the addiction voice says again.
“Well, I believe you believe that. However it just simply doesn’t work that way.”
“What are you saying?” addiction voice asks.
“I am saying that you have clearly lost your mind if you think I am going to put you at risk. Nothing more and nothing less,” I answer.
Did you catch that? The, “I have never been sober this long” rational?
Never mind the fact that you have been high for over ten years. Never mind that you are less than a year sober. Time means nothing. Time is just time unless you do something with it. It takes us six months to get a person thinking fairly straight ahead.
At six months the persons brain is more healed than it has been. They are clearer thinking than they have been in years. And now, they are really ready to begin dealing with some major issues of their addiction. That is if their dumb brain will let them.
Usually what they forget is they are very acclimated to the community in which they live. They have the daily grind down pat. Daily life seems normal. That seems to be fuel for the addiction voice. It isn’t the same addiction voice that they came in with. The one that says;
“Ya, I was boss in jail.”
“What do you mean I can’t take a half hour shower. I didn’t get sober to take a 5 min shower.”
“Jail TV shows help me.”
“Drug TV shows help me.”
“Police TV shows help me.”
“TV Shows where they are chopping people to bits help me.”
“I always eat food out of a can.”
“I never cut my meat.”
“BBQ sauce tastes good on everything.”
“I want to watch TV 20 hours a day and eat cake.”
Can you tell we have some issues with the TV.
This voice is scary, this voice is so dangerous.
This voice is familiar to them.
It comes at night when they are battling the demons that they fear the most. It tells them that they don’t have to deal with these things. That it’s ok to push it down one more time. And if they push hard enough it might not come back. It tells them again and again that the rest of the world deals with their issues this way. That everybody does it.
The voice takes them right to the line of reason. And tempts them to step over it. It provides “proof” that everything will be ok.
“I didn’t know _____________ (fill in the blank).”
That voice tells them that everyone is to blame but themselves.
That, if only _______ wouldn’t have done ______. Or if only _______ would have done ______.
What is so interesting and scary at the same time is that the voice isn’t telling them to use drugs. This isn’t about that. The addiction is justifying thoughts and behaviors that are unacceptable to their families and friends and frankly the whole rest of the world. And that is scary.
What is scarier is when the voice is able to convince others that things are better than they actually are.
As we prepare for holiday assessments we are well aware that families are hopeful for their child. They long for normalcy and the child that once was.
We are aware that some have rose colored glasses on. We know that they see their child healthier than they have been in ages and they are excited.
For most, there is still a long road ahead filled with a few potholes.
They are safe in this nest.
Thanksgiving will be their first attempt at flying solo for just a few hours longer than a visit. Most will come home worn out. Worn out from the battle with their own selves. That is a battle their families won’t ever see. They will lick their wounds, gear back up and prepare for Christmas.
And the voice, it will lay low for a bit. It will be waiting, taking in information that it can use against them. Perfecting its intonation and cadence to once again sound exactly like them.
Most of us have dreams and aspirations. Many of us have bucket lists. Some of things on our lists are quite lofty and hard to come by. Others are just out of our reach for a variety of reasons. I like to think my list as attainable.
- Camp at Mount Everest base camp
- Jury Duty
- Own a Mini Cooper
- Go to Europe
That’s really not that much actually. Tim and I have plans to go to base camp when we are 65. He is a tad unsure of the enjoyment factor for him, but I think it will be amazing. I want to hike across the bridge with all of the flags on it as we trek towards Everest! I want to walk the same path that many historic climbers have walked. I am so excited to do this.
Tim, not so much.
I think owning a two door Mini is the ultimate ride. I want it to be a standard so not many people can borrow it from me. I really only want to be able to haul Tim and grandkids in it. No adults. I think we will look great in a Mini.
I am pretty sure that if I collect enough pop cans I can afford plane tickets to Europe. I am even willing to back pack across Europe. Again though, Tim would prefer to take transportation instead of hike. I take it anyway I can get it!
And then, there is the coveted JURY DUTY.
I have been a registered voter since I was allowed to register. I vote in almost every election. I think I have missed a few but not many. I like to vote. I think it’s important to vote. We require participants in the program to register and vote. We want them to learn how to make decisions on issues. We will provide them with what ever material they ask for to help them make their own decisions. We teach them that being an informed voter is their duty to the communities they live in.
And as a bonus, they might get called for jury duty.
I have waited my whole adult life to serve. I got called once. However I was having my knee operated on and they deferred my service. Sadly, I didn’t get called again. I was very disappointed.
And then came the glorious day in mid-September. I remember it like this; the sun was at the perfect angle to heat the porch, there was a family of cardinals happily flying back and forth with small twigs to build their nest. I, was resting, like I so frequently do swinging on my front porch. I was sipping lemonade through a metal straw (we don’t use the plastic ones) and doing some casual reading. Just calmly relaxing.
Then, the post man pulled up to the mail box and looked out of the truck with a smile and a wink. It was like he knew he had valuable mail for me. He deposited the mail and gave a quick wave as he pulled off. My heart skipped a beat as I headed to the box where, I suspected, some long awaited mail was placed for me.
As I open the box and start to reach in a ray of sun highlighted one special piece of mail. It’s as if God himself delivered it to me. I took the stack from the box and there, laying on top, was the most coveted mail. A jury summons!!!!!! I sprinted back to the house and showed everyone. They were as excited as I was. It was magical!
Agh, we all know it didn’t happen like that. Only in my dreams.
Actually I think I was in group and Jordan grabbed the mail and threw it on the radio right inside the front door. I think I walked by and glanced at it and saw a red official looking piece of mail and took it out of the pile.
As soon as I saw it was a summons I actually ran through the house. No one was thrilled except Taylor and maybe Jordan. They all thought jury duty was a fate worse than death. Sadly, my time was the same time as our vacation. I was able to defer it until October.
So here I am.
I am sitting in the jury pool room watching Wonder Woman waiting to get called to a trial. I have been here two days already. I got to go to two jury selections so far, the part where they have a whole bunch of jurors and question them and then select who they want.
I didn’t get picked for either trial. The first one I answered the question as dumbly as humanly possible. I was caught off guard and just blurted out a dumb answer. Duh. I think I actually saw the prosecutor X me off the list. Oh well, such is life.
There are 108 people here. Out of 108 only six of us are actually excited to be here.
During orientation they asked who was excited. I of course raised my hands, that’s right both of them. That’s how excited I am to be here. I don’t know if there is any correlation to that but I have spent most of the time sitting by myself. I don’t think anyone wants to sit with the most excited person to be here!!!
Everyone in the program is excited also. They think it’s awesome that one of us gets to participate on a jury. To them I represent their point of view as a fair and unbiased person. I am generally not easily swayed into others opinions. They all said they would want me in their jury.
This is my third day. Each night when I have gotten home they have been excited to hear how it went. And I do mean genuinely excited.
The first day I got home I got to retell the whole process where we were questioned for a civil trial. It’s a big one! That was the one where I answered dumbly. I told my group what I said. They said it sounded reasonable. Well, then for sure it was a dumb answer. If they like it then probably it was dumb.
Not many people live in a world like ours. Not many people are as brutally honest as we are and have to be. We tend not to sugar coat very much around here. I think my dumb answer was anything but politically correct. And I don’t think it was very sympathetic toward their cause. So back to the jury pool to wait for another trial.
Yesterday I got called up to a criminal trial. I was super excited. Again I didn’t make it to the box. Actually I didn’t even have the chance to answer dumbly. I think on paper I come across as a much milder person. Sort of like Melba toast.
I work for a non-profit called Compassion Outreach Ministries of Ohio, I have a Pastors License, and I am quiet. I think they think I am just toast. Not even French toast. More like Melba toast.
Mighty, sketcher and Trash Panda are appalled that I haven’t been picked.
“How can they not pick you?” they keep asking.
“Are you sad?”
“You would be a great juror.”
I just keep waiting. If I am not on a trial by Thursday, I am done. I will have fulfilled my civic duty with joy. To me it’s an honor either way.
Next up …… Europe or a Mini!!
Well, it’s that time again. Mighty got a job! As a matter of fact, yesterday was his very first day.
It’s so exciting to me when someone gets to Intermediate. So much work has to be done to get there. I am actually amazed sometimes when it finally happens. It’s what we all work so hard for. It’s that moment when you know that most likely the person will graduate. That they are fundamentally different than when they came. They now have their eye on the prize, the finish line.
When Mighty first got here, I thought he was perpetually angry. He is kind of a stocky or actually a muscular body building type of guy. He seemed to scowl constantly. Or so I thought. His parents and Tim kept telling me funny stories of him, but I just didn’t see it. To me, he was grumpy. Short, stocky and grumpy.
He wasn’t in my group at the beginning. He was with Keith. Generally new people get along with Keith because he is so kind and empathetic. Keith is like a snuggly blanket for new people. Except for Mighty. Mighty and Keith butted heads from the get go. Everything Keith said Mighty questioned. He wanted to know why. I think he was preparing Keith for a three year old.
Keith’s warm blanket felt to Mighty like being wrapped in steel wool. I found it amusing. At the end of each group they both felt exasperated. They just didn’t communicate with each other well.
After a while I began to hear a big belly laugh every now and then. I couldn’t seem to catch the owner of the laugh but I sure heard it. It came from deep in the owners soul. It was loud and real. It was infectious to any one near it. It was Mighty. I couldn’t really wrap my brain around how such a grumpy guy could laugh so hard, but he did.
The laugh didn’t really win Mighty any points with Keith and I eventually ended up with him in my group. I usually get the ones that no one else understands. The ones that are either very logical or completely nutty. Right now I have both!
Mighty is logical. The healthier he becomes the more of a thinker he is becoming. He questions most everything in an effort to understand it and then decide what he thinks about it. It’s a very good process. I am super excited to see how he deals with people that don’t think very much at his new job. This is the real test for him. It all works well on the inside. The outside world is a whole new ballgame.
Cherry is watching how this is all going down. He is the next up for Intermediate. Not for a while, but next none the less, God willing…
Cherry has been through it all here. He has been in trouble more times than not. He has had his visits stopped for an extended period of time, he has had all sorts of consequences. Cherry at one point, would sit as still as possible when I was around. I guess he thought if I didn’t see him then he wouldn’t get into trouble.
Eventually though he realized it wasn’t me catching him that was the issue, it was his desire to continue to do the next wrong thing that was the problem. Ha…. who knew it could be that simple.
Recently Cherry has been a breath of fresh air to everyone around him. He too has a hardy laugh and a great sense of humor (most of the time its funny). He has a positive attitude and is encouraging to almost everyone. Don’t get me wrong, he still has a long way to go, but he turned the corner now. He isn’t fighting the system.
Yurtle and Sketcher are neck and neck in the race. Sketcher is now in my group. He knew it was going to be harder and asked for it anyway. In reality, my group isn’t alway harder. Sometimes when I am super sleepy I show Looney Tunes on YouTube.
I probably am the firmer of all the group leaders but not always. Yurtle keeps bouncing between Kyle and Bobbys group. I haven’t asked which he likes better. Both Kyle and Bobby do a good job. We all have different personalities so each group is a bit different.
Yurtle needs a bit of all of it. He needs firmness and then he needs a lot of feedback and then he needs just a little bit of feedback and leniency. Yurtle is sort of like silly putty. If he stays one place too long he tends to look like the leader. So we move him around.
I am planning on keeping Sketcher with me. We understand each other it seems. I like his humor. I like to challenge him. He has a good work ethic which is always a bonus for me. I like good workers. Sketcher has chosen, each time when presented with options, to do the next right thing. It’s been hard for him to allow others consequences of their actions, but he does. He knows it’s right.
Lt2 is hanging real close to where Cherry is. She is a very, very tough nut to crack. Honesty is hard for her. Like really, really hard for her. Funnily enough she is honest about her dishonesty.
She so desperately wants to tell the truth. It just comes out wrong a lot. However, she is still moving ahead. Two steps forward and one back is still one ahead. They say slow and steady wins the race and if that’s any indication of her journey, then she should end up the healthiest of them all. We will see!
Next up is Hope and Trash Panda. Like Yurtle and Sketcher they are neck and neck. They fight like siblings. And like siblings it’s annoying sometimes. One of these day I am going to knock their heads together. They will bicker and that will be it. Bang. A good head knocking. Both are battling hard for health. And both have some very large hurdles to climb over. They know this is a marathon and not a race. And yet they both catch themselves sprinting.
Hope is a great cook and mother’s almost everyone. She has an oldish and very young spirit at the same time. She can scold you while enjoying sprinkles and a cupcake. When she gets Trash Panda going it’s like a giggle fest. It’s endearing. As for Trash Panda … her name says it all. Loving and cuddly like a soft panda and not afraid to dumpster dive. I wonder what their future holds. It’s still too early to tell.
That leaves only Pimb. And as the saying goes, Pimb is no longer a friend of Narnia. We wish him well.
“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,”
Ecclesiastes 3:4-6 NIV
There is a word that is swimming in my head that I can’t seem to drown out. It keeps popping up almost everyplace I am. In my world it’s a common conversation word. In the world around me the word doesn’t seem to rear it’s head too much, until now.
For the sake of this conversation I want to define how I am speaking about ENABLING.
ENABLING – is doing something for someone that they are capable of doing for themselves.
For our staff and residents it’s always an ongoing topic of discussion. We talk about consequences, behaviors, and rules all the time. We are clear about all of it. However, recently more and more people are asking my opinion on the opiate crisis. And the word that keeps popping up is enabling.
I think maybe the reason this has been such a prevalent conversation is that enabling seems to be a very blurry line. As more and more people die, more people are asking for answers and help. The line seems to move on just what is and isn’t enabling.
For parents and loved ones of someone in active addiction it seems to be easier to answer. If you are participating in the following behaviors, well then perhaps you might be ENABLING.
Giving money – If your loved one is begging, pleading, and claiming they are starving, need medical attention, gas, need to pay a fine, beware …chances are they are using that money for drugs.
Transportation- no, no we won’t be doing that.
Providing a phone – As much as you would like to stay in contact and know the constant whereabouts of your person, they are using the phone for drugs and you may be using the phone as your last ditch effort to attempt to control the disease.
Shelter – If your person has a cozy roof over their head, chances are they won’t be propelled to get well. No reason to if everything is going good!
Bailing them out of jail – As harsh as this may be, I would bet that you didn’t put them there, so logic dictates that you don’t need to get them out. Pain propels people to health. And as much as jail isn’t the answer… you aren’t either. This may be the very thing that moves them to seek treatment or get the ball rolling.
Accepting unacceptable behaviors – For instance, if your person can’t hold a job it isn’t likely that every boss out there is a jerk and out to get your person.
Making excuses or lying for them – please don’t prevent the natural consequences of their actions.
However painful it is to not enable, it will be more painful to bury your person. I always say to err on the side of caution. If you can’t decide if it’s enabling …. just don’t do it.
Ask yourself if you are changing the rules because your person can’t seem to follow them.
I know, easier said than done. Please find help and support for yourself. Take care of you. You are in for a long ride.
And then there is the issue of what is enabling on the local and state levels.
I had a conversation with a gentleman that was very opposed to NARCAN. He asked if saving OD’s again and again and again was enabling people to continue to use. He wanted to know when enough was enough.
I explained that most people when revived are a bit cranky because they didn’t know they overdosed and then grateful you were there. They don’t plot it or plan to overdose. He still continued to disagree with NARCAN. I asked him if I found his daughter unresponsive from an overdose what would he like for me to do. And if he wanted me to save her, how many times would he want me to save her?
But I also understand his thought process. There is a lot of conflicting information and opinions out there.
I was at a church speaking once. I was talking about the drop in center, at the end I opened up for Q&A. More than one person asked if serving food, doing laundry, providing a meal or shower was in fact enabling women to continue to use drugs and work on the street.
Personally I don’t think so. My job at the center is to provide a safe place for women to be. We show unconditional love to many whose families no longer enable them. Yay!! The consequence of their actions bring many to the point that they don’t like. We listen, we love, and when they want help ….. we hop into action. Without us showing love, trust won’t come.
No trust = No help.
And then there is Suboxone and Vivitrol. Enabling, yes or no? Subs can help make it through detox and Vivitrol will prevent an opiate overdose. There is more than one way to skin a cat and perhaps these will keep someone alive long enough for life change.
But then there are people that have serious health issues from using and need to have valves replaced in their hearts only to leave the hospital against medical advice and use the first chance they can. Is replacing the valve enabling?
Where is the line?
And what about Issue 1? The issue is on the ballot in Ohio this election.
Issue 1 would:
— Convert felony 4 and felony 5 drug possession and drug use crimes to misdemeanors with no jail time for first and second offenses committed within a 24-month period;
— Keep drug trafficking crimes as felonies; Prohibit judges from sending people to prison if they violate probation with something other than a new crime, such as missing an appointment;
— Cut prison time for offenders who complete rehabilitation programs, except those convicted of murder, rape or child molestation;
—Put money saved by fewer people going to prison into drug treatment and crime victim programs;
— Allow people convicted of certain drug crimes to petition the court for re-sentencing or release or to have the charge changed.
I would like a dollar for every time someone asked me what I think about the issue, and how will I vote.
First, I’m not telling how I vote. I don’t want my opinion to rob you of the opportunity to educate yourself and vote how your heart tells you to vote.
There are, for sure, pros and cons here. Some of the questions I commonly hear are;
Is this taking the leverage from the courts that can hold people accountable on community control?
What will prevent people from not following the rules of their probation, such as get a job or regularly show up for your drug test, follow the rules of life.. and so on.
Without jail what will propel people to change?
Is prison the place for addicts that want to change ?
How will the money be distributed?
Tell me how to vote!!
NO I WILL NOT. Educate yourself. Decide what’s important to you. Talk to a probation officer, a judge or law enforcement. Talk to a doctor or a nurse. Talk to someone in recovery. Don’t just listen to the supporters or the opposition. Do the hard work of educating yourself and then VOTE.
Enabling someone is sometimes a hard thing to figure out. It’s worth the effort.
““Hear my words, you wise men; listen to me, you men of learning. For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.” Job 34:2-4 NIV
What a difference a year makes or Stuck on the Road
Friday, October 12th is our second annual Girl Power Day. I can’t believe it’s been a year. Our first Girl Power Day was a huge event to launch the opening of THREE, the Drop In Center.
We were so excited to be partnering with some of the city’s finest stakeholders in the Bottoms. Nationwide Children’s Hospital, AHF, Columbus Health Department, Mount Carmel Hospital, just to name a few. I remember wondering what it was going to look like serving at the center three days a week. I remember our target was between five and ten women a day.
We had such lofty ideas!
We had an idea of what a typical day in the center would be like. Cue the dream music…
Women would stroll in one by one. We would put their purses in a locker, have them change into scrubs there by freeing up an outfit that they would like washed. We would serve them a warm meal and spend time getting to know one and other. We even purchased laundry washing bags so we could wash multiple women’s laundry at once and return it the freshly laundered before they left. Birds would be tweeting and there wouldn’t be any cats in the back yard.
HA… I say HA, again.
Just what would lead us to believe that it would be anything like that? It certainly wasn’t the turnout of the last Girl Power Day that put these ideas in our minds. We had a ton of people there, we had chaos, a stolen phone, and a lady that wouldn’t leave the center. I had to mediate a fight. What ever made us think that?
I was actually laughing right out loud thinking about our ideas. I didn’t have much else to do. Oh I guess I could have been working on my phone like Keith suggested. But something about that didn’t seem fitting to me. Just sitting along the side of the road on 670 out of gas didn’t seem like a working time to me. I was in fact a bit miffed.
The truth is we got overwhelmed at the center. I left Tuesday evening with seven loads of laundry stacked in the kitchen. There was no way I was going to to be able to get them all washed and returned to the rightful owners on Thursday. No way. We had a flood of donations, they all got placed upstairs at the center. They all needed folded and sorted. It was a tad overwhelming.
Taylor and I decided that we would spend part of Wednesday attempting to get things under control. We would meet at the center in the morning.
I got up and quickly realized that I didn’t have a vehicle to drive. Tim said he would come home from his meeting and take me to the center. I text Keith and asked him if I could have my keys back to open the buildings.
“Sure!” he answered.
“I wonder if he has to use my truck,” I thought.
So I asked him if I could drive my truck. Luckily he wasn’t using it so I had Tim take me to the truck. Keith unloaded his stuff and I took off for the center.
Shortly after I took off I noticed that the truck was running worse than usual. I kept going. As soon as I got on 670 it started running even worse. Then…. the gas gauge dropped.
“Tim, I am on 670, the truck is running horrible. I might run out of gas. Or it’s running poorly because the gas is low. And, I don’t think I have any money or my debit card. Where is my debit card?” I blurted out to Tim while he was with the Verizon guy.
“Taylor has your card,” he calmly replied.
“Well I don’t think I will make it there,” I shot back.
“Ok, well let me know when you get there.”
“OK by,” I said, then hung up.
Approximately 1 minute later the truck stopped running. I was out of gas on 670.
I called Tim back.
“I am out of gas now. So can either you or Keith bring me gas? Whoever is the closest will be fine. I am a bit miffed,” I said flabbergastedly.
“I think Keith is closer. I’ll get ahold of him and have him bring you gas. Then I will meet you at the gas station and fill the truck up,” he sweetly said.
“Fine!” I answered.
So I sat. Keith sent me a text apologizing for leaving the truck on empty and suggested I use this spare time to get some work done on my phone.
I started laughing. I had piles of laundry to do and I was sitting on the side of the road waiting for someone to bring me gas. Meanwhile Taylor was down there folding clothes.
“Piles of clothes. I have piles of laundry to do today. I would have never anticipated having seven super large loads of clothes to do in one day. How absurd we were to think we would wash one outfit at a time. Or for that matter only have 5-10 women a day. What were we thinking?” I laughed harder.
Keith pulled up. I got out to talk to him as he put gas in the truck. Cars were wizzing by. The gas nozzle can got stuck in the gas tank hole place where you stick the nozzle. Finally he was able to get it out and be on his way.
“Wait… let me start the truck first before you leave, just to make sure it starts,” I asked.
I hopped in the truck and gave it a whirl.
The battery was dead.
“Do you have cables?” I asked Keith.
“Nope,” he answered.
“I’ll call Tim.”
So I did.
“I don’t have cables. But I think I can jump start it by popping the clutch. We just have to get it rolling fast enough to pop it. I can do it,” said he oh so convincingly.
“Hmmm, there isn’t a hill, but ok.”
And so I explained to Keith that Tim was on his way and he was going to pop the clutch and all we would have to do was push the truck as fast as we could while running down the berm of 670 with traffic wizzing by. Sounded like a good plan to me.
Almost as soon as I convinced Keith that this was in fact a good idea Tim showed up.
I got out and Tim got in. Keith and I took our places on the tail gate and began to push and run down the berm.
First pop. It didn’t fire.
Second – nothing.
Third – nothing and we ran out of road.
This is where it really gets interesting.
Now we have to push the truck in reverse while Tim is popping the clutch.
“Mom what is going on?” she asked.
Now I am running, pushing and talking on the phone, all while cars are wizzing by. I quickly explained our current situation and she announced that she had to leave now.
I hung up and resumed pushing and running.
No luck. We stopped. As we walked around to the tailgate we noticed that the State Farm emergency freeway guy was pulling up! I couldn’t help but wonder if the cop that was sitting under the bridge a ways up called him. And I can’t help but wonder if there is a video of us on some random Facebook page pushing this truck back and forth on the berm of 670.
None the less the guy was super nice and jumped the truck. Bingo. Back in business. We all hopped in our perspective cars and headed out. Tim and I to get gas and Keith back home.
I eventually, two hours later, made it to the center. As I shut my truck off and started to get out I had the urge to restart it. Dead.
Oh well. There is always laundry to do while waiting for it to magically recharge itself.
How naive we were to think things would run so smoothly!
We are now serving on average 120 women a week. I guess I should be glad there was only seven loads!
Liar, Liar Pants on Fire
I did it! I finally figured out what my part time career should be. I’m not currently looking for another job but if I was……… BINGO! I know what I am good at!
The first week back from vacation was a doozy. I was looking forward to getting back to work. I miss the staff and I, believe it or not, miss the program.
When we landed last Sunday and I announced that I was home, for a second, fear struck the core of my being. I wondered if everyone was still here. I wondered if anyone went to jail and I wondered what happened while I was gone. Historically speaking we never gone on a vacation where something didn’t go down. It makes the first week back seem like three weeks rolled into one.
As we pulled up to the house I noticed that I was holding my breath. No news is good news. However they were instructed not to tell me anything short of death or someone actually catching on fire. If they aren’t dead or crispy I don’t won’t to know. I exhaled, inhaled deeply and then got out. I quickly walked in and did a fast head count.
Sketcher – here
Hope – here
Lt2 – here
Cherry – here
Pimb – here
Trash Panda – here
Mighty – here
Yurtle – here
All were present and accounted for. We passed the first hurdle. Now, I just need to find out what happened while I was gone.
“Don’t jump to conclusions,” you say?
Well, I actually think it’s impossible to have a group of yahoos all together and nothing happen while the head yahoo is gone. Happenings can range anywhere from minor to severe. I was hoping for minor. Like, she stole my gum, minor.
“How did everything go?” I asked Kyle.
“Good, really good,” he answered.
“Seemed to go well!” he answered.
“I think it went well. Just some attitude on a job but all in all, good.”
“Hmmmm… ok,” I said unconvinced.
It isn’t that I don’t believe them, it’s just unlikely that while the cats away the mice slept. Not these mice anyway. I decided to dig just a bit deeper, do some fact checking, and check some other things I usually keep in place for security purposes.
“How was it?” I asked Sketcher, “did anything go down while I was gone?”
“It was ok I think. I don’t think anything happened” he answered
“I am sooo glad you’re back. It just doesn’t feel right with you gone. It’s ok, just not the same. I think everything went ok.”
Hmmm. still not satisfied. I am a patient person. One by one I asked people very specific questions. Questions that would indicate a crack in the pottery. Questions that up the ante of answering less than honestly. Questions that put pressure in the proper place.
And then, suddenly Pimb started acting weird. First it wasn’t that noticeable, just slightly off. I watched. Then he seemed to get worse. He became withdrawn and quiet.
“Whats wrong with Pimb?” I asked everyone standing still long enough to answer.
“I don’t know,” said Cherry, Mighty, Hope, Sketcher and someone else that I can’t remember. Yurtle was totally unaware that Pimb was even in the same room. Yurtle is actually unaware of his surroundings most of the time.
That left just Trash Panda. She generally has an answer for everything. And she did.
“I know what’s wrong with him,” she announced with a hint of pride for possessing such knowledge.
I smiled. Really more of an internal smile than a full tooth smile. CRACK …..
“Whats that?” I asked with my best, I really care deeply, look.
“He said he is really just trying to turn the corner and get better and try to take things seriously,” she again said with confidence.
“Interesting, very interesting. Interesting timing,” I said. CRACK …..
“I just think it’s interesting that as soon as I come home he suddenly decides to buckle down. Don’t you think that’s interesting? I also find it very interesting that, of everyone here, YOU are the one with the answer. YOU, who are supposed to be avoiding Pimb like the plague, have the only answers out of everyone here. Hmmm,” I replied and then quickly walked away.
We went on with the week. I waited. The cracks in the pot were visible now. Now it’s just a matter of time for the pressure to cause a full break.
And I waited.
I might or might not have put a bit of external pressure on a crack or two. Pimb may or may not have asked if I was testing him.
“I wont put you in a position to test you ever,” I answered. I didn’t say that I wouldn’t put him in a position to apply pressure. That I will do again and again and again. Pressure, like fire, refines people. So I am okay with pressure.
And I waited.
“What are you doing back from your first visit so early?” I asked Pimb, whose visits have been suspended since May.
“I was nervous and wanted to talk to you,” he said with a shaky voice.
He went on to say that he had been accused of wrong doing. He was supposed to wait and talk to me with several others…. but he just couldn’t wait. In character of Pimb, he generally likes to get the jump on the story so he can plant the first seed. So, I listened. Then I brought his accuser to confront him.
The story that LT2 presented actually condemned her to wrong doing while I was on vacation. Who knew?
She was a participant so to accuse him was to condemn herself. I looked over at Pimb, “Thoughts?” I asked.
“I have no idea what she is talking about,” he boldly declared while staring straight into my eyes.
The old school of thought is that a liar won’t look directly at you and hold your gaze. Well, I think liars have heard that also and learned that if they dead pan you, you will be lulled into belief. False!
I thanked them both and brought out the third player in this show.
“Trash Panda, what’s your story?” I asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about?” she said
Just once I would like for someone that’s in the program to realize that if I actually bring them to the point of confronting them that I already have evidence. But no, they all seem to think I am unaware and it’s, he said – she said, sort of thing. Wrong again.
Minus the seriousness of breaking rules and the implications on their progress and start of recovery, I fully accept the challenge of a liar. I fully engage in the conflict of their stories like it’s a puzzle to be solved.
And I am relentless.
It exercises my critical and logical thinking, something they don’t seem to have yet. I am able to disengage my opinions and feelings and look logically for small facts, and yes, this time I was prepared. I told them all what would happen if they are lying and applied a bit more pressure.
Lt2 eventually came back and amended her story. It took about four hours and an AA meeting worth of time but she did come back. Again the story implicated her and put her stay here at risk. But she finally told the truth.
I plopped her back into the car and drove her back to Pimb. I think it’s fair for people to face their accuser. So again she told the story to a dear-eyed Pimb who once again said, “Nope not me.”
Just in case you didn’t know… it isn’t possible to change and stay the same.
Funny how much most people want to keep all of their vices, all of their issues, all of their character defects, all of their urges, and yet so strongly want to live a different life while staying the same. To me, that is total insanity and needs to be treated as such.
There are people that aren’t in our program who long for different lives or different outcomes, yet choose to remain the exact same person. So many are utterly baffled when they can’t seem to make something different of themselves while they stay the exact same willful person. Interesting isn’t it.
So here we are, the same place I have been with Pimb three times before. Eighteen months later and he is still rocking the same motives. I tend to believe that one of us isn’t applying ourselves.
I will be confronting Pimb today with hard evidence. This time I am prepared
I wonder if he will look me in the eye?
Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices… Colossians 3:9
Stem the Red Tide
Today is the last day of vacation. For the last nine glorious days I have been on the white sandy beaches of St Pete Beach. It’s our family vacation. We have been coming to the same place since my girls were 4 and 5. We missed a few years, but mostly this is home for us. We pull in the parking lot each year and let out a big sigh. We made it another year!
We relax, eat, swim, swim some more, play cards and eat some more. When we have finally relaxed enough and actually begin to restore each of us starts looking back at the last year, the good, the bad and the ugly and start to let some of it go. Each sunset washes some of the trials away and helps put things into perspective.
We really don’t talk much about work. We talk about our personal struggles doing what we do but not really the job itself. We begin to set personal goals as well. What do we need to add or take away or just plainly change in order to continue on this road.
This morning I reminded myself exactly what I have signed on to do. In my head I can minimize the role I play daily and the toll it takes on me. I knew that in order to set some goals and let some go I would need to say it out loud. And then I needed to write it down so I can remember.
And so it goes like this …..
I am responsible for leading and running a new nonprofit that is responding to the needs of a throw away community of lost people, specifically those effected by opiate addiction and those fighting for survival as victims of human sex trafficking.
I am currently responsible for the lives of eight people in our program, that is a free long term residential recovery program. I have the honor of participating in their lives for at least 18 months. I am where the buck stops.
I am responsible for five employees daily lives and livelihood.
I am responsible for the personal hits that COMO takes when an unpopular decision needs to be made.
I am one of very few people that knows all of the ugly truth and has learned to keep my mouth shut and not defend our decisions.
I am responsible for leading our staff, for protecting our staff and loving our staff through hard times and hard conversations. If it all goes wrong…… ultimately it’s my fault, I am ok with that. It’s my job.
I think that’s it. Oh I also have a family support group and have committed to start them where ever and when ever I can. Now that’s it. When I say it and write it down it becomes real. I tell the program that all the time.
“You have to do both or your mind let’s you off the hook and it isn’t real.” So, I have done both.
Wrote it and said it out loud. Hmm. I guess it’s ok to be tired sometimes (not saying that out loud, just for the record).
As I was bobbing in the pool this morning (avoiding the stench of the decaying fish from the red tide) gearing up to come home, I began to arrange my addenda for the rest of this year. We made some structural changes right before we left for vacation that we are going to begin to put into place when we get home.
I am excited. I think I am excited for a few reasons.
First, since we offer a FREE recovery program, it means we have to fully fund the residents for that whole time. And that means we have to figure out how to do that, sometimes on a daily basis. So I am excited that one of the things we are changing is how our funding company COMO Restoration operates. Prior to this change it had been floundering. Mostly because it was low on the ‘things I am responsible for’ list. Poor Samm has been attempting to herd cats and run it with little to no guidance. So it hasn’t really done well.
I am excited that the change we made might actually help it, to help us, fund what we do. Now… not so much. And if we do it well, it will take some of the stress of my very dear and loving husband Tim, who kindly runs after me trying to raise the money we need to fund the things I like to start. He is a Pastor not a Director of Development. I know he is hoping that this change brings him some relief. But that’s for him to write and say out loud himself.
And second, I am excited for this change because I have been banging my head against the wall for five years trying to figure out what we were doing wrong. Then bingo, one night as clear as a bell it occurred to me what was wrong. So now I hope I am right and this thrives. I might also have an ulterior motive here. If I can get one business to run well and actually provide support, well then I can start another one that looks like a food truck to even further help support recovery. And if that works, then the sky is the limit! If the sky is the limit then just imagine all of the people we can help.
“Whoa, whoa, back it on down here Maverick, maybe you might want to pay your sacrificial staff a living wage,” my brain is yelling at me. Ok, but then… the sky is the limit!!
I can tell that my brain is starting to engage. My body has been slow to follow. This year has taken a physical toll more than I would have liked. I got sick early last winter and still have yet to have completely rid myself of all of it. I lost weight with it and in the process lost muscle and that lead to me becoming a bit slower than normal. The staff still likes the pace. I can’t stand it. But, it’s all I can do. I can feel my body wanting to kick start down here and keep up with my brain.
I love the fall. I love coming home from here with a fresh mind and strong soul. The poison darts we get hit with feel like marshmallow fluff now. Just a fond farewell to those that cause me grief. And a hardy hello to those that will cause me grief.
I am ready, I think, to board the plane and begin my journey to next September.
“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10 NIV
There is such a great chasm between the two worlds I work in, the heart of addiction and human trafficking and the center of addiction in recovery. The worlds are miles apart and seem to get closer together everyday.
Many people asked me to follow-up on the two women I talked about in the last blog. The one that overdosed is alive and still living on the street. The paramedics told her what happened and how lucky she was that we were there. She knows that it took four doses of Narcan and CPR to save her life. She told me that just a few days prior to the whole episode her daughter informed her that she had taken out a life insurance policy on her in case of her death.
“Wow, that’s pretty timely,” I said.
“Ya, I hope it doesn’t come to that,” she matter of factory replied.
“Yep me either,“ I said just as matter of factly.
Taylor hugged her, you could see the relief in her eyes that she was alive for now. We served her food, Taylor got her clothes and it was back to business as usual.
It is anything but normal. Several days went by before we saw our other friend, the badly burned one. We spoke with several medical professionals in an effort to help her get wound care. We even set an appointment for her. We sent Samm down to pick her up and take her to her appointment. No dice. She now decided that she wasn’t going to go. The opiates in her system were overriding any common sense she had left. She was holed up on our porch and evidently wasn’t going to move.
“What do you want me to do?” Samm asked.
“I don’t know what is she saying,” I answered.
“That she wants to go someplace else,” Samm replied.
“Ok well then we can take her to the other place but now probably not today,” I answered again.
“So just leave her?” Samm text.
“If she won’t go then yes, just leave her,” I text.
We were open the next day at Three. In stumbled our lady. “Why didn’t you go to your appointment for wound care? We had it all set up for you.” I directly stated to her.
I was aggravated. Not so much that she wasn’t doing what I wanted her to do, I was aggravated that she was worse. And aggravated that we had to fight the drugs in her for any sense of reason.
She looked away.
“Hey Vee, what is the deal? This has to be taken care of, you are going to lose your dang foot pretty soon. Our Doc said you don’t have much time from the looks of your foot on the picture. You have to go,” I sternly said.
“I will, I will. I didn’t have money to get back home,” she finally answered.
“We will get you to and from wound care if you go. We aren’t just going to leave you there. Do you understand?” I firmly asked again.
“Ya, I get it,”she said as she hobbled back out the front door.
Ugh, how do you win this battle? I was truly aggravated. We all were.
Time at the center can get confusing. I can’t remember which day we were there next. I think it was the day that a girl was shot by the police a few blocks away. It was already a sad day there. We were all in disbelief at the chain of events that lead to a death. I was in building two gathering cookies and other sweets completely lost in my thoughts.
“Excuse me,” said a very soft spoken young woman who resembled Snow White.
“Yes? Can I help you?” I asked. I had no idea who this young lady was. She looked out of place.
“I am here to volunteer at the center,” she replied.
“Oh, okay, it’s the next building over,” I said as I gathered my muffins and cookies.
She headed next door to meet Taylor, take a tour and serve her first shift. We opened on time and began our day.
Sometime near the end of the day Taylor came get me.
“Mom, you need to do something about Vee, she is laying there and won’t do anything.”
“Laying where?” I asked.
“On our porch,” she answered.
“Gosh,” I whispered to my self.
I left someone in the kitchen to cover my work while I went out to survey the situation. I passed the new girl on my way and headed off our side of the porch up on to the other side of the porch. There she was, just laying there in a pile of trash she had gathered around herself.
“What are you doing?” I asked in disbelief as I scooted and shooed the trash and flies away from her.
“Never mind I will be right back,” I said as I marched back to our side of the porch.
I went in and grabbed several pairs of gloves and a trash bag and can. I gloved up and headed back to her side of our porch. As I walked up she rolled over to avoid me.
“Hey, what’s all this trash here? I can’t let you just lay in this trash. It’s drawing flies to your foot. Let me see that foot,” I talked as I began picking up trash. She still wouldn’t answer or look at me. One by one I picked up things off the porch.
“Slim jim? Nope,” and I began to throw stuff away.
Finally she rolled over and showed me her foot. It was much worse. “Listen, we have to do something here. You can’t just lay here and rot,” I firmly said.
“Well, I am not moving without my medicine,” she shot back.
“What medicine?” I asked.
“See that girl with curly hair? She got my medicine.”
I looked at her in disbelief.
“Heroin, she got heroin. You gotta get me some and then I will go,” she angrily said.
“Are you kidding me? You actually think I am going to buy you drugs and let you shoot up on this porch? Ha! Wait right here…” like I actually thought she was going to go someplace.
I left the porch and went up to the clinic and grabbed some sterile water, gauze packs and fabric medical tape. I marched back down stairs past the new girl and back to the other side of the porch.
“Ok, you have a few choices here. You can get up and go to the hospital, you can get up and go get high or…. I am going to clean the puss off your foot myself and bandage it right now. And then you will move off this porch. You will not lie here and just die of infection. I will not be a part of that. So…. what will it be? One way or the other you are going to get help.”
“I am not moving,” she firmly said.
“Alright stick that foot out here,” I demanded.
“Heroin,” she demanded.
“NOPE, stick it out here,” I said loudly.
Out came the foot, from a filthy towel. Again there was movement right under the skin. I was pretty sure it was almost beyond salvaging at this point. I unwrapped the sterile water and slowly began to rinse off the infection.
“AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH ++**^#}}($)&-)%;&/‘skskfhfh,” she screamed.
“Ready to go to the hospital?” I asked.
“NO!” she yelled.
“Ok, let me have that foot again,” I sternly said.
I got out my gauze and as I was unwrapping it I told her that I was not content to do nothing.
I slowly put the gauze on.
“AHGHHHHH#%^**^%%^**+*^^^*,” she screamed again.
I looked over just in time to see Snow White peep her head out of the front door. Her eyes were as big as dinner plates.
“Sweetie, please let me call a squad,” I gently asked.
“NOPE!” she said again.
“Foot,” I demanded as I prepared a piece of tape.
Same scream as I applied the tape.
“Now will you go?”
“Foot!” another piece of tape and another scream.
Eventually I had it as covered as it was going to get. Vee requested again that I get her drugs. I declined again and told her I would be back. Now I was determined that she get medical care. We had Jordan call the non emergency squad line. Closed. I remembered of a friend that knew a friend that might help, so I called.
I met the EMT Battalion chief out front shortly after he pulled up. I introduced myself. Evidently we knew each other from our fund raising dinner last Christmas. I explained the situation and we both headed to the porch. He was much kinder than I anticipated.
He gently but sternly explained that she was going to lose her foot, that she could either go now with him to the hospital or they would find her near death and she would have to go anyway. So he strongly suggested that now was the appropriate time to vacate the porch.
She looked at me with betrayed eyes. I looked at her with determined eyes.
“I told you that one way or the other you were going to get help today. I care about what happens to you. I care that you are suffering and in pain. I care if you lose your foot. We all do,” I explained again.
The squad arrived as soon as I finished my speech. They carefully lifted Vee from the front porch and agreed to take her to the hospital of her choice. And then she left.
“How was your first day?” I asked Snow White.
“I didn’t know it was like this down here this close to OSU. I had no idea. I will be back,” she responded.
1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
This week has been another of the faith defining weeks for me. I have been battling a few people in the program, battling several parents of others in the program and then finally battling my body wanting more rest than I give it. I am unaware sometimes the toll the battles take. I am unaware sometimes that what seems like giant, never ending battles are actually preparing me for something much larger.
Then Saturday began.
I arrived at the center shortly before 11:00 am to begin preparing the meal for the day. I was uncertain what I was going to cook. I left early Thursday because I was sick and didn’t know what was even there to prepare. For some weird reason I was very scattered. I went next door and gathered a ton of sweets. I threw a load of laundry in the wash and took a load out of the dryer. Samm and I had a work conversation. I was doing a lot of things and doing nothing at the same time. I was increasingly unsettled. I prepared what we had, chicken legs, ham and mac and cheese.
“Mom, are there only three of us today?” Taylor asked.
“I don’t know, I guess,” I answered.
“That means no showers. I hate when we can’t do showers,” she went on.
We opened with just the three of us, ten minutes late and with a line of expectant women. The kitchen held a temperature just below boiling. The oven and dryer were heating it up nicely. Samm was manning the entrance, Taylor was the runner, and I had the kitchen and laundry.
After the initial rush wore off we slowed down to a steady Saturday trickle. It seemed pretty manageable. A fourth person would make it very manageable. I had resigned to squeezing by with three when Taylor came back and said that Erica was headed in to help. She hadn’t been there very many times but was a solid set of extra hands. No sooner than Taylor let me know in came Erica. I told her that for now I could handle the heat box myself and she could help either Samm or Taylor. I was ready to settle into the next three and a half hours serving and talking with our regular girls. A spot finally cleared at the table.
“How are you? I was worried when I heard you had to leave Thursday. You need to rest.”
“I’m ok. I slept and took it easy Friday. How are you?” I asked.
Several of us sat and caught up with each other. We could have been long time friends sitting in a coffee shop chatting. I heard my name in the other room.
“Get my Mom,” Taylor said as she passed the kitchen door.
“What’s going on?” I asked as I stuck my head out of the kitchen.
“I need help up in the clinic,” she loudly commanded as she headed upstairs.
“Someone get Erica.” I yelled out to the front. The girls watching TV actually responded rather quickly and Erica headed to the kitchen.
“Stay in here!” and I headed up to the clinic.
I have seen a lot of things in our clinic. I generally walk in, put on some gloves and declare …
“I’m not a real doctor but I play one on TV.” They laugh, I laugh and then we administer basic first aid.
As I got to the top of the stairs I caught a brief glimpse of the woman as she headed in the room. I was completely unprepared.
Before I could even get all the way in the room she said, “I am sorry for the smell.”
I stood there for what seemed like an eternity just staring. My mind was going a million miles an hour. I watched her watch me. I looked from her to Taylor who was standing beside me. And she began.
“I was in an explosion. The other guy didn’t make it. I was burned over 75% of my body. ………”
I couldn’t hear her. I could only think. Every once in a while I heard a word here and there as she tired to show me the clothes that were stuck to her seriously infected burn wounds. And then the smell hit us.
“Do we have scrubs? We need to get these clothes off of her and at least get her into scrubs that won’t stick to these burns.”
Taylor ran to get gloves and scrubs. Slowly I began to hear her story again.
She had been in an explosion. Some scrappers had stolen the pipes out of a house and the gas was left free flowing. She had been asleep on a porch when the guy struck a match and blew them up. He died, she lived. Her addiction overrode her ability to stay and maintain the care that was needed for complete healing.
The skin on her hands was gone and was oozing infection, she had month old stitches and staples in her legs and ankles. She had a 4 inch hole in her upper thigh that extended deep into her. I couldn’t imagine the pain. I couldn’t imagine living on a porch with no skin on my hands.
We got her undressed and into the shower to scrub with Dial. I made some calls for help and came up with a plan for care. I helped her out of the shower and helped her dress in scrubs. I covered the hole and helped her apply the cream she had. No sooner than we had her all fixed up her hands began to seep. And the stitches began to move. I got closer. It moved again.
“I think there is a maggot in your wound,” I calmly said.
“Ooh that isn’t just a stitch?” she asked
“No, I don’t think so,” I answered.
“I am sorry for the smell,” she said again.
“It’s ok,” I answered as I helped her back down stairs and out to wait for her ride.
My mind was reeling. I headed back to the kitchen and resumed my position. I had been upstairs quite awhile. We were headed into the last hour. I took an inventory of the food we had left and began to wind down. There is always a last minute rush around 3:45. I was prepared.
Pearl came in as well as several others. I fixed two to go boxes and began to tend to Pearl. I lost track of time someplace in all of the commotion. I glanced at the clock it was now 4:00 pm.
“Ok guys, lets go!” I said.
Pearl began gathering her stuff up and so did a few others. They were dragging their feet about leaving.
Somewhere I heard a loud banging and then screaming.
‘“HELP SOMONE OVERDOSED ON THE PORCH NEXT DOOR !!!”
“Oh my God I think it’s my sister,” Pearl yelled.
Taylor grabbed her CPR mask and ran out the door.
“CALL 911,” she yelled to Erica.
I ran back and grabbed the NARCAN kit and ran over. As soon as I got on the porch there was Pearls’ sister lying on the porch on some makeshift bed unresponsive and blue. Taylor was on top of her vigorously applying CPR.
“1..2..3..4.. 1..2..3….” she counted and then breathed.
I knelt down and waited to give her the first dose. Taylors head came up off her mouth and I quickly shot the Narcan up her nose. No response. Taylor was still pumping and counting. I threw the box and grabbed the second dose.
She was getting bluer.
I again waited for Taylor to breath. And NOW. I shot the second dose up her nose. Still no response. Her face was lifeless. Her eyes were blankly staring into eternity.
PUMP, PUMP, PUMP and breath.
“ONE MORE GET ME ONE MORE BOX ! I NEED MORE NARCAN,” I demanded to everyone on the porch.
Taylor was pumping so hard she was almost coming up as she pumped each time. I couldn’t wait. I ran from the porch back next door and grabbed a box and ran back. As I was unwrapping the third dose Taylor’s head once again came up from the rescue breath. And NOW…
I shot the third dose up her nose and patted her arm, “Come on,” I said, “breath!” I was praying for God to intervene as Missy reached over the top of me and hauled off and smacked
Pearls sister square in her face with all her might, barely missing Taylor.
“YOU HAVE TO SMACK THEM HARD!” she yelled as she wolloped her again. “BREATH!” she yelled.
“GET HER BACK!” Taylor yelled.
Three doses in and not a response. Then there was a gurgle. Taylor stopped to listen and feel for a pulse. She had started and stopped breathing in after few seconds. Taylor began pumping again.
Missy got over the top of me again and hit her in a rapid fire series of solid face smacks. I pushed her back again. Still nothing.
I knew that legally Taylor couldn’t quit CPR until the medics got there, but I didn’t know when enough NARCAN was enough.
PUMP, PUMP, PUMP, PUMP breath, Taylor’s head came up again and I gave her the fourth dose of NARCAN. I knew that if this was Grey Death that there was nothing we could do but wait for the squad. I heard the sound of the siren in the distance. Missy got another hit in. Still nothing. She was so blue and lifeless. I was losing hope.
“ONE MORE… BRING ME MORE NARCAN,” I yelled. Strangely enough I thought to myself to remember to bring more then next time this happened.
People were screaming and crying on the porch. Pearls sister was still unresponsive. Someone handed me the next two doses at the same time the medics arrived.
“Is there a pulse?” the medic asked as he knelt and took over CPR.
“NO,” Taylor answered as she moved back away from Pearls sister.
I was frozen in my spot next to her.
“Is there a pulse,” he asked again.
“No!” I answered. He stopped CPR and reached for her neck.
And then I saw it, I saw her pulse all the sudden begin to rapidly beat in her neck.
WACK….. Missy reached over my back and cold cocked Pearls sister one more time.
“She is breathing …. stop hitting her she is breathing,” I demanded.
“Clear the porch for the medics,” the cop yelled.
We left as fast as we got there. Back to our porch. Back to our job. Back to closing the center and preparing for another day. We methodically cleaned up. Closed up and left.
We all hugged Pearl, told her that her sister walked to the squad and she could ride with her.
And then we left.
As I walked to the car I turned and looked at the abandoned building and fought the urge to scream …. NOT TODAY SATAN, NOT TODAY!!!!
Crabgrass of the SOUL
There are not many things in my house that I actually have much control over. I don’t mean the humans that live in my house. I mean the stuff in my house.
I don’t know where the cereal is, or where the Tupperware goes. I do know not to leave dishes on the right side of the sink. I don’t know where all of the random plates are coming from or where all the glasses are going to. I never can find the sweeper. And I generally only interact with our washer and dryer when they are broken.
When we have people for very long it just sort of seems like the whole house gets rearranged somehow. I usually don’t really care. I can never remember where stuff is supposed to go any way, so it takes me awhile to realize it’s been moved. There are however a few things that I absolutely care a great deal about around the house.
I actually care about people setting stuff too close to my turtle tank. I don’t want Fluffy to feel crowded. I don’t want his view obstructed of the outdoors. I care deeply that my Minions and Boxer pillow are arranged just so on my side of the bed. I take great care of my gutters. And then…… I am moved to distraction on a regular basis by the condition of my yard. Specifically my grass or lack there of.
Of all the things that annoy me, my grass bothers me the most. I can’t explain why I feel the need to inspect it daily. I just do.
It actually started last summer with an onslaught of crabgrass and some tall light green fast growing stuff. Everyone in the program at sometime in their life has worked for a landscaping company. That seems to be a common bond that ties them all together. I understand that everyone was pretty high while working there, however I made an assumption that something must have stuck in their brains concerning yard care. At the point of maximum crabgrass infestation last summer, I gathered together the program and took them on a tour of the front yard.
“Ok folks lets begin this inspection with a bit of grass education. Over here we have this tall fast growing stuff. Does anyone know what it is?” I asked the group we had at that time. Of course Juan thought he knew what it was. And this other kid thought he knew as well.
“Now what you gotta do is blah, blah, blah and then lay sod,” he said.
“Really…. well, I won’t be doing that. My main concern is that tall stuff and then crabgrass. I can’t seem to get rid of the crabgrass. No matter how many times I spray it, it will not die.”
One by one all twelve of them gave me their opinion of my lawn. Samm even weighed in on the ordeal. Eventually several of them came up with a plan. We would spray half the lawn to kill it. Then till it. Then seed it and spread hay, Samm, Juan and a few others began. Tim was horrified that I would just kill all the grass. They sprayed… tilled and seeded, rather quickly. The lawn regrew and looked sparse but better. No crabgrass for the rest of the year.
I was happy. Fall, winter, spring came and the lawn was deep green and looked like you wanted to roll on it. People in the program came and went. As new ones came they seemed to be impressed with the softness and look of the grass. I regularly cut it and treated it and inspected it. Most of the ones that worked on it last summer had either graduated or left. The girls watched me daily inspect the yard. It seemed that we had won the battle of the weeds.
I was a bit worried to be honest. I wasn’t sure that they killed the roots. Still… on the surface all looked well. Still I was nervous. You never know when the wind will blow a seed of destruction on the lawn.
The spring gave way to the scorching heat of summer. We watered and tended my lush lawn. Tim properly treated it for me. I still did a daily inspection.
And then….one day… it happened. I found a lone piece of crabgrass. I quickly plucked it out. But I knew. I knew that it has been waiting, lurking for just the right time to raise its ugly head.
I threw my plucked piece in the trash and marched inside with a scowl on my face.
“Girls…. We have crabgrass!” I announced.
“What’s crabgrass?” Trash Panda asked.
“It’s a kind of grass” Lt2 said with authority.
“Is it bad?” Hope curiously asked.
“It’s the worst possible outcome on my lawn!” I grumpily answered.
The van pulled up.
“Pimb …… look at what I found!” I sternly said as I dug the piece of grass out of the trash to show him. He looked sort of white as I held the piece of grass in the air and waved it around.
Sketcher and Cherry walked by staring at the blade with bewildered looks on their faces.
“Yep, it’s just what you think. Crabgrass!” I said as they passed by. They didn’t quite get it yet.
Even though I plucked the lone piece out, I knew it was just the beginning.
I sprayed. It rained.
I sprayed again. It rained again.
The heat and the rain made for perfect crabgrass growing conditions. My yard was soon covered in crabgrass. Oh the horrors!
Every time I walked out my front door I stopped and pulled crabgrass for at least five minutes.
Hope would walk by and and say, “You pulling that grass again? Seems like there is more everyday.”
I agreed and vowed to win the battle.
“Sweetie, it’s green grass. You’re going to kill the good grass trying to kill the bad grass and then we won’t have any grass,” Tim told me almost everyday as I pulled and pulled.
“Let’s just kill the whole lawn and start over,” Pimb declared.
“Let’s not,” I sternly answered.
“Do you know why this crabgrass is here? Do you realize it’s worse than it ever was? Can you imagine what went wrong last time?” I asked.
“I think so,” he answered.
“They sprayed, then tilled then seeded and spread hay. But what happened? Do you know?” I asked him again.
“I do. When the yard got tilled it spread the crabgrass seeds and spread it everyplace.”
“Bingo!” I answered as I stood in the biggest example of recovery I have ever seen in my whole life.
“The root never died. They didn’t kill the roots. The just pulled the tops off. The root was buried deep and laid dormant waiting for the perfect conditions to grow. Oh everything on the outside looked nice and felt nice all the while just below the surface evil was a brewing!
At first it was just one.
And then nothing bad happened so another popped up and quickly spread until it was out of control, taking over everything. It tried to blend in with the others. And some even wanted to turn a blind eye to the problem. Willing to accept it as a lesser of two evils. And it grew.
Daily I would take on only a small amount just enough to keep it from total domination. I used what we used before only to get the same result I got before.
Quickly it spiraled out of control. The more I tried to regain control the quicker I lost the battle. There is now no way to ignore this problem and apply only a bandaid. This will now require full commitment to annihilate the root of the problem. There is no other alternative.
I wound a tiny bit of the good in my effort, but the good will come back stronger once it isn’t being suffocated and strangled by the roots. Do you understand? Do you?”
“I, I think so?” Pimb sheepishly answered.
It all sounded so familiar to him now. His story. He kept the root. It all looked so good on the outside while he was choking on the root.
That feeling I had not so long ago. That one that lingered just below the surface, that left another one choosing to go to jail. It was crabgrass of his soul. There is no choice now but to fully eradicate it all. The roots must die.
“What’s wrong?” I asked Pimb.
“Ah just a little bored,” he slowly responded.
“Do you feel energetic? I got just the thing, follow me!” I excitedly commanded.
I skipped down the hall and out the front door and to the middle of the front yard with Pimb in tow.
“See all of this? Pull it all out! Get it by the root. Pull every last piece of it. And then I am going to spray the roots you left and kill it all. It will be good for you!”
“I know,” he answered.
“We are going to win this battle,” I said.
“I look forward to it,” he replied.
I bet you do, I thought. But will you survive?
“a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,”
Ecclesiastes 3:2 NIV
The Shouting Goats of Hell
Every once in a while God gives me a gift in the most peculiar way. August 1st, 2017 David came to our community.
“Hey, some lady called and said they have some kid from someplace that needs somewhere to live and wants you to call them back,” was the text I got from Jordan two weeks prior.
“What? We don’t just take people like that. Ugh, okay, I will call her back,” I grudgingly answered.
But I didn’t… I forgot.
“Hey, some lady called from the Asian American community. They have this kid that needs help. I think it’s the same one that called before. Did you call her?” Jordan asked a few days later.
“Nope, never called her. Can you call her?” I asked.
Then the email came from the same lady. She had a young man from Taiwan that needed help.
I forgot to respond. I am not ordinarily that forgetful or that non responsive. I guess because this kid wasn’t on drugs it didn’t really score high on my remembering list. Still, this lady was persistent.
“Ok, I talked to her. They have this young man that is 23, who somehow lived in isolation for fifteen years and left Taiwan in the middle of the night and ended up here in Columbus and needs some help,” Jordan dutifully reported.
“Hmmm, ok. Is he on drugs?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” she answered.
“Can he speak English?” I asked again.
“I don’t know, should I ask her?” she answered again.
“Where is he? What help does he need? How did they get our number?” I continued to rapid fire questions at her.
“I still don’t know those answers. What do you want me to do?” Jordan responded.
“I don’t know, find out where this kid is and I will send Keith and Taylor to talk with him and get the whole deal.”
So, Jordan set up a meeting with Keith, Taylor and David and the Asian American Community lady. They met at a hotel and David told his story.
He is an American citizen who, through a series of very sad events ended up living in Taiwan around the age of 9. He lived the majority of his life in a small room in a small apartment. He was not permitted to ever leave the apartment. And so for 15 years, he lived in semi isolation from the rest of the world. Eventually, through the internet, he learned that there was a whole world out there and managed to escape. The American Embassy facilitated his return to the United States and helped him pick where he would live.
Columbus, Ohio. That’s where he picked.
Of all the places to live in the US, David picked here, Columbus, Ohio. Strange isn’t it. He wanted a city that was growing and had transportation and tech jobs. So he picked Columbus, Ohio. Not what I think of when I think of here. But something about here was inviting to him.
He landed in Columbus and the Asian American Community set him up in a hotel for a week, with a phone for a month and food stamps for a while. They said they would help him find temporary shelter until he could get on his feet and get a job. We were the temporary shelter I guess.
“Mom….. we have to help him, like for real we do. This story is amazing. He has no one and no place to go. He has to leave the hotel tomorrow at noon. We have to help him,” Taylor text from the meeting.
“Does he speak English? How long does he want to stay? Tell him he can stay as long as he wants or do what ever you think is the right thing,” I text back.
I pretty much knew that unless he was a serial killer we would end up with him. Keith is such a big softy.
So…. we ended up with David.
None of us had any idea what it really meant for someone to never have done anything other than be stuck in a room. There are so many things we simply take for granted. Like what a canoe is.
The first day we met David I explained that we would be going canoeing.
“Have you ever been on a canoe?” I asked right after introducing my self and welcoming him.
“What is a canoe?” he blandly asked in total monotone broken English.
“Oh…… well it’s a boat. Can you swim?” I asked.
“No……I have never done anything at all. Like nothing,” he slowly explained.
Nothing means nothing. Like totally nothing.
So nothing means; no grocery store, no wall washing, no eating with a group of people. He has never been to the movies, never been anyplace at all, nowhere, NADA.
David originally wanted to stay only three months while he learned to drive, work and everything else.
After about a month of traveling to jobs with the program we formed sort of a master plan for David’s life. We would teach him basic living skills and working skills help him get through GED school, then perhaps a job. Maybe!?
We took David every place we went. Each time it was an experience! David slowly began to get comfortable with his environment and learning new things. Well, everything was new. However, he wasn’t completely overwhelmed. We enrolled him in GED class. None of us knew really what to expect as we pulled up to the Vineyard the first day. The last time he was in school was second grade.
“This is a hellabig church!” he declared as we pulled in to park at Vineyard Columbus Community Center.
I wasn’t really expecting that to come out of him.
“Yes, Yes it is,” I answered.
He zoomed through the classes and ended up taking the test in sections. He had his GED in under two months. Now it was on to bigger and better things. Like driving.
“We will not be teaching David to drive. He needs to learn from an actual driving instructor. I don’t want him learning everyone’s bad habits.” It seemed like everyone had an opinion on how David should learn to drive. I… would not be teaching him.
“Beth, I need to tell you, since you will find out anyway. About thirty-seconds after I got on the riding mower I hit a tree. All is well with the tractor. I did finish the lawn without further incident.”
That was David’s response to his first riding lawnmower experience. We decided that he needed to learn to steer things before we put him in traffic!!
“Second in-car went down safely. Was on the roads for pretty much the entire 2 hours, went up to 45mph and also dealt with mild traffic around Westerville Square and a little bit of parking.
Next in car is going to be July 21st and the schedule is to try and hit the highway so the pressure is on 😃” was Davids next text.
This year has been a year of firsts for us as we watch David decide what he likes and doesn’t like.
“Beth… I have made a decision,” he declared one day.
“Whats that?” I asked mildly amused and in anticipation.
“I have decided that I will not be singing ever in my whole life.”
“Never?” now I was laughing.
“Never!!” he firmly answered.
“Ok, but now you know my quest in life is to get you to sing right?” I taunted.
“mmm I guess so,” he sheepishly answered.
“Ooh it’s on. You are going to sing!”
‘Mike is apparently teaching me how to swim in a bit after we shower…
My life is most likely in danger, if I suddenly leave a note saying that I went on a “journey” the culprit is Mike.”
And then the Ohio State Fair, Mike and David decided to treat everyone in the program to a fair day.
My text to them:
Hi! I want to thank you guys again for taking everyone to the fair. It was so amazing for them today! It also gave them something to strive for as humans. They were overwhelmed with your generosity and they want to be like you guys. Thank you so much!
Yep, although it would be a lie to say that I enjoyed experiencing how it feels like to be thrown into a human blender combined with being swung in circles 50 feet off the ground, if people didn’t find it “fun” I’m pretty sure that’s just a large scale torture tool for multiple people.
I should’ve known something was off by the point where we entered and passed through a building of goats whose combined voices sounded like groans from the depths of hell.
As of yet, he hasn’t taken his drivers test!!
Happy one year in America David!
“When thinking about it, it’s soon to be one year since I came to America… its been an eventful year for sure, also went through a lot of events I didn’t think I would’ve done without you taking me in so I’m grateful for that,“ David.
And the story of David continues ….
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,” Matthew 25:35 NIV
There is a new drug that is making its way to Columbus. It’s a form of Opiate that appears to be Narcan resistant. At first it seemed to be just an urban legend. Now as more and more reports come in it seems to be true. Evidently Fentanyl isn’t bad enough.
I told the program several weeks ago that the drug was making its way here, that if they have been here six months or longer, it’s now a whole new ball game out there. The odds are increasingly stacking against them. I want them to know that I value their lives. I want them to remember why they are here and to know what the alternative can be.
“Worse places to be worse people to be with,” I always say.
This new drug has me scared. If, in fact, it is actually Narcan resistant, the impact at the Three, the drop in center will be huge. More of our friends will die. We won’t be able to help at all.
Each time we are open at the center we do sort of an informal roll calls. We generally know who comes in at what times. We know who is hanging out with who. If one comes in and the other doesn’t, we start asking around for the girl we haven’t seen. We hope the answer we hear is that she is in rehab or jail. Rehab is rare. Jail is much more common but much scarier.
When our friends get arrested they are tiny and frail. The city, in an effort to slow down the revolving door on the jail has raised the bonds higher for soliciting. That means our girls are spending a longer time in jail. The hope is the longer they are there the more they will want to get help. In truth help is hard to come by. There are many non profits geared towards awareness of human trafficking. The statistics say that for true healing to occur it may take a commitment upwards of seven years to truly restore a young woman. Good luck with that.
When we came down here to serve the women who live and work on Sullivant Avenue we did so with three goals in mind. We want to provide holistic care that provides physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. That requires so much trust.
The longer we are here the more of our lives we share. I show pictures of my family and my vacations. They show me pictures of their families and children. For true healing to begin the ground has to be level. There has to be an understanding that we are all in this together. We are concerned about them and they in turn worry about us. We all look forward to seeing each other.
There are days when nothing is said, just a knowing nod or a half smile. Life is hard. Sometimes one of our friends wants to leave. Just once, we have been able to help.
We have one of our friends with us now. We began the long journey around 21 days ago. She is delightful, and … very broken. The journey that brought her to us is horrific. She is a survivor. Most of the women here are. She is tired. She wants to be new. So this will be the last time I refer to her as being from the center. As soon as she passes forty days she will get her new name here. And she will be just one of us. Just a few of us know her story. She is an inspiration to people that know her.
She wants to be new.
Part of being new is doing new things. So, we take people to different events and expose them to different points of view and things that challenge them culturally. Last night we took the program to our District Camp Meeting. It isn’t camp and it really isn’t a meeting. It’s church. It’s church on steroids. It’s a week of encouraging services and excellent teaching. Most of the program has never experienced it. No better time like the present to experience your first Camp Meeting.
We hopped in the van and headed to Church. As we pulled in I gave the final instructions.
“Smoke off church property. It’s church so behave like it’s church.”
After everyone got finished with their pre-church rituals we headed inside. We looked like quite a mob as we filed into the sanctuary and took up a whole row. Most everyone was attentive and all were respectful.
As the speaker for the night began I prayed for each of the people in the program. It had been a very hard day that ended with someone leaving the program. Emotions were super high. I sat back content that everyone was where they needed to be right now. I was really, really paying attention.
Rev Taitt has an accent that I have a hard time understanding. For some reason I could understand him better than I had before. He began to speak on our identities coming from Christ and not our past or the world. He spoke into the brokenness of the program. He called each one, Kings and heirs to the throne of the one true King. The longer he talked the clearer I heard him speak.
I turned to look down our row. I wondered if they knew that God was there for them that night. I wondered if they understood that those that stand with them are greater than those that oppose them. Suddenly as I was watching I saw a newness begin to take hold of our newest girl. I watched in awe as she began to weep at the acceptance that Christ had given her. She was becoming new.
The band came forward as he was finishing his sermon to play a song for the altar call. I personally have never gone to pray at an altar before. I was wondering if anyone would feel prompted to go. No sooner than he prayed, she got up and went to the altar to pray and then another girl from the program. So broken, so shunned, so judged as undesirable.
As I watched them kneel and pray women came to pray with them. Women that knew their stories, that knew their struggles, kneeled beside them and held them and and prayed and cried with them. I was so humbled at the outpouring of love. Our girls felt accepted, loved and maybe for just a moment they felt no shame.
The rest of the program prayed where they were. Several were praying for the safety of the one that was no longer with us. They are afraid. They know it’s worse out there than it ever has been. I am afraid.
Many of our friends might die.
You came for criminals and every pharisee
You came for hypocrites, even one like me
You carried sin and shame the guilt of every man
The weight of all I’ve done nailed into Your hands
Last week was the Fourth of July. It seems like it was a year ago. I think I live my life in dog days. Each day is like a year. I know I keep saying this, however it’s just real to me.
We celebrate almost everything around here.
Two perfect pieces of toast…. cause for celebration.
You make it past your first 40 days, celebrate.
Celebrating holidays in the program is very important. It’s interesting to me how much people don’t actually know how to celebrate when they first come here. New people just sort of stand off to the side awkwardly. The first celebration is generally the hardest one. For a lot of people it’s the first sober one. Nonetheless we celebrate.
A lot of us celebrate because we didn’t know what else to do. There is still a weird feeling here, like something just below the water table. I can’t seem to tell if it’s the world readjusting to kicking two out of the nest (graduation) or just kicking two out. It’s strange. Sometimes the feeling is stronger than others. But it has yet to totally subside. I actually thought it might have been because we have a quick tummy virus run through the program. Nope, that wasn’t it.
I have wracked my brain trying to figure it out. I am on high alert. For me the tension is thick. We have three newish people here. One, Sketcher, is just past his forty days. Poor guy, he always looks like he is up to no good. I don’t think he actually is, but you couldn’t prove it by the look on his face.
And then, two new girls.
One is very, very animated. The other one we actually met at the drop in center. She is, I think the oldest here right now. She has a wonderful personality and likes to cook. That is working out well with the rest of the girls. They have moved on from corn dogs to three squares a day. Everything on the outside looks good. Graduation, food, celebration, several parties. And still the feeling is lingering, humming like a low electrical buzz.
After the Fourth of July we attempted to catch up the days we missed in group. That is no small undertaking. I actually thought for a minute that missing Group for so many days was the cause of the feeling. I even tried to convince myself that for sure was the cause. I was prepared to get to the bottom of it.
I gathered my group on the back porch and decided that something would come out in the Group that would shed some light or even just get people back on even keel. I got my Vitamin Water and Bug Hut and dug in.
My group was three days behind. What that actually equals is close ninety-five papers. Ninety-five individual pages of dysfunctional thoughts and feelings. Ninety-five individual pages that are read out loud and discussed and dissected. Ninety-five pages that have to be logged into their files. And….. we needed to get caught up all that day.
I was convinced that someplace in there was the cause of the feeling. About fifty papers in, I could hardly pay attention. They, could hardly pay attention. It wasn’t that they weren’t important thoughts and feelings. It’s that a lot of them are repetitive. You have to write it out and say it out loud many times before alternative solutions become believable.
Each day starts new and somehow some of these feelings creep back in. For parents it can be a child in the car next to the van that sparks intense feelings of guilt and longing. It can be a smell of certain food, or a song or just something said in passing that makes its way to a paper.
Each one is important in the moment. Three days later….. not so much. Some are actually funny. The papers where people describe their feeling of entitlement are the funniest to me. Serious, but funny.
“I know that my directions on baking a potato are far clearer than others. I deserve to have the potatoes baked how I want them baked.”
“I just stab mine a few times and throw them in the oven,” I generally say.
My favorite paper to date:
“I am much better at leading people, I can do Beth’s job better than she can!”
“Still my sandbox, still my rules.”
Slowly but surely we waded through the ninety-five papers. And still, the feeling. I might have even been a bit stronger when we finished. It felt lighter getting caught back up. My group felt lighter afterwards.
It’s interesting how much they depend on their inner circle to help them and how out of wack they get when we don’t all meet each day. Its like a computer memory dump daily. Sometimes when they have worked a long time on a particular issue, the day they get to dump it just might be the day they are finally free from it. Each day is a day that might be the last of a haunting memory or a day they don’t have to relive.
It’s important. Sometimes the strange feeling I get is caused by the heaviness of the group issues. There are times when I hear stories that are almost unrepeatable. And the heaviness leaves after group is finished.
Not this time.
We ended the week with another amazing celebration. We celebrated each recovery person at a Washington Court House restaurant buffet. The amount of support that our program felt from the generosity was amazing. There were tears of joy that they were prayed for and loved by people they didn’t know.
“Ah, now this, this will get rid of the feeling,” I thought on our way home.
Now I was getting desperate to find the source. I gave Cherry a firm talking to. Nope!
Kyle and Bobby left for their vacation. Maybe that was it. Maybe the anticipation of staff being gone and a weirdo schedule was the cause. Nope!
I can’t find it. I know it’s there. I know there is something lurking or roaming around. Until it does I will remain on guard, and alert. So far, it always comes out. Sometimes it isn’t a big as it felt…. but it always comes out. One way or the other.
“And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”” Job 2:2 NIV
I realize there has been a giant gap between blogs. It wasn’t really intentional, it is just that so many things happened right before graduation and right after that I didn’t even know how to put it all into words. It’s not very common that I am at a loss for words so that makes this doubly difficult. I will start here and attempt to coherently weave you through last week.
Following rules is a mentality that needs changed to truly function successfully in society. You can’t kinda follow the rules or interpret them how you want to. If you break a law you go to jail. If you act against company policy you lose your job. If you don’t follow protocol for your licensure you get suspended. Your program is only the first place in their recovery journey that they have to play by the rules. – Very Wise person
As soon as we returned home the lid blew off the program. It was sort of like God had been holding it all in place until we got back. Sometimes the stress of me being gone sort of ups the ante on things. Sometimes people do or say things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do when I am out of town. That seemed to be the case. And so it went like this…
Tuesday, June 19, 2018, it was brought to the staff’s attention that a piece of pizza from a visit had come up missing. It was …….. stolen. We have a rule against stealing so we had to now get to the bottom of the missing pizza. Kyle let me know on vaca that this was going on. I told him to gather all the guys and tell them that unless someone confessed there would be a consequence for all of them that they wouldn’t like. There was silence at first and finally Chandler confessed. The end… for now. They knew I would be home in a few days so for now that was the over.
Little did I know that the missing pizza would pop back up on the 23rd. And so I came home on Thursday the 21st very early in the morning, we worked that day and then again the 22nd. Sometime mid evening the 23rd Chandler recanted his original confession. It now wasn’t him. He spent several days casting suspicions elsewhere. So when he recanted all eyes went to the next guy (who doesn’t have a name yet).
I hate this part of my job. I hate the “not me” syndrome. I just for once want someone to stand up and say IT WAS ME!!!! I DID IT!! ME, ALL ME!!!. But no that was not how this was going to go. I knew who it wasn’t but I didn’t know who it was. I suspected that it was either Chandler still or the other guy. And so I brought them all together in Keith’s living room.
“Ok, we are not going to live like this. We won’t live with a thief. We won’t live not trusting that we can leave our stuff out. So here is how it is going to go. I, will set the timer for 4 minutes, at the end of that time if no one confesses then you will all lose your visits tomorrow. We will do this each day until someone confesses. Each day you will lose something. Time starts now.”
I hit the button and just stood there. The clock ticked slowly. Everyone just stared blankly ahead.
“Three minutes,” I calmly said.
“Two minutes,” still nothing.
Mighty was now getting upset. He didn’t take the pizza and was going to lose his family visit.
“One minute,” still nothing. The air was as thick as mud.
“Thirty seconds,” nothing.
“Times up. You all just lost your visits. My group …. let’s go.” And we left.
My group was horrified. I knew they didn’t do this but they lost their visit anyway.
“Beth, this is terrible. What can I do to get him to confess?” Mighty asked.
“Well… don’t take Chandler off the list yet. My bet is him still.”
And so we finished group. The guys agreed that they wanted to take Tim over as some muscle to see if he could strong arm the truth out of someone. One hour later Tim returned with a verdict. It was Chandler. He got mad that Yertle wouldn’t give him a piece, so he just took it.
“If you steal so much as a button from me, that is a probation violation and breaking the rules. I will put you in jail. Got it?” I firmly and sternly said to him when I saw him.
Crisis adverted. As we began group Sunday there was again a problem in the recovery house. It seems that somehow one hundred forty cigarettes just somehow came up missing.
“What do you mean you don’t know where they went? How can that be? That’s a lot to just disappear don’t you think?” I asked Kyle rather firmly.
He stood there.
We have a very strict rule about cigarettes. You aren’t allowed to give anyone yours or ask anyone for theirs. You get a set amount and when you are out you are just out until the next day.
It seems that Chandler just took it upon himself to quit and not say anything so Kyle (who is supposed to ask each morning how many they have left.) just kept putting ten out each day for fourteen days. Those cigarettes were now missing. And no one looked like they were going to fess up. I couldn’t really yell at them, or do much of anything because it wasn’t their job to make sure Kyle asked each day. Sooooo, they just took them. All of the guys one by one came and said they did it.
Monday morning 8:28 am, our day off.
Text from Kyle – Beth we have an emergency.
Second text from Kyle – It is an emergency to end all emergencies
I shot out of bed. An emergence to end all emergencies in my mind looked like someone cut their arm or leg off or played in the street in front of a car. I was frantic.
“What is going on?” I frantically asked.
“We have a problem with the house and I didn’t know what to do,” he answered.
Not an emergency. It did take most of my day off, but still not an emergency.
Tuesday morning we were getting ready to start Group. Kyle walks around the corner with evidence of rule breaking.
Aghhhh, I want to now rip my hair out. Are you kidding me? I couldn’t imagine what made these yahoos think that this was a good idea. The rule is clear. Crystal clear. If you break this particular rule you will be asked to leave. Bam! There you have it.
“Do you need help packing?” I asked the first one.
“Ok well then let’s go,” I said to the first one.
The second one had consequences that are huge. With prison hanging over his head I didn’t expect this. We knew something was wrong just not this. There was no choice now. I had to call the probation department and have them come. It was heart breaking. Absolutely heart breaking.
Two days before our graduation we lost two people I cared for very much. On Thursday we would launch two more. My mind was blown. It’s funny to me how all of the daily discoveries lead us to the place where the serious problem was discovered. I think God pulled off the top and let it all go. If each thing had not happened in order .. including the, Emergency to end all Emergencies, we wouldn’t have found the serious problem.
“How’s the food?” I asked.
“Oh you know, jail food is jail food.”
By the way Friday morning after graduation, I spent roughly thirty minutes in the sex offender registration line downtown Columbus. But that’s a story for another day.
“GOD ’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.” Psalm 34:7 MSG
There is a phenomenon called the second wind. It’s real. According to Wikipedia – Second Wind is a phenomenon in distance running, such as marathons or road running (as well as other sports), whereby an athlete who is out of breath and too tired to continue suddenly finds the strength to press on at top performance with less exertion.
I have been on vacation. Roughly nine days ago Tim, Taylor, Keith and I boarded a red eye for California. We planned a vacation/working trip around my nephews wedding. We flew into San Francisco. Keith has never been there so we planned on attempting to pack as much fun as humanly possible into the three days. There are a few must see things in San Francisco and we wanted to see everything we could.
Our first day there we were super charged. We hiked down from Nob Hill to Lombard Street and then to the Wharf. It was close to three miles down with all of the wandering to and fro. We ooh’d and ahhh’d at the flowers on Lombard. We meandered slowly through the galleries and shops of the Wharf. We ate at the street vendors on the pier and eventually ended up at the Alcatraz tour. Unbeknownst to us…. it sold out three months ago. Who knew jail was such a popular place to visit. It certainly isn’t for the people we hang around with. It was at this point that technically we could have called it a day. We in fact had worn out the word fun…. ah, but no. There was more fun to be had.
We set our sights on the ………… Ba Ba Bum….. Golden Gate Bridge….. we made our way back to Ghirardelli Square where all the bike shops reside in the shadow of the bridge. Yes, we opted to tour the bridge by bike. We picked the Wharf to Sausalito Ferry tour. That sounded like the best deal going.
“Do you need to be physically fit to do this tour?” Keith politely asked the lady selling us the tour.
“No, no, not at all. There is a hill and then once you pass the hill it’s smooth sailing afterwards. Really …. you will love it. It’s a great tour!!” she very energetically answered.
“Look Taylor ….. they have tandems. Eeeeeeee we can ride double across the bridge!!! Yay let’s ride double!!!!!” Keith smiled and jumped up and down and clapped and jumped and clapped some more.
Taylor death stared him.
Taylor death stared him again.
Keith smiled and looked like a sad boo boo kitty.
“Keeeeiiiith I don’t want to ride a bike, I can’t ride a bike very well. I will walk.”
“Come on please, it will be fun, you will love it!!”
“No I won’t. It’s scary and I don’t want to do it!”
Sooooo, we rented two tandem bikes. Mistake number 1.
Keith and a very reluctant Taylor hopped on their bike. Tim and I hopped on ours. It appeared to be a pretty clean shot to the bridge. The lady told us to follow the path to the warming hut, head up the hill and the rest was smooth sailing. We set our sights on the Golden Gate Bridge! I, was excited, Taylor was not. I think I heard an evil laugh from both Keith and Tim as we pulled away.
“Can you please tell me when you are going to coast?” I kindly and politely asked Tim, who had set the peddling pace at an insane 90-100 rotations per minute.
“Why are we peddling this fast? Isn’t there a higher gear we can try?”
“It’s the speed I like to peddle at and yes there is but we won’t be using it!!” he firmly answered.
“Well I can’t peddle this fast,” I sweetly yelled up to him.
“Hmmm,” he grunted back.
“I am serious…. I won’t make it at this pace,” I upped the intensity of my ask.
“Well it won’t even matter now I was completely out of breath,” and we were all of ten feet into the first hill.
“Get off, we have to push it now,” Tim directed.
So off we all hopped and began to push our tandems up the giant hill before us.
At this point we were still excited to see the bridge. Eventually we made it to the top of the hill joyfully pushing our bikes.
“Good thing we rented these tandem’s so we would have something to push the whole way to the bridge,” said every one of us in different rotations.
We joyfully raced down hill around the corner and on to flat land….. for not very long. We rounded the corner near the warming hut and looked at what was ahead. The mammoth hill that was before us was all that seemed to be standing between us and the bridge.
My legs were feeling a bit like rubber. As much as I attempted to lower the peddling rotation it only seemed to stop for just a few minutes.
“I can’t take it, I feel like I might be dying Tim. I am not going to make it up this hill.”
“Lets get a running start and go as far as we can,” he said, sort of encouragingly.
And so that’s what we did. We took a deep breath and geared up and peddled as fast as we could to start up the hill. Roughly fifteen feet into the hill I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to stop. I was seriously starting to question if we would even make it to the bridge. I was questioning my own sanity for suggesting a tandem bike. What would ever cause me to think this was a good idea? I should have known that Tim and I wouldn’t peddle at the same speed. I should have known that requesting a coasting alert would be out of the realm of reality. I should have known that I would have my ankles hit repeatedly with a peddle. But alas, I gave up mind reading several years ago for Lent and I had no idea what I was in for.
We drudgingly pushed the bike closer and closer to the top. It seemed so far away and close at the same time. Suddenly we were almost at the top of the hill. Keith and Taylor got their second wind and effortlessly zoomed by and to the top. We stopped pushing to admire their conquest. They made it!! Tim and I began our lively conversation about the correct direction to go. I figured we needed to go the same direction that the kids did. Tim, didn’t. We hollered back and forth.
No, we weren’t almost there. I couldn’t even think about riding across the bridge anymore. I was spent. And then, all of the sudden, we popped out on the top of the trail at the entrance of the bridge.
Suddenly the pain in my knees and hip left. What stood before us was magnificent. It was the Golden Gate Bridge in all its glory. I was so excited.
“Let’s go!” I shouted to everyone.
“I need to rest,” Keith and Tim said.
After a few minutes I couldn’t take the excitement anymore and pestered them into action. I was so excited I didn’t care if Tim peddled 300 times a minute. Tim seemed a bit stiff as we started across the bridge. It might have been because I wasn’t paying any attention to what was happening on the bike. I was looking everywhere all at once. I looked out to the Pacific and down through the see-through grates to the water below us, and up to the tall gables above us.
“Look Tim, look how low that guardrail is, I wonder if people ever fall over it?” I shouted.
As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized Tim has a serious fear of heights. There I was squirming all around like a child on the back of the bike while he was holding on for dear life. The wind picked up and nearly blew us off the bridge as we made our way across.
I can say, the crossing was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done. The ride into town…. not so much. When we reached the other side Tim got his second wind that included a terrifying ride down the mountain hill. I don’t think he used our brakes one time. We skidded into the parking lot of the return ferry just in time to see it pull away.
“I WILL NOT BE RIDING THIS BIKE BACK ACROSS THE BRIDGE!” I firmly declared.
“OK,” Tim answered.
“He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.” 2 Samuel 22:11 NIV
Well we did it… we formally announced graduation. June 28th at 7:00 pm we will be graduating Mr. Michigan and One Time. The next twenty-six days aregoing to be a whirlwind.
We have known for sometime that we were looking at June 28th as a Graduation Day. There is so much that goes into picking a date, way more than the program people can speculate. It’s so funny for me to watch them attempt to figure out a time frame. They count the pages in their packets, divide by the number of days they think it will take them to finish at the current pace and they arrive at the magical date. They quietly make plans on what’s its going to be like. It is very funny. I have watched up and coming grads count the pages in their Boundary book while looking at a calendar and once that starts ….. almost impossible to stop it. Even the up and coming Intermediates’ engage in it. Just last week I was with one of them at their attorney’s office and the attorney asked me how long until the next phase.
“It could be any where from four to six months more,” I casually answered.
“REALLY?!” Sugar asked.
“Really…” I firmly reiterated with a big smile.
So much can happen. Not so much with the Grads, but the Intermediate wanna be’s, still quite a lot. It’s more than they think and less than they know. It’s strange really. Recovery, like addiction, has a predictable path filled with the unpredictable. We know there are certain components to getting well, but how you get there is anyone’s guess.
The soon-to-be-grads are mostly walking around beaming now. That’s funny to me also. Suddenly they are Recovery experts. They are confident and afraid at the same time. So, so confident that they are ready to tackle the world now. And so afraid they will make a mistake.
They will. They for sure will make a mistake. The only question is how big will the mistake be. Ughh, I get so nervous. I am super ready for them to be out of the nest and yet I almost can’t stand the thought. We all so badly want for them to have the life that they have dreamed of since they were little. We want it for them almost as much as they want it. We attempt to tell them all of the mistakes that the other grads have made and I think it goes like this in their heads.
“Ya,ya, I hear what your saying about all the other yahoos… but that’s not me. I am not that dumb. I worked harder … I am smarter… that won’t be me. So you can stop talking about it anytime now…. ok, ok Beth, I hear you.. yep… got it… OMG quit talking about it. I will be fine. It’s just coffee, it’s just bla, bla, bla, bla. What ever, whatever.”
I watch their dumb eyes glaze over as I tell them again and again the mistakes that have been made. I attempt to give them guidance for their six month plan.
“You have to be better than normal people. You can’t afford to be lazy with your recovery. All eyes will on you once you finish. So far you have lived in a community that doesn’t hold your past against you. That won’t be the case in the real world.”
“What does the mean?” they ask.
“It means… people might see your history first. That’s ok. Who you are now will overcome that. It’s ok to have to earn trust. Your integrity will come through. Most people in the real world still believe in little white lies. But they will learn that dishonesty can cost you your life and you won’t have any part of it. It’s ok to have to earn respect. Don’t be impatient. People don’t know you like I know you. People out there are just a bit crazy. They can afford it .. you can’t.”
“I just want to date. When can I date?” everyone asks.
“When pigs fly!!” I want to say instead I say.
“How about you learn to take care of yourself in the real world first before you even think about adding another human being into the equation?”
No one likes that answer, ever.
“What about coffee?” they ask.
“What about, Coffee?” I ask back.
“Did you spend the last 18-24 months of your life to drink coffee and date? Is that what this has boiled down to? Coffee and dating. How about …. let’s think of something important … like maybe how you plan on replacing Group? What meetings you will attend. What about that?” I firmly ask.
“Uh, well, uh ya all that is important too I guess,” standard mumble.
“Here is what you need to be thinking about.
- Where are you going to live
- Where will you work or go to school
- What will you drive
- What is your budget
- What meetings will you attend
- What phone will you have
- Who will be your wise council
- What steps to repair broken relationships will you take
9. Will you drink caffeine
10. When is social media safe for you
11. How long will you wait to date
12. Who will you hold as wise council for dating
This is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to stay alive to achieve your goals!
Start with that!” I strongly suggest.
The intermediate wanna be’s stand quietly off to the side wide eyed and wondering if they will ever get to this part. If they will get to hear the lecture. They are becoming more confident by the minute right now. They are antsy to move ahead.
I get it. I do. However their life is my job.
Keeping them alive isn’t something any of us take very lightly at all. We have to be beyond sure of ourselves that moving them ahead isn’t risky. We error on the side of caution. Extreme caution. We know the cost. Sometimes they loose sight of the cost. Sometimes they think, just like little kids think, that we are overprotective. We are. We for sure are. The worse the Opiates get the more protective we get.
“Beth, I think I am just going to go and have Jake take me to look at buying a new car. You know, see what kind of payments I can afford and just buy one. The car that I have has a broken alternator and so, yep that’s what I am going to do,” declared Mr. Michigan, who is getting too big for his britches.
“Nope. You will not be doing anything of the kind while you are still in the program sir. You may fix the car you own or ride in the van. Up to you. But no car payments.” I once again brought him to earth.
It’s going to be interesting this month. Very, very interesting. Until the 28th they are still ours. And we can still change our mind!!
There are times I wish I could unsee something I saw or un-know something I know. There are things in this world that make me so angry that I don’t even know what to do. So I just keep doing the same thing in hopes that it will make a small dent in evil and a tiny difference in the world.
As I sat in Group Friday pondering how I was going to stay awake my phone rang. I don’t usually answer during Group, I generally respond with a text that I am in Group and will get back to them as soon as possible. As soon as I hit send a text came through to me.
“A friend called and said The Blonde flockka Girl is in Grant Hospital, she overdosed, is in ICU in bad shape, came out of a coma today or yesterday.”
I wasn’t really shocked by the news. This Girl is a girl we regularly see at the center. She is 5 months older than Sam. She calls me mom. Actually most everyone there does. I don’t know if it is because they don’t know my name or because they hear Taylor yell, “Mom!” all the time or because I scold them like a mom and do their laundry like a mom and stuff them full of mom food.
Anyway, this girl, flokka Girl, we call her, has been in very, very bad shape since we first came to Sullivant Ave. We have seen her rolling in the mud. We saw her burning on the inside from the effects of flokka and China white. Her poor little muscles contracting so hard she couldn’t stand still at all. She couldn’t stand the internal heat and so she stripped and rolled on the cool grass trying to ease the burning inside. We saw a video of her online overdosing in the street. We saw things we never wanted to see.
She regularly came into the center, sometimes for a shower and a meal, sometimes to just say hi and let us know she was still alive. Her hands were very swollen from drug use and she flailed around in an alarming manner. I was amazed every time she flailed she never spilled her juice. She is a regular and we all love her.
We arrived at the hospital after the center closed Saturday. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect. The closer we got to the ICU waiting room the quieter we got. We finally found the ICU information desk. The mood was very odd in the waiting room. There were close to thirty people from several families camped out there. Some were eating dinner and some were trying to sleep, all were in the middle of some tragic event. I wondered if any of these people belonged to our girl? Maybe her whole family was here supporting her.
The window lady told us there were two people back there that had been there all day. They would come out so we could go in. Taylor was anxious and only wanted to be there for a minute so her and Sam headed back first when the couple came out. I waited at the window and talked to her family.
It was really bad her cousin said. Her kidneys had shut down, she was being kept in a semi coma, she had a blood clot in her arm that if it moved she would die. They had operated on her chest three times and they they didn’t want her to be agitated at all. She was about to go on when Taylor came around the corner white as a ghost. Her cousin and I exchanged information and I headed back to see her. Sam was still in there.
As I rounded the corner to her room I could see Sam first. Her head was down and she had tears running down her face. I moved my eyes from her to our girl as I sat down. I was beyond disturbed. There she was lying there more peaceful than I had ever seen her. Evidently when she saw Sam and Taylor she tried to get up so they knocked her out. She was so still. I have never seen her when she wasn’t in perpetual motion, ever. At first Sam and I didn’t speak. I just sat there and looked at all that was going on.
There was a large machine to the left of her bed that was cleaning her blood. She has a tube that is running out of her and back into her where all of her blood is coming and going from. Her swollen hands are tied down.
My eyes moved from the giant blood machine that was rhythmically whining to all of the tubes down her throat. She is on a vent. She has a tube running from her open chest to a giant drain measuring how much blood is coming from her chest. It can’t be sown up yet, there is too much infection from the abscess in her chest wall and on her heart. She has no less than six separate IVs dispersing medicine into separated places. I don’t think her veins can handle all of it. Her hair looked washed and her hands and feet seemed cleaner than I had seen them in a while. I almost couldn’t take it.
As I quietly sat there I started to get angry. I thought back to a few months ago when she was having a seizure on our porch. A visiting pastor called me and told me to hurry up because a girl was dying on our porch. By the time I got to the center she had stopped seizing and ran down the street.
“She down on Martin Ms. Beth,” one of the other girls told me as I pulled up.
I had Tim drive me down to her and as I approach I jumped out of the car to see her rocking on the street corner.
“Ms. Beth what are you doing here?” about six girls said in unison as they stood up quickly and put their drugs away.
“I am here for my girl. What’s going on here? All of you get down to the center right now and bring her with you so I can check her out and get her clean. Right now!” I firmly said to all of them.
“Yes ma’am,” they said, “we will be right there.”
I looked over at Sam who was quietly crying. It was only a month ago that Sam had to call the squad for her as she once again OD’d on our porch. She begged Sam to go to the hospital with her. I wouldn’t let her.
“You can’t go, you won’t be able to take it when she begs you for help and you have to tell her we don’t have room right now,” I gently told her.
“You’re right, I know we just took in LTtoo and we need time,” Sam responded.
The longer I sat the angrier I got.
“Beth, she might not make it,” Sam choked out.
“I know. It looks like all of her chest is either open or broken. And her kidneys aren’t working,” as tears continued to stream down her cheeks.
I was having a hard time trying to put into words what I was feeling. The anger kept rearing it’s head. Slowly I began, “I have very mixed emotions here,” I said with tears now running very freely from both sadness and anger.
“What do you mean?” Sam asked.
I gulped and swallowed my tears and began. “She is so tortured. She is. This is the most at peace I have ever seen her. I guess I want God to have mercy on her. If she can’t get better, I mean really better, then I want for God to have mercy on her and stop this suffering and bring her to him. She deserves to be in peace. She has fought this so long. She needs rest.”
By now I couldn’t hold back my tears.
Sam nodded, “I understand,” she said, “I know God doesn’t see her like this, He sees her how He created her.”
We forgot for a moment where we were and between the tears and machines we began to speak at a normal tone. Our girl must have heard me and opened her eyes. Just for a moment.
“She hears you,” Sam said.
Then the anger took back over. It moved quickly from anger to fury. I am furious. As I write this I am furious. I am so mad at this drug. It has and is robbing families of loved ones. This new China is a force to be reckoned with.
And I am mad.
I am mad at people in recovery that get partially well and then arrogantly think they can do it on their own. I am mad at LTtoo. She has our girls spot in the program. She isn’t trying. She is only giving a half hearted attempt at getting well. She is playing a game I won’t play very long. I am so mad. I want to drag her by her hand and make her sit in the ICU and watch the blood flow in and out of my poor sweet drug ravaged Girl and see if she still wants to play this game.
I want to yell at the top of my lungs at every person that is risking their life out of arrogance or ignorance,
“STOP IT! This is a powerful opponent and it might win, don’t think for a moment you can just casually get well. Fight, fight for your life. Don’t blink, don’t flinch, don’t make excuses… WEED is a drug. Don’t be so stupid to think you are the one person in the world that can use it and be ok. Don’t make excuses, just fight for your life. Please just do it!”
The tears began to dry up in both Sam and I. We sat for a moment more.
“Are you ready to go?” I asked.
“Yes,” she firmly answered.
Sam is angry too.
“Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.” Psalm 7:6 NIV
It’s so weird to me how cyclical everything is. There just seems to be a rhythm to almost everything. Day/Night Spring/Summer Fall/Winter Graduation/New people Alaina and Samms birthday/cake and Stromboli. It’s like a tolerable record played on repeat, you might not like the next thing but at least you know it’s coming.
There is a graduation in the air. We haven’t announced one yet, however you can tell its coming up sometime in the semi-near future. One Time and Mr. Michigan have almost finished all of their work. They are getting antsy. I am getting antsy. As much as I like both of them, I am ready to see what they can do on their own.
Contrary to popular belief I reach a point where I don’t want to be responsible for them anymore. They are almost grown up now and I need a stopping point, we all do. Plus, we have three new people. Bringing in new people completes the cycle. It pushes the middle people closer to the top of the food chain and they start to get antsy to move to the next phase.
And so it continues.
Here is what it currently looks like in the program:
Soon to be grads (intermediate):
New Guy – Day 10
New Girl – Day 2
And so the Seniors have their eye on Intermediate, they can almost taste it. Little do they know it’s further than they think and closer than they will be comfortable with.
Statistically speaking, since the last senior left, they should all graduate. “Should” is the correct word here, there is still room for error, someone could totally mess up. However it isn’t likely now. Mighty has taken some giant steps toward becoming the person he wants to be. He now knows clearly who he was and that person isn’t attractive to him anymore.
“I want there to be purpose to my life,” he told us all in group.
He has made some pretty hard decisions to make sure that he becomes a man of integrity. I am excited to see him continue. We actually have a similar communication style. I don’t know if that is good or bad for him. But I enjoy him in my group. Such a hearty laugh.
Juan……. Juan is Juan. He has been here longer than the two other seniors. He has been here over a year now. It seems like my whole life, really my whole life. He recently turned the corner about ¾ths of the way. I might just shove him around the other ¼ just to get it out of the way.
For some weird reason we seem to spend a lot of time together. We take fun trips to the Probation Department, several counties, I might add. I usually put him on my work team. He just sort of needs that extra special attention.
“Why do I always gotta ride with you? Why can’t I just be like everyone else?” is the frequent question.
“You aren’t like everyone else. Besides I haven’t given you enough grief yet today,” I say with a smirk.
And then there is Sugar. Her name tells you almost everything you need to know about her. Sure she is sweet and all that, but she is relentless with sweets. When she graduates I am going to personally put her whole face smack dab in the middle of a giant cake. She will love it! When she got here we didn’t think she would make it past the first four days. Look at her now!
“Um ……. um…..um..” she said.
We are working on sounding more confident.
And so it goes again and again and again. No one is sure yet on the new guy and the new girl, it’s really to early to tell. New girl is pretty skinny, like super, super skinny. She is the new face of Opiate addiction right now. Fentanyl has replaced “tar” on the West side, the detox is quick and harsh, way harsher than heroin.
Fentanyl has robbed her of almost everything that she is. She can’t eat or sleep or sit still. She is hot, then cold and just plain miserable. But, she seems to be doing the best she can possibly be doing at this time. I really hope she stays. I saw a picture of her before. I would love to see her get her life back. All we can do is pray.
The New Guy seems to be settling in pretty well. He fits in with the other guys. He is skinny as well.
And then there is LTtoo.
LTtoo, is giving us all a run for our money. I am tolerant only to a point. She has been here close to 60 days. To me that is long enough to play well with others or roll, one or the other. Neither seems to be happening. I know for a fact she doesn’t want to end up in my group. No one does, unless they started there. We had a little “come to Jesus talk” as I like to call them. It goes like this;
“Hey, (fill in the name ) I don’t think I like what is going on here. You are here to learn to be NEW ……….. ah, ah, I don’t need an explanation right now… I am not asking a question, I am making a statement. So one of two things need to happen here, either you stop causing grief or you call it a day and we will be done. This place isn’t for everyone. If you choose to stay at this point I expect you to put in effort. Got it? (meek head nod yes). Okay, cool. If we have to revisit this again we will be visiting it in our way to the shelter,” I firmly and sternly say.
They generally listen, at least a little bit, then they give about a half hearted effort to stay far, far away from me. I don’t think that that is how this is going to go here.
And the rhythm keeps going.
Now we are back to Alainas and Samms birthday. It’s a wonderful birthday for them. They graduated together and they are still living their lives together. They have a wonderful history. They have Stromboli and cake. I so wonder about all of the classes minus the next grad class. Will they all make it? If not who will go? Will they cherish their friends like those that have gone before them? Will they make to graduation? Will I make it to graduation? Will the seniors make it to Intermediate?
If the rhythm runs true. This time next year we will have some answers. Until then………………stay tuned.
Let’s eat some cake!!!
““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
The Time In Between
There is part of this job that is incredibly hard to explain, you almost have to experience it to feel the weight of it. I call it The Time In Between. It’s the time between when someone declares that they want help and the time help arrives or the time that help arrives and the time someone truly decides they can get well. All that time…….. is The Time In Between.
For several months we have been waiting for the court to make a decision on a girl that is sitting in Jackson Pike. She has been waiting to see if the court would allow her to get well instead of going to prison. I think she has been to prison once before. Evidently it didn’t work.
Somehow she ended up right back where she started before she went the first time, back in the Bottoms. The crime she committed this time was truly due to drugs and passion. None the less, she ended up in some pretty bad trouble. And this time she wanted to do something different. This time she decided enough is enough and she was ready for help.
I made Sam do all the back and forth calling with the Public Defenders office to set up an interview for her with us. Friday was the day. I haven’t been to the interview room at Jackson Pike before. I have been to all of our neighboring county jails but never the Pike. Kyle was going with me, mostly because he has never been to jail and just really wanted to go. So I took him. It’s always an interesting event, jail interviews have a feeling of their own. If we accepted this girl she was going to be the first person from the center we were able to help.
We signed in, then were given visitor badges and led to an interview room.
“Oh my… this is just like Law and Order,” Kyle excitedly exclaimed as the door clanged shut.
“It’s one of the nicer rooms I have been in actually. There is space for the three of us,” I answered.
We sat in silence until the door opened and our girl walked in. She had gained a considerable amount of weight since I saw her last. She looked great! Her skin color was good and she looked healthy.
“Hi, you look amazing!” I said as she took her place on the other side of the metal table.
“Hi, thanks for coming,” she answered.
I introduced Kyle and then began our interview process. She started to tell her story. When she got to the part that brought her to where she was now she started to cry. Her friend had lost his life in the event that got her to jail. She hasn’t been able to grieve his death yet. She cried.
We waited patiently for her to continue with her story. She could hardly get through it.
“I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to live this way,” she said through tears again.
It was heart breaking. I kept wondering what she was like as a little girl. I imagined her pretty spunky and full of life. I imagined that she kept her parents and her friends on their toes. I think she was once a strong and persistent little girl, once, all before the age of 13 when she began using to escape the reality of her life.
There was little doubt in my mind that we would accept her into the program. The interview just solidified our decision to take her.
Now starts The Time In Between.
For this particular girl a lot can happen. Her judge could change his mind. Her prosecutor could decide that justice would be better served with her in prison. She could change her mind. All the-time-in-between that can mean life or death. It’s a tough place to be.
“I don’t want to be on the street, you can get me out of here,” Bebe, a girl from the center told Taylor.
Bebe had been missing for awhile. No one had seen her since the day she came in super sick one day. Saturday, she returned to the center. As soon as Taylor asked her how she was she stated that she wanted help. Taylor responded by going to get some food.
People want help all the time until it shows up… then they don’t. Taylor knew that was most likely the case with Bebe so she sent her to the kitchen. That started the-time-in-between. The clock was set in motion and the ante was high. Taylor went about her regular business of running a marathon finding pants for everyone. Bebe stayed in the kitchen waiting patiently for Taylor to come back.
“Do you really want to leave?” Taylor asked when she came back into the kitchen.
“I just got out of Select, I can’t walk, I can’t do anything, if I stay here I will die. And if I die, I will go down hard, the cops will have to shoot me to kill me.”
Bebe had been in Select, it’s sort of a hospital nursing home type of thing where a lot of the girls end up on long term antibiotics. She had been discharged to the street and was detoxing from the pain pills from the hospital. Taylor noticed right away that she seemed more clear headed and determined than she ever had before. She knew the clock had started when she came back and Bebe was still waiting for help.
There was a house up the street that took women. She called and pleaded Bebes story, it would be a good place .. but you had to be out of rehab, Bebe wasn’t, she was in withdrawal.
They wouldn’t take her straight out of Select and in withdrawal.
Taylor was running out of time. She was trying to beat the clock, that time before her girl changed her mind and went to use.
She wracked her mind and remembered another street warrior who might have a resource. Her girl was clearly in withdrawal from hospital pain meds.
The lady came to evaluate her.
The clock had been running for an hour.
She needed someone to come pick her up.
Taylor found a place out of town that would possibly be able to get her.
Clock still ticking.
Taylor called an out of state place and their in state lady said she could be there in two hours. That’s a long time. The girl agreed to stay and wait it out.
It’s a weird dynamic at the center, if they choose to go before they get treatment we don’t want them to feel like they can’t come back.
Taylor’s anxiety was rising by the minute. Close to an hour into the process Stacey came in and told Taylor the girl had left.
Her heart sunk.
She sent me a text and told me she left. And then… she hadn’t left. She was just outside smoking and returned about 30 minutes later.
“You have about an hour left to wait, hang in there,” Taylor encouraged.
“All I have is time,” the girl answered back.
Tick, tick, tick….
It got closer to the the time that the lady was supposed to come. Taylor gave Bebe a to-go bag, some food and they waited…..
…still no lady.
Taylor sent the lady a text, “Please hurry!”
An hour latter the lady still had not arrived.
It had now been 4 hours.
The girl was still there.
Taylor knew she was running out of time and options, our girl had waited 4 hours. This was getting dangerous. Taylor had to inform the girl that something happened and the lady wasn’t coming.
She called and asked me to come help. It had now been five and a half hours, well past the safety net. I left the lawn mower and headed down.
As soon as I pulled up I saw Taylor and the girl sitting on the front porch. The first thing I noticed as I walked up was how long her toenails were. She must have been out here a long time. Taylor was frazzled. She had been fighting for Bebe’s life for 5 1/2 hours. She had exhausted every known resource. It wasn’t looking very good.
We talked to Bebe explaining the few options left for her this time in the evening. We thought of everything. Taylor had battled the system and now was spent. After a short time we came up with what seemed to be the best option for her. Then Bebe got in the car and off she went.
Taylor beat the clock.
The Time In Between was a time that only God could have managed.
That day Taylor successfully navigated That Time and Bebe became the first woman who successfully asked for help and left the street that same day.
The Time In Between life and death, is a scary place to be.
I am fairly certain she grew up in a “normal” family by societies standards. She went to a suburban high school, one that even ranked above average. She was articulate and kind. You could tell that she once lived a somewhat “normal” life. She just had that hint of suburbia to her.
I first met her one day at the center. She had come in just like everyone else, to get some clothes, food and rest. She knew a lot of the girls there. By now we have been there long enough that the word is out that we have good Kool Aide and even better food!
Women know that Taylor is a personal shopper. Each time they come Taylor picks out several outfits for each of them. She runs back and forth with each outfit seeking approval of the recipient. I must say, she missed her calling and Macey’s doesn’t know what they are missing. Anyway, she came in with another girl that we knew. She was sick, she was in terrible pain. I think Taylor brought her back to the kitchen to show me her hand.
“Oh my! What happened here?” I clearly remember asking.
“I had an abscess and kept picking it. I don’t know why I couldn’t leave it alone,” she answered.
“Sweetie this looks burnt. Did you burn this?”
“No, I picked it then dumped alcohol on it,” she timidly replied.
I couldn’t imagine the pain that she endured by doing that. Most of her hand looked like it had been severely burned. There were deep crevasses where the skin had started to dry and pull away from the area. Her hand actually resembled alligator skin, but all red.
“Oh my gosh, the alcohol just burnt it up. Can you make it upstairs so I can treat this?” I said while trying to hide my shock.
“I want to take a shower first.”
“Ok, you shower and then come back down and I will fix your hand and fix you a plate of food.”
She needed help getting upstairs. She was sick, very sick, so much so that she had a hard time walking. She wore a wig to cover the hair that she had lost, it was mostly patchy and very sparse. Still she had such a nice kind smile.
Eventually she made her way back to the kitchen and to the makeshift first aid station I set up. After I gloved up I very cautiously held her burned hand and applied antibiotic cream to it. It hurt me to hurt her. I slowly worked my way over her whole hand and then started again. Her burned skin was thirsty for the ointment. Again I went over her hand making sure that I got the ointment into each crack of her skin. I was amazed how deep they seemed. I couldn’t imagine the pain. She didn’t wince one time. She was mostly quiet as I worked on her. Her eyes were grateful and yet so sad at the same time. Every once in a while she would talk. Again there was that hint of suburbia to her.
I wondered what happen that led her to the life that she was currently living. She wasn’t in the shelter. She stayed in different traps. She was open with the situation that she had found herself in. Addiction had more than taken a toll on her body. The street seemed to have taken anything that was left. She was so sick. I finished up with the ointment and loosely bandaged her hand. I didn’t hold much hope that it would stay clean.
“Keep this darn thing on your hand till you come back. You hear me? When you come back I will clean it and change the bandage. Ok?” I said with a mom like firmness and a smile.
She smiled back, sort of ornery.
“I probably won’t keep it on the whole time. It’s not very attractive. Might scare away my business!” she smirkishly answered.
“Keep it on. Which looks worse a bandage or a burnt up hand? Let me answer for you…. burnt hand! Keep it on!” again with the mom firmness.
She smiled and laughed and shook her head, “Ok.”
I knew for positive that as soon as she hit the street the bandage would be gone. But, at least I tried.
I can’t remember what we had for dinner that day. I know she stayed and sat around the kitchen table for a while until her friend wandered in and then it was time for her to go. As she got back up she winced in pain again. Walking was hard for her. I knew the only way she could possibly deal with the amount of pain she was in was to get high again.
“I will see you Thursday ok? Please?” I half yelled after her.
“Thursday, yes. This Thursday,” she said as she left. She stopped, turned, we locked eyes and for a moment, I thought she would ask for help.
“Thank you for everything. I will be back and next time I will bring some clothes to wash… is that ok?”
Before I could answer she was gone.
After our shift that day we all talked about her. She was so sick. One of the most visibly sick women that we have had come to the center. Sometimes we need to be together to process things like that, her hand, her sickness, just her. We feel helpless sometimes. We know that just being there with women and sharing a meal or just kind words can make a difference. It doesn’t change the reality they will return to. It only does for a moment.
Thursday she returned. We had a visiting nurse that examined her hand this time. I might add that she came back without any bandage on it. Her health seemed to decline in just a day and a half. Her walking appeared to be much worse than the Tuesday before. She was more jumpy and edgy this time. Perhaps it was the pain she was in. Perhaps it was withdrawal. Either way I didn’t get to spend very much time with her.
She brought clothes to be washed and again sincerely thanked me for doing her laundry.
She took her food to go this time. The nurse confirmed that her hand was burned from alcohol and applied more ointment and left the bandage off.
She was hectic when she left and her friend was rushing her as well.
She was barely able to walk when she left that day.
She wasn’t ok.
We all knew she wasn’t ok. I knew she just wanted to not be where she was with the life she had now. I knew that she once knew what was “normal”. We all so badly wanted her to be able to just go home.
Monday, April 16th she passed away. The word on the street was unclear. Most of the girls didn’t think she died of an overdose. She was just so very sick.
Our deepest sympathy goes to her family.
Rest In Peace Micah. We are honored to have known you for the short time that we did.
“Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” Luke 23:43 NIV
C.O.M.O. is on the job!
I often wonder what people think the first time they see us roll up in the van and hop out in our work clothes.
Even better I wonder what they think when we all get there and we are in our semi regular clothes? Are they ready to grab their small children and run? Do they think we might be armed marauders? What about when everyone is talking loud over each other and laughing even louder? Do they think we might be from the farm? I wonder. It would be fun to enter a captioning picture contest to see!
C.O.M.O. is on the job! We started a rather intense intricate job last week. It’s one of my favorite types. It’s all hazmat and demolition. We began this job like all jobs, with a bit of education on how to properly suit up, mask up, and remove gloves without cross contamination. It’s interesting to watch how people’s personalities change once they put a respirator on, suddenly everyone is Walter White or Jessie Pinkman. You can tell a lot about a person by the character they pick. “Walters’…..” they want to be in charge. “Jessies’….” want to goof around.
The ones that haven’t watched Breaking Bad…. they are just afraid they’ll die in the suit and start to hyperventilate! It’s an interesting dynamic to say the least.
We began this job with our best hazmat apparel. White suits level the playing field. I can’t tell who is who so I just shout out orders to the closest body I can find. We have a pretty good crew here right now. Juan, Mighty, One Time, Sugar, Myrtle, Cherry, and our three newest people Chandler, Yertle and the New Girl. Mr. Michigan is working, waiting to graduate so he hasn’t been there. Anyway, we began the daunting task of removing a drop ceiling followed by a second ceiling. Lots of yucky stuff up there, hence the hazmat.
Yesterday we arrived on site, suited up and walked into the building.
“Mom…… it’s freezing cold in here. Is the furnace on?” Taylor whined.
“Hey, whoever is over there check the thermostat to see what the temp is,” I yelled as loud as I could in my mask at whoever was closest to the thermostat.
“Mmjfiirbd akofbrus did whhfkrbvhhfkdjdv,” they yelled back.
“What did he say?” I asked Juan.
“What?” he asked.
“What? “ I asked.
“I can’t understand what you’re saying,” Jaun yelled again.
“I said …. What did he say?” I asked again.
“Never mind,” I muttered to myself and headed over to the thermostat.
“What does that thermostat say? “ I yelled at Kyle who was the person standing there.
“It says 42,” he answered.
“Is it on?” I asked.
“I don’t know, “ he answered.
“Well what’s that blinking there? Where is the on button?” I yelled through my mask.
“I don’t know. That flashing thing is the low battery symbol,” Kyle yelled back.
“Where’s Bobby?” I yelled.
“Right here!” he answered from exactly right next to me.
“Go get the guy and ask him about this furnace,” I yelled to Bobby.
Bobby went and got the guy who came back in a proper suit jacket and dress shoes and mask. He looked at it sternly and then announced he had no idea what was wrong with it. He was going to ask some other guy.
I went back to the wall Juan and I were removing and continued to yell directions.
“Kick that door frame,” I yelled to Juan.
“This drywall?” he answered as he kicked it and hammered me with a piece of flying drywall.
“Nooooo… the door.. the door. Don’t kick that again!” I yelled louder.
I was frantically pointing at the door frame when another flying piece of drywall hit my arm and broke open my suit. Ugh, where was the furnace guy?
We continued on. Bobby was in charge of communication with the guys about the furnace and the rest of us continued working. Bobby discovered that the wire to the thermostat was not connected to anything that resembled a furnace. We looked all over the room and couldn’t find where it connected.
It looked like it was chewed by a varmint. We found a little hole that looked like the wire went down there. The good news was it was right over where Bobby was pounding from the basement. The bad new was I was going to have to take out the drywall to look down there.
We thought pretty confidentially that we were right so I tore out the wall. No! We were in fact wrong. I tore the wall out for no apparent reason. I stretched the remaining wire out and announced that I thought we had enough to drill a hole through the floor and feed it across the basement to the furnace. Excellent idea.
We went to lunch and planned to drill as soon as we finished eating. Bobby seemed to think the floor was 4 inches think and we needed an extended bit. So …. off to Lowes he went.
As soon as he arrived back with the 6 inch drill bit I picked my spot, told them to go to the basement and wait for me to feed the wire down. BLINK! I drilled through the 5/8 inch floor quickly and fed the wire down. I was laughing, good thing Bobby got that giant drill bit.
After I finished feeding the wire down I ran downstairs as well. Bobby picked the wire to splice into. But wait …. we needed electrical tape. I ran up stairs to get it.
“Where is it?” I yelled through my mask through the floor.
“It’s by the window in the ledge,” he answered. I looked at the wrong window. No tape.
“Where?” I yelled again.
“The window sill,” he answered.
I still couldn’t find it.
“HEY I FOUND THE WIRE!!!! Did you cut the other one yet?” I was so excited.. I found the wire.
“YES, I just cut the wire!” He answered.
“I can’t find the tape,” I yelled again.
Both Bobby and Juan came up. One of them walked straight to the tape on the OTHER window ledge.
“I don’t think a varmint chewed that,” Bobby said.
“You think a varmint chewed that? I don’t. It looks cut,” I yelled back.
“What? You cut it? I don’t think it was you,” Juan said.
“I didn’t cut it,” Bobby chimed in.
“Who cut it?” I asked.
“What?” Juan said.
“What?” I asked.
“YERTLE cut the wire!” Bobby yelled.
“Ooh, YERTLE cut the wire!” Juan said as well.
“OH I heard you, it was Yertle,” I added.
A few minutes later …….. we had heat.
And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he, Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see. And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free. As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.- Dr. Seuss
Sugar, Myrtle & Stacey
Sunday was one of my favorite days … baptism day!!
People ask me all the time how many people we convert while they are with us. Here is my standard answer.
COMO Recovery is a faith based program. We need a TON of faith to do what we do. God brings people to us and our job is to get them well not convert them. We are to be a living example of Christ’s unconditional love. We give with no expectation of return. We do what’s right because it’s right. We sacrifice along side of the people we serve. God doesn’t need me to evangelize them in a certain way, he needs me to love my neighbor as myself. If I do just that and only that, God is big enough to do the rest. And wether or not people accept him isn’t up to me. It’s between them and Christ. And many times in spite of our shortcomings they come to faith. It is the icing on the cake. I am very honored to be able to see miracles happen everyday. I am honored to share their stories.
I am supposed to tell you what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now. My faith goes hand in hand with my recovery. I couldn’t have gotten well without faith and I never would have found treatment or had an opportunity to recover without God intervening in that situation. I certainly never would have recovered on my own.
I grew up atheist, my whole family was atheist. Although we sometimes went to church, it was more about making a social appearance than genuinely creating a relationship with God. I saw religion as stupid and worthless. I could rely on myself, right? Even after I became an addict nothing changed. I thought I could handle it. Things got bad. I was abused, my husband died in withdrawal. I got involved in unspeakable situations.
Looking back, there are a couple distinct points that brought me to the faith I have today. The first one was when I was desperately sick at an apartment on a rough side of Columbus. I was getting scared and I started to cry. I remember this really tough woman I’d seen make it through a lot turning to me and telling me to turn it over to God. The first time I tried that I felt comfort and peace. After that I knew God was there.
Even when I begged and pleaded, he didn’t deliver me from the horrible situation I was in. I didn’t know what to do. At that point I had been trying to get clean for over a year but could never make it through withdrawal. I had heard about Jesus, of course, but always told people that I believed in God but just couldn’t make the logical leap to believe there was a man that was the son of God. Then one night, I was laying in bed as the drugs were wearing off, watching an old NFL game on TV because my friends had too much anxiety to deal with the silence, and it occurred to me “what if?” I’d never had that thought before. I never even considered that it might be true.
When I came into the program I was broken. I was crazy. I had been hospitalized sixteen times for suicide. I was so weak I couldn’t walk. I was broke and homeless. I had concrete proof God was working in my life. This time I didn’t even withdrawal that badly and I was delivered into a community that I loved at the onset. I thought I had all the faith I needed. But I was missing a piece.
I didn’t understand the connection between Jesus dying on the cross for my sins and me committing a felony today. I certainly didn’t feel forgiven. Then a few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon and he used the word, “Powerless.” That’s an AA word. I was powerless in my addiction. Then everything clicked. If God hadn’t arranged events for me to hear about the character of Christ at the right time in my life, or if others hadn’t shown the character of Christ in helping me when I needed it the most, I would never have been given a second chance and be standing here today. There is a difference between being forgiven and being absolved of the consequence of your actions. Although I still have consequences I believe I have been forgiven for everything I have done. Because of the grace of God I can begin new.
I am thrilled to be baptized today to symbolize the beginning of this new start and to emerge sin-free through the forgiveness of Christ.
I never believed it when people would say, “God works in mysterious ways.” I would nod my head and just agree. Let me tell you a little about where I was at in my life and why would I believe this. I used to cry and beg God to make the abuse stop. I begged him for a couple years to get me out of my situation, nothing was changing and everything was getting worse.
The moment I felt that first high was the moment I signed a contract with the Devil. My relationship started getting bad and even more out of control. I lost all of my close friends, I turned my back on my siblings. I wasn’t allowed to talk to my parents. I lied. I would steal. I started doing things no woman should ever have to do. I stayed in an abusive relationship. I lost my kids. I lost my apartment, and everything I owned, everything that was once good in my life was gone that fast.
After I lost my kids, then my apartment, I was left to being homeless living in the woods. I woke up that last morning in the woods and looked around and said, “What in the world am I doing?” Something came over me and for the first time that morning I saw what God was doing for me all along. I literally had to hit rock bottom and lose everything. God knew if I hadn’t lost my kids or apartment and become homeless I wouldn’t have ever gotten help.
When I made up my mind that morning I didn’t realize what I was doing was because of God. I was scared and didn’t know how to ask God for help. I unblocked my mom from Facebook and started liking tons of pictures. I waited. I got a notification, I clicked on it and saw she ‘liked’ one picture. I thought, “Great! This is great… communication.”
I immediately called my dad and told him I needed help. He called my mom and told her, then called me back and told me she was on her way…… normally I would have already backed out by now. But this wasn’t the case. As I got in my moms car she was telling me she already had plans A,B,C and D all lined up. Plan A was already in motion. I came to my interview, went home and waited…. I was accepted!
Ever since I came into this program I have seen God at work. I am here today to let go and feel free from my past. As I am writing this all I can think of is how my ex looked at me as we went our separate ways that morning and said, ”You know we just left our whole life behind us.” And now looking back I laugh and say to myself, “No, I have my whole life ahead of me,” and I owe it all to God.
I remember the 1st day I walked into the church. I was high and didn’t want to be there, all I thought was, “These people are gonna be crazy and force the bible/God on me.” I only thought of myself and what I was gonna get out of this and the people. I sat towards the back, didn’t listen and didn’t want anything to do with it or even hear other people talk about it. I didn’t need God and they wasn’t gonna convince me anything different.
I wasn’t the kind of person who just said ok I believe and change my life. It took me a very long time, I wouldn’t even say God. I called it my higher power, blueberry, haha. I slowly started listening, asking questions. I knew there was a higher power that I needed to keep me sober and have a better life, and it wasn’t me.
3 years ago my life was a mess, I was hateful, mean and no-one wanted to talk to me or even be my friend. Now my life has taken a complete 360. I have so many people in my life who love me unconditionally and they’re family to me. I’m able to be a giver and serve others. The person you see today is not the Stacey from then. My journey is far from over and I’m excited to see what God has in store me.
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV
Here we are, sixteen people piled into the fifteen passenger van headed to Chillicothe and our Good Friday tradition. We have been making this trek for the last five years. It’s a program tradition. We celebrate Good Friday at Brookside C.C.C.U., then head to McDonald’s and then home. I love it. I absolutely love it. I love our Seder dinner on Wednesday before Easter and the Maundy Thursday service we do each year and then the Good Friday trek. Most of the people in the program don’t really get all of it their first year, but by the second year it holds some meaning for them. This year it all seems new to me, and holds a new meaning.
“Miss Beth, I have something for you. I heard someone say one day while I was here that y’all needed peanut butter. Now, I generally sell most of my food stamps and just get what I need. But this time I saved some back to buy y’all some peanut butter, they was on sale. Here Miss Beth, I just want to give back,” as she handed me a giant jar of chunky peanut butter.
“Thank you very very much. I truly appreciate it,” I said. And I really, really did.
I took the giant jar of peanut butter back into the kitchen and continued to hand out dinner. I was amazed at her generosity. I was amazed at the level of gratitude that she had for THREE, the drop in center. At the end of my shift I put the giant jar away and then forgot about it.
We are open three days a week at the center now. Each week we see about 100 women. Some weeks we see many of the same women from day to day. Some weeks we see mostly different women each day. There is no rhyme or reason to it. We have been open six months now.
“Hi, are you new here?” I asked a timid young lady.
“Yes ma’am,” she quietly answered.
“ My name is Beth. Would you like your food for here or to go?”
“Awe you can just put it in a box, that’d be ok with me. I don’t need no plate,” she answered again.
“Will you sit and have a meal? There is room at the table. We would love to have you stay.”
“Oh sure, ma’am. But just put my food on a napkin or just something to throw away, you don’t need to do no dishes on my account,” she very matter of fact informed me.
“OK,” I said as I put her food on a regular plate and gave her regular silverware and a napkin.
“Would you like some Kool Aid?”
“Ooh, yes please,” she more boldly answered.
I poured her a some Kool Aid in a glass mug and handed it to her. I noticed her hands were dirty, swollen and full of track marks. A sign of heavy IV use. I sat down with her as she began to eat. We sat in silence for awhile as she quickly ate all of her food.
“Would you like more?” I asked.
“Oh yes ma’am, but you don’t need to serve me. I can get up.”
“No, No… you sit. I don’t mind at all,” and I stood. I turned my back to her to fill her plate again.
“Would you like more potatoes as well?” I asked.
She didn’t answer. I asked again. Still no answer. I slowly turned around to ask a third time and to make sure she was ok. Her head was down in her hand. And she was gently shaking.
“Are you ok? I quietly asked.
She slowly looked up. Her face was tear streaked. The streaks showed that she has been living outside for awhile. She was embarrassed that she was crying.
“It’s ok, you can cry here. Are you alright?” I placed a half filled plate in front of her and refilled her Kool Aid and then sat back down.
“Oh yes ma’am. I really am fine. I just ……” and then she began to cry.
I handed her a bunch of napkins and quietly sat there. I actually don’t mind sitting with people when they cry. It’s very honest. I generally don’t feel the pressure to make them stop or to make it ok. Sometimes you just need to cry. Eventually the tears slowed and she started again.
“It’s just that you…. well you served me. And you are going to wash my dishes. You are going to wash my dishes like I am somebody. You know like I am somebody that gets their dishes washed. You don’t need to do that. I don’t want you to wash my dishes.”
“That’s my job here. I cook, I serve food, I wash dishes and I do laundry. That’s what I do. And it’s my pleasure to do that. So if I don’t wash your dishes I won’t have anything to do, and I get antsy with nothing to do.”
“Why? I heard you were the boss. Why are you doing this?” she timidly asked.
“It’s why we came here. We came here to serve you. To provide a place where you felt safe and valued, to give you some time to feel at home and to feel cared for. It’s why we are all here,” I answered.
“Thank you. Thank you all so so much for what you are doing. There isn’t anyplace like this down here. I feel at home. I feel safe. You are all so amazing. Thank you.”
“Can I take a nap?”
“You sure can.”
She handed me her plate and headed up front to take a nap. I turned to help the next woman.
“For here or to go?” I asked.
“You can put it in a box so you don’t have to wash my dishes”
I handed her food on a regular plate and Kool Aid in a glass cup and explained that dish washing was my job.
As I sat on my stool quietly listening to the Maundy Thursday reading it all began to make greater sense to me. I understand the meaning of Easter, and Good Friday and all of it really, that’s not what I mean at all. I was quietly listening to the reader explain that unless we truly love our neighbor as ourselves and serve the least, the lost and the unwanted we are not serving like Jesus did. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
I need to wash dishes. I need to cook food. There is no way that these women will see Jesus like he is unless we do this. While we were still sinners Christ died for us, for them. And we are all children of the one true King, dirty tear-stained faces and all. We all have a seat at the table. And I will serve each and everyone of them from the same dishes that I eat from.
If you would like more information on ways to serve contact:
Sometimes, you have to do things you absolutely do not want to do in order to get well. I tell almost everyone that comes here, “One day you are going to have to make the decision to either move ahead or stay the same and that decision will be the hardest thing you have had to do thus far.”
Last night we celebrated OneTimes’ year of being in the program. Tim and I chose early on to celebrate everyone’s year with something they choose to get or to do. It’s a huge landmark in recovery and their time here. We just like to celebrate stuff here. OneTime was sober before coming here, so he has more that a year of continuous sobriety. For his celebration he chose Tim’s smoked wings and bowling. We have to do it in two days because of the amount of prep time a big dinner takes. His actual date was in January. I guess we didn’t want to rush into anything.
Just like most things around here, the timing of this celebration couldn’t have been planned at a more needed time. Again, it’s been a very rough few days. I have been sickish for at least a month and am less than tolerant of dumb things. The program has cabin fever, and OneTime had a huge decision to make.
Twenty-four people piled into our house last night to celebrate OneTime. Tim made 20 lbs of smoked wings and some homemade salsa. I made 2 lbs of garlic bow tie pasta. It was a feast. It was joy.
I watched OneTime interact with his community and I watched the two new people watch the community. For the new ones this was their first party sober. The first time they were able to witness a group of peers having sober fun. They were strangely interesting to watch. Their awkwardness wasn’t apparent to them I don’t think. I could tell they felt strange and comfortable at the same time. It’s an interesting dynamic. There was relief in the community, the kind of relief that only comes after a crisis. It was good.
Sunday afternoon, began like every other Sunday afternoon. We all gathered for group at 3:30.
I got through part of one of my people before I saw Kyle sheepishly walking up to me. In my heart I was familiar with the approach. I knew something had happened. I looked back at my iPad and waited for him.
“Hey Beth, uh OneTime has something he wants to say.”
I looked at my group and then got up. The nausea that I have struggled with for the past few weeks hit me hard. I had an idea what was coming. We headed outside to talk privately. I wait for these conversations to come. No one gets out of here without them.
OneTime followed us out. He looked a bit pale and sweaty. All I could think about was the fact that I needed to cut his hair. For what ever reason his hair bugged me at that moment. He slowly began…
“Beth…. I need to get this off of my chest. I need to confess to some things. I can’t get better if I don’t tell. This guilt and shame are stopping me from getting well. I need to clear my conscious,” he began.
“Ok, go ahead.”
He slowly began his story. I watched him with such admiration. I watched him with a different perspective than I have seen him before. I was so proud of him standing there telling me horrible news. I knew it had to be done. I knew this conversation was saving at least his life.
I knew that this was one of the hardest things he has done thus far here.
He went on and on, the story got worse and worse. He got even more pale, and yet he continued. I wondered if he knew how important this conversation was for him. I watched him for signs of relief. I watched Kyle watch me. I shifted back and forth on my feet trying to stop feeling sick. I wanted to jump up and down with joy that OneTime was throwing himself under the bus. I just didn’t have the energy to jump. As he neared the end of the story Kyle looked nervous, and a bit angry. I had a bit of an “Aha” moment. You know when all the pieces suddenly make sense kind of a moment.
OneTime looked nervous. He was unsure of the outcome and confident in the need to tell the story at the same time. We all just stood there for what seemed like an eternity. Kyle looked at me looking at OneTime. OneTime looked at Kyle. The silence just hung there.
Finally I said,
“Okey Dokey. Thank you. You did the right thing. You at least saved your life. You were right, you can’t get well with that level of deception. You finally turned the corner. You did the right thing.”
And we walked back inside to handle the rest of it.
As I looked out into my family room last night at 24 people crammed in there celebrating and playing Catch Phrase I thought… “It’s true. He did the right thing.” I looked at the community that surrounded him in a very tough time of self confession and they loved him just the same. I watched the laughter and the commotion in the midst of the chaos and realized that perhaps he had saved more than his life Sunday.
Maybe in an effort to save his life he became an example of forgiveness and an example of perseverance and an example of honesty and hope. Maybe for the two new people that still can’t wrap their brain around why anyone would confess to anything, especially what he confessed to, he will become what they strive to be like. I watched last night at the freshness that permeated the community, the relief. Its out there now. There isn’t that dark feeling anymore. There is love and understanding among them that most people look for their whole life.
Don’t let me mislead you. OneTime did the hardest thing he has done thus far in his recovery. He risked his friendships, he risked his status, he risked his very position in the program. He did it anyway. At first there was bitterness and misunderstanding, disappointment and anger. He did it anyway.
Someplace in him I have to believe, he had trust in his community to work through it. We spent several days sorting through the whole thing. But as a community we did just that. We worked hard at it. We worked together at it. And then….
We partied like it was 1999!
I am preparing myself for the next one. Juan hits a year next week! We still have to go bowling.
“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.” Genesis 28:3 NIV
It’s More Than Me
I have decided that when I die I would like to be a tree pod. I thought about just getting buried or burned, but I don’t particularly like either option. So a tree pod it is. Hopefully someone will put a tire swing on a branch or hold a recovery group in its shade. A tree pod, that’s the ticket right there! I gave Tim the option of being carried around in a coffee can or a tree pod. He is on the fence right now. He seems to want a more traditional option, I just can’t see that happening if by chance he should die before me. Having said all of that, the Rivers Share-a-thon is over.
The first time I heard our name, C.O.M.O. Recovery, on the radio we were at the Pastors retreat in Amish country. The six of us; Tim, Keith, Taylor, Kyle, Jordan and myself were walking down the hall in the hotel when the DJ said “C.O.M.O. Recovery is offering hope to those that struggle with addiction.” Kyle and I jumped up and down and hooted loudly.
“YA, YA, YA, that’s right! C.O.M.O. rocks!” Kyle yelled.
We skipped down the hall like children. We couldn’t believe that we were actually on the radio, that the grads were on the radio, that any of this was real at all. Six of our eleven graduates had pre-recorded their stories and the River would be sharing them over the next five days. Yay, C.O.M.O. Recovery.
We headed out of the hotel to tool around Amish country, our River apps blasting our name constantly. I heard Alaina on the radio first. I sent her a text to tell her that I heard her. People sent me congratulation texts. It was all so surreal. I heard our name again and again and again. Each time it seemed even more shocking than the time before. Every time a grads’ story came on I thought of their journey, and the journeys of the grads not on the radio. That evening Kyle’s story came on, I didn’t hear it, but my phone went wild. This was such a win.
Again and again and again, C.O.M.O., C.O.M.O., C.O.M.O. People came out of the woodwork to text me. The more I heard it the more unsettled I became.
I would love to say that the pressure of our success rate or the thought of the amount of people seeking help would unsettle me. That wasn’t it. It wasn’t that we have limited space or limited staff or even limited funding compared to the magnitude of the crisis. It was the realization that the people that were listening really didn’t know who C.O.M.O. Recovery actually is. I was pretty certain that they had an image in their head of a nice “place” for people to recover. That’s just not it at all. C.O.M.O. Recovery isn’t a place, it’s many places and many people. So many people share the success of the program. Sure, we have such a dedicated staff and we have five houses that are the places that people stay. That alone is just a very small part of who we are.
My mind went back to our very first graduation. We were graduating four very dedicated people that had survived the rigors of the program. It was a super hot August evening. The Church was packed with close to one hundred fifty people. It was actually standing room only. Families of the grads had reserved seating, which probably only took two pews. The rest of the Church was packed with the supporting cast of the program.
I remember looking out at all of the faces there to witness a life transformed. I remember sweating, I mean actually sweating like I had run around the building. I couldn’t decide what to say. I didn’t know how to give the kind of credit that needed to be given to the grads or to anyone. I was overwhelmed that we all actually made it alive. We played each grads favorite song and then came my turn. I cautiously walked up to the mic, still sweating and began.
“Good evening, I would like to take a minute to thank the appropriate people that got us to this very special evening. So let’s do this, as I name a few things, if you have participated at all in these, please stand up.
If you have ever eaten a meal with any of the grads please stand up.
If you have ever had a conversation, meaningful or otherwise, with any of them, please stand up.
If you have ever driven any of them any place, please stand.
If you have ever listened to any of them tell their story. please stand.
If you have ever prayed for them, please stand.
If you have donated any food, please stand.
If you have spent any time at all with any one of them, please stand.
If you have sat with someone in detox, please stand.”
I stopped at that. I didn’t even mention donating money to the program, and yet the whole audience was standing. One hundred fifty people were standing.
“That is how many people it takes to get four people across the finish line here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We can not do this with out each and every one of you.”
And I meant every word I said.
C.O.M.O. Recovery is a dedicated community of compassionate caring people that move heaven and earth each day for the people in the program. Some of the people in our community attend our church and some don’t. Some are faceless people that so strongly believe in transformation that they go before us to raise funds or put our name in the hat to speak someplace. They are the people we can not do with out.
C.O.M.O. is a grandma that kindly gives cereal to a young woman detoxing on her sofa.
C.O.M.O. is a group of men dedicated to investing in the men in the program as examples of Godly men.
C.O.M.O. is a nurse practitioner teaching a group of yahoos how to cook healthy meals.
C.O.M.O. is a River employee that believes in restoration and put our name in the ring.
C.O.M.O. is a real estate company.
C.O.M.O. is a lawyer.
C.O.M.O. is several churches that come together to help wherever it’s needed.
C.O.M.O. is a probation officer, an EMT, a police officer, a Judge, a mom that lost her daughter to addiction.
If I asked every one who ever participated in any part of us to stand up the numbers of people that make up C.O.M.O. would be staggering.
So here’s to us!! All of us!!! We had a giant win. We shared in a week of recognition and hope for the future. We shared the joy of recovery. We shared the joy of transformation. We don’t get to stay here very long. If you are C.O.M.O., bask now. There is a lot of work to be done here. There isn’t much time for us to sit in the success. People are dying at an alarming rate every day. So let’s go C.O.M.O., I think we are up for the challenge.
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
– Cris Tomlin
REALITY TV (COMO Style) Part 2
A call from the Doctor, a trip to pick up meds for a program person, a phone call from Kyle.
“Beth……… we have a serious problem,” my heart sunk.
Wednesday was my birthday. I love to celebrate birthdays! I don’t really care how old I am, I am just glad to be alive. I feel honored each day to be able to serve God in the capacity that I do and I want to celebrate it. Anyway, I decided to take the morning off and go for a hike. Kyle was going to be the responsible person for the morning part of the day. He would gather everyone and head to CMC to work on building one. I would join them later in the day.
“Beth, hey, the Doctor just called for one of the guys, evidently he needs some medicine. What do you want me to do? They have the medicine at the office for him to pick up. It will be waiting there for him.”
“Well, hmmm, okay. Go ahead and head down and then stop by the office on your way back. Just leave everyone in the van and run in real quick and grab it. They should be ok.”
“Alright, cool, cool. See you later in the day.”
We generally don’t do that, leave people in the van. We usually pile everyone in the van and then we take everyone in where ever we go. This time it seemed like an awful lot of effort to grab a prescription. It would probably take longer to get everyone out of the van, convince them it wasn’t time to smoke, corral them together and go in. Once inside Kyle would have to watch each of them. Someone would have to go to the bathroom. Someone would wander back outside. Someone would ask the receptionist something inappropriate. So yes, just leave them in the van. They know the drill. Just sit there and don’t holler out of the window at passers by (actually a rule). Just sit there.
The Doctors’ office was downtown, an even better place to sit in the van. Less cat herding. Kyle called when they left the office to see where they should go. They had the medicine. I told him to head back for group.
As soon as the van pulled up everyone piled out like they had been kept in there for three days. They chatted, goofed around and finally came in for group. There was an odd vibe but no one was saying anything. I thought it might just have been the fact that one of them was on some medicine. They all pretty much dread that. I chalked it up to that and started group.
The hot topic was the medicine. The reality is that in active addiction you can have some pretty ugly reasons to have to take some medicine. The fact that one of them got a call upset the whole apple cart. Their imaginations go wild. Every possible outcome for them ends with a fatality. This is very far from the case we were dealing with here. But none the less still self inflicted. I had to talk down the medicine taker and the medicine takers whole group. It is a consequence of active addiction…. you will live. Take the medicine and thank God it wasn’t worse. End of group.
We sent the guys home and headed to women’s group and then my birthday dinner. Both uneventful and dinner was amazingly yummy. I said my good nights and headed up stairs.
Text: Beth we have a problem
Text: Can I call? I can’t explain over text.
My heart sank. I knew the vibe was more than the medicine now.
“Kyle,” I said.
“I am so sorry to call with this on your birthday, but… I just found out that while I was in the Doctors office picking up the prescription, Juan and Cherry got out of the van. Juan bet that he could get money from a lady on the street and he crossed the street and asked some lady for money.”
That’s it…. the bomb exploded in my head. Juan and Cherry have been in some pretty hot water and have been waiting to see what the consequences would be. They haven’t even found out the outcome of the last situation and now the yahoo’s went and got out of the van to get money. Getting out is a capitol offense in itself, let alone panhandling.
I was shocked. Completely shocked. How could they think I wouldn’t find out? These guys must have been willing to bet their lives on a hope I never found out. Stupid. That was the only word that replayed in my mind. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
“Tell both of them that you told me and I will deal with them tomorrow. Let them sweat. If I talked to them right now this would be their last night here. Maybe even their last minute here,” I told Kyle.
I couldn’t imagine what would make them think that panhandling was a smart idea. I wondered at that moment what their plan was for the money that they aren’t even allowed to have. This now seems to be a symptom of something greater than stupidity. Ugh. Cherry and Juan might be a very bad ice cream flavor mixed together.
As soon as I woke up I realized that I would need to confront the two capital offenders. Yet there was something even more exciting than listening to the yahoos try to explain away their actions.
Our grads were getting interviewed for 104.9 the River. Six of our grads were heading to the station to record their stories. That is exciting. For the first time in COMO history we will be totally public. March 4th – 9th we will be a part of the Rivers share-a-thon. The stories of our Graduates journeys will be sprinkled through the next five days of the Rivers broadcast. They will be sharing stories of hope and restoration. Como Recovery is live!! We are so excited to see what happens with all of this. We are excited to see how God uses this public exposure.
I am incredibly proud of each person that shared their story.
The Grads returned home from the interviews excited to be able to share their stories. Very rarely have they had the opportunity to share their transformation and hard work. They were excited to give hope to those that are still struggling. The grads are amazing humans now, they are wonderful role models to the people in the program. It’s weird though. The program people can’t even imagine the grads ever using, that’s how new they are now. I wondered if Juan and Cherry were listening to the hope they shared. I wonder if they can even see themselves ever crossing the finish line. Hmm.
Half way through the day… I got the flu. It was a game ending flu for me. I spent the second half of the day in bed. The program could have disbanded and all run down the road for all I cared that day. Not a very exciting TV day for COMO Reality.
“For we have become participants in Christ if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start.” Hebrews 3:14 CSB
REALITY TV (COMO Style)
Have you ever wondered what your life would look like as a reality show? We talk about it here all the time. I’m pretty sure that people would tune in each week to watch a bunch of yahoos going through recovery. You could pick your favorite person and root them on to graduation. You would see the mundane stuff, like whistling contests or the alliances for seats in the van. It would be exciting! I decided to give you all a sneak peak of COMO Recovery the Reality Show….
Tim and I show up to church at 9:25 for band practice. We unloaded everything we were bringing and head to the basement door. We usually unload our stuff there and then head up to the sanctuary. I stopped and thought about the recent events in the nation and noted to my self that we really needed to keep these bottom doors locked during church. Then I headed upstairs.
Band practice went moderately okay. We have a more difficult time when Matt isn’t here with us. As we finished up and headed back to the sacristy I told Tim I would just meet them on stage. I needed to use the restroom.
The church bell rang while I was walking downstairs. Suddenly there was a commotion and a scuffle in the men’s room. Uggg, I really couldn’t wait, I needed to use the restroom so I quickly went in the women’s room and as I was finishing I heard someone quickly exit the restroom and run out of the door and slam both the first and second doors. I ran out of the women’s restroom and ran up the stairs out the door. I caught sight of the back of someone headed to the parking lot. I ran as fast as I could to the parking lot. I didn’t see anyone so I took off running to the front of the church as fast as I could.
“Someone could be in the church,” I thought.
I remembered other times when people showed up to try and steal a program person. I burst through the front doors. I was sweating and out of breath. The band was just standing there, everyone turned to look at me, I was frantic. I quickly walked down the aisle silently mouthing, “Someone might be in here.”
The band stared at me. Time stood still as I hurried up on stage and told Tim what happened.
“Did you see anyone? Did you find them?”
“No, I just saw the back of someone, but more than one person could have been in there. I am taking Kyle down as soon as we finish playing before you let the kids down. Just don’t let them down until I come up.”
We finished our songs and then Kyle and I thoroughly searched the church. We searched for contraband on the off chance that someone was attempting to sneak something in to a program person. We searched for an armed marauder!! No one. The memories of the last person that tried that were still fresh for us. Satisfied that no one was there and nothing had been left we headed back up to church.
Monday is our day off. We usually go for a hike or go to the movies or both. This Monday was an extra special Monday. We were celebrating our eldest grandsons 7th birthday! We planned a exciting birthday extravaganza!! We started at Get Air trampoline park. Taylor was there as the official jumper. Tim and I weren’t sure we would jump.
And then we did.
We jumped, we climbed, we hopped, we rolled, we threw ourselves against a trampoline wall. The more orders he shouted, the older I felt. “Come on, come on… you can do it. Just go under if you can’t go over!” he yelled and prompted.
“Huh! can’t go over… who you talking to little man?” I thought as I had to have Tim physically remove me from the cargo netting. I was taken out by a leg cramp.
Jump + Pizza + ice cream = tired old people and a tired Aunt Taylor and a thrilled seven year old little boy!
The van arrived for pick up early Tuesday morning, 9:30 to be exact.
Everyone looked so excited to head to CMC to scrub brick. We have been working in building one, renovating the church area and the kitchen. We have exposed a lot of brick that needs scrubbed with a wire brush. Everyone loves it. My group got out of brick scrubbing for a while. I needed to do group first thing because I had to take Laz down to visit his kids.
About half of the way through group I got a call from Fayette County ED. There was a young man that wanted help and was in a really bad place. I told Barbie I couldn’t be down there until close to 5:00. My group is soooo nosey. They knew I was working with a crisis situation because I kept leaving group.
“Who is it? Is it a girl or a guy?”
“Will you bring the person back with you?”
“You brought Lazarus back with you.”
“Did they overdose?”
“Whats the DOC (Drug Of Choice)?” asked Lazarus, Myrtle and Mighty.
“My gosh you nose buckets, you will know when I get back. Now GO Myrtle it’s your turn.”
I directed focus back to the task at hand. The program was starting to buzz like a hive.
Tim, Laz and I left about 4:00 that afternoon and headed straight to the ED. Tim would drop me off and take Laz to meet with his daughter. I worked on the way down and prepared for meeting this young man. I don’t prefer this way of meeting people and even less, this way of bringing them in the program. It requires me to make an immediate decision. I like to have time to think and make a thorough assessment of things. So far I am batting 75% on emergency assessments.
I walked through the door of the chapel where this young man was sitting quietly.
“Hi, my name is Beth, very pleased to meet with you today.”
He whispered his name and wouldn’t meet my gaze. I asked Barbie for his story. His leg was shaking 100 miles an hour. He was wringing his hands and breathing heavily. She gave me the run down, handed me the paper work and then went back to work.
The young man and I sat face to face in the chapel, him shaking and me thinking as fast as I could. This young man was clearly in more distress than I would have imagined. His DOC was Meth. Evidently he smoked enough to come close to death and ended up at the ED. I started going down our standard list of questions.
“Yes, no, no, no, yes,” he answered.
“Any history of mental illness? Oh, I see it says here that you suffer from schizophrenia, is that correct ?” I gently asked. “Paranoia? Visual or Auditory disturbances?” I asked again.
“Yes to all of that. I have been trying to medicate myself with Meth,” he answered.
“Buddy, you picked the wrong drug for that. Meth will make all of those symptoms much worse. So look, you need help. And I believe you want help. However your scope of care is more than we are able to handle. You need medical assistance to detox while you begin medication for your mental illness. Do you understand?” I explained.
“Yes,” he answered, “I do understand.”
I figured I would just call Barbie back in, explain the situation, the hospital would re-admit him, do a psych evaluation and send him on someplace he could get stabilized.
Barbie did come back in and we quickly realized that a readmitting him wouldn’t work. I called Kyle. “Hey, I need you to grab someone and head down here to transport this guy back up to Columbus. Take him to OHP as a walk in. Hurry up. This poor guy is getting worse.”
On his drive down I explained to Kyle the whole situation and prepared him for the transport. I shook the young mans hand, told him it would be ok, and gave Kyle instructions for the hospital. I headed to the visitation center with Laz.
About an hour and a half later Kyle told me, “The eagle had landed with out any incident.”
A call from the doctor, a trip to pick up meds for a program person and a phone call from Kyle.
“Beth……… we have a serious problem,” my heart sunk.
“The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.”
Ecclesiastes 1:5 NIV
Every once in a while the most unlikely person will capture my heart. It generally is one of the hardest people to work with and the one that causes me the most grief. But, none the less, I have a special fondness for that person.
Yesterday while I was transferring the laundry from the washer to the dryer at the Respite Center (a skill I will be adding to my linked in profile soon) Taylor walked in with an old Red Day sign.
“Mom, did you see this? It was wedged between the brick and the wood in Building One.”
“Oh no,” I thought, “what could possibly be wedged there?” I wondered as she brought me the sign.
“Look, it’s a Red Day sign totally covered with a note to you. It’s from Walker.”
“What?” I couldn’t imagine what they were saying. What was Walker doing down here? And how did he get in to put a sign in here?
I turned slowly to see the sign filled from top to bottom with writing. The middle said,
BETH & TIM
I LOVE YOU
Y’ALL SO MUCH
and miss you even❤more.
The rest of the sign was full of writing. I grabbed the sign and began to read.
For any newbies, please hang in there. If you ever think you are healthy enough to do this on your own..your not. Or if it gets hard, pray, talk to Beth about it. God will pull you through. Just be patient. And if you do leave, I promise you will regret it. Do it for you. Do it for your family. Do it for God. Como is a family that will never turn their back on you and it will fill that void we try to kill but seems to kill us if we allow it. So please just hang in there. Beth and Tim are two of the most genuine, selfless, loving people you will likely ever meet. The love they give is hard to come by. So when they share it, grab ahold, cultivate and surrender to opportunity or what we all addicts so desperately long for, love, family, acceptance, purpose, and belonging. I wish I could go back and choose the right decision when I walked away from Como the first time. But I can’t. So please when it gets tougher remember no one said it’s gonna be easy, but if you fight for it and work hard the rewards will be unimaginable beyond recognition. You do deserve a great life full of love, family and joy and will gain it all. Just surrender the parts of you that don’t need to be there and with God being in your corner you will with faith and love have no regrets. Como is amazing, it’s not just a program it’s a blessing to you. You got this! Beth, You are my hero. I love you. “
Walker makes my heart ache. He is one of the most stubborn, hard headed, mouthy people we have ever had. He is also one of the most brutally honest. He never seemed to have much time for lying to me. He just told me straight up what he thought and how he thought it should be. That caused him a fair amount of grief in the program.
We went head to head almost on a daily basis. I refused to let him stay the way that he was. I can be just as stubborn, hard headed and mouthy. Time after time we fought for his life. We spent six hours sitting on the front porch talking him out of leaving to kill himself. I battled his pride. And then there came a moment that he threw in the towel and left. My heart broke for him.
Once he left he tried so hard to live a different life the with the same people, places and things. That is almost impossible to do. He would come around church on occasion or text me just to tell me he loved me. We would text back and forth for awhile and then I wouldn’t hear from him for a few months. I got news from people that I know that know him that he was using again. He was reckless and suicidal.
“I don’t want to live anymore, but I love you,” was a pretty common middle of the night text.
And then he wouldn’t respond for a week. Each time it happened I would put the word out to find Walker. Generally someone would spot him someplace and let me know he was alive. He declined to the place where he almost wasn’t recognizable. His family would regularly text me to pray for him.
Eventually Walker called and asked to try again. I knew it would be a long shot. He was now using both crack and heroin IV. The detox is crazy hard. But I so badly wanted him to get well. I finally gave in and brought him back. We got about a week and a half into it and I could see the writing on the wall. If we could just get him to the point where his brain could start to heal I thought he could make it.
Life for him was like any of us trying to hold a 9 volt battery on our tongue 24 hours a day. It’s almost impossible, until healing begins. There was such conflicted agony in his head. He would look at me with such sad hopeless eyes and say, “If I go it isn’t because I don’t love and respect you. I am not sure I can do this.”
“I know, I do, I know,” I would quietly say.
Eventually, close to three weeks in, he quietly came to me and said, “I want to go.”
“Ok. I just don’t want you to die and I know you can’t promise me that you won’t try either. I just don’t want to go to your funeral. I can’t take that. You know I can’t take that. Let’s go.”
He packed and hugged me good bye. “You’re amazing to me,” he said.
“Don’t you go out there and be mean to your momma, I will hunt you down.” Then he left for the second time.
Several weeks ago I got a text that he was in jail and suicidal once again. And…. mean to his momma.
“I will visit him in the workhouse but not county jail,” I told his family.
“Don’t take his calls if he is mean and you can tell him I said that.”
He got out of jail and once again is trying his very best to change his life. I know he can. I pray everyday for him. His story is unfortunately not unique to addiction. He has the potential to be an amazing person. God willing, one day he will be.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Here’s What I Really Think
Sometimes I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. I am well aware that the things you don’t say are often more important than the things that you do say. It’s taken me quite awhile to get that aspect of life under control. I attempt to operate under the all encompassing motto: “People help people they like.”
It’s true. If you have any doubt, go to the bank after you have overdrawn your account and ask for help figuring out your mistake and then ask for a refund. Chances are you will probably get help and a partial refund. Now, go to the same bank after you have overdrawn your account and blame the teller, the bank and the federal reserve and then….. ask for a refund. I am pretty sure that not only will they take your complimentary dumdum straight out of your hand, but they won’t give you the time of day. Not only that, you will be forever on a secret list of bank mean people. And that my friend, will stay on your “permanent record.”
I am currently sitting under a papaya tree in Nokomis, Florida attempting to gather my brain back to an acceptable standing. I have a day and a half left of vacation. It isn’t going too well. This time around I have had an incredibly difficult time disengaging my brain.
There was a whole lot going on right up to the time I left. I didn’t even get all of my work finished before leaving. I knew I needed to take time off. I was having a super hard time keeping my mouth shut. It was like someone popped the cork on my brain and stuff just came rambling out. I surprised myself a few times, but I didn’t actually care.
It started with a meeting I had earlier in the week. Tim and I met with this gentleman several time before and worked on a faith leaders conference with him. He has a genuine desire to be part of the solution and not part of the problem in the opiate crisis. He has had several positions and just landed back in town to help with different groups concerning addiction. Great guy. Really and truly.
“So were you guys at the Opiate Summit last year?” he asked a simple enough question, that I took as flinging a door wide open.
“The one Dr. Ortiz (Franklin County Coroner) was in charge of? No. I am pretty sure they shut her down before the Summit even happened. She was bamboozled you know. They took it right out from under her feet. I was on the Recovery subcommittee and them bam they took it. She is trying to start something on the faith side of things now,” I word vomited.
He asked a simple yes or no question, I was aware of that. He weighed in on his opinion of the whole ordeal and then went on.
He went on to talk about the problems they are having with the peer support system and testing. We then went on to recovery housing and billing, peer support through Medicaid and on to the next thing and circled around to Medication Assisted Treatment and faith Opiate conferences. With each subject change I could feel the cork in my brain starting to slip. Finally he asked what I thought about certified peer supporters not working in sober living houses. That was it.
I answered, “Here is what I really think about this……..” and we were off, the cork flew straight out .
I think, and here is where I needed to pause and breath, I think that like most crisis that happen there is money to be made. The greater the need, the more urgent the crisis, people begin to get desperate. They will throw every dime they have at the newest and the latest “fix”. The government starts to get involved and then the drug companies. The companies that bear a responsibility for part of this crisis lead the research. That seems strange to me. They led the research once before and that didn’t turn out so well.
I even read a government released study that stated that it was irresponsible to not medicate an opiate addict for the rest of his or her life. I have houses of people that prove that different and that do not want to live life medicated. They want to be well. And they can be well. There is more than one way to beat this.
I don’t think it’s responsible to look to the companies and to government to fix this. I think this is a community issue. Lack of community and isolation make this worse. A drug won’t fix a hole in heart or a longing for belonging. Someone needs to take people by the hand and walk with them to health. Someone needs to not accept, unacceptable behaviors and offer another way. Someone needs to share hope of a changed life. It just strikes me as strange that society so quickly follows the easier softer way. The easier softer way is part of the problem. Of course the research will support only medication assisted treatment, THEY ARE PAYING FOR THE RESEARCH!! The government can not keep up. And frankly they shouldn’t.
Woah, woah, woah, back’er on down there I heard my brain scream. This guy is on our team. Slow down Maverick.
I know I ranted for probably ten more minutes before I finally said, “So that is why I don’t speak on very many panels. I represent a philosophy much different than most,” I ended my rant.
The poor guy looked like the man on the speaker commercial whose hair was blowing backwards.
Tim, I think, was gently patting my leg under the table in an attempt to put the cork back in. I needed a vacation. I need to play nice with others. I need to remember that people help people they like.
We ended our time together. Surprisingly enough he asked me to serve on a committee for peer support. It’s the very least I can do after my unleashing on him.
I have very clear thoughts and opinions on the opiate crisis, the government and drug company’s role in all of it. My opinions are my own. They weren’t formed without personal observation and time spent in the middle of it. I talk to our residents frequently about the latest and greatest things that come out. I want to honor them as humans with a choice to live substance free, as whole healthy adults giving back to a community that loves them. If you want to know what I really think about something …. just ask.
Rant over …….
Butter Part 3
Birth is violent. One minute Butter was contently resting in a float spa deep in side Myrtle’s belly and the next moment she was pulled from her safety and prompted to cry. The twin Doctors asked if Myrtle would like to see Butter.
“Ooh, yes I would,” she excitedly answered.
The best friends pulled Butter over towards the drape that separated the surgical area. Oops, her cord was way to short and she got about a foot from the drape and was yanked back. The best friends were shocked. Perhaps this was their first time holding a baby up. They cut the cord that separated mother and child for the first time.
Violent, it all seemed so harsh and violent to me. They rubbed and scrubbed Butter like they were washing a dirty floor. I cringed. Her skin was so close to transparent and looked like it would just tear right off of her. I assured myself this wasn’t the first baby born there and they might actually know what they were doing.
Butter screamed and cried. “That’s good,” they said.
“If you say so,” I replied while cringing. And then she was off to the NICU.
After several hours in we Recovery we headed up to the room. I got Myrtle settled in and headed down to the waiting Potential Adoptive Parents (PAP’s). I sent photos from the operating room of Butters’ journey and a video of her first cry. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I felt so privileged to be able to introduce them to their child.
My adrenaline was still pumping as I approached them in the front lobby. Tim was waiting with them. The Potential Adoptive Dad (PAD) was the first to see me walk up. He was beaming. The anticipation was bursting from him as I sat down to share the birth experience.
“She is beautiful, and she is a feisty,” I started.
“How is Myrtle?” PAD asked.
“Doing absolutely amazing, she is resting and committed to doing post-op with no narcotics. I am so proud of her.”
I was still so full of excitement that I just gushed out everything about the experience I could think of. PAD was inquisitive and excited. Potential Adoptive Mom (PAM) sat there sort of sweating and breathing heavily. “She must be in shock,” I thought.
“Are you ready to meet your child?” I asked.
“Tell me again what all she is hooked up to, I want to be prepared,” PAM said for the first time since I sat down.
“Only forced air, a CPAP and a small tube down her nose to help her eat. Other than that she is perfectly healthy! You have a very healthy baby girl. Are you ready to go meet her?” I asked again.
“Just give me a moment more to process all of this,” she answered.
“Yes,” PAD said and stood up.
On the elevator ride to the NICU my mind began to slow and replay the series of events for this family. Thirty six hours ago they met Myrtle and were chosen to parent a baby girl. They were told they had until March to prepare. Then they got an abrupt call this morning that they would be parents sometime today. So this was probably overwhelming to them. I get it.
As we walked into Butters’ room I was so excited. PAD and PAM approached the incubator with caution.
“OH……MY, she is hooked up to so much. She is so tiny. Oh my, I thought she was bigger. From the picture she was much bigger. Oh my gosh. Wow. She is so fragile, what do we do here?” PAM said in shock.
“She is perfect,” PAD quietly said to himself.
Tim and I took pictures and then left PAD and PAM alone to begin their journey as a family.
“I think it would be nice to visit Myrtle each day so you can get to know each other. Openness will be easier for you both if you start to learn about each other and form your own bond,” I told PAM.
Myrtle had four lovely days in the hospital. I had four lovely days with her! I actually enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed getting to know her in a way I don’t usually get to know someone for quite sometime. We laughed, we watched TV with no volume, we endured nice and nasty nurses and I endured PAM.
Each day PAM would text me from the lobby and summons me to the piano. Each day her nervousness increased. Each day her level of discomfort took me longer and longer to quiet and squash. Each day I became more and more unsettled.
“This is not my job, my job is Myrtle. My job is to advocate on her behalf, to protect her and make sure she is treated with respect and kindness. You are not my job,” I finally said to PAM.
Each day I reported back to Myrtle that PAM was near hysteria and I thought she would start to calm down.
Each day we visited Butter, even after Myrtle’s release.
Each day PAM seemed more uneasy.
My phone rang early, it was the social worker/saint…..
“Beth, I am so sorry, this has never happened and never happens. PAD and PAM backed out of the adoption. PAM has some medical issues that this process revealed and can not follow through. I am truly sorry.”
I was on fire. I couldn’t even imagine this. I could not imagine how to tell Myrtle. The abandonment, the rejection…….. the nerve. It’s been a bit since I have wanted to wallop PAM. NO, no, I can’t go there. I prayed. I knew that God had been moving here since Myrtle came here and I need to trust that he would continue to protect and provide.
“Just one wallop?” I half seriously asked God! “Just one good hard smack?”
NO NO NO.
I went to Myrtle and broke the news. I can’t explain the heartbreak here, there aren’t enough words. We talked, we visited Butter and we saw the stuff PAM left behind for her. She knew. She knew when she spent six hours with her and then left, she knew. I imagine there is heartbreak there as well.
By evening we decided that Myrtle was probably in better shape than PAM and PAD were. We would move forward. I don’t know confidently that they will. I pray for them.
I wasn’t sure how to move forward here. How do you convince someone to go again through a process that ended in heartbreak. How could I put Myrtle through this again? We decided to let the dust settle for a day and then see some more profiles. We had much wise council, and many, many prayers.
The social worker sent over eight more families to look at. Myrtle picked her top three and we started again. Back to El Vaquero. Back to the drawing board. I wanted her to meet at least two of the top three. I wanted her to have a choice and feel comfortable.
The first family was hysterically funny. They were so nervous. He was so nervous his hands shook. I watched both of them navigate their way through the meal. This was different this time. The stakes were higher now. No way was Butter going to some yahoos. These people would need to pass some serious questions. Myrtle was on point. She dove right in and asked hard questions. As our time was ending I knew I had only one question..
“What would cause you to walk away from this?” I bluntly asked.
“Nothing!” they answered in unison.
The second family was nice as well. Perhaps a bit too nice. The vibe was significantly different. They were so eager. If Myrtle would have told them that she wanted Butter to be carried around only on a chartreuse pillow every day for a year, I am pretty sure they would have agreed. Ugh. Red flag. Nice well rounded people, perfect for someone else’s child just not Butter.
No, Butter would now get the best parents that Myrtle could find. But would it be family number one. Family two was out. We needed to meet family one again.
I kept thinking about the families. I kept wondering what was going through their minds. This is just a super intense ordeal. The emotions that all sides go through are so intense. There are so many places where you need to open your heart to total strangers in this process. The trust on both sides is immense.
Myrtle has had to trust that a family would not only raise her daughter well, but honor her wishes for openness. The family has had to trust that Myrtle would in fact go through with the signing and then again that Myrtle would honor their desire for openness as well.
It’s in this moment of trust that I believe that a bond is formed that will carry both sides through the next eighteen years.
Our final meeting with family one solidified the choice. They would be the ones to begin this journey of love. Such a tiny, tiny bundle of joy loved by so many people. So many lives have been touched by this journey. So many people have been praying for Butter and Myrtle.
At 11:45 today, Shuga and Sprite joined Myrtle as the parents of a very feisty baby Butter. Let the games begin!!!!
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 CSB
Butter Part 2
Saturday, January 6, 2018, we found out that Myrtles due date was roughly Valentine’s Day.
That’s right Valentine’s Day. That is not what I was hoping for. March. Yes, the beginning of March will fine. But nope, that was not the date, February 14, 2018, that is the day the baby would be here. Actually that wasn’t even true. The OB said she likes to do the C-Section a week before the due date… so February 7th. That would give us about thirty-two days to complete everything we needed to complete; blood tests, hospital tour, look through adoptive family profiles, meet the agency social worker and on and on and on.
The drive back from the ultrasound was much less impressive. It was basically a straight shot down 33, I was able to drive a bit closer to the speed limit. I was shocked. And to be honest I was a tad worried. February 7 seemed like a looming date that was super close. I was going to be out of town right before that so I needed to get everything squared away before I left. We all were more quiet than usual on the drive home.
Myrtle had her ultrasound pictures in hand. There was a very clear picture of the babies foot, everything else I had problems identifying. She decided that she was going to keep the foot picture and if she liked the adoptive family in waiting she would offer the pictures to them. We made arrangements the day before with a prospective family in waiting. We agreed to all meet for dinner Sunday evening. I picked Myrtles favorite place to try to ease the awkwardness of the situation. What could possible go wrong with Mexican?
“If all else fails, just eat chips! Tim will be chattery, he likes to talk to strangers…I..will be eating chips.” That was the famous encouraging pep talk I gave to Myrtle right before we walked in.
It seemed to work. She started right in on the chips.
We spent several hours getting to know each other. They asked very straight forward questions and we all asked very clear questions. It seemed to be ok. They were jittery that the due date was so close.
“That’s parenthood,” I said.
As we got up and got ready to go, Myrtle walked to the Mom in waiting and gently and lovingly handed her the picture and hugged her. It was so touching and I was so proud of her. I think Tim had tears in his eyes as we watched two women prepare to share a child. This is love, I thought.
“You won’t get to pick how things go from here on out, babies have a mind of their own. I will be in contact Tuesday after the glucose test. Nice to meet the both of you,” I said as we walked out.
I was stuffed. I felt pretty much like a seagull that found a bag of bread. I had to keep redirecting my mind from the stuffed feeling to Myrtles thoughts. She felt as comfortable as you can in this situation. I felt better mentally now that we seemed to have accomplished the most important thing. I was ready for my day off, Monday.
Monday was a program snow day. They cooked and ate and made snowmen and had a wonderful day. All was well in the land of recovery. Sugar even made her first snowman ever in her whole life. She must have lived in a cave!
Tim and I came home that evening and listened to the snow stories. Myrtle had a sense of relief for the first time. She had a family in place that would love her child. We all said our Walton family goodnight and headed to bed……
“Beth…….Beth……something is wrong with Myrtle. I think her water broke!!!!!!”
“WHAT?” I yelled back through my bedroom door at roughly 4:30 am Tuesday morning.
“There is a lot of fluid everywhere,” Jordan hurriedly continued.
I jumped straight out of bed and ran out into the hall. I had been listening to a rather lively podcast on water treatment plants in NYC so I was mostly awake. A bit disoriented but awake.
“Uh, yep. Her water broke. Holy cow this wasn’t supposed to happen quite yet.”
“Let’s go, Tim… Myrtles’ water broke. We have to go right now. We need to leave.”
I so bad wanted to tell Samm to go boil some water. I actually have always wanted to yell that to someone! Instead we changed and got ready. The hospital that Myrtle was supposed to deliver at was about forty minutes away, we needed to not dawdle.
The roads were empty on the ride to Marysville Memorial Hospital. Tim seemed pretty nervous and calm at the same time. Myrtle sat in the back and drained. I was running through how this was going to go in my mind. I was excited to be in the delivery room and worried that this was so early. It was only 29 hours ago that we met the family. The family, I needed to call the family and let them know what was going on.
We arrived at the hospital and rushed in. Again I was fighting the urge to yell, “MAKE WAY… SHE IS IN LABOR!!!!” But she actually wasn’t in labor so I had to control myself.
As a side note here, I will one day yell both, “BOIL SOME WATER!! and MAKE WAY… SHE IS IN LABOR!!”
So, we moseyed on back to the labor and delivery room. Evidently, if I would have called them, they would have told me to not come there because their NICU didn’t handle that premature of a baby. But I didn’t call. So we waited for her OB and she called ahead to Riverside. Myrtle packed into a squad and Tim and I piled back into the Prius and headed to Riverside. I shot a quick text to the family in waiting around 7:00 am to, “Just give me a call.” The ornery side of me sometimes likes to cause a minor amount of grief!
We arrived at Riverside to do the infamous hurry up and wait hospital dance. One group said she wouldn’t deliver that day and another group said she would. We let them go into the hall and I assume they Rock, Paper, Scissored their decision. Rock crushed Scissors and we started prepping for surgery.
The family in waiting came to the hospital to wait as well.
I got my painters outfit and spiffy hat on and waited in the OR hall for the nurse to take me in. I don’t actually know how supportive I was to Myrtle. I was totally into watching the surgery. We had two young women Doctors that looked like two twelve year old little girls playing operation.
“You start cutting…” “No you start cutting…”
They actually didn’t sound like that, it just looked like that. It was fascinating. They pulled and tugged on Myrtle like she was one of those old stretch Armstrong dolls. I kept thinking, “Man is she going be sore!”
And then without any warning or fan fare out popped Butter, All 4lbs 11.8 ozs of her. She came out with a hearty battle cry, shaking her fist at the world. She was tiny but mighty and she was going to need that strength for what was coming next. We all would.
To be continued…….
““When you enter into battle in your land against an adversary who is attacking you, sound short blasts on the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God and be saved from your enemies.” Numbers 10:9 CSB
Butter Part 1
“Beth…….Beth……something is wrong with Myrtle. I think her water broke!!!!!!”
“WHAT?” I yelled back through my bedroom door at roughly 4:30 am Tuesday morning.
“There is a lot of fluid everywhere,” Jordan hurriedly continued.
I jumped s
traight out of bed and ran out into the hall. I had been listening to a rather lively podcast on water treatment plants in NYC so I was mostly awake. A bit disoriented but awake.
“Uh, yep, her water broke. Holy cow this wasn’t supposed to happen quite yet.”
Thirty some days ago we began a journey we hadn’t experienced or expected yet in the program. Up until we got Myrtle we only thought about what it would be like to have a pregnant girl in the program. We knew the day would come when one of the one million administered pregnancy tests came back positive. We thought it would sort of look like this…… (cue the dream music)
A young lady would interview and announce that it was a possibility that she might be pregnant. Common. We would give her a test and she would come back positive. We would ask how far along she thought she was and she would kindly sweetly answer ……… six weeks. We would do her detox, find her a nice understanding OB, and embark on a lengthy forty week journey where we would have a ton of time to make plans and decisions.
Yes… that is exactly how it all went in my mind. Oh, there also wouldn’t be any morning sickness or complications or most importantly, no grumpiness. Ha! That is soooo far from how things generally go around here. What really happened that lead up to Myrtles’ water breaking I could never have imagined.
8:19 pm less than twenty-four hours before Myrtle was supposed to come into the program I received the following text:
“Hello Beth, I think I may have a problem. Myrtle just confessed that she is at least six months pregnant. We thought she was lying because she was scared to go tomorrow. But, they just confirmed it. She is so skinny… I don’t know what to do now or to think.”
I got up from the table and did a quick stroll around the kitchen. Welp, might as well jump straight into this, I thought. We are going to do this sooner or later so might as well be now.
8:24pm “Ok, we will still take her,” I answered.
I turned toward whoever was close by and Tim and said, “Here we go!”
I gathered most of the staff together and explained that Myrtle would be coming the next day with her at least six month in-utero baby. We would need to move quickly. We did not have time to wait out the forty day period before we sought medical help. We would need to make sure her insurance was good, find an OB and discuss her options. We would have to begin almost immediately with a plan of attack.
Jordan would be the OB finder and insurance verifier. I would start investigating options and talk with Myrtle. We didn’t have time to ease into this at all. I would have to immediately jump into awkward conversations about what her post pregnancy options were. We all were nervous and a bit excited.
The next day Myrtle arrived as scheduled. We jumped right in. Myrtle was tiny, you couldn’t tell she was pregnant, let alone six months pregnant. It really didn’t seem very real to me. She looked less pregnant than me. She was quiet and reserved. She had already detoxed, so that was a bonus and that meant that the baby was detoxed as well. I asked Myrtle if she had felt the baby move during and after detox.
“Ooh yes the baby is very active,” she answered.
“That’s a plus for us! How much prenatal care have you had?” I asked.
“None, just a test,” she answered.
“Our first priority will be to find you a Doctor. The second will be to talk about your options after birth. It is our experience that you need to focus on getting well and parenting in a few months won’t be in anyone’s best interest. It’s ok to concentrate on you,” I gently explained.
“I am planning on adoption,” she said.
“Perfect, as soon as you see the Doctor we will start working on a plan,” I added.
There aren’t many options when it comes to children born with drugs in their systems. The first is for CPS to step in and place the child in foster care and charge the parent with child endangerment to gain temporary custody and begin a plan of reunification. The second is to place the child with an adoptive family. We would like to see an adoption plan when possible.
The following Monday Jordan began her search for an OB. That proved to be quite a big job. Every place Jordan called declined Myrtle. She was an addict and had no care and thusly was high risk, so no, they would not be taking her.
I was angry. I was angry at the judgment and assumptions, just angry.
Eventually through a friend we found an OB that was willing to not only take Myrtle but was genuinely concerned and supported adoption. The only hitch was the Doctor was located a bit away and the appointment was three weeks out. Still, we chose that Doctor and waited. We wanted to get through the holidays first anyway. We lined up a profile of a waiting family that we would show to Myrtle after her first appointment. Things were going just swell.
“Jordan, this appointment says Urbana, that isn’t where it is. Is this the right place?” I asked as we were walking out the door for our first OB appointment.
“Yes, Urbana and the other town are actually the same. I got the address off the web site. It’s fine,” she replied.
“OK, I hope your right!”
One hour and 3 minutes later…
“Is this place in a barn?” Myrtle asked.
“NOPE!” I shot back.
“Jordan, where are we?”
“Urbana!” she answered.
“These places don’t appear to be the same. Find out where we are supposed to be. We are almost late,” I went on.
“Well, the place we are supposed to be is actually thirty-six minutes from here,” she said.
“Ok well hang on.”
I took off like I was shot out of a gun. I drove 82 miles an hour, even through a school zone. Slow poke after slow poke pulled out in front of me. I was frustrated and worried what would happen if we missed this appointment. We NEEDED this Doctor visit. We NEEDED an official word on Myrtles due date. I NEEDED to know what was up.
We skidded into the lot approximately nine minutes late and ran in the door. The Doctor saw us right away. However, the ultrasound machine was broken. We would need to wait one more day for confirmation on a due date. Two hours of driving and we were still no closer to answers. Saturday will be the day.
And so Saturday we went again. Myrtle was 34.5 weeks pregnant with a baby girl.
“When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world.” John 16:21 CSB
I really, really don’t want to start out my blog with a “Well, we are headed into a new year and yada, yada, yada.” It seems like the natural way to start. However, my life goes so quickly sometimes that I try not to blink out of fear of missing it. Christmas was gone so fast. I was informed yesterday that Spring is right around the corner. I started to disagree with the nurse but she had solid facts to back it up. The days are, in fact, getting longer. We passed the winter solstice so now the days seem colder, but longer. And the day that I have been dreading finally happened.
It was a Saturday, the first Saturday that was super cold. I checked the weather that morning when I got up. I said, “Tim, what’s the weather going to be like today?” I have every Apple product known to mankind and the most reliable weather informer is still Tim. Tim always answers the same way … “Siri, what’s the weather like today?” She answers him and then he promptly repeats it to me. Everyday. Every single day.
Today I didn’t like what I heard. The weather for the first time wasn’t going to get much above 10 degrees, with a frigid windchill. Ugh. I hate that. I hate it for a couple reasons. First, I still have nightmares of every pipe at church bursting at once during the polar vortex. And the second reason was that I was working at the Drop In Center that day.
It was a balmy 8 degrees as we loaded the food and headed towards CMC and the center. I was excited to hear how some of the girls’ Christmas went. We sent turkeys with a few of them. Several girls had made arrangements to provide a dinner for others that were staying at the trap house. I had loaded them up with a turkey and all the fixins for who ever was there and to be honest I was curious if some of them actually knew how to cook a turkey. It was sort of a hot topic in my group all week. We wondered if they cooked or sold the turkey, if they actually celebrated Christmas. I think the curiosity came from my groups’ own memories of Christmas while using. I am pretty sure we spent almost half of a whole group debating this. None the less, I was excited to go.
I arrived about forty minutes before opening. I like to get the coffee started and we all have our opening rituals we like to take care of. As I got closer to the back door of the center I noticed that there were several tubs of wet snowy clothes stacked up. Ughhh, I hate when someone leaves their clothes back here. But I suppose it’s better they leave them here than not having them at all. Stacey and I, mostly Stacey, moved them into a nice neat pile as we went in to begin our shift.
It was cold, really, really cold. We turned the heat up and put on a movie so the girls would have a nice toasty place for a few hours. Then we waited.
The coffee pot was noisy perking sixty cups of coffee. I was bustling around putting dishes away, folding laundry and attempting to heat up food. The rest of the crew was stocking the clothes shelves and hygiene baskets for the day. We seemed to have quite a few coats and warm sweaters. Toasty socks were a bit scarce but all in all it looked and smelled nice and homey.
One by one our regular girls started to come in. We really didn’t know how many to expect for the day. We plan for fifty and hope for thirty.
The wind began to pick up. Each time the front door opened the temperature dropped a few more degrees. The furnace was rumbling in a furious attempt to keep up with the demand. Eventually every seat around the table was full.
Most of the girls haven’t had food since our Thursday meal. Pearl eventually made her way back to the kitchen. She was still waiting for her surgery. She had an appointment upcoming with the surgeon and was planning for a five day hospital stay. “At least it will be warm in there.” There it was, she was the first to say out loud what we all seemed to be tip toeing around. Our girls were freezing.
The options are few and far between for most of them. I closed my eyes and put my head down to think. As soon as I did the conversation turned to a missing girl that is always there, no one had seen her. One of the volunteers kindly asked if maybe she was at the shelter. She might as well had asked them if she had painted herself pink and rolled in the snow. What an absurd thought… that someone might be in the shelter.
“No, no,” said one of the older girls. “Nope, you can’t do what we do and be in the shelter. Not possible.”
“Well where would she be staying? Or for that matter where does anyone stay in weather like this?” the volunteer asked again.
The same girl answered again, “Well if you are on the good side of the dope boy you can stay in the trap for awhile, and then you might get a date, and then there is an abando down the street that doesn’t have heat or anything but you can at least get out of the wind……and then there is the porch next door and the one across the street.”
The volunteers eyes got about as big around as plates. The room was silent minus the struggling furnace. The reality of the bitter cold hung in the room like a dark cloud.
“Hey boss lady… did you get more hot hands? I put them in the bottom of my sleeping bag to keep my toes warm.”
“Nope, not yet,” I said.
“You waiting for Spring when they go on sale?” Pearl joked.
“Yep,” I shot back.
The mood had lifted for the time being. We soaked an abscess, told stories of our weeks’ and avoided the inevitable.
At 3:50 the temperature was 6 degrees. The wind chill was -14. In ten minutes I would be asking the women that had sought shelter and warmth and company to kindly bundle up and vacate the building. In ten minutes I would begin shuffling the women to the front toward the door. They would stall. They would move stuff from bag to bag. They would get one more plate of food. And then at 4:00 pm I would tell them it was time to leave. By 4:30 we would have most people out, lock up and go home.
I have been trying to prepare myself for this day. The day I would have to send people out the door to freeze. The day I would watch women I have grown so fond of walk down the street to a life that didn’t include shelter. I knew it was coming. And as much as I tried to be ready, I almost couldn’t take it. The reality was worse than I imagined. The women were so kind and appreciative when they left. We hugged each goodbye and promised to meet again Tuesday to pick up where we left off.
And then…… we shut the door and locked it.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NIV
We did it! We all had a very, very Merry Christmas.
We finished the third week of Advent last Sunday. I waited until our Thursday service to include the Advent speaker in my blog….. but, it wasn’t a program person. I realized that as Jake got up to speak. “That’s ok,” I thought, “Sugar did such an excellent job, she won’t have to share the blog.”
Thursday turned into Friday and then bam, it was Christmas Eve. The last Sunday of Advent was Love followed by the Christ candle that evening. At both services the speakers were amazing. Each spoke about how the impact of addiction had in some way changed their lives. Each was equally touching and real. I looked out during both speakers at the people in the program. This was quite possibly the first time they had heard from the other side of addiction with an open mind. As I listened to each, I couldn’t help but think back to the beginning of the program with Sugar.
Jordan picked her straight up from the hospital where she was discharged to us. She informed Keith and Kyle that she had not stayed any place longer than four days and had been through a revolving door at the hospital, repeatedly. She had so many admissions I wonder how she even found time to get high. But….. she did.
She was pleasant enough, but very frail, like really, really frail. She moved quite slowly, and watching her get up out of a chair was a painful experience. She was a runner. She told us she was a runner. I thought to myself, “Ha, I would like to see her actually run.” And so we watched her. She ate nothing but Sugar when she actually ate. She didn’t walk very far before sitting down. And then usually plopped herself in the middle of poison ivy if it was any place to be found. She was still very pleasant to be around though. She slowly started to get stronger.
As the only girl in the program she has had some though times. The guys pushed her. They were relentless with pushing her. They expected her to work like them, to be as strong as them, as knowledgeable as them. They have handed her axes, hammers, drivers and expected her to know what to do and to do it. And sometimes she did. And sometimes she just sat down.
She has had to endure six brotherly figures in her life. Some have been easier to endure than others. They have taunted her with stories of chem-trails and the Illuminati. They have told her far fetched stories of conspiracy theories. She has been trapped in a hot van with smelly men. She has been purposely squished against a window in the van with yucky damp feet. In the midst of it all she has gotten better. In the midst of it all she has found JOY.
JOY, who knew?
So here is Sugars’ story of JOY. Just remember this when something threatens to steal your JOY.
JOY – I spent a lot of time thinking about JOY while I was preparing this and I realized that I don’t have a lot of experience with JOY. JOY isn’t something experienced very often by addicts, but it goes deeper than that for me.
For years I studied to be a scientist and strived for perfection in everything I did. I took statistical data about my life, my sleep schedule, my productivity, my caffeine intake, how I spent my time, in an effort to do everything better. I didn’t have time for joy. There’s no room for emotions in science, it’s an objectivity thing.
After that I spent six years as an opiate addict. JOY was something I was always seeking, but only found glimpses of. I knew I didn’t know JOY at all. I remember telling my mom that even when things were okay, that the good wouldn’t outweigh the bad. Mentally tallying positive and negative and getting worried when the negative always outweighed the positive. “It’s just not good enough,” I told her. “It doesn’t make up for all the bad that has happened.”
But looking back, JOY doesn’t work like that. It’s not about a sum with an over/under that defines your life as all good or all bad; JOY isn’t meant to counter-act suffering. It wasn’t intended to bring calm and completeness to a disastrous situation. I wanted JOY with the same hunger I felt when it came to drugs, I longed for a panacea that would make my life feel right again. What I never realized though was that when people feel genuine JOY and contentment in their lives, that drugs are barely an interest to them anymore and that hunger for a cure dissipates.
What brings me the most JOY today – the most genuine JOY, is community. Ever since I got in the van that First Day in the program, I felt like I was a part of something special, something drastically different from any treatment I had ever been in before.
I don’t feel like I am in rehab, we play video games, we joke in the van, we watch movies together. This is something unique, and what makes it so good is every person here today. Together we work to change lives, make a difference, bring JOY to people that don’t know what JOY is. All of us play a part, it’s amazing what JOY can be found here, and how much JOY I feel on a daily basis.
– Thank you, Sugar.
Amazing, isn’t it? She is an amazing woman and I feel very privileged to share this journey with her. She has paid her dues and has done a fantastic job helping us reset the female side of the program. Her persistence and consistency to pursue health has helped us build a solid foundation for a restart. We now have another new girl. Sugar is right there with her. She is investing her time, knowledge and hope in her. Her JOY overflows as she explains her work or how to stay mindful. Our runner has planted her feet. Her foundation is JOY.
JOY, unspeakable JOY
An overflowing well
No tongue can tell
JOY, unspeakable JOY
Rises in my soul, never lets me go
This was the second week of Advent, the week of Peace. I am a bit behind. Exactly thirteen days ago I caught this nasty cold. I sound worse than I feel and look worse than I sound. My brain has been a bit foggy. I was pretty thrilled that both speakers during the week of peace were from the program. I can’t explain peace any better than either of them, so first up is Lazarus, followed by Mr. Michigan. I have to say…. Mr. Michigan….I would have never seen this coming from him twelve months ago. I believe in my heart that he is becoming brand new and filled with peace.
PEACE, what exactly is peace? According to the world peace is freedom from distraction. At least that’s peace according to Mr. Webster. I will get to my definition shortly. Throughout my drug addiction I never fully understood peace. I thought I did, but I was mistaken.
PEACE to me was an escape. A way out. It involved me getting as far away from reality as possible. My peace was found at the END of a straw, the END of a pipe, or the END of a drink. My peace was an END. It was an END to my responsibilities. No more worrying about rent, electric, food or the future. My peace was found in a few moments of the day and was extremely short lived. Most addicts tell you they chased the high. Not this guy. I am an over achiever. I chose to spend my days seeking this so called peace.
Here is a clearer picture. I want to go back a few months ago.
There was a day in May that started off like any other day. I got my kids up, got them ready and off to school. Then, it was time to chase the PEACE. I had a few bucks and got my fix.
I was going through a rough breakup at the time. I spent most of my days trying to convince the mother of my youngest child that I was clean and to come back home. She wasn’t buying it and shut her phone off. I ran out of money that day and my peace quickly left. I was so high on meth that I was talking to myself. I made arrangements for my children to be picked up from the bus stop. I was at my literal end. I, for the first time in my life, attempted suicide. I was almost lifeless when the squad arrived. I spent seven days “on the Farm,” as Beth says. This farm was located far from from home. For most, this would be a wake up call. Not for me.
Now let me fast forward to August. Same beginning as the last story.
My children went off to school. I was sick and needed some PEACE. A friend and I decided to split a 20 of heroin. Fifteen minutes later I was dead. Lifeless, facedown in my cousins back yard. It was the kind of death you don’t come back from.
Twelve minutes, two doses of Narcan and several minutes of beating on my chest (so I have been told) and I regained consciousness. As they pushed me into the squad an officer asked me what I took? Advil, was the answer I gave him. I don’t think he saw the humor and slammed the door and shook his head.
I frantically searched for my phone. Someone needed to get my children. I found someone to get them. As I pulled into the hospital embarrassment set in. I pulled a sheet over my head as they wheeled me in. I started to plot my escape. God had a different plan.
An angel was there that day and somehow she convinced me to relax and let them monitor me until the Narcan wore off. As I laid back, my friend walked in, the one that went to get my children. I could tell from the look on her face that something was wrong.
“Where are they?” I asked.
“They were there waiting,” she said.
“Who? Who, was waiting?” I demanded. My heart sank as I heard the next two words come out of her mouth.
At that moment I started doing what I do most days now…… CRYING.
Quite a lot happened in that room that night. I knew what would happen to me losing my children, my life would become even more chaotic. They were all I had left. I was all they had left.
As I was telling all of this to Barbie she said with a kind understanding smile, “If you really want to change I know people that will help you.” Six hours later I was on my way to COMO Recovery. No goodbyes, no nothing. I just got into a car with two total strangers I had only talked to for an hour.
That brings us to today, I now weigh 250lbs, from Tim’s cooking. And I have PEACE.
When I think of peace, the first thing that comes to mind, is peace of mind.
Growing up my mom was either struggling or in an unhealthy abusive relationship. I never really had peace of mind as a child. I eventually found sanctuary with drugs at a young age. Drugs brought me a false sense of peace of mind.
In the midst of my drug use, if I didn’t have drugs, I became suicidal. I hated myself and hated the world. My worst enemy was myself. If I sat alone all I could think about was how unfair the world was and what a big of a piece of crap I was. Eventually the drugs stopped working.
Before I got arrested I would walk by this train every night after work. I would walk a couple steps in front of it and think how bad I wanted to step in front of it and just end it all. Luckily I found out about COMO Recovery while I was incarcerated and Beth came to Michigan and was willing to take me in. If it wasn’t for this program I know I would be dead.
Peace of mind did not come right away for me. For months I would stay up tossing and turning thinking about all the messed up stuff I did. Thanks to this community I was able to see the benefit of actually applying what I was being taught. See, I have a thick skull and like to be willful.
It took me longer than it should of, but I can honestly say I have peace of mind today. I am able to let my emotions pass and not let them run my thoughts. For the first time in my life I can sit in a quiet room and experience true peace of mind. For that I am eternally grateful.
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV
This week is the first week of Advent. It’s the week of hope.
So many things come to my mind when someone says that word. Hope.
Hope means so many things to so many people. Like…. I hope all my hair doesn’t fall out. Or, I hope everyone in the van brushed their teeth this morning. Or, I hope someone remembers to pick up Mr. Michigan from his job today. Things like that seem to be the first thoughts with the word hope.
I have to admit that I have a prevailing thought attached to hope. I hope I have some extra free time to finish knitting Tim’s scarf for Christmas. I have been hoping that for three years now. And, it’s about a foot long. I hope the yarn doesn’t rot first.
Yesterday, I sat in a trendy coffee co-op trying to figure out how I was going to explain why I choose to do what I do to two very well dressed people who might want to help us . I wasn’t sure how to explain to a Banker and an Attorney that there is hope in helping people that are mostly dead as Miracle Max calls them.
There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo Montoya: What’s that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.
Mostly dead is slightly alive. When people start the program they are slightly alive and all they have is hope. Hope then becomes the only driving force to go another day. I decided that the best way I can describe to anyone what hope there is in helping the mostly dead was to let one tell his story of hope. Here is Juan’s story.
The day before I was supposed to come into the program I did something so stupid. I got arrested on 10 felony charges. I quickly accepted that I would be in jail for a long time. About twelve hours later I heard my name called to “roll it up, your leaving”. I didn’t go to court or anything.
That was God if you ask me, having hope that I would do the next right thing once I left. I went to COMO once I was out.
For the next six months at COMO I was anything but comfortable. Beth and I went and met with my attorney. He told me I was facing 16 + years in prison. Beth and I stared at each other blankly and said nothing. At this point I thought high tailing it it to Mexico was the thing to do. My nick name is Juan, I will fit in nicely I thought. As you can see I am not in prison or Mexico. I found hope in this community, from my family and God. Without them I wouldn’t be here.
I think addiction recovery is about more than just the absence of drugs in your system. Recovery from drugs and alcohol addiction is a tough complex, rewarding journey. And while the road I am on may be headed in the right direction there are often bumps, twists and turns, hardships and heart aches. There are a ton of obstacles to over come and plenty of opinionated people along the way.
It’s a lot more than just overcoming your drug addiction. It’s about truly changing who you are on the inside. This is a journey every Recovering addict and alcoholic must travel in order to move forward toward health and freedom. This is why Recovery from substance abuse doesn’t start with abstinence, it starts with hope.
Belief and expectation are key elements of hope.
Hope has the ability to help people heal.
Hope is evidence something will happen.
Hope allows people to approach challenges with a positive mindset.
Hope keeps people going.
The road to recovery isn’t easy, but with hope it is brighter and more meaningful.
With hope you will find a way to keep going, to keep fighting, to keep striving for health, happiness and recovery from addiction.
I asked Juan to speak about hope. I couldn’t think of a more convincing story of hope.
I remember the first time I took him to court. I was very hopeful that everything would turn out just fine. I encouraged him, “Just hang in there, they don’t want to put you in prison, they want you to get well,” I said as we walked into the court house. I was confident that All would be fine. I was confident clear up to the moment that they announced that there was a presumption for prison time and it was very likely going to be at least five plus years. And THAT was a good deal.
I remember wondering how I was going to convince him to stay and face it. I asked him if he was ready to run. I understood the feeling. How do you decide to move forward only to go to prison? Each day he stayed was one day closer to his court date. There is no ignoring a looming prison sentence.
His attorney made it clear that he didn’t meet the criteria to NOT go to prison. And so we just kept on doing the next right thing. The day got closer for sentencing and I just kept hoping that the right thing would be done, that Juan would get a chance to get well. Without drugs the crimes wouldn’t have been committed. There was hope for him. There was a chance that he was slightly alive and he just needed hope.
As we entered the court room for the final time, I tried to prepared all of us for the reality of his sentence. I tried to prepare myself for the bailiff taking him from the courtroom to the prison. I went over what I would say to his mom when they took him.
We rose when the judge entered the room. I could hardly sit back down and wait. I watched in disbelief as the Judge shook his head NO over and over again. NO, this was not a crime that you could get probation for, NO. NO, he (the judge) has never done that before. NO. NO this crime carried a minimum sentence of four years. NO we would not walk out together. His mom gasped, and sobbed.
“Wait, just wait,” I whispered to her as she cried.
I had hope that the change that occurred in Juan the day before was what would change the outcome here in that room.
“Wait,” I whispered again.
BANG!! sentence suspended. Eight and a half years on the shelf. Waiting, for one false move.
I have hope that God can and is restoring Juan to brand new. I have have hope that God will give me the strength to see it through.
I’m no stranger to prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
But I’ve been freed and forgiven
And I’m not going back, I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood
A Very COMO Thanksgiving
Every November, our staff prepares for the longest week of the year, Thanksgiving week.
For some, it’s a time for gathering together families and distant relatives to share a meal, a time of sharing and making memories, a time of mending. For us….. it’s a hard, long week as we prepare the people in the program to face their first holiday, in half their lives, without drugs. We get to juggle battling families schedules. We get to walk right into the center of years of the same family squabble and attempt to make peace for just a little bit. The prep is bigger than the day. And then finally the big day….. Thanksgiving …… it’s a wonderful time of the year.
This year I decided to take a different approach to the whole whopping to-do. I spent the required time preparing my group. And then I watched.
I didn’t watch them for signs of stress or distress. I didn’t watch them to see if I was going to have to call off their visit. I started watching everyone for signs of thankfulness and gratitude. And I, on purpose, waited a week to write this blog, just to make sure they all made it through the holiday. So without any further babbling on, I would like to introduce you to thankfulness, Como Recovery style!!
First we have Mr Michigan.
He has been with us now 18 months. This is his second Thanksgiving here, so you are thinking it must be easier for him? Not at all. Mr. Michigan is in Intermediate now and about to begin his final part of the program. He is strong, and he is 100% different than last holiday. He is now healthy enough to care. He is healthy enough to see dysfunction, and to see when things aren’t right. He is healthy enough to know when things are dangerous for him. He is healthy enough to care enough to not want to put himself there. He is extremely grateful he is alive.
“Well, you lived through another holiday! What are you thankful for this year?” I asked.
He smiled a very, very ornery smile and began.
I am thankful that you put up with my crap so long.
I am thankful for the times you just wouldn’t stop hammering me and letting me get away with stuff.
I am very thankful for a supportive community that helps me cope and deal with things.
I am thankful I have a safe place to come home to. I saw the value of that this past week.”
All that from a guy that once memorized a whole play in order to impress a girl.
Next there is One Time.
One Time has been with us 11 months. He too is completely different than when he first entered the program. He is a tad older than the others. They fondly call him Dad. He has taken on a position in the house that has made it a home. He prepares meals for the house each night. I don’t mean like Sloppy Joes or something like that. He makes homemade noodles, and has an extensive recipe book from the Recovery Kitchen cooking class. When he moves to Intermediate it will be a hard spot to follow. He is kind. He is helpful. One Time is truly a different person. I am excited for him and his future.
I tracked him down and asked him, “So, what are thankful for this year?”
I am thankful for being sober.
I have positive people in my life that make a difference. I have a future now.
I am thankful I get to be in my sons life.
I am looking forward to going to school to learn to operate heavy equipment. The future looks a lot better now.
I put him on the spot, I could tell. One Time has had quite a lot to overcome while he has been here. Shortly after he arrived, his brother died from a drug overdose. His journey to health has been for his brother as well. He has had many, many struggles and has always stayed determined. He is a man of his word. I am proud to know him.
Then there is Juan.
Juan has been with us almost 8 months. It seems longer than that to me. Juan has a million dollar smile that has gotten him into and out of trouble his whole life. His legal battle while he has been here has been extensive. It consumed the first 6 months of his time here. Very little work actually got done besides just hanging on for dear life and getting in trouble with Kyle.
Juan is a great stander. He always says, “There are workers and standers, the workers work and the standers watch the workers and cheer them on. Someone has to it.” He is sort of funny. Like everyone here there came a time he had to decide to get well. It seems to be going much better than I thought it would. We actually, very politely, butt heads. I am the rock wall of NO, that he finally met in his life.
“Well buddy, what you thankful for this year?”
Very quietly and humbly he began.
I am thankful for the relationship with my mom.
I am thankful not to be a burden anymore.
I am thankful for God’s grace.
I am thankful for true family and friends.
I am thankful for the willingness to do what’s right and very thankful that I have a choice now.
To be able to know that Juan is sincere and that those sentiments truly come from his heart, is a gift to me this year.
Next on the block is Sugar.
Sugar is our only girl in this Wild West program. It’s so interesting to me that she is still here. The year prior to being here she had 13 hospital admissions and the longest she stayed anyplace was four days. She was here before Mighty and Laz. She was so frail when she got here. She could hardly get herself out of a chair. Going to a job was like a major undertaking.
The day before yesterday I stood back and watched Sugar out swing the new guy with a hammer and pry bar! I watched her out the window for quite awhile playing basketball on the new court. She is tall, and getting strong. I am thankful to be a part of her life. Like the others I can’t wait to see what life has in store for her. Today she has been here 110 days. Today she can run and jump and hammer. Today she is alive.
Today she said she is thankful for…
I am thankful to be here.
I am thankful not be in the street.
And I am thankful to finally feel better!
Next up is Lazarus.
His name says it all. He came to us 3 months ago. He was dead and now he isn’t. People always ask what will it take…. for him it was death. Laz is a gentle giant. He is very tall and very soft hearted. It may have been years and years since he has felt and experienced emotions. Now much to his dismay they seem to flow though him on a very regular basis. His wake up call was a great kickstart for his recovery. I am excited to see who he will become.
“Well Laz, What you got going on in the thankful department?” I asked.
The emotions began to overwhelm him and he did everything he could to keep them from flooding out of him. Then he began.
I am thankful for hope. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am able to see the begining of the promise.
I am thankful that I can start to see progress in me and for the first time in my life I can finally feel comfortable in my own skin.
I am grateful for my children and them having a safe place to be.
I am thankful for spiritual progress, Narcan, and …….well, I wanted to go to rehab anyway, but I am thankful that God placed Barbie in that hospital that night so I can finally feel a purpose for my life.
Can you feel the emotions leaking out of you ?
Now we have Mighty.
Mighty is a man of few words…. sometimes. He is so funny. When he first got here I thought he was in a perpetual state of being mad. He was sickish and quiet. Then all of the sudden one day he was funny. Very funny. He has a quirky humor that makes me laugh. He has a hearty laugh that is infectious. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a true asset to the house and the program. So I asked the man of few words..
“Well homeslice, what are you thankful for this year?”
Quick and to the point he answered.
This program, waking up and not using.
For choices and health.
I am thankful to be surrounded by good healthy people and family.
Then have the new guy. He has been her just 13 days if he makes it to 40 I will probably call him Cherry. I don’t know him well yet. He actually shared our Thanksgiving meal with us. It was awesome.
“What are you thankful for this year?” I asked.
He is quiet and somber right now. He is just feeling his way around and getting used to the daily grind. So he quietly answered.
Having someplace to be, not worrying where I will be.
Good people and friends to support me.
Clear conscious and un-impulsive mindset.
Sounds good to me. I hope he makes it
I hope this added a bit of gratitude to you day. I know we would all be thankful for your continued prayers as we continue this journey.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV
When Kyle Met Juan
I currently have a pulled muscle in my neck. It’s on the left side of my neck. It’s the one that makes your neck stiff and sore and unable to turn your head from side to side. Tim said it’s from straining Monday sooo hard to keep my head from popping off during the major crisis that happened. I think I tend to agree. I actually think that were it not for this one lonely muscle, I would be carrying my head instead of wearing it.
“Juan, I just want you guys to do what I ask you to do. Do you understand? Nothing more, nothing less, just what I ask. Please……. can you just do that? Please?” I asked Juan as soon as the crisis was averted and I landed back on earth.
“Yes,” he sheepishly answered.
“No. Don’t just tell me me yes. Just please please do it. This would not have been an issue at all if you both would have just actually done what I asked. You got very lucky today,” I slowly said just in case the seriousness of the matter didn’t sink in.
“I know Beth, I actually know. We just didn’t think,” he said for the 100th time.
Monday, we had a crisis. It’s actually too soon for me to talk about it, I might freak out all over again. And I can truthfully say that I freaked out. I was very calm during the majority of the it. I was calmish from the first phone call at 9:30 am on my day off from Kyle …..who was freaking out. I was calm all day as I systematically remedied the crisis, on my day off, while Kyle continued to freak out. I was calm clear up until the time Monday, on my day off, after working diligently for 9 hours to calmly remedy the crisis, that Kyle and Juan decided to lose their minds and completely ignore my direction, thereby causing a secondary crisis. Then……my head almost popped off.
Twelve hours from the beginning of the day, Tim and I finally got to go home and go to bed.
“You look better today,” Juan said as his nose was turning brown.
“Thank you,” I quietly answered.
“I am glad you aren’t mad anymore. Thank heavens you aren’t a grudge holder. I told Laz you wouldn’t be mad today. Your not like that. You just get mad then it’s done. That’s a good quality about you, you know. And it’s not like you get mad for no reason, it’s fair that you were mad,” Juan was nervously chattering.
“Can we please stop talking about it?” I asked.
“Do you know that Kyle and I have gotten in trouble once a month for the past five months?” he went on.
“Really?” now I was curious.
“Yep, we were talking about it last night after you left.”
“What all have you both gotten in trouble for?” I knew this was a dangerous area. Rehashing the events might not prove to be helpful this close to a crisis.
He looked amazed that I actually couldn’t remember what all had happened. And so he began, “Well first was the doors before Girl Power day, that was both Kyle and I, remember? Then Kyle got in trouble for not searching people. Then I broke your lawn mower and Kyle knew it. Then when you went in our house and you said it looked like a condemned trap house because it was sooooo dirty. And then what just happened,” he actually said with a somewhat proud tone to his voice.
One Time and Laz looked at him stunned. Mr Michigan asked him how he was still alive to tell the stories. I just sat there and remembered the days…..one by one.
It was two days day before Girl Power day. It was no less that 142 degrees outside, when Taylor told me that we needed to put doors on all of the rooms for privacy. Not a problem. We had piles of doors that we had taken off. I asked Kyle and Juan to go get four doors from the basement, bring them to the eating area in Building One and set them all up and paint them. I turned the AC on so that they would dry quickly and we could install them. I left them with paint, doors and a cool room.
Several hours later I returned to the room. They were sitting and chatting but not painting. “Why aren’t you painting?” I asked. They answered they were letting the first coat dry. I told them to prop the doors up and continue on the other side. I must have been speaking a foreign language. That is not what they did.
Many many hours later, as we were all working in a non cooled building I decided to call it a day. I went to check the doors and they were not finished, there was more talking than painting. We had one day before the event. I decided to install the doors and then finish painting them. Not only were the doors only half painted….. they were all actually the wrong doors… they didn’t fit the openings. At all. Needless to say we found the correct doors and I painted them all in one hour.
Then there was the time on a job that a client called and said he was missing something. Not a problem I thought, surely Kyle followed protocol and searched everyone before they left. It’s our policy on a job to search before we leave. Not because people steal, but because people misplace their stuff and I want to protect our people from being accused. If we search we don’t have to worry if the client loses something …we can confidently say they lost it. But …. Kyle forgot that day. That one day a home owner lost something.
How about the day that Juan decided that using a bungee cord to hold a piece open on my prized brand new lawn mower that wasn’t supposed to be open. The bungee actually broke the piece and they put my broken lawn mower back in my garage and never said a word. I went to cut my grass and blew grass all over my neighbors flower garden. I almost lost my mind when I found the broken piece. Juan decided that just holding open the flap would be a good idea instead of raising the mower. I have very few things that I call my own. My lawn mower is one of them. They are not allowed to use my mower ever again in their whole lives. I think Kyle knew he did it and forgot to tell me. Probably because they were chatting about the non painted doors.
And then, there was the day I went into their house to get something. I can’t even remember what I went there for. But I know they didn’t want me to go. Samm was with me when I walked into the kitchen and every…. and I do mean every, plate, glass, fork, spoon, pot and pan was stacked all over the counters. It looked like cave men lived there. I had Samm set a timer while I cleaned their kitchen. It took me twelve minutes to load the dishwasher and clean the kitchen. I went into the bathrooms. They were horrible. Metro park outhouses were a step up from the chaos. It was not very pleasant when I returned to have the discussion. I actually sent them home from a job to clean. Laz was there for that one.
And then there was Monday.
So with my head still firmly attached to my shoulders, for now, I head into the holidays hoping that they learned their lesson Monday. Please, just do what I ask you to do!
“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:22 NIV
An Open Letter
Disclaimer: I know the following Blog may ruffle some feathers. I know this might raise some debate worthy questions. And I am very aware that this is strictly my own personal observation. So… having said all of that, if this challenges you or offends you and you would like to talk more I am willing to have a cup of coffee (on me) to further discuss this. firstname.lastname@example.org
A few Saturdays ago I arrived at the Women’s Respite Center to setup for the day. What happened that morning stuck with me and really hasn’t left me. I have stayed up at night thinking about it. I have had had several conversations with Doctor’s, Police and a Firefighter/Paramedic about it. I just actually can’t stop think about it. I haven’t really landed on an answer or even a solid alternative. I just can’t get it out of my head.
Shortly after arriving at the center, I heard someone screaming out front. Samm and Stacey ran out first, I followed behind. The screaming was coming from the porch next door where Nike and Pearl live. I quickly ran toward the screaming. Pearl was on the porch screaming in pain and gasping for air.
“Call 911!!!” Pearl screamed.
“Do you need Narcan?” I asked.
“NO, NO, NO …. PLEASE CALL HURRY,” she screamed.
“I cant breath,” she yelled while clenching her heart.
I dialed 911
“911 what is the address of your emergency?”
“I am at 850 Sullivant Avenue next to an abandoned house. There is a woman on the porch that needs help, she is screaming for help.”
“Ok, What does she look like?”
“She is 40ish and has reddish brown hair.”
“What is she wearing?”
“Blue coat, Can you please send someone?”
“What is she doing now?”
“Still screaming for help, please can you help here?”
“Ummm, who exactly are you?”
My mind was on fire. I absolutely couldn’t understand why this lady was not sending an ambulance. Why exactly was she continuing to ask me questions?
“My name is Beth Tabor. I am the Director of the Mission that is next door to this porch. Pearl needs help.”
“Ok Beth, are you willing to talk with the squad when they get there?”
“Ok, I am going to transfer you to the fire department now.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME …… JUST SEND THE SQUAD PLEASE
I was getting pretty upset by now. Pearl continued to scream and writhe in pain. We were trying to reassure her that help would be on the way.
“ Columbus Fire, what’s your emergency?”
I started all over again. Someplace during the whole repetition a cruiser showed up.
“Ok, well the cop just showed up here so I am going to go now,” I firmly said to the Fire Department.
I turned toward the police officer relieved that help had arrived. The officer slowly strolled toward the porch asking a few questions as he went. We provided as much information as we could. I told him we offered Narcan but Pearl didn’t seem to be overdosing.
“She wouldn’t take it if she did,” he offered.
Pearl had resumed her screaming. The officer went up on the porch and then came back off.
“Lots of needles up here, are you high Pearl?” he asked.
“NO I CANT BREATH, PLEASE HELP ME,” she screamed as loud as she could.
Without any response the officer walked off the porch and toward me.
“Is the squad coming?” I impatiently asked.
“I think so, they should be here in a while,” he casually answered.
What is going on here? I couldn’t wrap my brain around how long all of this was taking. I didn’t understand the casual non interested response from every person I had talked to so far. Pearl seemed to be actually dying right in front of us.
Stacey and Sam were pacing and looking, pleading at me to do something, anything to help Pearl. I felt totally helpless to speed this along. I started trying to comfort Pearl and Nike. I kept assuring them that help would in fact be on the way. I was praying that God would intervene here. Then the second cop showed up. He walked straight to us very nonchalantly. He must have read my mind. Because he began addressing my concern straight up.
“You have to understand, we have come here again and again and again and again.”
“I understand,” I truthfully answered.
I did, I did understand, Samm and Stacey didn’t. They wanted Pearl to receive medical attention immediately and with care.
Eventually the squad came, unfortunately with the same attitude. They assessed Pearl and then the Paramedic actually said to Pearl as he got back into the squad and shut the door, “If you want to go, come on get in,” as he slammed the squad door.
I thought that Samm and Stacey were going to jump over the fence and attack the Paramedic for his lack of kindness and decent treatment of Pearl.
“Are you kidding me? How can they treat her like this? This is actually inhuman. They should be fired. You have to do something,” they both said and pleaded with me.
My mind went back to the many conversations I have recently had with various health care professionals.
“I understand. I really do. I get both sides here. I do. You have to look at it through their eyes for a minute. Day after day they are on a run to save a life and as soon as they hit someone with Narcan the person uses again. Day after day Doctors put new heart valves in opiate users that got endocarditis from bad tar, to the tune of $100,000.00 a shot. That’s a lot of money that you as a tax payer are paying.“
“They don’t get to see hope, they only see despair, they only see that they are saving a life for the person to use again. They are beginning to ask themselves, ‘Why?’ Why bother to save the life to use again? The majority of the calls are now drug related. They see murders and violence due to drugs. They don’t see hope,” I said in the most calming way possible.
“What if Pearl was their daughter? What if it was their child was on a porch holding on to life as a squad guy said to her, ‘If you want to go get in the squad?’ What if someone gave up on their kid and said that her life wasn’t worth repeated hospital stays and repeated surgeries. How can they give up on a life? They need to quit their job if they can’t do it well,” Samm said.
I was standing in the front yard with my heart and mind racing. I truly think I stand in the middle here.
I understand that loss of hope and the feeling of defeat. Some of the medical professionals told me that they have learned to detach from the humanity of the OD runs. They have to. They have been spit on, hit, cussed at and dealt with refusal of treatment. “There is no hope,” they say.
They don’t see people get well. They see the enormous cost of repeated hospitalizations, only to have the person they just transported leave the hospital AMA and use again. A paramedic asked me how many times he is supposed to revive the same person, when is enough, enough?
I understand. I get it. I am in the unique position to know when I can’t help any more and I then don’t have to. I get to call it day with someone who refuses to work hard in the program. I can go to sleep after removing someone because I know I have done my job to the best of my ability. I understand. I am not asked to do the same thing again and again and again for someone I can’t help. I get a choice. They do not. In order to survive in their chosen profession they have had to detach. I understand.But there is hope here.
To all of the professionals that do this, I want you to know that there is hope.
I see hope in the eyes of all of our program people daily. I see hope in the grads.
People recover they do. Not only do they recover, they give back. For five years we have been privileged to live with people with addiction. In five years we have graduated 11 people. We invested all of who we are into these people. Our time, our money, our homes, our families…. our lives.
To my knowledge as of today (please note it could change at any moment) all of our grads are clean and sober whole and healthy. To my knowledge all of our grads have become givers and not takers. They have gotten married, they are having children, becoming taxpayers. Some are managers, some are in school, some are nurses now, some work for me. They live in homes and invest in others lives. They know what it takes to succeed in this world. They fought for their lives. They struggled, they cried, they yelled, they almost gave up, they tried to find an easier softer way. They surrendered and allowed God to make them new. They are well. Not just white knuckling it through life trying to manage triggers or cravings ….. they are well. THERE IS HOPE.
I would like to invite you to meet these people. If you have lost hope in this fight and can’t see your way through it, email me. I would love to introduce you to hope. I want you to know that the life you are saving is worth it. I want to let anyone that doesn’t understand why, a chance to ask questions and debate the validity of recovery. THERE IS HOPE.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22 NIV
A Galaxy Far, Far, Away…
Four years ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
there was a mighty leader named Dr. Hermiz. Now Dr. Hermiz was not just any ole ordinary mighty leader he was a mighty leader flanked by another mighty leader the Right Righteous Reverend Duvall. Together these two mighty leaders decided to embark on a journey back to what they both believed Christianity and compassion should look like to the church in the United States of America. They searched high and low for the few the proud the ……. Tabor’s.
Together with all hearts united as an unstoppable force they embarked on the quest of opening a women’s respite drop in center for victims of human trafficking and those sexually exploited. No….. not just any drop in center, a place bathed in prayer and compassion that offered more than a meal. A place that allowed women to be cleansed inside and out, with patience, a shower and laundry.
“Can we come?” most of the recovery program asked.
I hated to answer the question. It actually broke my heart to answer it. The recovery program and many others are the unsung hero’s of the Respite Center.
I remember the day about a year and a half ago we walked into the building to begin demolition. The program was overwhelmed with the task. Most of them thought I had in fact, finally lost my mind. There were piles of clothes everywhere and the condition of the building was not ok, to say the very least. We walked room by room and assessed what would need done. Tim even looked at me a bit skeptical.
This was a huge task. A giant undertaking. However, for some reason, I wasn’t daunted at all. I have this weird thing in me that can imagine what things will look like when they are finished. It even works that way for me with people in the program. When I meet them I can quickly see who they have the ability to become. If I can’t, I generally won’t accept them. Tim says it’s because the end isn’t there yet for me to see.
But this building, it was exactly what we imagined four years ago. It had all the right components. We just had to build it. And so we began.
The people in the program worked diligently and grumpily along side of many volunteer teams. We would work super hard and then a team would come just when we lost all steam and kick us over the current hurdle. It was all so amazing.
“No, I am so sorry you all can’t be there today. Only women can volunteer,” I answered.
For the first time in the history of any event ever we were mostly prepared the week before. We put the final touches on the house and loaded the furniture in that week. No one really knew what to expect. We didn’t really know how it would go at all.
We were not going to offer showers and laundry the first day. We wanted to open it to the women to get to know them, give them hygiene bags and a tour. We wanted to let our volunteers get the feel of the building as well. We had no idea what was going to happen when we actually opened.
The first few women through the door actually thought we were another church serving a pancake breakfast. We gave them a tour anyway and a hot dog. The people on the front porch next to the center were loud which didn’t help the restlessness of the volunteers as we stood waiting for the next thirty or so minutes. Tim was in the back yard frantically cooking while we were waiting. We had hygiene bags out, a clothing table, the place was beautiful. I walked out back to check on the pancake people, they seemed fine with hotdogs. I headed back in the building to some commotion.
“Do we have any big giant gauze pads?” one of the Med students asked.
“I think so, next door,” I answered.
Standing just inside the door was a young woman that was skinny and frail telling the medical volunteer that she had 36 staples in her leg that had become stuck to the inside of her pants. She was hungry, she was tired and she was afraid. She asked what we were doing here and why. I stepped back to hear the volunteers answer.
“We want to provide a safe place for you to shower, wash your clothes, get a meal and rest for a while.”
“Really? Like for real? You for real are going to let us take a shower?”
“Yes, we are. My name is ……, I am so very glad to meet you,” the volunteer continued.
Yes!!!!!! I ran next door to get some gauze as fast as I could. As soon as I got back in the center three more women were sorting through the clothes. The volunteers were helping like we were all at Macy’s.
And so it began, we had a steady stream of women. Each woman was greeted, handed a hygiene bag, escorted to the clothing table, given a tour and served food. Several women had their wounds gently treated in our clinic area. I was overwhelmed. I ran back and forth helping the volunteers help the women. Every once in a while I stopped to listen to the conversations.
“Yep, we are opening next week for showers.”
“Are you serious?” she shouted directly at me.
“Yes, now, you have to be patient with us as we work out the kinks but yes showers,” I said.
She burst into tears, grabbed me as hard as a man and hugged me till she stopped crying. As soon as she let go she grabbed her bag and headed to the door.
“I’ll be right back……. I am going to get all of my friends. Thank you all so much you are amazing!!!”
And she ran out the door.
I headed out back to have Tim put some more hot dogs on. Who knew how many friends this girl had. I wanted them all to have a warm meal.
She was a woman of her word, one by one her friends showed up. Several of the girls we had met before and several of the girls had been gone due to having an over dose. We treated each one like a long lost relative. The women were curious if the story and promise of a shower and a nice place to sit was true. Each time we told them next week they could shower, they hugged us and cried.
I kept a constant pace supplying the volunteers. I logged close to a mile running around. A few of our volunteers had to leave about 45 minutes early so I manned the front door. I actually just wanted to sit down for a minute. I perched on the almost empty hygiene bag table and stared at the floor.
That voice. I knew that voice.
“Yes, ma’am I do.”
I for sure knew the young lady that that voice belonged to. I slowly raised my head and turned to follow the voice.
“HI, HI, HI, YOU’RE HERE!! HOLY COW! I am so glad to see you. Wow! Do you remember me? How are you? I thought something happened to you. WOW!” I blurted our while hugging this girl so tight.
“I remember you, we sat across the street on the front porch and talked,” she quietly acknowledged.
“A girl died there a few weeks ago, I thought it was you. I am so glad you are here.”
“Oh, no, it wasn’t me that died,” she chuckled.
There she was. My front porch sitter. The one that decided that today wasn’t her day. And she was alive! There was news that she might have died, and I hadn’t seen her around. I was so absolutely thrilled she came. I took ahold of her and took her on a tour, I helped her pick out a fresh outfit and then took her out for food.
“This is my husband Tim. Tim I want you to meet a friend of mine …….”
He knew right away that she was the girl from the porch. He fixed her a plate. I hugged her again. I prayed every day that God would keep her safe until we could meet again.
She finished her food and gathered all her belongings.
“ Eleven-thirty next week?”
“ Yes, ma’am,” I answered.
I wrote each girls name down so I could pray for them. So that each night I can ask God to keep the 38 women we all met, to keep them safe, until we meet again.
“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”” John 8:7 NIV
It is important to realize that the term distress, that we are using, refers to emotions that are experienced as aversive, unpleasant, uncomfortable and upsetting.
The PARADOX :
The more we fear, struggle with, and try to avoid any form of distress, generally the worse that distress gets. Our fear and avoidance of the distress actually magnifies the distress.
As I stood in the half-lit hall on the second floor in what we call Building One at the Compassion Ministry Center last night listening to a Columbus firefighter, my heart broke. His experience with the opiate epidemic is causing him distress. He began to tell stories from his perspective.
He told a story of a run he went on where the guy overdosed in his car at a red light. He is having a hard time understanding the epidemic. They bring the guy back to life and then he uses again. A vast majority of the runs are drug related.
He is a man of faith and is beginning to ask the question, “Why do we even bother?” He doesn’t see very much hope here at all. He is struggling and fighting not to completely detach from the humanity of it. He is struggling to make sense of it all. The more he struggles against the reality of it the worse it is getting for him.
“Beth…… I have just realized that stopping drugs was the easiest part of all of this,” said Eeoyre completely monotone.
Funny how you can say something 1,256 times before it is actually heard.
“I came here to deal with drugs, I didn’t know I would be doing all of this work on myself,” he continued.
“What exactly did that look like to you?” I asked. I was very curious as to what he thought was going to happen here. He has been here about nine months now, sort of a weird time to have a revelation.
“You know, teach me all about drugs. And then teach me what to do if I have a craving. Stuff like that,” he continued.
“The cravings go away. You know that. Seventy-two hours after your last use the drug is gone from your body. Then your body quickly goes into an overdrive attempt to heal from the damage. That’s why we keep you with someone for the first forty days. When is the last time you actually craved a drug?”
“I can’t even remember. The last time I had a true craving.”
“Exactly, so why would that strategy work? Did it work for you the first time you went to treatment?”
“No,” he quickly answered.
“Then why would you want to do that again?” I really wanted him to understand the value of the work he is doing.
“I don’t know. I just did not think it would be this hard.”
“So, you’re not on drugs anymore. In fact it’s been nine months since you were on heroin. Tell me about yourself. Who are you today as a drug free human being. Are you at peace? Are you able to tolerate distress? Are you comfortable in your skin yet?” I asked.
“The longer I am sober the more I realize about myself and the more I realize, the more work it seems I need to do. I don’t handle distress well at all. I have rage and anger when things don’t go the way I want them to or think they should. Sometimes I have peace. And I am generally uncomfortable. I am more comfortable now than when I first came in the program.”
“So YOU tell me what needs to happen here. If I cut you loose tomorrow before you learn to implement all of your coping skills effectively and before you deal with distress correctly, what will happen?” I asked again.
All eyes were glued on Eeoyre. Mr. Michigan, Juan and Laz were quietly sitting there in group watching this whole conversation go down. It’s one we continue to have on a regular basis. This time it seemed to be sticking and making sense to Eeoyre. This time the reality of his situation seemed to be more clear.
“YOU tell me what happens if you don’t learn to deal with these behaviors and you get married or have children. What happens the first time your wife doesn’t meet your expectations and your rage kicks in? Or what happens when you isolate from your children for a day and a half out of anger. Or your children have to learn to walk on egg shells because you are volatile and explosive? What will you be teaching them?” I quietly asked again.
“I will be teaching them what I learned as a child. I will be teaching them to lie and manipulate the situation. I will be teaching them to not cope. I will be teaching them all of the behavior that I currently am struggling with. I will be putting them in distress without any way out,” he answered.
“RIGHT. And then what?”
“I will be putting them right where I was. I couldn’t deal with any of it. I couldn’t make it go away. The harder I tried the worse it felt. So I used different behaviors to deal with all of it. And each one had a consequence of its own. Then the consequence caused me more distress so I had to make another choice to do something to make it go away and then it had a bad consequence and then the more consequences I had the worse I felt and the bigger hole I got into. It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And then I couldn’t stand it and I needed to stay high to deal with all of the crap that was everyplace.”
“And then the drugs had the consequences of their own that added to all of the other negative stuff, so pretty soon you are drowning in distress with no way out. What is that called?” I asked my whole group.
“The DISTRESS puddle and the PARADOX,” they said in unison.
I went on…
”Do you all understand?”
“Do you comprehend that you have an opportunity to truly change the course of your life here?”
“IF you learn and IF your skills become a part of who you are and IF you learn to surrender your ideas of how it needs to go and IF you allow God to make you new. THEN you can leave here with the world at your finger tips. You will be NEW.”
“And as a new person, armed with faith and knowledge, you will be able to take on the world. Not just squeak by and white knuckle it. You will be powerful and whole and have a choice. You will be able to not only raise your children well you will have something to give back. Do you get that?”
“Work hard, work as hard as you can, you won’t get this gift again. Trust me I don’t take this lightly at all. It’s my job to lead you through this and it isn’t pleasant. Just do it!” I said firmly to the whole group.
This conversation came to mind while I listened to the firefighter.
“I think the most valuable thing about you volunteering with us will be the opportunity to serve along side of the people in the program. They are courageous. You wouldn’t know they were on heroin. People get well. They do. There is hope. I would love for you to see the other side of hope. It isn’t an easy journey. If it was everyone would do it.”
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 NIV
Sometimes things in my head look better in my head than on paper. And things on paper work better than reality. So, in essence, what is going on in my head and on paper very rarely match what really happens. Having said all of that, it would be accurate to say that we survived our first promoted fund raiser…Anything But Walk-A-Thon.
More than several months ago it became clear that we needed to raise money for the mission on Sullivant Avenue. We have spent close to a year and a half gutting the buildings and reimagining what relevant ministries would serve the community.
We finished building two last summer and are entering our second year of serving the children at the After School Program. We are finishing building three and will open the Women’s Respite Drop In Center to serve women that are trafficked and sexually exploited on October 21.
We closed the church for remodeling last but not least. We removed the flooring in the sanctuary and gutted three bathrooms to repair the leaking pipes, toilets and to remove rotted subfloors. Interestingly enough all of this remodeling to bring the buildings up to date and standards … costs a fair amount of money.
Our fearless leader Rev. Duvall, suggested we return to the roots of Inner City Ministries, enter Anything But Walk-A-Thon. Sharon Woods was the site for the walk.
We picked a scenic 3.8 mile multi-purpose trail that had four exercising stopping places sprinkled throughout the trail. In my head each one of these stops would host two volunteers that joyfully cheered on the multitudes of walkers and help them participate in interactive fun, money bringing activities.
On paper there were four clearly marked stops that the walkers could engage in helpful activities that would encourage them to serve, donate, and learn about the inner city and the ministries. In reality, the whole island of misfit toys that we call our recovery program “volunteered” to help staff each of the stops.
Tim, Taylor, Carla (seasoned event planner) and myself set out a week before the event to walk it and talk through the stops. We all had plenty of ideas what each stop would look like. I actually probably had the least ideas. I couldn’t see much beyond the multitudes swarming each stop joyfully putting money into overflowing boxes. Beyond that I didn’t really have an opinion. Big mistake.
As we walked the trail we, actually they, came up with four dedicated stops along the way. The first stop was close to the beginning of the walk. The goal of the stop was to demonstrate the lack of nutritional value of a common inner city meal. We served day-old Tim Hortons donuts.
The second stop was about a mile and a half in. It was a Fact Sheet that contained information about human trafficking, statistics on addiction, and poverty statistics for the area we serve.
The third stop was an additional mile in, so roughly two miles into the walk. It was a quiz on the Fact Sheet with candy rewards along with a “how to donate” sheet.
The fourth and final stop was 2.7 miles in. It was a representation of the clothes that people in poverty are often given. Clothes that are out of style, too big, too small, and just plain ugly clothes. You were to pick an outfit and wear it the rest of the walk and if you finished the walk in full yucky clothing you got an extra entry into the gift card raffle at the end.
It all looked great on paper!
Saturday morning we arrived on site with our plan of attack on paper. Samm picked up several dozen day-old donuts. We had piles of water donated. We had event tents to set up and we had all of our “volunteers”.
At the first stop we would be placing Mr. Michigan, One Time and David to pass out the donuts. The second stop would be Carla (seasoned event planner) and Sugar our newest past 40 day girl. Samm and Lazarus would staff the third stop. Kyle and Juan, the fashionistas, would be handing out clothing. We would have Eeoyre and Mighty flipping a sign at the entrance. We also had Matt riding his bike around the trail passing our water to walkers. Now all we had to do was position each person with their supplies and watch the multitudes flood in. Easier said than done.
8:30 was our start time.
“Where is Juan? We need Juan. We have to head back to the stops with the stuff before the multitudes arrive!” I announced.
“Beth, there is plenty of time,” Tim flatly answered.
“No, there isn’t, the stops are miles in. It takes time to walk in. We have to start now, we can’t walk in with the CROWDS!!!!!! We have to go now,” I excitedly and confidently answered.
He looked and me and turned and walked away. I took that as, “Beth, my adoring, lovely, smart and on the ball wife…. YES, you are in fact correct… go quickly as a fawn runs through the field and take the stuff to the stops. Great thinking!!!!!” Funny how that look sounded in my head.
I summoned Kyle and we each grabbed a laundry basket brimming with clothes and began our walk. Somewhere about an 1/8 of a mile in my arms were on fire.
“KYLE my arms are on fire!!!” I announced as I looked over at him.
He was sweating and had a horrible look on his face. Sort of like I was marching him to the gulag.
“How far back here is this?” he asked.
“Well, at least a little more than a mile and a quarter more,” I responded.
“I might not make it,” he answered.
What exactly were we thinking? Did we happen to stop and wonder what it would be like to carry full laundry baskets a mile and a half through a wooded trail? No! No we did not.
Sweat was rolling into our eyes as we walked past very curious exercisers.
How often do you see people hiking carrying laundry?
We tried every position. I put it on my head, my shoulder, my other shoulder. We carried it high and low and in the middle. There was no swift way to get this task done. I was muttering under my breath at the lack of planning. It did not go this way in my head.
The farther we walked the slower we got and the heavier the laundry basket became. Where was Juan? He is young, he should be carrying this basket.
Somewhere around 1.4 miles in the torture ended. I set Kyle up and headed swiftly and lightly back to the front. I never would have thought that I would have already walked close to three miles before the multitudes even arrived.
The event actually started before I got back to the front of the trail. There were a few people loitering around the tent drinking coffee and talking.
I assumed by the lack of a line at the sign up table that the volunteers at the sign-in table were just super efficient with the multitudes thereby eliminating the line.
We sent Matt to begin his rounds. Juan headed back to help Kyle. I drank some coffee and waited. In a short while the first group of walkers arrived back at the trail and headed toward us. They were properly dressed in old clothes and sort of looked like scarecrows.
I was excited!!! I rushed over and asked how it was, was it fun, did they see a bunch of other walkers? Was there a huge crowd following them? I don’t think they answered much beyond, “It was fun.” I grabbed my coffee and headed straight for the raffle tent. I needed to be prepared for when the multitudes began heading out of the woods.
Matt stopped to refill the cooler with water.
“Exactly what are Kyle and Juan doing back there? Every time I pass them they are dressed differently and seem to be acting out some sort of live action role playing as street people.”
“What? Aren’t the holding a sign?” I asked.
“No, no sign. Kyle is holding a stick smacking a garbage can as people pass by. It is actually a little scary!”
My mind was reeling….
WE FORGOT THE SIGN!!!! Holy smokes all that laundry lugging and we forgot the sign. Those two yahoos are just back there playing dress up! This will not set well with the multitudes! I hope we don’t run out of clothes. I wonder if I should take a sign and another basket back there?
As quick as all of that went through my head another couple walked up to begin the walk. It was now close to 10:30 and I realized that our advertising did not have a beginning time on it. That could only mean one thing to me…. the multitudes would be coming soon! Without a proper beginning time they were free to flood in up to the last minute, like people rush McDonald’s two minutes before closing.
I heard someone say, “Carla is headed in with Sugar.”
“No, n,o no, they are coming, more people are coming!”
I quickly called Samm and demanded that she not leave her post. The multitudes were on their way.
I jumped up and took off to man Carla’s (seasoned event planners) post. I hiked briskly back to her area. As I passed Station One I told them to hold steady and asked if they had enough donuts left. They looked at me oddly as I zoomed on by. What if the multitudes got to my station before I got there? I almost broke into a run when I realized the trail was empty.
Oh well they must all be ahead of me now. So I arrived and sat down and waited.
Fifteen minutes later not one person had passed my station.
I decided to wait longer. Still no one at all.
It was close to 11:45. Maybe ALL of the multitudes were in front of me.
Slowly reality began to sink in. Yes, they were in fact in front of me. I should head to the next station and begin to call them in.
I arrived where Samm and Laz were. They were eating candy and having a great time. I wondered how they had any candy left at all. Maybe they were just handing out single pieces to make sure they had enough. Good thinking. I gathered them and we headed on to Kyle and Juan.
As we walked up Kyle was doing some weird dance dressed in oversized clothes. Ugh, no wonder they still had a basket full, they scared everyone away. “Lets go,” I said and we headed back. I made Juan carry the full basket of clothes back. My arms were still on fire.
We eventually popped out of the trail head. I shot a quick glance over at the tent. People!!!! It looked like a lot of people were gathered near our tent. My excitement was mounting. THE MULTITUDES!!!
The closer I got to the tent the more familiar the faces looked. Closer, closer and yes I know who all of these people are, Keith’s grandparents, they were there for a picnic. They were not the multitudes. They must have already left.
We packed up and called it a day well spent. I never saw people sign in or out. I was in the woods. In my mind they all came and walked. They must have, we reached our fund raising goal!!!
““After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’”
Matthew 25:19-21 MSG
From time to time people here, for one reason or another, go to court. Sometimes it’s small misdemeanor court. Sometimes it’s court involving their children and every once in a while it’s big time court for felony’s. The past two week I have gone for two out of the three reasons.
It seems lately that if I am going to have to regularly show up at any legal event, it will be with a person from a county other than Franklin County. On one hand, I am grateful for that. Franklin County court system is slow and backed up. You have to first be lucky enough to get a chair and then lucky enough to keep it the whole three hours you are waiting. Franklin County court is a hurry up and wait sort of thing.
Delaware County court seems to have their act together. You arrive and park for free. You are admitted to the building only if you have a purpose that is documented on the guys list and you are to head directly to tiny waiting room directly outside of the court room. The waiting room actually only has five chairs. Apparently they do no want any fiddling around. The guy that designed the whole Sha bang was brilliant. There are an equal number of parking spots as available positions in the court room.
Fayette county is equally well run. Large old looming court house. Big fake entrance stairs (I actually ran up them once during the polar vortex and couldn’t get in the door). The division I was in last week was well run.
“What is the fastest was to Fayette county courthouse this time of day?” I asked Tim, aka my own personal google map.
“Well, there is construction on 71 and 270 so you might want to take 670 west to 71 south to what ever east-north-east and turn right at 109 degrees longitude and 7000 latitude after the sun is peaking over the horizon at 46.5 degrees,” he promptly answered.
“Okey dokey,” I said as I hopped in my car and asked Siri.
Three of us headed to Fayette county for court. I took Samm with me because she always likes to ride in the car and visit her hometown. Plus, she helped keep Lazarus’ mind off the proceedings we were headed to.
I was not that worried actually. His attorney had just been assigned the day before and we hadn’t actually met him so I was pretty sure the whole deal would be postponed. But he was a nervous wreck. I kept trying to calm him.
“Nothing important will happen today….this is a get to know you sort of event. It will be ok.”
“I hope your right,” he answered.
“I like milkshakes,” Samm added.
The hour plus drive seemed almost unbearable to him. As we entered Fayette county both Lazarus and Samm seemed to hold their breath. The strong memories hit them both at the same time. The mood was heavy like thick, dense fog.
“I need to use the restroom. I am going to stop up here at this UDF,” I announced.
“I like milkshakes, can we get milk shakes? Laz do you want a milk shake?” Sam nervously chattered.
“I like milkshakes,” Laz answered.
“We don’t have time for milkshakes right now, we need to get to court,” I firmly shot back.
The closer we got to their old stomping grounds the more the conversation turned to things like milkshakes. Milkshakes are soothing. Milkshakes are neutral and safe. Milkshakes are yummy.
We made our way to the center of town and parked in the first available spot next to the courthouse. As we were walking in I realized that we never hit the construction on our way down. I took that as a good sign.
As soon as we entered the courthouse the nervous chattering began again. Samm and Lazarus sounded to me like chattering squirrels running around a tree. I think they were talking about everything and nothing at the same time. Lazarus got quieter with each step and Samm talked more and more with each step. I was silent. I am generally fairly quiet, actually. We found our area and I headed to the restroom again. Samm wandered around a bit and checked to see if some people she knew were at work. As I walked up to Lazarus he sat down next to some lady who tuned out to be his case manager.
“I don’t know, talk to her.” was all I heard him say before he moved and I scooted toward the lady.
I introduced myself, explained where Lazarus was staying and told her about the program.
“Oh, so you are at least an hour away?” she asked.
“Yes, and our staff is small, so transporting is a bit of a problem for us.” I answered.
“I understand, we are a small staff as well. All concerned parties are at least an hour in opposite directions. So…. this is the middle ground, the meeting area. And it looks like he is court ordered to be here once a week for now, either on a Thursday or a Tuesday,” she added.
I started to think fast, both of those days are almost impossible for us. Thursday’s we have church and Tuesday’s we have family dinner. Perhaps we would need to find an outside volunteer for this if it was going to be a long term ordeal.
The lady went on, “His attorney isn’t here so we will probably just reschedule this hearing. I need to visit him monthly on site what is a good day for you?”
“Actually, Thursday’s are good for us.” I answered. I wondered we couldn’t just meet at the time we came down….but I didn’t want to ask the obvious so I kept quiet.
Eventually Samm came back looking even more distressed than she was when she left.
Lazarus was up pacing and the other attorney was trying to explain what was going to happen when we entered the courtroom. No one seemed to be paying attention to anything anyone was saying.
“They are calling us… right now they are calling us to the court room,” Lazarus frantically said.
Finally, we all heard him at the same time and headed toward the courtroom.
The judge was already seated so we didn’t have to do the whole stand-sit thing. We went in and sat down. Samm and I sat right behind Lazarus and the other person. The case worker and the attorney sat at the other table. It was sort of like an oversized closet court room. The judge announced who he was and asked us all who we were for the record.
One by one everyone stated their name and purpose for being there. It came to me, “Beth Tabor, Como Recovery,” I stated. My name hung there like the fog hung in the car. Time slowed strangely down and no one moved or said anything. I was looking directly at the judge and he was looking directly at me. He screwed up his face like he both couldn’t hear me and… I was speaking Swahili.
I heard all of the breath escape Samm. We locked eyes. His face was still screwed up.
I couldn’t imagine what was going on here at all. I was getting ready to say something else when we quickly left the twilight zone and Samm said, “Samantha Reeves..Como”
It was so odd that I think it unnerved everyone in the whole courtroom. As quickly as it started it ended. Our attorney was on vacation, no one thought it was wise to proceed without him. Thank you and have a nice day, we will see you in two weeks and let’s all meet again then. The end.
We left. Lazarus was pale and sweaty. Samm had resumed chattering only now about what happened when I said my name. Beth Tabor…what about that name confused the judge?
I probably won’t be asking him.
As we headed out of town each lost in our own thoughts of the event Samm sheepishly said, “Can we please stop and get a milkshake? Do you want a milkshake Lazarus? I want one. I like milkshakes. That’s what I think I need after all of this, a good old milkshake.”
So we stopped.
“If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place.” Proverbs 24:10 MSG
All This Can Be Yours
Taking the recovery program to the mission can sometimes be a double edge sword. Around the corner, there is a dope dealer. On the street tiny women are ravaged by drugs. Sometimes, there are loaded needles in the abandoned house backyard that are visible from the window. More times than not there is a heavy police presence. Weekly I say, “All this can be yours if you choose to not get well.” More times than not, I am very fond of the people I see there on a regular basis.
I had no sooner entered the building when someone said, “Beth, they are at it again. The front porch fighters are getting ready to duke it out on the churches front porch.”
As I headed out the back toward the front I thought, “Why are they fighting so early in the morning? Do these two just wake up angry everyday?” I headed toward the front porch of Building One to break up the fight between a husband and wife that are homeless and on drugs. They move around between five front porches arches of abandoned houses near the Mission. This is not my first time with this couple. It normally goes like this…
“Hey….. you guys can’t fight on the porch here,” I say.
“Ok, sorry,” they say and then they move.
However this day went like this. I came around the corner to the man, Nike and his wife Pearl.
Nike had a big black eye and Pearl was huddled in the corner of the porch clearly in withdrawal. Nike was sweating profusely and rocking in place. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. So I just stood there for a minute.
“Morning guys, what’s going on here?” I asked. They both began to speak rapidly at the same time. I couldn’t understand either of them. I looked at Nike ad held his gaze. He appeared to be the more sane of the two.
“What happened to your eye?” I asked.
“Never mind about my eye, I think I am going to die. Like right now. I can’t do this anymore, I can’t take it. The pain is horrible, if I can’t make it stop….I will kill myself.”
“YOU WILL NOT, YOU WILL JUST GO GET MORE DOPE!” Pearl yelled.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa…. hold on. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?” I demanded rather firmly.
“I ain’t had a shot (heroin) since yesterday morning. I want to quit. I want to quit so bad. Pearl doesn’t want to stop, she is going to make me get high. YOU HAVE TO HELP ME RIGHT NOW!!!!!!” Nike spit out.
“Let me get this straight, you are in withdrawal and you want help, correct?” I asked slowly.
“Yes. You will help me right?” He asked with tears now streaming down from his one open eye.
“Yep, let me make some calls and see what I can find. If all else fails I will take you to Net-Care and they can link you in. They usually have a bed held someplace for emergencies. Just give me a little bit. In the mean time stop fighting. Do you want some water or a sandwich?”
“No….. just get me in someplace.,”Nike pleaded.
I left them sitting on the porch and headed around back to dole out the jobs and find a place for Nike. Pearl would have no part of him getting well. She wasn’t ready. As I came around the corner I almost collided with 98% of the program peaking around the corner watching the whole thing.
“All this can be yours!!” I said as I corralled them back inside.
Kyle and I began a search for a place for Nike. He is over our age limit so we weren’t an option for him. Kyle called several places and I called several people. I was not having any luck, I did have an idea though. Kyle and Keith were going to OHP (Ohio Hospital of Psychiatry) to interview a guy so I told Kyle to ask if they took walk-ins. If they did, I was going to run Nike down there. It seemed like that was our best option.
I would know in a few hours what the best course of action would be. I headed back up front to Nike and Pearl to share my plan. Nike was sprawled all out sweating, rocking and crying on the porch. Pearl was nowhere to be found. I told him Kyle was going to OHP, we have an in there, and I just needed to wait until he got back for an answer. I told him I was going back to work and I would get him when I had an answer. So far, I hadn’t done very much work on the building.
We all worked until lunch. Kyle wasn’t back yet so we gathered our food and headed in to the lunch area. I unpacked my lunch, sat down, opened my mouth and……………. Dave ran in.
“Beth, you better get out here…. Nike is on the back porch spread eagle rolling around threatening to kill his self!”
“What did you just say?” I asked.
“Nike is threatening to kill himself,” all the guys, including Dave, said loudly and all at once to me.
“Oh, ok,” and I headed outside. I walked out to poor Nike hysterically rolling around.
“Hi buddy, Kyle will be back soon, can you wait?”
“NO I CAN NOT WAIT ….. YOU HAVE TO HELP ME RIGHT THIS MINUTE. PLEASE I AM BEGGING YOU HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME!”
“Ok!” I answered.
I went back inside and told everyone to go get in the van we were going to take Nike to Net-care. They looked startled, nervous and shocked. I headed back out helped Nike up and into the van and waited for everyone to pile in.
“How, can I help you today?” the lady behind three inch bullet proof glass asked Nike.
“I am in withdrawal and I will kill myself if you don’t help me right now,” he announced.
“Ok, thank you, can you fill out these papers first?” she asked as she slid a clip board through a tiny slot with I think 100 papers on it.
You have got to be kidding me I thought. I left all the recovery people in the van just sitting there. And now 100 pages to fill out. He grabbed the clip board and we headed to the waiting room. He was crying and rocking.
“Do you need help filling these out?” I asked the most obvious question.
“I can’t do it, I can’t fill them out …. you do it.” he answered.
And so I began, question by question. I learned that Nike and Pearl had been married twenty years. He has four sons, he used to have a job.
“Who is your emergency contact?” I asked.
“CANT YOU JUST BE IT? Please. I am homeless, no one I know will answer their phone if they even have one. You, I want you to know how I am. So it’s you.”
“OK!” I put my information down.
When I finished the paper work I was Nike’s emergency contact, Pastor, friend, closest kin, and any other blank spot on the paper.
I returned the paper to the tiny slot that it came from and went back to the heavy rubber chairs in the waiting room. Nike was laying on the floor sweating, crying and rolling. He looked up at me from the floor with his one good eye.
“I can do this, I can get well. When I get out of here, you will help me find a rehab right? You won’t just forget right? When I am well I will give you a great big hug for saving me. Until then…I will just shake your hand. Thank you.” He stood up to shake my hand, the lady from behind the glass appeared from around the corner and took him.
“He will be going to crisis care,” she said.
I shook Nike’s hand, turned and left him with the window lady.
As soon as I got back in the van I turned to the recovery people ….
“All this can be yours.”
If you are a follower of Christ, then you are called to fight for the heart of your King. It is a life fueled by passion—a passion for God and a passion for people. – Erwin McManus
How desperate for vacation are you when you willingly travel straight in to the path of the biggest Atlantic hurricane on record, ever?
It’s 10:50 am on Saturday September 9, 2017. Tim and I are sitting in an almost abandoned Columbus Airport waiting for our Frontier flight to Orlando, that has all been abandoned by everyone except twenty of us idiots.
We made our final decision at 8:30 that same morning when we both felt pretty strongly that we needed to go there, for whatever reason. Shortly after we boarded the plane the pilot came out to talk to the brave seven of us that sat eagerly awaiting takeoff. What was once a manifest of twenty had dwindled down now to only seven. We got to pick which ever seat we wanted. I think it was their way of offering us our last meal, so to speak. The plane was eerily quiet. We all nervously watched out the windows for signs of Irma. I am fairly certain our watch began the second the wheels were off the tarmac. Strange isn’t it. Tim and I assured each other that this was in fact a wise decision.
I sat back in my seat and remembered my last group before I left.
“Beth. I don’t think this is a very good idea, what would you tell me if I was about to do something stupid?” Mr. Michigan asked.
“Ya,” Lazarus chimed in. “Uh, exactly what happens to all of us if you die? Just curious,” he went on.
“Everything will be ok,” I assured them.
Half way through the flight the seatbelt light and stewardess came on warning us of the winds picking up and the need for our safety belts. The sharp ding snapped me back to reality.
Keith and Taylor went down ahead of us and were already in Panama City. The reports they sent up were not encouraging at all. Our condo was evacuated and we were headed to the unknown.
We had a back-up plan. We would land in Orlando, and head straight to my brothers condo in a non evac area. We would stop, get some food and hunker down. Ha!
We departed from the plane quickly and rushed out of the tunnel thingy like we were shot out of a gun. As soon as we hit carpet we were met with a completely empty Orlando airport. No one was there. You could see almost down whole corridors. You actually would have been able to if it wasn’t for the hill mid corridor. All of the businesses were either closed or closing. The only real sound was the clanging of the chain gates being pulled down one after the other as we rushed down to grab our luggage. We arrived in baggage claim just in time to see our lone suitcase pulled from the belt by an eager Frontier employee.
“Hey, that’s our bag!” Tim yelled down the empty baggage claim area. The lady stopped dead in her tracks like we were speaking from the great beyond. She seemed annoyed that we actually had a suitcase on her conveyer belt. It felt like we were in the airport long after it was closed, like we were someplace we shouldn’t be. The corridors in Orlando International Airport were completely empty.
As we hurried to the rental car place, an Alamo man was setting up a closed sign. We still had 45 minutes until final airport closing, so I wasn’t sure what the rush was. Irma wasn’t expected for another 24 hours at least. He hurriedly gave us a car, upgraded to an all wheel SUV and gave us a bargain on “hurricane damage insurance” (which we dropped after we lived through it). He thanked us then closed. Their tension was becoming my tension. We quickly grabbed our car and headed out to look for food. We were prepared, we thought. We had LED lights, boots, a candle, batteries and back up phone chargers. We just needed food.
“Tim, we need to stop at the first exit out of here that has a grocery store and get some food.”
“There will be stores open down at your brothers I would imagine,” he answered.
“I don’t think so, they said they are closing everything down around 5:00.”
“HMMMMM, I …..think…. Something …will be open,” he slowly said like he does when he thinks my statement was dumb.
“I am telling you everything will be closed, just get off and let’s look.”
We drove for just a bit then got off at the first exit that had a grocery sign. CLOSED! Everything was closed. Gas stations were closed, restaurants were closing. The town was empty.
We got back on the freeway and headed toward where the eye of the storm was projected to hit. NO ONE WAS ON OUR SIDE OF THE ROAD. Everyone was on the other side of the road headed to Orlando and to safety. We headed to the next exit. No food. The next exit …same thing ….except for a Dollar Tree.
“Tim we need to stop there and get some food,” I proclaimed.
“At the dollar tree? There won’t be food there,” he said.
“We need to stop to get food. We are truly running out of options,” I shot back.
He reluctantly stopped at the Dollar Tree. There was a paper sign taped to the door declaring that we had all of ten minutes to gather our food. The inside of the store looked post apocalyptic. Everything was scavenged. Stuff was thrown everyplace and the shelves were almost bare. I tasked Tim with finding food for three days. He looked like he was five years old and someone stole his wagon.
“What is wrong?” I asked.
“This isn’t food, there must be food someplace for us to get.”
“There isn’t, just get enough for three days,” I went on.
He made some inaudible noise then went on, “I think some place will be open.”
Now was not the time to argue about it. The loud speaker was counting down our time like some crazy shopping show. I was frantically looking for gluten free food in the ravaged Dollar Tree. Eventually reluctantly we had a small supply of complete junk food for about two days. Keith and Taylor had all of our food in Panama City where they were riding the storm out.
We headed on to Largo as each passing mile became even more desolate. We saw a line! There was a line at the Subway! We stopped and took our place in the very long Subway line. By this time, convincing Tim he needed three sandwiches was much easier.
Several hours after our adventure began we entered our hurricane bunker with:
3 subway subs
2 subway salads (gluten free)
2 packs of cookies
1 medium box of generic lucky charms
1 bag of mints
1 bag of pretzels
2 bags of some nut and berry clusters
1 snack sized bag of chips
2 snack sized bags of jalapeño cheese puffs
We brought in only what we needed and began the hourly watch of IRMA. It seemed like Keith and Taylor were going to be safe. It also seem as thoug we were were in line for a direct Cat 4 hit. It would arrive sometime the next day. We waited.
Noon Sunday the hurricane turned and we were in fact inline for a direct hit. The winds picked up and the reality of us being only two out of the three people in our area, or so it seemed, was ominous.
The sky was constantly moving and then the rain began. It wasn’t straight down rain. It was hurricane sideways rain.
The wind picked up and began to force the rain through the wall of windows. When it started to drip was the first time I actually realized that it was a wall full of windows. At first it was just a trickle. As Irma moved closer and the weather men struck fear in the hearts of all Americans the water began to poor down the windows. It was now raining in my brothers house but we had power.
And then we didn’t.
It was dark, like really really dark. Total blackness except the frequent blue or red transformer explosions. As the wind picked up even more, we decided to step outside in the door inlet. Since we were the last two humans dumb enough to be there we went out in our PJs. As soon as we stepped outside the wind began to pull our door shut. Tim rushed to grab it.
“We almost just got locked out side in a hurricane in our pjs,” he declared.
The absurdity of it all, the door, our pjs, our stupid food, no power, the raging wind, the raining windows…… we went to bed.
“Then he got in the boat, his disciples with him. The next thing they knew, they were in a severe storm. Waves were crashing into the boat—and he was sound asleep! They roused him, pleading, “Master, save us! We’re going down!”” Matthew 8:23-25 MSG
I wonder how long it takes for our internal back to school clock to stop or….if it ever does. It’s strange that as soon as the days start to shorten just a wee bit and the sun is at a slight different degree my mind immediately goes to that back to school feeling.
I wonder if that is what makes this time of year the busiest time for intakes in the program. I wonder if something in each person screams, “TIME TO START FRESH ..GET HELP!”
Every year when this time hits I suddenly remember what it was like the year before. And as soon as I remember, I forget. I quickly get lost in the newness of the program. We have a lot of new faces. In a few minutes we will be completely full on the men’s side. We are filling our final male bed shortly. Then that’s it unless someone strikes out or walks. Both are always a possibility. Now we once again begin to settle in for the long haul.
Mr. Michigan is attempting to settle into the routine of intermediate. He is tired, cranky and all around completely overwhelmed.
“Beth…. people are crazy out there. Some of the people at my work have absolutely NO coping skills at all. I can’t even talk to some of them. It’s crazy,” he announced the other day after work.
“I know. Believe me I know. I tried to warn you,” I answered.
I hear these same words every time someone enters intermediate. I say the same thing and they say the same thing. It’s a hard transition, believe me we hear about it all day every day until they get used to working in the real world. Most of the time this is the first job they have worked sober and somewhat healthy. Mr. Michigan now spends a decent amount of time with non program people and sometimes even alone.
One Time and Eeyore are now the seniors in the house with about seven to eight months in. They are truly in the thick of it right now. There is no turning back for them. They are at point now that the old is beginning to die and the new is just starting to poke it’s little personality out.
Eeyore is in a full blown identity crisis. He has held on to rage and anger and control as long as he could and now his hands are bleeding and he has to let go. It’s a very scary place to be. It’s here in this empty place that true character is formed. Pretty much like a refining fire. Lucky for me I got to be the one to help him reach this point.
He can’t remember who he is without these things and it can get a bit ugly at times coming face to face with it. It is actually one of my favorite phases of the program. Self reliance fades. Bravado fades. Dishonesty fades. It’s a great place to be. Who he will end up is now in Gods hands.
OneTime seems to be easing his way through this phase. He is a bit older and has had some harder consequences. He knows that this time is it for him. He doesn’t have another relapse left in him.
Surrender is hard but the thought of failure is harder. He has taken a fatherly role in the house and has turned out to be an excellent chef. His patience grows as he soaks beans. His selfishness yields to preparing wonderful meals that everyone enjoys. He is becoming a teacher, a quality that will prepare him to return to his son eventually. His life experiences now serve as kind warnings to others and less of a war story. He is my enforcer should I happen to need someone restrained.
“I will try to talk to him first, just so you know,” he told me when I asked him to hold tightly to this one kid in case things got out of hand.
“Of course, but then hold him tight!” I said.
That young man didn’t make it very long sadly enough.
And then we still have Juan.
Holy smokes! Diamond smile Juan is in my group. He is having a super super hard time with life right now. The consequences of his addiction are huge. We have been navigating our way through them the entire five months he has been here. It gets tense then backs off, again and again and again. His progress has been severely stalled due to the pressure of the consequences. He can’t seem to remember from day to day what he read the day before. And honestly, his willingness to remember has been lacking. The fear of having to leave the program part way through overrides his decision to get well.
“I am having a hard time committing to learning all this stuff just to get yanked out half way through,” he keeps telling me.
“I totally understand, read it again,” I keep telling him.
There are weeks when he seems to relax a bit, and then, BAM! more appointments, more meetings, more reminders of the past. He has gone as far now as he can without actually surrendering to recovery. To make it much farther here he is going to have to bite the bullet and let go of some of the fear.
“The worst thing that can happen to you now is that you will be healthier than before you began. If something happens and you get yanked out of the program you don’t want to be the same person someplace else. So today……. you commit, today you try your hardest. Then tomorrow you can do it again. But today…. you will work on your recovery,” I announced to him yesterday when we got home from his appointment.
He gave me that half hearted smile like always and said, “I look forward to it!”
I wonder who he is actually trying to convince.
Yesterday morning we started the day with four people under forty days. By noon we only had three. Things change fast around here sometimes. The tension goes from 0-100 and back to zero pretty quick. So hopefully we will end this week with three people under forty days. One girl, Lazarus, and a new guy. They seem to be the fall class so far. We have a young lady scheduled for mid September and our phone is ringing off the hook.
I made the executive decision to hold admissions until mid September. I want to give our new additions time to get acclimated and time to settle in before we begin again and again with someone new.
“Hey, I need a book bag for the new guy and a notebook!”
No wonder it feels like back to school.
“I’ll refresh tired bodies; I’ll restore tired souls.” Jeremiah 31:25 MSG
So many times I survey all around me, the program, the mission, the church, and I think to myself…….. I hope it stays just like this for at least a week. Fat chance!
Yesterday at 5:04:47 pm exactly, I looked down at my buzzing phone to a familiar number. I knew what the call meant. I hit the button and sent it to voicemail and waited for the text to follow. I had just started guys group and knew that the call would take me away for most of it. Then I had band practice at 6:00, then church at 7:00 then a recap group at 8:30.
Thursday’s are hopping for me. I told Tim it seems like I run from thing to thing to thing.
“Thats because you do,” he responded.
Who knew? Not me.
The text came at 5:08 pm:
It’s Barbie, there is a young man here in the ER seeking treatment! Doesn’t want to leave here without someplace to go to for treatment, can you help? He is 32.
I quickly walked inside and handed my phone to Jordan and asked her to take care of the text.
“Tell her no?” she asked.
“No, get more information on the guy,” I answered as I headed back outside.
I restarted group and attempted to pay attention to the topic at hand. My mind kept going to the kid in the ER. I wondered what his story was. I wondered if I was going to make the hour drive tonight to find out. I have been to this ER before. Twice to be exact. Once at 2am and once during the day. The first time we ended up with Longtimer, the second time was a no go for us.
“And that is what I think about co-dependency,” said someone in group that snapped me back to reality.
“That is correct,” I chimed in. I did my best to stay present. The topic was interesting and seemed to be going well. Good ole co-dependency.
5:23 – He OD’d on heroin earlier today and is in the ER. Barbie said she isn’t sure how long they are going to hold him. He doesn’t have any felonies- just misdemeanors.
5:58 My response:
More information. Married? Kids? Serious relationship? Does he want long term treatment?
Okay. I will call again. He does have kids and he does want help but I will call Barbie again.
6:03 text to Barbie:
How long will the kids be in children’s services? And do you have any idea how long you guys will keep him? We can’t do anything until after church and we are an hour away so we just want to know.
Kids are with CS and will be placed with family or friends we will keep him till am if you are coming to see him.
Band practice started as I read all of the forwarded messages. I held my harmonica in one hand and my phone in the other and quickly scrolled through them. “Ugg, how can I make this more efficient?” I wondered.
“Jordan…. Call Barbie or text her and see if we can email everything down there and have him start filling it out,” I yelled down to the end of the stage.
6:18 Jordan text:
I have a copy of everything but the clinical history report.
6:20 My response:
Just emailed it to you. I don’t think that is the current one Keith had but you can send that.
And the band played on…
“Done!” she yelled down to my end of the stage.
“Are we going down after church?” Tim yelled out to me.
6:46 ……15 minutes before church started -text to Barbie:
If he is a go for us, is he prepared to leave tonight?
6:46 response from Barbie (super fast I might add):
Yes we asked his parents to pack a bag just in case.
6:48 text to Barbie:
6:50 ..”Jordan tell her we will be down after church.”
7:00 Church started on time for the very first time!
As we began worship I began to pray for the guy waiting in the ER. I prayed for our time with him and for clarity. I knew that Barbie wouldn’t call us if there wasn’t something special about this guy. Curiosity was getting the best of me. I had to focus on playing and I had to focus on speaking.
9:03 We left for the Emergency Department in a county an hour away.
We finally arrived around 10:30 and headed in to meet our guy. Barbie met us right inside the door and lead us to the partitioned area where he was. As soon as I turned the corner I noticed that he was exactly two beds away from where Longtimer was. It was such an odd feeling. I directed my attention back toward him and introduced myself. I found the paper work we sent down, pulled up a chair and began.
“So what brings you here tonight?”
“I OD’d on heroin,” he answered.
“Narcan?” I asked.
“Twice, they had to hit me twice, to get me back,” he answered.
“You were dead. Looks like you are lucky to be alive. Looks to me like God gave you a second chance here, now it’s up to you what you do with it,” I said.
“Yes ma’am,” he answered.
“Call me Beth!”
“Yes Ma’am ….. yes Beth,” he said.
I read his history and began to very matter of factly ask him questions. We went back and forth several times trying to piece the story together the best I could.
“I lost everything, my kids, everything,” he said tearfully.
“Do you want a tissue?” I asked and then told him to keep going.
Slowly the story began to unravel. Slowly his hopelessness came out and a suicide attempt proved his desperation to break free from the drug. He had only used Heroin twice in his life and this time ended with his death. Mostly he had a very time consuming and expensive pain pill habit that cost him everything and now his children.
“They took them….right as soon as the as soon as the squad came. They just took my girls,”
And he broke down.
“I cant leave from here, please…I can’t go back anywhere that is near here. I have to leave with you now, tonight …please,” he pleaded.
“Lets just finish here and then we can decide. Do you have any questions for me? This is a big decision here,” I said.
“Just one,” he said.
“When can we go?” he said.
“Not just yet, I need to ask a few more things.”
I looked up just in time to see Barbie walk by.
“Did they drug test him when they brought him in?”
“Nope he was alive by then and they don’t generally test them if the are talking,” she answered.
“One more thing, what made you call us for him? Why do you think he should come to the program?” I asked.
“Oh,” she started and her eyes lit up, “there is just something special here, I just get that special feeling, like he is just a really good guy. He didn’t fight us when we suggested he needed help. You can just tell. I think he wants to get well,” she finished.
“Did they hit him twice?” I asked.
“Yep, they did,” she answered.
“Ok, well is he good to go here? We will take him,” I said.
“Thank you so much!” they both said.
“No, thank you for calling.”
I told our guy once again that not many get to come back from the dead and get a second chance. I hope he remembers the moment he woke up. The do over. The shot at a life.
We left as fast as we came
New guy, Tim and I arrived at the recovery house.
“Welcome to your new home Lazarus!”
“He said these things, and then announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”” John 11:11 MSG
Every Single Day
Every day in Ohio eleven people die due to opiates. According to a study by Seattle Childrens Hospital greater than 10,000 babies were born were born in 2016 affected by drugs. At least one day a week I witness multiple women sold on the street.
There are days that the drug posts on Facebook are a daunting reminder of how serious my job is. The opinions about Narcan, the statistics, the politics of it all, the ads by pharmaceutical companies, the varying opinion of what sobriety actually is. All of it, just too much. The reality of the opiate crisis is enormous, absolutely off the hook. Some days it is seems like there is little progress and that not even a tiny dent is made in the enormity of it all. And then there are the days that just for a moment everything works the right way………… almost.
“Where is your mom?”
“Where is Beth?”
“Hey someone get Beth.”
Awhile back, I can’t actually remember when, maybe a week or even two weeks ago, I was coming out of building one at the Mission to some commotion. Multiple people seemed to be scurrying around looking for me. There was a frantic urgency to their seeking. I slowly walked down the stairs to the middle of the parking lot and stood still. People continued to stutter around and look for me. I just stood still.
“I am right here,” I loudly directed to the commotion.
“What is going on?” I asked the slowing bustlers.
“Mom… I just got a call from one of my contacts. There is a woman, she wants to leave the life style, like now… right now,” Taylor excitedly said. “She is near here and my contact got ahold of the Sister and the Sister contacted me to contact you and …. Oop, here she is now,” she went on.
“What? Say that all again in slow motion,” I said as a car pulled in the lot.
Out popped the tiny Dominican Sister of Peace. She is spunky to say the very least, and incredibly adorable and kind.
“There you are,” she said. “I am so glad you are here. We have a women… her name is ….. and she wants to leave the street right now,” she announced excitedly.
“My friend contacted me and then I contacted Taylor to contact you and I think today we will get to take this young lady off the street!” she went on. “I told them all, that you would help her,” she continued.
At this point I hadn’t said anything at all. I slowly turned in the lot to see who all was there, everyone in the program, Taylor, Dave, Taylors intern, and Kyle. Everyone was waiting to see what would happen. Actually for that matter I was waiting to see what would happen. Before I could say or do anything the Sister said, “she is right across the street, that’s her, on the step that poor little thing, she is tired. Let’s go.”
She took my arm and off we went across Sullivant avenue to the front porch of an abandoned house. The tiny sister took two steps to my one step as we approached the young lady. It sort of felt like we were gliding up on her. As I approached the porch I began to smile. The young lady began to curl up, the closer we got the smaller she tried to make herself. I caught myself beginning to crouch lower to the ground to make myself smaller as well. I felt like I was walking up on a baby deer. I didn’t want to frighten her away.
“Hi, my name is Beth, what’s yours?” I asked as I held out my hand for her to shake.
“Hi, my name is ……” she said.
“I am so glad to meet you, do you mind if I sit with you for a minute?” I asked.
“Thats ok, you can sit. I didn’t make this mess all over this porch, just some, I didn’t have time to pick it all up before you made your way over. But you can sit if you want.”
“Thank you,” I said as I sat down on the stoop. The sister drew herself in close and remained standing. I quietly sat for a moment observing the situation. Before I could say anything she started. “Ya’ll know I have been on this street eight years. It’s a long time time. Eight years is. Here, on this street, this block.”
I scooted closer. She seemed so timid. So tired. You could tell that she was probably much younger than she looked. She had long black beautifully braided hair. Her face was so tired and drawn so tight across her high cheek bones. Most of her clothing was worn out. Maybe even eight years old.
“How can I help you today?” I asked her.
“I’m not sure,” she answered.
“I got a call from someone that told me today was your day. She said you might want to leave here today, is that true?” I went on.
“Yes ma’am, that might be true.” As soon as she answered a car drove by a bit slower than normal. She began to look down at her arms and legs. One at a time, leg, leg, arm, arm, each was full of scabs. She looked up and watched me watch her.
“I don’t do, you know, heroin ma’am. I do the other,” she went on.
“Thats …” I started.
“Crack. I do do crack ma’am. Just sometimes, when things is tough, sometime, then some heroin but crack is it, for me ma’am.”
“You can call me Beth. Just Beth,” I paused and prayed for the right words to say, I prayed for her to have ears to hear and strength to walk away.
“I work right across the street, right there. I am there almost everyday except Monday. I might not be very clean if you come looking for me. We are remodeling these buildings. That one there, it’s got a shower for women to be able to get a shower and do laundry. That’s the one I am working really hard on right now. Women will be able to get a meal there as well. It’s really pretty in there. I think it will be done about the middle of September. We have been working here about a year remodeling and changing things. I think I have seen you before.”
Sister was still standing. I believe she was praying also.
“Is today your day? I can help you today, right now. If you say the word I will help you,” I said. “Can I help you?” I gently asked.
“Well,” she started out, “my clothes is at my friends house and I can’t leave without my clothes. And well, you know, I don’t know. My friend,” she stopped.
I saw it, I saw the flicker of hope that was in her eyes when I first walked up just leave.
She slowly put her head down and then tilted to look me directly in my eyes. They were pleading with me to not make her make the decision, pleading to let her off the hook. Pleading to not forget her. We locked eyes for what seemed like an eternity. Time stood still. The noise of the street disappeared. I held her gaze until she finally looked away. Somehow we reached an understanding.
“I understand,” I said.
“Thank you ma’am.”
“The very moment that you want to go, you find me. If you can’t find me you ask someone for me and they will find me. I promise you I will help you.”
“Can I hug you?” she asked.
I reached out and hugged her, Sister hugged her. I slowly stood and asked if there was anything else I could help her with.
“No Ma’am. But thank you. Thank you so much for sitting with me awhile. I hope I am gone from here before you open over there. But if not, I will be there.”
The Sister and I headed back across the street to the parking lot without talking. We both knew how close we came to helping her. And we both knew what her life was like without that help.
As we approached the waiting group I shook my head no. Not today.
Everyday, in Ohio… eleven people die of a drug overdose. Some are on the street down by the mission. Some are in affluent neighborhoods, some are children, some are adults.
Everyday. Every single day.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” Isaiah 6:8 NIV
I had the occasion recently to spend some time at the pool with two of my favorite little people. The first one graduated kindergarten (with honors!) this spring and is headed to first grade. The second one is two and a half years old. You can imagine the energy! It went something like this, the whole time, in full speed and on repeat…. Run as fast as you can, jump as far and high as you can scream with joy as loud as you can, but that’s just how I roll. The boys, were me on steroids if you can imagine that. Again and again and again. There was only an occasional crying spell or small complaint.
For the most part, I would prefer their attitudes to most adults. I watched and played for hours. It was soul refreshing to me. Toward the end of our time together everyone’s energy just sort of ran out. There was some minor complaining as it ended, but mostly not. The littlest one laid down on the concrete in a minor protest against moving anywhere at all, but that was about it. Our time together ended and we vowed to swim again as soon as we all could.
I wondered later that evening as I was replaying the fun in my mind, at what age do some people begin to loose perspective on things? Is it age that changes us or is it our life experiences, or is it in our nature inherently? Something must happen someplace in life to change the perspective of how we see things.
I am not suggesting that all toddlers and pre-first graders have it all figured out and in proper perspective, just some things. Not getting a candy bar at check out is an appropriate thing to cry about. So is dropping your ice cream on the ground. I have yet to hear a toddler say how exhausting his play date was or that the sky was too blue to play outside. They endure stubbed toes and bee stings as only minor set backs to their playing. What happens to us?
Monday is my day off. It is the one day I try very hard not to engage with anyone on staff or in the program.
This Monday it was a bit different. I had crabgrass, lots of crabgrass. I finally submitted to the grass guru and agreed to kill 80% of my lawn and start over. We sprayed for days. Finally it was time to till it all up and begin again.
The van rolled up promptly at 9:30 to begin the day. Everyone piled out and began the ritual of milling around. Sometimes they joyfully mill around and sometimes they sulkingly mill around, but they always mill around. This particular day it was the sulking milling around. What could possibly wrong at 9:30 in the morning, I wondered.
I looked at Kyle. He sort of rolled his eyes signifying a dismal attitude with the guys. What could possibly be causing this much angst this morning or any morning really? What is so complicated about tilling a lawn and spreading a bit of seed and straw, I wondered. I wouldn’t let my mind stay there very long. I had to shut my brain down for a day. I told everyone we were leaving and wished them well. They all looked like they had just lost their best friend and….. their ice cream cone.
Sometime during our Monday hike my mind went back to the guys tilling the lawn. We were walking too fast to chat so I had nothing but thinking time on my hands. What could possibly be the matter with them? Maybe it was Mr. Michigan moving to the intermediate house later that day. Or maybe they all had tummy aches. Eventually the answer came. Through a series of texts trying to describe what kind of grass I wanted, Samm actually blurted out that
“The guys are just being plain jerks,” and she had had enough.
“What is their big deal?” I asked.
“They are upset that they have to do any work on Monday,” she answered.
“Really? Really? Well, it isn’t their day off, it’s my day off. They don’t have to work Saturdays generally or Sunday and rarely on a Monday. So they can work today. How are they going to function in the real world? Ask them that,” I could have gone on and on.
“Don’t take any who ha ha from them either,” I continued.
Ugh my mind was on fire. I wished I didn’t know that they were all being crappy to Samm and Kyle just because they had to till the lawn. What happens to someone to get overwrought with angst over a lawn?
Perhaps eating all or your food out of a can without silverware is too distant of a memory now. Or the hours spent sitting patiently waiting for the dope man to show up seems like time well spent. How about the memory of getting hit with Narcan to bring the breath of life back in those bones. Those might actually all be things to work up a tear over. But now it’s the lawn. Strange isn’t it. I wonder what happens to people?
“You don’t understand…. I am going through things right now,” said almost every person in the program at least once when asked why they are complaining so much.
We just got a new guy. For the time being the bed is soft, the food is delicious, the house is nice, people are nice, the work isn’t so bad, the twenty assorted Jesus pictures and the velvet Jesus rug on the wall… endearing, the chore isn’t too bad. I think he even liked to till up the lawn.
Right now he is full of war stories and tales from the crypt. I am waiting. We are all waiting. Waiting for the magic button to be triggered and his perspective to change. Until it does however, he is the source of the soggy diaper attitude.
“Why is he talking so much?”
“Do you know how much he talks”
“Beth… the new guy talks to hear himself talk”
“If this guy doesn’t stop talking I am going to go crazy”
“Can I ask this guy to stop talking”
“Do you think he is talking in his sleep?”
“I quit talking because he talks so much.” (serious blessing)
“He eats a lot.”
“He might eat all of our food.”
“Beth…… ” “Beth do you know……” “Beth!” “Beth!” “Beth!”
I am settled in and content to wait for the change. As strange as it is, around here when the perspective changes it means someone is finally starting to get well. It means they are getting farther and farther away from a life style that ruled their every thought and action. It means they can’t remember accurately the misery of their life because they are finally letting some of it go. It means they are headed back to where they once began….as a child, when things were simpler and they started to learn how to deal with life.
In time they will actually learn how to deal with it appropriately.
My friend sent me a text. It seems her husband left the porch door open for a while a few days back and the mosquitos thought it was an open invite to the house. The littlest one was the host meal of the evening.
“When I was coating him in anti itch cream he was only worried about if he could get blue in his hair like mine,” she said.
That’s the perspective I like. What happens to the rest of the world to change that? I don’t know. Here…it’s a milestone we wait for.
“Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.” James 5:9 MSG
Girl Power Day Pt. 2
I didn’t know that you could actually, with enough people, tip over a giant dumpster. In order to remove the death smell from a dumpster you have to tip it over, get in it with a shovel and a hose and clean it! I did not know it could be done.
After my major meltdown over the painted doors not fitting in the door holes, I embarked on finding the correct doors and cleaning the dumpster out.
Juan, in an effort to redeem himself for watching paint dry hopped into the dumpster of death with a shovel. I had the hose and a respirator on as we began to tackle the death smell. I sprayed and sprayed. I have never seen a brand new dumpster so I don’t know what the bottom is supposed to look like. I know what it isn’t supposed to look like but not how clean they can actually be.
Juan, didn’t seem to phased by the death smell in the dumpster and scrapped until everything loose came off. One Time and Dave drilled drain holes in the bottom while we cleaned. Every once in a while I would “accidentally” spray out one of the drain holes and soak Dave or One Time. Eventually we reached a point where we just deemed it “clean” and tipped it back in place and moved on.
I was able to rid the porch refrigerator of its death smell, and we located more doors for the exam rooms. We were finally back on track for the event. I was pretty sure that Girl Power would now go off without a hitch.
Friday morning we all arrived at 8:30 at church to do the final loading. The sky was dark. The radar showed a fast moving monsoon headed straight for us. We loaded the tables and 100 lunches as fast as we could and headed for the mission. Five minutes from the mission the sky opened up in a Noah’s ark flood kind of way.
Oh no, what if it rained all day and no one came to Girl Power. It didn’t matter, we needed to keep going and be ready by the time all of our partners showed up. I picked up a dirty work shirt, put my hair up and prepared to get very wet. We had everything unloaded and set up by the time AIDS health foundation showed up. We unloaded all of their equipment in the rain and set up exam room one.
Next came Nationwide Children’s hospital. It was still pouring and the lot was a giant puddle. We set up their exam room like the sun was shining. Sister Nadine came next, and didn’t bat an eye at the rain. We unloaded her and showed her to her area.
Ohio Health Department and the nurse practitioner were next. Everyone ignored the rain and kept moving. We lugged the grill onto the back porch we filled the cooler with water, we staged the to-go lunches with vigor. SouthEast Health showed up next with a fancy sign and Narcan to pass out. Still the rain came down. Integrated Health and then the Salvation Army showed up. This was stacking up to be an impressive showing of community partnering.
We hauled chairs and tables to accommodate our guests. The humidity in the building was enormous. No one complained. Somewhere around 10:00 a.m. the rain began to slow down. We had an hour before the event. Tim decided that he wanted to set up our new tents and take a chance on grilling under the tent. All of the program guys were there helping set up. The excitement started to ramp up yet I could tell we were all wondering the same thing. Would the rain keep the women away? Eventually, the rain slowed to a sprinkle and I decided to gather every sign I could find and set them up in the front yard to draw attention to our event.
The clock was ticking closer and closer to our start time. As we approached 11:00 we all posted to our stations. I was upstairs with Southeast, AHF, Children’s Hospital and the nurse. It was hot and sweaty. We waited for what seemed like an eternity.
“Hi, do you know what room I am supposed to start in?” Said a small voice. I looked up. The question startled me. I looked at my phone, 11:05. We had a person!!!! The rain had stopped and we had a woman! She was here at the event! A real person! I was so excited I forgot what all I was supposed to say and do. Stacey and I looked at each other dumbly. All the anticipation of the event and we sat there dumbly looking at each other.
Stacey was quicker than I was, she launched into her speech about Narcan and community health resources, she was amazing. I jumped in and told about the drop in center opening and services.
Next she went from room to room. First was HIV testing and then STD/STI testing and then to the nurse practitioner and pregnancy testing. After all of that we directed her down to the resource rooms and then to lunch. Sister Nadine and Taylor helped direct.
“We need more chairs.” Shortly after our first participant we needed more chairs upstairs. We had a back log of women waiting to be served. I was amazed. I couldn’t believe how many women were waiting for help. I couldn’t believe how many women needed for us to be there. One by one we met everyone that came through the doors, and heard their stories.
When I had a break I headed down to the lunch area. There were even more women down there, women just sitting and relaxing for a moment, women having a meal, some looked like they hadn’t eaten in days, women laughing and sharing, women that needed help.
Samm was down there with a young lady that was so tired of her life. She shared her story of addiction with Samm. She asked how to get well. She wanted to get well.
“Can we interview her? Like now, today on the spot?” Sam asked.
“We can, but not right now. Just wait. Wait until she actually wants to talk to me,” I answered.
“Ok. Ugh, ok.”
I watched the young lady walk by me several times. She kept thinking. I could tell she was weighing the odds of getting well with her current situation. She walked outside and then back inside. She walked out back and then back in. She walked everywhere except up to me. I decided to be more available and walked close to her to say hi. As I got close to her she quickly avoided eye contact and walked the other direction.
Samm was anxious, I backed off and went outside to take care of a tussle between several people on the sidewalk that was becoming a tad loudish. As I was finishing negotiating a peace treaty I turned and looked back at the building. There was our girl at the door, the look in her eyes had changed and she was no longer present in the building. She quickly looked behind her and then took off down the street. Samm was there. She watched as the young lady walked back to the life she so desperately wanted to leave but just couldn’t yet. Tears were welling in her eyes as she slowly went back into the house and back her to job. I went back to my negotiating.
“You have changed your clothes at least four times since I have been here today. You cannot keep doing this and washing all of your clothes in the driveway with the hose right now. This is a women’s event and the rose trellis isn’t you laundry rack!”
“The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.” John 8:6-8 MSG
Girl Power Day Pt. 1
There are more times than not, I cannot believe that I get to do what I do everyday! I think I have the most interesting, exciting, rewarding job that there is. Well, almost, I think that the guys that jump out of helicopters in the Bering Sea and save lives might have one up on me.
Last week we hosted Girl Power Day at the Mission. It seemed pretty straight forward. My minion mini me had the majority of the meetings finished. I would only have to attend the final touch-bases meeting.
The meeting was in the Short North right off of High Street. I assumed since it was so close I would just run down High Street lickity-split and arrive on time. I applied my thirty minute to get anyplace rule and headed out. For some odd reason I was super sleepy and could barely keep my eyes open. The traffic was horrible.
Sometime during the last month they dug up campus and were totally replacing it by shutting most of the lanes down. Who knew? I eventually made it, parked around back and headed in to the store.
I had absolutely no idea where we were meeting. Taylor was already in there. I must have looked suspicious spinning around in place looking for a conference room or a familiar face. I paced back and forth, I walked the entire store, still no one. As I headed to the check out area I decided to wedge my tired self between a shelf full of glass vases and a coat rack in an effort to save one step. CRASH !!! I knocked a vase off the shelf and was on my way to the second one when a man quickly came up and firmly said, “Can I help you please?”
“Why yes you can, I am here for a meeting. I am so sorry about the vase. I can clean it up if you want,” I answered.
“No, no, I will get it. With whom are you meeting?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t remember her name,” I answered with authority.
He then began listing off names. My mind was screaming at him. I wanted to say how tired I was and that he could list off a hundred names and I still wouldn’t know who it was. Instead I smiled politely and said, “My daughter is here. She is a tiny little thing that looks like me, have you seen her?”
“Well, she is here someplace, I will just call her,” I went on.
I could not believe I was standing in this store next to a broken vase with no idea who I was meeting and really why I was here. I was so sleepy.
“MOM, MOM, what are you doing?” Taylor yelled across the store.
“Ah ha! See I am not crazy after all mister,” I wanted to say to the guy who doubted everything I was saying.
“Taylor, thank heavens you are here! I broke a vase and couldn’t remember who we are meeting,” I was so grateful.
We headed to the obscure conference room. Everyone was already there when I walked in. Taylor, who was trying to be helpful pulled out a chair for me to sit on. It had a side pump to lower it down to table level.
“Sit here Mom and just lower it.” I was hoping the meeting would continue while I gathered my stuff and sat.
I grabbed the chair lever and it went up about a foot. Ugh. All eyes were on us and the chair. Taylor grabbed the lever herself just in case I was in fact stupid and asleep. It went even higher.
Again with the lever and again higher.
Now I was just interested in how high the chair would go. She kept pumping and it kept going up. When it was almost as tall as her, I said, “You sit there, you’re short.” I sat in her chair leaving her next to the towering chair.
The lady whose name I still couldn’t remember brought the meeting back to order. The final directions and jobs were handed out and in a quick twenty minutes we were on our way.
We would begin on Tuesday setting up and hopefully finish on Thursday mid afternoon. The event would begin promptly at 11 and run until 3. We would tear down, pat ourselves on the back for another good event and head home at 4. It all looked good on paper.
Tuesday morning the program arrived at the Mission to begin setup. Our first job was to load all the water in to the giant porch refrigerator. We moved at least ten cases of water to the fridge and started looking for doors. Sadly, Children’s Hospital mobile unit that was providing all of the exam rooms got flooded in the great monsoon we just had. That meant we had to move everything inside and put doors on the rooms for privacy.
We have piles of doors. Doors we took off in every house, really nice solid wood doors. The only hitch was that they needed painted. Kyle, myself and Juan found some doors and lugged them up to get painted. Juan, Kyle and I think maybe Hugo were supposed to be painting. What I think they were doing was practicing watching paint dry. It’s a lost art form you know.
I left them to their task.
“Beth……. The compressor is super hot on this refrigerator out here. And… it smells like death,” One Time announced.
“What?” I asked. I didn’t really want him to repeat himself I was more just asking, what does this exactly mean for us.
“Unplug it, and lets clean under there. Maybe it is just over heating due to dirt. It was working yesterday,” I directed. I opened the refrigerator myself, I guess just hoping he was wrong or maybe the stern look I was giving it would prompt it to work.
DEATH, the whole thing smelled like death. Uggggg, now we have to unload all that water. But wait…..I closed the door and I still smelled death.
“Where is that horrible death smell coming from?” I asked the air or who ever was near me.
“I believe it’s the dumpster,” One Time said. “They emptied it and now it smells even worse than it did before,” he went on.
“Oh good! Now we can add that to our to do list, clean out the giant death dumpster. There is no way we can have all of these people here with all of this death smell.” I said.
I quickly added up how many cool places we had to store the water. I dispatched Eeyore to cleaning out all of the working refrigerators and One Time to examine the big fridge on the slight chance we could just reset it. Eeyore, One Time and I were on a mission. The rest of the Yahoo!’s were supposed to be painting the doors. Every time I walked into the painting area they seemed to be just standing there holding their brushes. It didn’t look like the doors were doing a good job painting themselves.
“Beth……” Kyle started out. “All of these doors are to small,” he continued. “They are the wrong doors! What do you want us to do?” he asked.
“What?” again with the what that I didn’t want answered.
He slowly repeated himself. “These aren’t the right doors. They don’t fit the door holes.”
The clock was ticking, we were farther behind now than when we started.
I made a quick list of where we stood:
The doors don’t fit/they have been painting for no reason.
The refrigerator is broken and smells like death.
Building two is not clean yet.
The dumpster smells like death.
The water is jammed in multiple places not leaving room for the 100 packed lunches.
We don’t have enough tables.
I am tired.
The program is cranky.
The monsoon is coming quickly.
Sometimes I can’t believe that God lets me do this job. There is truly nothing I would rather be doing!
“In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:11 NIV
If you would have asked me last year in July, what I would be doing this year, in July, I would have told you a whole list of things I am actually not currently doing. I think that I would not have imagined that I would be getting ready for Girl Power Day at the Mission. I know for sure that I would not have imagined preparing to send Mr. Michigan to intermediate. And I wouldn’t have ever dreamed that salty caramel ice cream would be my new favorite flavor.
I love ice cream. I love everything about it. I love the smell, the textures, the way it looks in all forms solid to melted. I love to make ice cream. I love the science of ice cream. I am in awe of how water binds to fat. Too much water in the mix and you have icy ice cream, too little and it gets crumbly. Experimenting with new flavors and tiny tweaks in a recipe are one of my favorite stress relievers. Tim likes that I like to make ice cream. He waits to lick the beaters from the churn like a little boy waits to lick the cake batter beaters. He is the official taster.
Making caramel the dry burn way is tricky. You have to hover over the sugar. You have to wait ever so patiently for just the right moment to begin to stir it. You have to wait until a tiny amber bubble forms underneath the white sugar and begins to spread. It needs to slightly pop and have a small tendril of smoke puff out, then and only then can you begin to rapidly stir it to the copper color. One false move and you have to start all over. Add the cream to soon and it gets hard, and you have to start all over.
I have been waiting. I realized while I was staring at the sugar, that working with Mr Michigan has been about as delicate as caramel making. If we pushed him too hard he could retreat and we would have to start all over. If we were too easy on him, he would con his way through and get hard. Then we would have to start all over. He has been through a lot during his time here.
He has endured the removal of most of his peers in the program. He reluctantly preserved. He was the sole witness to quite a few shenanigans. He is delicate sometimes. He is smoky and fiery sometimes. Like caramel we have waited until just the right time to move him to the next phase. He kept trying to rush the refining side of things. With caramel you have to wait until the sugar is completely melted and the liquid is totally clear. With Mr. Michigan we have waited for the behaviors that once ran his life to liquefy and dissolve and become clear. We have waited for manipulation, deception, jealousy, obsessiveness, anger, possessiveness, isolation, codependency, sneakiness, and pride to no longer run his life. They are mostly clear now.
He has a work ethic that rivals the best workers I know.
“Well, looks like your about ready to begin job hunting,” I told him.
“Really?” he asked. “What if I am not ready?”
“I think you are. Do you not think you are? Why would you not think you are? Really you pestered me forever to get to this point in the program and now….. you suddenly think you want to stay where you are?” I went on.
“I know, I know,” he answered.
Hugo was appalled. He is on his own count down just like Mr. Michigan was.
“Is he ready?” I called Kyle to see if he was ready for his job interview.
“He thinks he is going to vomit,” Kyle point blank said.
I could hardly stop laughing. All the bravado for all this time ended with a nervous tummy at the notion of a job interview. He doesn’t need to cook any longer in this pot.
Out came Mr. Michigan dressed for success. He had on what I would call the bad cowboy look. Black shirt and black dress pants. I had just given him a fresh haircut. He was ready to go. I think the black shirt made him look even more pale than he already was. His nice summer tan had all but given way to his nerves. He was down right pasty looking.
We drove to the interview going over possible questions. I felt confident he was ready for the interview. We arrived fashionably early and off he went. About thirty minutes later he came out and plopped in the passenger seat of the car. If at all humanly possible he was even a bit pastier looking.
“I lied,” he blurted out.
“WHAT? What could you possibly have lied about? What ever possessed you to lie? Oh for crying out loud really?” I blurted back.
“It just flew right out of my mouth before I could even stop it,” he said.
“What? what flew out of your mouth?” I demanded.
“I might have alluded to the notion that I was sort of a boss around here,” he answered.
“A boss like, wow I am really a boss at bike riding, or a boss like …. THE BOSS?” I asked.
“Sort of like the boss,” he sheepishly said.
“Ah hahha hah ha haha really? The boss of who exactly?” I was now laughing hard.
“You know like a team lead. Well, I tell Hugo what to do sometimes,” he went on.
“That… is … a .. flat out lie, and you know it. What made you blurt that out? “ I asked again.
“I don’t know, I really do not have any idea why it flew out,” he answered.
I was shocked and amused. I could just imagine him in there terrified and struggling for a coping skill. I could imagine his fear at the first sober job interview of half his life. The uncertainty he felt. The confidence he was trying to muster up. I get it. I actually get it.
It for sure was a flat out lie, and I can’t defend that. I understand it, but can’t defend it. I think he felt relieved when I laughed at the whole ordeal.
“Don’t you do that again buster, you hear me?” I sternly said.
“I won’t, I really won’t,” he answered.
We drove back to the job site we had been working on. The color was slowly coming back.
I wondered if we had added the cream too quick with him, nope. He is ready to churn now and become something new and totally different when he comes out of the tub. Something sturdier and fuller. I could never imagine I would love salty caramel ice cream.
““‘Those who keep their heads on straight will teach the crowds right from wrong by their example. They’ll be put to severe testing for a season: some killed, some burned, some exiled, some robbed. When the testing is intense, they’ll get some help, but not much. Many of the helpers will be halfhearted at best. The testing will refine, cleanse, and purify those who keep their heads on straight and stay true, for there is still more to come.”
Daniel 11:33-35 MSG
I had a realization the other night, actually it was dead in the middle of the night, 3:34 am to be exact. I was sitting up in bed trying to remember when I took Advil, how many I had taken and if I could take them again. I was replaying the tape of the cracking of my ribs from several days before.
I clearly recalled the moment that I tried to scale this brick pillar while wearing a skirt in an attempt to hang a wedding decoration at the top of this gazebo only to miserably fail and come crashing down on the corner of the bricks right on my ribs. The cracking sound was loud to me as I bounced off the corner. I grabbed my ribs and ran in circles around Tim, who was horrified and just kept spinning in place with his arms out like he was going to catch me if I ever stopped running or eventually fell down.
I eventually stopped running. I couldn’t decide if I was going to have him leave the wedding and take me to the hospital or if I could make it. The fact that he was officiating the wedding did have some bearing on my decision to stay. When I actually saw the look on his face I felt like I was about ten years old again and my dad was shaking his head like I told you not to do that, kind of head shaking.
I know, oh boy do I know. I am a 54 year old woman wearing a skirt, probably climbing a brick pillar was not a good idea. Clearly now, it wasn’t a good idea. However I survived. We both survived the great rib cracking and then the long awaited wedding.
The realization that I was surviving this year actually hit me as hard as the brick pillar. This is the year of perseverance. Perseverance is not the same as surviving. Surviving means you are behind the curve. Sort of like you are doing everything you can to make it through the trial and then just waiting for the next thing to come. Perseverance has a negative feeling at first, actually it is a word of hope.
“Beth, I never thought I would say this, but…… I can not wait to go back to ICM to work,” Hugo firmly said.
Hmm I didn’t think I would ever hear that come from anyone’s mouth, ever. I can’t imagine not wanting to tape windows in the beating hot sun for several hours straight. I was standing on the top of a ladder skim coating an entire two story house with bondo when the declaration hit home. I think I would like to be at ICM as well. It must be 900 degrees out here on this ladder. This bondo smells like rubber cement and sweat is running into my eyes.
We have been on an exterior house painting job. It is actually the first real program funding job we have been on in a year. We have spent most of our time this past year restoring the Inner City Mission. I was really excited to be on a job. Jamie volunteered his time to help. Samm was going to be the crew leader and all I had to do was show up and paint. Ideally we would be able to be at two different sites and rotate in and out of the job site.
That did not happen.
We had a plan and it sounded and looked good. A little scraping, a bit of sanding, some power washing and bam, Jamie could spray and we would call it a week ! Oh, no, no.
“Beth, there is some wood. Uh it doesn’t look very good. Do you think you can look at it and possibly replace it? “ was the call I got from Samm shortly after they began.
“I will be there tomorrow and take a look,” I said.
I began on the second floor looking at the rotten wood. So far there were only three small visible spots. I took the first window sill off. It was rotten clear through. “This is an old house, I am sure this happens,” I thought. Next I moved on to the front face of the house. Samm showed me a small rotten area. I took my pry bar. I gently placed it under the front face piece. Tap, tap, tap, crrrraaackkkk.
Aggggghhhhhhh, the piece flew off and revealed a GIANT ant the size of my thumb!!!! I almost fell off of my ladder. I screamed and ran down my ladder.
“Quick bring me the bug spray as fast as you can. There is the mother lode bug in here!” I yelled at the top of my lungs to whoever was the closest.
Someone brought me the hornet spray. Ah that should work. Hornet, ant what’s the difference.
I cautiously climbed back up to the giant ant.
“It’s the queen, it’s the queen!!!!!” I yelled. I whacked the wood and sprayed the Queen! I literally beat her to death. “Survive that queeny!” I yelled. The queen and her minions had eaten the whole board. Suddenly millions of ants were there. They were running down my arms. They were biting me. They had sent out a radar memo that I had killed the queen and they were mad as hornets. Challenge accepted ants! I would not give in to an ant factory in this house. I would remove this wood and thereby remove the ants. Samm had made her way over to the ant farm. She looked distressed. Since she was the lead she had to notify the home owner that he had an ant problem. Suddenly there was a change of plans. This was going to add time to the job. This was not in the plan.
Eeyore ground a hole in his finger. The grinder ate divots in the soft old wood. The paint reveled the divots. Jamie had to go on a fishing trip. The divots looked like someone on purpose hit the entire house with a hammer. The temperature was rising. The humidity followed. The job kept growing. The natives were getting restless. They began to long for the mission.
We were all now in survival mode. We needed to persevere. We needed to be in front of this train, not running behind it.
I didn’t know that we were only surviving. I didn’t know that when we persevere we have Gods strength and direction to hold steadfast. The staff needed to model perseverance here and strength. This is a real life job. This is what the real world looks like. It looks like the unexpected. It is hot, it has deadlines, it has trials, it has ants. I began to pray on my way home. Perseverance builds character and community. Surviving is lonely.
I have survived the fist half of this year. Now I will persevere! And try not to breath to deeply.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 NIV