Care-A-Van is a volunteer experience that surprises me every time I go. I see new faces each week, and hear new stories, while still enduring the presence of those who come regularly. Last week when I gave out “iced tea, lemonade, or both?” I met a woman who used to be addicted to meth.
After we had run out of sandwiches she began talking to me about her life. She was not trying to prove her validity for experiencing homelessness nor was she throwing herself a pity party. This woman just wanted someone to listen. She told me about how she had terrible tooth problems (I saw her later that week at Health Care for the Homeless for that issue), and that she was in pain constantly. She admitted that her physical and emotional hurting was a consequence of her own actions. This took me by surprise because most people in her situation blame others. They blame society for forcing them into that hole. They hold their bad parents responsible or that one teacher in high school who made their life a living Hell. This woman however did not. Grant it, some of those influences may have affected her negative decisions (she did not get into detail with this), but she could have said no and rose above the stereotype.
The woman was pleasurably drinking her Arnold Palmer and telling me about how some of her teeth have randomly fallen out, and she needs a few more pulled. She also told me that she has had relapses, moments in her life she is not proud of. Those relapses further encouraged her to continue with abstinence from meth. The drug ruined her life. Her daughter does not speak to her, her health has decreased significantly, and she replaced meth with another addictive drug; cigarettes. As she lit one in front of me she prefaced the first drag with, “well and on to the next killing drug”.
I felt it strange that she knew cigarettes will cause her health to decline even further, when the whole reason she stopped meth was to get her life back on track. Although they do say it is easier to replace an addictive drug with a ‘healthier’ addiction, like cigarettes. I really despise the use of cigarettes as they are dangerous, deadly, and negatively affect the people around them. Surprisingly however, I accepted her smoking. When I thought of the alternative, it made me shudder. The woman was making small steps to a better life.
She also relished in the fact that she was going to see her daughter in a few weeks for the first time in years. After she was definitely on the right track for herself, and not for the façade of others, her daughter agreed to see her. I was so happy for my Care-A-Van guest. Family is an important aspect in anyone’s life and it was wonderful that the woman could have that in her life again.
My experience with this woman reminded me of the article by the Baltimore Sun called “Serving Up Hope; Noted Chef Galen Sampson Offers Help for Troubled Lives by Teaching Culinary Skills”. In the news story, a couple runs Dogwood Deli and invites addicts to work there, and save people because of this. The two employees mentioned are Jennifer Brock and Tyrone Lewis. Both are recovering addicts who found the deli through a recovery program, and now hold a steady job.
It is hard to first realize the addiction is a problem. It is then even more difficult to want to get help, and then actually seek it. Jennifer, Tyrone, and the woman at Care-A-Van are the lucky few to come past their addictions and save their lives. The article did not mention what the employees were addicted to but if it is anything like meth, all three probably had a terrible time stopping. They chose to better their lives, health, and relationships with others by quitting their drugs and living to the fullest.
There are many stereotypes surrounding addicts, such as low-life, brain dead, or hopeless. These three amazing real life people leaped over those assumptions and saved themselves. I was thankful to have met one of them as it inspired me to appreciate what I have and never take anything for granted. Maybe the consistent Care-A-Van has been a tremendous help in her recovery process, and my famous Arnolt Palmers have helped someone in the tiniest way But that small way can make all the difference.