Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Miracle

Written by: Denise R.; Day Staff

For the past nine months, I have been helping a young drug addicted woman who has been a client at the Drop-In. She’s lived a hard life, working the streets to support her habit, coming into the Drop-In for respite after a drug run that could last from anywhere for five to seven days. She’d come in and sleep for two to three days, eat, catch her breath and then, the beast of her addiction would kick back in and she’d be off to feed it.

About eight months after she first appeared here, she realized she was pregnant. Her addiction, however, had a death grip on her and so, she continued to do her drug runs, returning once a week for food and shelter. Every time she came in, we watched in horror what she was doing to her body. We knew the affect her drugs were having on her unborn child. We knew the odds were against her and her baby. And we knew there was nothing we could do to intervene other than to continue to try to talk to her, somehow reach her to convince her to seek help. It was to no avail. She kept using and abusing as the life inside her continued to grow.

And then, on March 24, 2008, a miracle happened that changed my life. This young girl gave birth to a little angel. A perfectly healthy 5lb 12 oz. baby girl.

What a miracle.

Created in the hellhole of an addict’s life, a tiny, bright eyed, dark curly haired miracle came to life that day and brought with her the spark of hope, of humanity into the dark world into which she was conceived.

This tiny miracle came quietly into the world. She looked around with her bright shiny eyes, stared at the wonders of the world around her for at least three hours before falling into a contented sleep.

The mother wouldn’t hold her. She knew she’d never be able to give this miracle of life what she needed. She knew she couldn’t promise to kick her habit for the sake of this child’s life. And so, she did the bravest thing she could do and made the most difficult choice she could make. She gave her baby up. To ensure her baby has the life she cannot give her, this young mother gave her the one thing she had to give, the gift of life.

It is sad when the beast of an addiction is greater than a mother’s love but that’s the reality of addiction. That is the horrible truth of what crack does to body, mind, and spirit.

For this miracle of birth, however, she is one in a million. She’s come through her mother’s womb devoid of any signs of the ravages of the drugs that possess her mother and keep her on the path of self-abuse, over and over again.

For me, the miracle of this baby’s birth reminds me that we are all miracles of life, gifts of the Creator. Life isn't fair but for this tiny baby, I pray she find a home where two parents will love and cherish her for all she's worth. She deserves it.

And for the mother, I pray one day she realizes, she's worth fighting for too.

Written by: Denise R.; Day Staff

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We are All People

Written by Nurse James

I was talking with a friend recently about my position as a Nurse at the Drop-In Centre.

The conversation went something like this.

Friend: Aren’t you scared to work there?

Me: No, should I be?

Friend: Yes! There are so many criminals and addicts there, so much crime happens there.

Me: Happens where?

Friend: At The Drop-In Centre.

Me: Inside the Drop-In Centre?

Friend: Well yeah, aren’t you scared for your safety and your life? So many drug dealers and prostitutes and criminals.

Me (again): Where, inside the Centre?


Me: Are we talking about the same place? The Drop-In Centre is filled with wonderful people. Lots of caring, compassionate and awesome people.

Friend: Yeah, but aren’t you afraid?

Me (again): Afraid of what? The People at the Centre are the same as you and I (I emphasized people for a reason). I work with, and am surrounded by people. Some make mistakes, some have addictions and some have money problems.

The person I was talking with did not seem to believe me. She was emphasizing the negative things of the city of Calgary in general. There are many negative things in this city, but the people who utilize the Drop-In Centre are not whom I would count as one of the negative things.

Calgary is a big city, with a big city comes big city crime. The ‘people’ at the Drop-In Centre are the same as you and I.

We have families, they have families. Some of them have money troubles; some of us have money issues. Some have problems with addictions. Whatever these addictions are, a lot of people in Calgary have them, some people just hide them better, we have family problems, and they have family problems.

Friend: Yeah, but aren’t you scared? (She could not let go of the fear that she thought I should be having while working inside the Drop-In Centre.)

Me: Scared of what, being hit by a plane falling out of the sky? Getting a bad grade on a homework assignment? Getting run over by a dump truck? No, I am not scared.

I went on to explain that I was more apprehensive about walking through on of the City’s shopping malls than I am being surrounded by a thousand people at Supper service in the Drop-In Centre. I am more concerned about being run off the road by some inattentive driver than I am of an incident while at work.

Most of the ‘people’ I emphasized again, are decent caring members of society, they are just having some problems right now.

How sad a state would this country be in if we refused to help a family member who was down on his luck? How sad a place this world would be to live in, if we refused to help a friend or a co-worker with clothing when they needed it? What a terrible position we would be in if we turned a brother or sister away who was fleeing an abusive relationship. What a horrible thing we would do if we turned our parents away when it is cold outside.

Bad things happen at the mall, road rage happens on Deerfoot Trail; fights happen in schoolyards, drunk drivers hurt people daily. Yet, somehow this all seems normal for some reason. So and so discovers that his or her child is smoking crack, or doing crystal meth. But, for some reason when I asked this friend and other friends if they were afraid of these things that happen in their homes, they said no. That this is going to happen in life.

We are all people; we all struggle with issues daily. Some issues are more prevalent than others. Some do not go away without help.

We are all people, we all have problems, whether we chose to admit it or not.

We are all people; we are all capable of love, and hate. We are all capable of doing despicable things, but we are also capable of doing great and wondrous things.

I choose to emphasize the positive, rather than the negative. I choose to do something. Instead of ignoring someone who has a problem, I choose to give them a hand however I can,

We are all people.

Written by Nurse James

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The light and dark of saints and sinners

Written by Roger G., Night Supervisor, 4th Floor

One night in February I learned, when I began my shift at 9:00 pm on one of the transitional floors at the Drop In, that one of my guys was drunk. We try to maintain it as a sober floor, so I tracked "Bill" down and confirmed the assessment of his inebriation. I told him he had to leave for the night. and he asked me if he could get something from his locker but I knew in his state that could be a long and noisy operation, so I said I would send it down to him later. I asked him to get one of the 1st floor staff to contact me on the radio once things had settled down there, which happened about 9:40. I learned later in the night that the request I heard by radio had been edited; what "Bill" actually said was "Could you ask Retard Roger to send my stuff down now?"

Coming to the 4th floor under the influence that night - breaking the contract he'd agreed to - was a Strike 3 for "Bill" and I could have closed his bed over it, sending him down to long line-ups and daily uncertainty about where he would be sleeping at night. His two earlier strikes, however, were for different issues; leaving a mess on his bed when he left one morning, for instance. I decided to give him another chance, but first I wanted him to do some homework around his drinking and the recovery process. I gave him this assignment, basically a goal-setting exercise, the next morning when he came up to access his locker before leaving for the day.

A couple of nights later "Bill" brought to me his completed homework, and we had a long talk. We talked about what situations and interpersonal conflicts are troublesome for him. We talked about art, for which he has discovered a talent and a passion for in recent years. Finally, with his permission I led him through a simple imagination exercise I learned a few years ago. Tools like this can begin to clear away some of the baggage we carry around that may have far more to do with the opinions and judgement of others, than who we ourselves are at the core. He appreciated that, and told me afterwards that it was beautiful imagery. We left the office, and I went off to do a head count of the clients on the floor. My co-worker Art told me later that after leaving the office, "Bill" approached him and said "I feel like I've just had a conversation with Gandhi!"

So now I'm both Retard Roger, and Gandhi. Cool. This is one of the most important truths I'd like to help uncover for the guys on my floor, that we are all a mixture of light and dark, saint and sinner, good and bad. If they see that in me and begin to see it more in themselves, then I have served them well. An awareness of our own wholeness can loosen the bonds by which we are held by shame in smallness and isolation, increasing our capacity for acceptance of ourselves, and for honesty with ourselves and others.

"Bill" has been spending a lot of time drawing since then. He also told me last week that his favorite way to fall asleep lately has been to spend a few minutes with the images we walked through that night. He spent another night drunk on the first floor last week, though I didn't have to send him off the 4th floor in the evening. Maybe he's taking a step back, after the steps forward he's taken in the past month. That seems appropriate. Our journey through life is far more like spinning across a dance floor than along a railroad track; two steps forward and one step back works just fine.

Written by Roger G., Night Supervisor, 4th Floor