Every so often I get calls, late at night, and on the other end of the call is a desperate voice from a desperate person in the middle of a desperate time. They speak as if I can immediately recognize their voice. Sometimes it’s easy to tell. Other times, I have to listen for a while.
I never ask who it is. I just listen and let them talk until I figure this out on my own. This never takes long.
Sometimes the person is crying. Sometimes the person is talking in a low tone, afraid that someone might hear them and they’re paranoid about some exterior force with some ulterior motive.
Oftentimes, the person is incoherent or drunk or sick or on the run and trying to keep themselves from being locked up in a cage.
The truth is I am no different from anyone else. The truth is anyone can be helpful in cases like this. The problem is the assumptions we make. The problem is the judgement we come to and the stigmas we have. The truth is everyone has a bias but we can still be helpful if we could all learn to move away from them.
Another problem is pride and ego can flare up. There have been calls from people in desperate times and they’ve turned downright nasty and confrontational.
The reason is simple. Aside from the fear and the angst is the frustration of not knowing what comes next. The anticipation of withdrawal is nearly worse than withdrawal itself — and the truth is this part is a bitch!
I swear, when you’re in the middle of it and when you feel like the world is at its worst, you can’t stand up and you can’t sit down — your thoughts are all over the place, you want to jump out of your skin, and deep down there is a self-destructive voice that knows a way to make things better (even if it makes things worse).
I get it. It is hard to listen to anyone at a time like this.
How do you listen when the one thing that makes sense is about to be taken away? How do you function when you know the only thing that makes you function is about to be ruled out because it’s a controlled substance?
One of my clients told me he compared his drinking to having great sex with a bad girlfriend.
Another told me, “This is just me. And I don’t really see me being any other way.”
I used to see my habit as a mute button. I used it when the world became too loud or if I needed to soften the edges of reality.
I used to cop a bag to slide into my little cocoon and find myself drifting away, painless and numb, and above all, weightless and free (at least for a little while).
And sure, I dared the edge.
I came pretty close a few times. I felt the slip of the blade and how sharp it was. I dared the little cuts on my wrist. I dared the rope a few times.
Does this mean “I know” how it is?
No, this just means I know how it was for me.
I have seen people at their worst.
This does not mean I was the worst. I’m just an advocate and I get that. This is why I chose to seek the proper training. This is why I continue my education.
I have seen people in withdrawal; their eyes are watery and their nose is running. Their body aches and there’s only one thing that can heal them. There’s only one thing that can make them right again — even if it makes them wrong, there’s still that “one” thing that works.
I’ve received calls from people that swear to me, “I mean it this time. I just can’t do it anymore.”
They tell me, “I’m done with this!”
So I try and get them a bed in a detox somewhere. I come up with a follow up plan to an inpatient somewhere — only, when morning comes, they’re gone. They never showed up for their appointment.
I watched over a girl that was easily one of the prettiest in her high school. She lost some of her teeth. She was on the street for a while, prostituting herself, and getting by whichever way she could.
You could see her true self was still in there. You could see she hadn’t lost everything. At least, not yet.
I had a spot for her in a detox. She showed up and unfortunately, there was an infection in her arm, which meant the detox could not accept her.
The detox blamed the hospital that transported her. The hospital blamed the detox for not accepting her.
Meanwhile, this was Christmas Day. They let the girl leave in a hospital gown.
Can you believe this?
She overdosed the next day.
Oddly enough, that’s what saved her life.
There are conversations I’ve had with angry parents that tell me, “You don’t know what I go through.”
I listen to people tell me what I know and what I don’t know.
Sometimes I ignore this but other times, I admit that I’ve defended myself, which, I’m not sure why.
I mean, I got the job. I earned my seat, so why argue?
The last thing I need to do is prove myself.
Any argument after this is only pride and pride has no business in the lifesaving business.
The fact is we don’t always understand. Then again, we don’t have to understand. We don’t have to relate. We just have to listen.
Most times when someone calls for help, this has nothing to do with anything or anyone other than the person that called and asked for help.
Sometimes ego gets in the way.
But it shouldn’t.
There is a recovery coach that once taught me, “If you’re doing all the talking in an interview then you’re going about the interview all wrong.”
I heard from someone that had overdose number 7 or 8 two weeks ago.
He told me the nurses said to him, “Aside from Covid patients dying, overdoses are spiking through the roof!”
I wish you would have called me.
I admit it . . .
There are times when I hear the stories of people and I can feel my heart break. There are times when I hear stories from mothers and fathers about their children and I hear the heartache in their voice.
I have seen fathers break down and weep or say things like, “I just want my son back!”
I have had children of alcoholics ask me, “Does anybody ever really get sober?”
A piece of me breaks.
A piece of me weeps and another piece of me is enraged.
Some will get clean. Some will not. Some will get away from the needle and some will die.
I use these odds as inspiration to improve.
It’s hard when you lose one though.
Either way, I’m still here.
And so are you.
At least we have each other . . .