Sunday, November 06, 2005

Snapshot of a Dilaudid Addict, Part 2

24 year old Tara arrived at my office last week after many failed attempts to do so. She was difficult to track down despite the fact that she was supposed to be living at the women's shelter in town. It wasn't until her November social assistance cheque was redirected to the office that she finally showed up for her appointment with me. Tall, lanky and lean, Tara looked like an athlete from afar when I spotted her sitting in the reception area. But as soon as I approached her, I quickly gauged things differently. Her clothes looked relatively new and clean, but under the external guise was a young woman who looked worn out. Her skin pallor was a pale yellow, almost the colour of her hair. Her eyes reflected troubling fatigue and fearfulness. Most predominantly, she displayed a full body tremor like she was freezing cold. I had a sense of a lost soul overwhelmed by her plight and sickness. Her Dilaudid addiction was winning.

Tara represents the "stereotypical" Dilaudid addict. It was never a prescribed drug, she managed to easily find it on the streets and it consequently became her drug of choice though not her only vice for sure. Whatever's available suffices. Dilaudid is easily the most available and the cheapest. It does the trick. It numbs the psychological scarring pain that Tara is desparately trying to escape. She is a transient, incapable right now of settling down anywhere for too long. She has been living in around the area for the past year, always hooking up with other homeless addicts, and often finding herself waking up in a variety of locales. Her path, which encompasses most major cities across the country, has been fraught with abuse, neglect, and bad choices. She has been living on and off the streets for years already, somehow surviving. It has taken it's toll.

Tara has made some attempts to seek help with her addiction. Recently, she signed herself into the Detox Centre but only lasted a week. She was kicked out for "using" while registered at the Centre. She left the city to move up river where she thought she would have a chance to "get away" from the drug monster. It followed her. She expressed her desire to be free of the shackles, has put her name on the waiting list for the Methadone program and waits her turn. In the meantime, she is doing what she can to keep afloat, to hold onto the side of the lifeboat that she fell out of years ago as a teenager. Tara has been on the waiting list for 6 months; giving her time to continue to accumulate more miserable encounters on the streets, and to risk her personal safety.

Experience nagged at me as I listened to her story, though I tried not to heed to it. The voice in my head kept telling me that Tara may be lost. The uphill struggle to conquer her addictions is not one that many people in her situation are able to do. Layers and layers of psychic damage has enveloped her. The Dilaudid, though identified as the problem is really only a symptom. For Tara, whatever her underlying story is, the Dilaudid is her way of masking the pain and coping for another day.

In order for her to be able to use the Methadone as a means to be free, she will need to work very hard with a therapist. She will have to be commited to slay her past dragons, to learn how to cope with her demons and shadows without falling into drug abyss again. She needs to be open to trust some of the good people in her life, the professionals that have expressed their interest in helping her heal. This is all so new to her. Trusting others, being open to unconditional care and concern, building healthy relationship with individuals away from the drug scene, establishing herself in a more permanent home, surrounding herself with a foundation of support...............monumental mountains to climb. Right now, Tara is missing key foundational ingredients to success; faith, family and friends. Without knowing the full story, it's difficult to know if she truly is capable and ready to settle down, and not resort to running again when the pain of healing gets too intense.

My time with her was too short to address the need to develop comprehensive plan that would start with a foundation to build on. My role that day was to listen in a non-judgemental manner, to plant some seeds, to provide some encouragement, and to let her know that I am available to support her if she wants my help. I have linked her with a Case Manager who will have more time to build a solid partnership with her, and who can go deeper into her story if Tara allows.

Most troubling was my other responsibility. I was to provide her with the November social assistance cheque. And, as I passed the money over to her, and watched her leave the building, I was struck once again with the sinking knowledge that my real role was to enable a young lost addict.

Healing is an emotional detox, in which disease can't be indefinitely stuffed down, its symptoms merely managed. We must bring our problems to light in order to be rid of them; lack of conscious awareness is the cause of our problems, and conscious awareness is the source of our healing. Therein lies the power of truth: what is honestly looked at, no longer has the same power over us. Whether what is to be healed is a person or a nation, the healing process takes personal courage, and a willingness to face things not always easy to face.
Marianne Williamson

No comments: