Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Snapshot of a Dilaudid Addict, Part 3

I first met Kelli 14 years ago when she was a young single mother of a preschooler attending my Human Services Counsellor course at the local Community College. From the first day that are paths crossed, we connected. What I saw in her was a vibrant curious young woman full of potential. What she saw in me was a big sister mentor. There was a comfort level between us that rarely occurs in a teacher-student or counsellor-client relationship, even after a long time building rapport. With Kelli and I, it seemed instantaneous.
The youngest and clearly the most intelligent in the class but not aware of that fact at all, Kelli was sailing through the class without much effort. She wasn`t a responsible person, and had obviously made some poor life changing choices along the way. Her child was basically being nurtured by her parents, who in turn always seemed to get Kelli out of whatever bind she had found herself in. Why bother being a responsible adult......

When her lack of focus started to show, I pulled her aside one day to express my concern, and more importantly, to point out to her just how bright she was..........that she could ace the course and move onto University if she wanted to. It was the only time that I saw Kelli lose her composure. No one had ever told her before that she was smart. Smart ass, yes. Smart, no. She soared after that. Drove everyone crazy finishing tests in record time and then bouncing around making comments about how easy it was. But, they took it in stride. It was almost impossible to get mad at Kelli.

Part of the program was a practicum. She had been involved in an experimental behaviour management program that had been designed by a University Psychologist whose expertise was in the field, for a severely autistic 10 year old boy. This boy`s behaviour was so uncontrollable that he had spent his entire class year in a small cloakroom, away from the other students. He wasn`t even allowed on the playground during recess with the other kids. The program was designed to work on more acceptable behaviour so that this little guy could be integrated to some extent by the following school year. Kelli was the perfect person to implement it. A classroom was set up in a portable for Kelli and the boy. Every day throughout the summer, they met and went through various exercises and games. If his behaviour became violent or self-inflicting, Kelli would apply the Behaviour Management techniques. Astonishingly, within 3 weeks, this little boy who had never acknowledged his family let alone others in the world, was heeding Kelli. Not only that, he was looking at her, giving her hugs and sitting on the floor with her with his head in her lap. Kelli had major talents................all natural...............all from the child side of her that definately ruled her world.

Graduation came and went. Kelli had big plans. University was going to play a key role. The Psychologist was so impressed with her that he wanted her to work under him.

But, she made other choices. She reconnected with her son`s father, moved to a small community outside of the city, and worked when she could. Her life was not stimulating, and she let herself sink into a level of unawareness. She married, suffered through two difficult pregnancies, succumbed to months of post-natal depression and kept her head down. Her husband could not provide for his family as he had planned. Injured in an accident, he became a seasonal worker. They barely scraped by on his earnings. I didn`t see Kelli during this period of her life. From time to time, I`d bump into someone who knew her. I`d hear snatches of information................I knew that she hadn`t followed down the academic path. I knew that she was lost in the small community away from employment opportunities. I knew that she had shut off her brain in order to survive. No one had to tell me that.

Then, one day about 2 years ago, Kelli was in the office registering for social assistance. It was the first time I had seen her in 12 years, and I was shocked at her appearance. Gone was the bouncy glow, the energy, the vitality. She looked tired, dishevelled and so unhealthy. Her story? She was a Dilaudid addict, 2 years into the Methadone program and trying to rid herself of all drugs.

When she first spotted me, there was a hesitation on her part to approach me, which I absorbed quickly as shame, and that she thought I would be disappointed in her. Always the teacher, always the student. I approached her, made small talk, asked her about her kids, updated her superficially on my life, smile............smile..............smile................and gave her an appointment to see me the following week. Relieved at my reaction and glad that we would meet again just the two of us, she left promising to return. I turned back to my office with a feeling of sadness at seeing a lost soul drifting and aimless...............from one with so much promise.

Kelli arrived the next week, shaky but looking more buoyant. She spilled her story onto my desk, relieved to put words to many of the thoughts she had held in. She had become addicted after the birth of her daughter when she was left with searing back pain. Her doctor, who is known in this rural community as a pill pusher, quickly prescribed the mood and pain altering drug to Kelli. Given her state of mind, depression, anxiety, and a sense of aimlessness, Kelli was an addict waiting to happen. She was hooked within a month. Her life became bearable, or so she thought.

Quickly though, Kelli woke up somewhat and became very frightened. She knew she was in trouble, and sought help outside of the community. She went searching for a way to rid herself of the addiction. In no time, she was accepted into the only Methadone program in the province at that point and travelled 3 hours every day for her medication. She was dedicated and determined. As always, I was impressed with her depth of knowledge on her new "world." She knew all about Dilaudid, Methadone, the difficulty of ridding yourself of all drugs, the seedy underside of the dealers. Kelli even knew the names of many doctors in the Atlantic Region who were notorious generous with their prescriptions. She elaborated on her plan. She was going to be the first one to successfully walk away free of any drug.

For the next two years, Kelli would drop in to my office every 4 or 5 months. It was a touch base encounter.................we would talk, go for a walk.............the mentor and the student......as she stayed focused on her goal.

It hasn't happened the way she had planned. She came close...........so close. Last spring, she was on just a minimal dose of Methadone. She was a month away from walking away free of the shackles of the drugs. But, the withdrawals were unbearable. The day she popped in to see me, she looked worse than she did two years prior. Part of the withdrawal process that wasn't being dealt with was her acknowledgement of her responsibility in making the choices she had made. She had awakened to find the shadows in her life as menacing and too difficult to face. And she started to turn toward drug induced "bliss." She went back into hiding unable to deal with her accumulated failures and her inability to take responsibility for them.

I saw Kelli last in the summer, when she sheepishly showed up. I welcomed her back, using humour while I pulled the story out of her. She admitted to needing more help than she had initially thought. She admitted to needing to find a way to be strong so that she could acknowledge her emotional issues and move on to self-sufficiency and forgiveness. Kelli is now in a Rehab Centre. She's been there most of the fall.

I don't know if the treatment will be successful. I'm not optimistic. It saddens me deeply that this gem of an individual with unique interpersonal talents that would have allowed her to soar above her past, away from dysfunction, may be lost. It is with trepidation that I await her next visit. And when she does show up, I'll put on my best smile, embrace her and try to find hope in her lost sad eyes.

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