Some of you have read this before, perhaps several times, but I’m reposting it from the archives for all of my newer friends in Bloggerville. Even now, reading it for the ump- teenth time, tears roll down my face while I remember . . .
If I have any regrets about my illness and being house- bound, it is my inability to help drug addicted women in a clinical setting. I wrote this essay about three years ago in about ten minutes; it was one of those instances when the words go directly from the heart onto paper, bypassing the brain altogether.
Believe me, though, when I say that the reality was much worse than what I have written.
There were, of course, some rewards. A young Latina woman in her early twenties, her brain burned by crystal meth, her two children under the care of her parents, told me, “Charlie, my father was a 250-pound son of a bitch drug dealer who started raping me when I was eight. You’re like the father I never had.” I believed her. My bullshit detector never stirred.
All I wanted was one success. Whether or not I ever got it I’ll never know.
This is about interning at a two-year halfway house for female drug addicts, all of whom were diagnosed with mental disorders in addition to addiction, most of whom had been incarcerated or were on intensive supervisory probation, two of whom were pregnant, and how trite the concept of “treatment” is, and how the Twelve Step notion of turning one’s life and will over to the care of God is idiotic because he is not going to help them, and how worthless taking their moral inventory is because ninety-five percent of them had their morals torn from them by fathers and uncles and brothers when they were defenseless little girls, and how they cling to abusive men who are just like their fathers and uncles and brothers because they are desperate for love, any kind of love even if it is sick, and how much these women hate themselves, and how I saw the self-inflicted razor scars on their wrists and arms and thighs, scars on their bodies from physical abuse, and how hollow these women were inside, and how dead their eyes were, and how their minds and souls were pits of dying coals, but beneath the drugs and the pain there were sparks of beauty in every one of them, tiny glimpses of childish innocence and giggles, of the little girls they should have been, and that was the reason I went back there every day, and how the only way I could help them was by being kind because few of them have ever known kindness, especially male kindness, and how I listened without judging because who am I to judge, and how they wanted to talk because no one had ever listened to them, and how they wanted to trust because they had no one to trust, and how they wanted to hope because they had never had any hope, and how maybe they felt just a little bit better after spending a safe half hour with me.
I still remember those throwaway women, I still remember some of their faces, and I often wonder how many of them (and their babies) are still alive because their chances were so very small . . .