My Aunt the Addict

As the Intake Specialist for a residential recovery program, my weeks are filled with stories of trauma and brokenness, stemming from addiction (or vice versa). Every woman I speak with is in some form of crisis, and most are closer to death than any of us would care to admit. I hear unfathomable things. Horrendous tragedies, happening in my very own city.

Sometimes, I'm forced to close myself off in ways that feel cold and unnatural. It's a delicate balance of staying present in the moment with the living, breathing, broken, valued human being who is falling apart in front of me, while also trying to protect myself from falling apart right along with her. Because if I fell apart as many times over the course of one week as the women who enter my office, I would have burned out a long time ago. And then who would listen to them?

In this post, I wrote about those precious times when I make the conscious decision to enter in to the brokenness of their stories. What I failed to realize was there would come a time when one of them would enter into mine.

Awhile back I interviewed a woman after months of phone tag as she worked her way in and out of detox and denial, white-knuckling her addiction all the while claiming she was desperate for change.

Her story wasn't what surprised me: it was her face.

As she walked into my office, I was shocked at the resemblance this woman bore to my aunt. When she opened her mouth to speak, my senses were inundated with familiarity. Her mannerisms, her tone, her sense of humor - even the way she moved her jaw - they all reminded me of this woman I've known my whole life.

And yet, the woman sitting before me was a stranger.

And an addict.

And then it hit me: she may not be my aunt, but she very well could be someone's aunt. In fact, each woman who enters my office is someone's relative they've known their whole life. These women aren't just addicts. They are aunts, sisters, daughters…mothers.

Despite what society might prefer us to believe, addiction does not occur in a vacuum. It's not isolated to certain pockets of civilization and it doesn't only happen to "everyone else." Of course there's no denying the disproportionate poverty, abuse (particularly sexual abuse), abandonment, and neglect overwhelmingly experienced by the women I meet, but when it come to addiction there are no rules. Only exceptions.

Thanks to this unexpected and deeply humbling reminder, I now make it a point to share how exceptionally proud I am of every single courageous woman who makes the bold decision to enter my office and declare her need for help.

Stranger, relative, friend, or foe; she deserves a fresh start just as much as anyone else.


Vanessa's Dad said…
I guess that's what it means to look at folks with "Christ-like eyes"

Love DAD