Empathy

See that empty bench? It’s a rare sight….

Once a month I carry a message of recovery and hope to the still suffering addict at a local detox center. And once a month I am fiercely reminded how lonely, dirty, and desperate active addiction truly is.

Ive been here, on this bench. Lonely, addicted, terrified- and incredibly desperate to get clean. It’s not as easy as one would think for an addict to get clean. By the time most are desperate enough to seek help, they have burned their bridges, have no family support, are homeless, jobless, and emotionally bankrupt. Leaving them very few, if any, options on where to turn for help.

I believe fully, with every fiber of my being, if an addict wants to get clean they will get clean. No. Matter. What.

One of the resources available to addicts is Volunteers of America Detox Center. The program is free, and provides long term solutions for treatment and housing if the addict is not only deemed eligible for the program, but also willing to put in the work it takes to stay there. In order to get a bed within The VOA an addict must call frequently to check for bed openings- which are given out on a ‘first come first served’ basis. There’s no wait list, no paying for a spot, no guarantees of any kind.

The night I took this picture was the first night I can ever recall not seeing a man or woman sitting on that bench waiting for a bed to open up. Typically as I leave the building there are a few people waiting outside. Some sit or sleep on the bench, while others pace anxiously. Each time I wish them good luck and tell them ‘please don’t give up’. Then I make the hour long drive home- my heart simultaneously full of sadness for those still suffering, and gratitude for the life I have built today.

On this night I noticed that although no one was outside waiting, the heat lamp above the bench was still turned on in case someone showed up. As I got in my truck tears came to my eyes and a lump formed in my throat- I’m not alone on this journey of spreading hope and giving love. Someone had turned on that lamp with the intent of showing love, with the intent of easing the struggle of their fellow man- even if only a tiny bit. What might seem like a simple act of flipping a heat lamp on, can mean so much more to the person who ends up on that bench in the cold.

Tonight as I lay here, surrounded by my children and dogs- free from active addiction and living a life beyond anything I could have every dreamed, I am reminded why I choose to volunteer my time the way I do. I am reminded of the times I made the calls, and sat on the bench. I am reminded of the people who brought the message of recovery to me in my moments of despair. So when I feel like my one hour a month in this building isn’t much and my brain tells me we have better things to do, I will still continue to show up because if one person can relate to my story and find the way out of their darkness then it will all be worth it.

Chances are your life has been affected by someone in the throes of addiction, perhaps your heart hurts for them, perhaps your heart is hardened by a need for self preservation. Either way, none of us are alone on this journey. All we have is one another, and while our stories differ our emotions don’t.

Thank you guys for showing up and reading my words. I love you…

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