Friday, July 27, 2012

try a little tenderness

My time at The Next Door has been the highlight of my experience at Duke Divinity School thus far.  I feel so incredibly blessed to be working here and I can definitely see myself working at a similar non-profit when I “grow up”. The Next Door has sequined my heart.  My time here has been wonderful; however, “wonderful” should not necessarily connote sugar and sweets all the time.

The hardest day I have experienced here thus far was July 16th, 2012.  This particular Monday brought about many things: a fresh start to the work week, beautiful, sunny weather, a client’s first relapse, and my first summer shower of tears.  I'll use the name "Sarah" in place of the client's real name out of respect for my my client's privacy.

So, Sarah just got a job at a restaurant in The Arcade, a quirky shopping arcade built in 1902.  It was only a part-time job, but it was her job and a step in the right direction.  That Monday morning she and I met bright and early at 8 am and then again at 9:30 am.  We talked about her plans for the day: she was going to go to work at her new job from 10 am until 1 pm and then come back to The Next Door to job search with me for the rest of the day.  Everything seemed well and Sarah left with a smile on her face; however, a relapse can happen in a split second.

As she was walking from The Next Door to The Arcade, Sarah relapsed; she stopped somewhere on her way to work and drank alcohol.  Thankfully, she immediately came back to The Next Door; however, if someone uses while she’s in the program, then she is immediately released from The Next Door.  Personally, I enjoy drinking a beer or two at Fullsteam Brewery after I go for a run every Wednesday with the Bull City Running Club; however, one beer--even just a sip--for an addict is completely different--especially in the morning!   

She came back in tears, crying rivers of pain, guilt, and hurt.  I hated seeing her like that and wanted to just make it all better.  I started thinking about what I could have done differently that morning and those “what if”-sort-of-thoughts started racing through my mind.  I took my lunch break and tears started flowing down my face once I walked away from The Next Door.  

About five clients that I have worked with throughout this summer have left the program.  Despite having invested myself into all of my clients’ lives, I understood that The Next Door was a hard program to complete and that not everyone was going to finish.  Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely sad to learn that clients were no longer in the program; however, I had not yet seen with my own eyes a client relapse and then have to leave.

Sarah wanted so badly to finish this program, to maintain a steady job, and to support her two children.  I was sad to see her hurting; I felt like I could not do anything else for her; I still wanted to help her achieve her dreams after that happened.  As I tears began to roll down my face, I immediately called my mom for support.  My mom listened to my pain and my struggles.  When I told her how much I wanted to be able to help Sarah through her relapse even though she’d no longer be at The Next Door, my mom reminded me that I could still help -- I could pray for Sarah.

It’s hard when someone you care about relapses -- especially when you are there for that moment of relapse.  However, I took this time of my hurting for Sarah to practice my self-care.  My supervisor reminded me of the importance of this!  So, after going for a run to clear my thoughts and a good conversation with my dad, I was able to reflect.  Sarah’s relapse was surely a painful event for her; however, any relapse can be an opportunity to begin again.  It can be a time to acknowledge one’s shortcomings and look at what caused the relapse.  God is a God of new beginnings and God is a God of love.  I have asked God to wrap God’s arms of mercy and comfort around Sarah because I know that God has a plan for her -- even if it does not involve her being at The Next Door.


No comments: