Stories from the Basement

Stories from the Basement #12

By Donna Clark RN, Director

Many years ago we had an addiction counselor who worked with us on Saturdays when we offered a day drop-in center for the homeless. Ed was a very knowledgeable man who taught us a great deal about working with addicted personalities. One of his lessons was about expectations.

Expectations are what we bring to the table when we interact with each other. We “own” our expectations; they do not belong to the person with whom we are dealing. When the other person does not live up to our expectations, often we are disappointed in them and feel as though the other person has failed us. This leads to anger, frustration and sometimes rejection on our part.

H.O.P.E., Inc. currently has two very addicted clients who are a part of our family. They have been chronically addicted to alcohol for many years and although, sometimes they are difficult to deal with, we love them. Yesterday they both walked into the office together eliciting a groan on my part.

I keep a list of Godly traits taped to my desk (patience, kindness, gentleness, calm, etc.) I looked down at the list and up at the ceiling and asked for all of these to be present in my demeanor that afternoon. One of them wanted to start the process to apply for disability but I suggested that he first get into mental health care and stay in it. I pointed out that his only disability was his addiction and unless he was doing something about it, he would not be granted disability. The other complained about his state of homelessness. I reminded him that ever since I have known him I have encouraged him to get mental health care. He laughed and said he didn’t need it. He had a severe head injury in the past and has a great need for mental health care. This is an argument I have not yet won.

For years I have tried not to place my expectations on the people we serve. We have seen a recurring situation where a client gets sober, starts to get back into society and just when we think he has made the jump, he “falls off the wagon” and slips back into his addictions. The feelings of failure and frustration can become a part of our reaction to this situation and we risk rejecting the person who has not met our expectations.

It’s hard to understand the why a person returns to their drug of choice. No matter why it happened, it is not our job as Christians to judge another. Our job is to love. Love unconditionally as Jesus did, as God loves us. The addicted person will achieve sobriety when he is ready to change, not because of our expectations.

As I watched these two lovable characters climb the steps to leave I prayed that God would watch over them and protect them. They too are God’s children.

I Corinthians, 13… Love is patient; love is kind…