At HeARTh, we support people with developmental disabilities who have complex needs (addiction, mental illness, physical or medical challenges). The people we support become our family. We love them. This is why the disappearance of one of our young ladies is so heart wrenching. The disappearance of any individual is always a tragedy and fraught with so much uncertainty, fearing the worst and hoping for the best. It is particularly hard when that individual is someone you know, love, and have walked with, even for a short time. Our girl has been with us for over five years. She came to us with a diagnosis of FASD, along with other mental health challenges and a struggle with addiction. She had been given up as a very young child by a mom in addiction, adopted by parents whom she definitely challenged, then running away as a young teenager into a life on the streets for many years. Her journey brought her across the country, through the “system” and to us.
We loved her instantly and love her still. She is a feisty, beautiful soul. Broken, yes (aren’t we all in some way or another?), and caught in the cycle of addiction and dysfunction. But imbued with such a tenacious desire to survive and an unquenchable hope for a happy and fulfilling life! Funny, fierce, compassionate, vulnerable, sometimes cruel, and never giving up, no matter how hard things felt. As with so many who deal with multiple diagnoses, this sweet young lady has struggled her entire life with relationships, abandonment issues, relapses, and dysfunctional coping mechanisms. After a five-year roller coaster of success and relapse, several stints in rehab, and changing her living situation several times, we have continued to try to find the “sweet spot” that would work for her.
Our last hope is a permanent, in-home rehab program that would provide our girl and others like her with the structure, limitations, and constant access to support and resources she would need to move forward in her dream to be free of addiction and progress toward her vision of a beautiful life. We have discovered it is not easy to find funding for this kind of approach and no easy way to find support for making it happen within the particular program under which we operate. Our only choice at this point was to collaborate, and patch something together, by hook or by crook. Sadly, we ran out of time before we could figure out how to make this happen for our dear girl, and lost contact with her in December, during her latest relapse.
We fear the worst, but are not sure what that really is. For someone who has struggled their entire life with such an array of challenges, and so much stacked against her, we find ourselves praying that she has been provided with a quick and painless release after her life-long battle in a war she never asked to be part of. The most likely alternative is unbearable to consider for our beautiful girl, or anyone! If she were free to call, she would have called us. If she were still in town she would be coming for her smokes, to touch base at our center, to meet with workers who stand ready to provide and help her find various supports in outreach mode until she is ready to come back in off the streets and try again.
We know what is happening out there. The brutal world of trafficking, (human or drug). Fed by an inhuman, unconscionable world view in which another human being is considered a commodity. In which the broken ones are the most vulnerable. Please God, not this for our girl! Would to God that this would never be the fate of any soul. People come to this for many reasons, it is not straightforward and there are many layers. But there must be a special place in Hell reserved for those who perpetuate and protect this traffic.
As communities, our first collective instinct and constant collaborative effort should be to protect our vulnerable members from such misuse, abuse, and exploitation. We need to do better. We need to find, cherish and nurture the broken ones before they become statistics and end in crisis. We need to stem the tides and heal the roots that produce the trauma which breaks them in the first place. The panacea, or cure, for addiction and all that it feeds and leads to, that feeds it and leads to it, is community. We are all, each in our own ways and through our unique means, the answer, the solution, the shelter in the storm, the healers. We are all they have. And in the practice of being these things, we heal ourselves, stem our own tides and nurture our own roots.
We may have heard the adage: a community is only as strong as its weakest member. But it may surprise us to realize that many of our “broken ones” are the strongest among us. It is time to take a good, honest look inside and figure out where the weakness actually lies and what we need to do about it. There is always something we can do better. And we need to do better. Like so many others with missing loved ones, we at HeARTh miss our girl and love her so. We could not help her in the ways she needed us to, and while we continue to hope, we fear it may be too late for her to find her answers in this realm. But it doesn’t have to be too late for everyone. We hope that more in our community will do what they can. Look around at what needs to be done, and do what you can! We honor those that already are. While we are doing what we can and are supporting the RCMP to do their work, we must commend our girl to God’s mercy and wisdom for her bigger picture. And we pray that, as a community, we can join together in better ways to create the best kind of solutions for all of our beautiful, broken souls.