In my recent traveling, I’ve landed in Seattle for a couple of months. As I move through the city, I see it all around me….tents set up in parks, along the sides of the roads, and literally right on the sidewalks. I see trash strewn around, graffiti, disheveled people walking around talking to themselves, yelling at passers-by, or just looking lost. This morning I saw a couple sitting in a doorway, surrounded by piles of trash, the man playing solitaire while the woman just sat and stared, intently watching everyone coming down the road. This is their life. This is how they spend their days.
If you walk the streets downtown, step carefully. You’ll see needles and syringes lying on the ground amongst all the other rubble. While I know that homelessness is not always in conjunction with drug abuse, I think the majority of the time, it is.
What’s disturbing to me is that the majority of us walk past them and never truly SEE them. We see the mess, the garbage. We leave a wide berth as we pass, avoiding any eye contact. We don’t want to see the PEOPLE behind the mess. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be wary. Unfortunately, some of these people are not of sound mind and could potentially be dangerous. I know that. As a woman, I don’t walk down the street alone. What I’m thinking though is this. These people, the ones scrounging through the dumpsters and sleeping under tarps on the sidewalk, they were all once loved by someone. They had parents and maybe siblings, maybe children. Someone out there somewhere is, or at some point in time was, heartbroken over the loss of a loved one.
I have three children, two of which have struggled with addiction. I thank God that they are currently sober! I can remember a time that I feared Laura would be living on the streets. She was so deep into her addiction she would choose prostitution over sobriety. She always managed to find someone willing to take her in but there were times I didn’t know where she was. I didn’t know if she was safe.
Only a few months ago, I thought Matt was going to choose homelessness over getting help. He was released from prison and had nowhere to go. I thank God that it only took a couple of days for him to choose to let us help find a halfway house for him. I pray he continues in recovery but I know he’s got a long way to go and sobriety is a daily walk. I just hope and pray he never reverts back to his former life of drug use.
I imagine my children walking among these faceless people in the little camps of tents set up in the park. While I sympathize with them, my heart truly aches for the people they left behind. Substance abuse has the power to lure our loved ones away. They reach a point where NOTHING matters to them but the drug. Meanwhile the parents, the children, the friends and family are left behind. We’re left to walk through our lives mourning the loss of a soul. The person we love is somewhere deep inside the addict, hidden away in their own prison.
I thank God that I still have my children.