As many of you know, I work as a recovery assistant at an inpatient treatment center. “Treatment” isn’t just about detoxing and teaching patients coping skills. When someone is in full addiction, their lives and priorities are completely flipped upside down. They are sleeping during the day, eating at night, and only thinking about “right now.” Most of them can’t imagine having a schedule, feeling different emotions throughout the day, or getting a full nights rest. Many of them can’t imagine having a handful (if that) of people care about what they’re doing, compliment them when necessary, or having someone ever acknowledge them in front of others when they have exceeded any expectations; Which is why we encourage residents to write out acknowledgements and share them in the morning groups as a way to build each other up and show appreciation for one another.
Every once in awhile staff will receive an acknowledgement here and there. They are usually generalized to “Staff,” “RA’s,” or each RA’s name with the same message. I love getting those acknowledgements! However, I really take pride in the acknowledgements the residents write to me personally. I always put myself in their shoes and think about how down/negative I would be about having to wake up in the same building, with alarms on every window, having to eat the same meal at the same times every day, sleeping on prison mattress beds, hardly having time to myself, and sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. Needless to say, caring about the staff or acknowledging them for anything, while I’m going through 30-day drug treatment, would be the last thing on my mind. Thus, making these personal acknowledgements very meaningful to me.
Last Friday after I had come back from two days off, I walked into the cafeteria room and found a mess of hot cocoa, dirty napkins, and spoons on the table. I immediately called out to the room full of people, “Raise your hand if you have had hot cocoa today. Because it is screwed up that a group of adults is willing to walk by this filth and live like a bunch of kindergarteners every single day.” The entire room turned towards me, jaws dropped, and dumbfounded that Jordon had just got so serious so quick. No one said a word and I walked out of the room, still disgusted with the mess. Later in the day, before I taught group, I apologized to the residents for snapping off on them so quickly and explained that after spending two days off in a clean, adult home; it was quite a shock to me when I walked in on a child’s mess. I explained further the rules of group: raise your hand, no side talking or I will call you out in front of the class, and to be respectful of each other. About 5 minutes into my group, I hear side talking. I stop what I was saying and ask the few boys about what they were chatting about, why they thought their conversation was more important than what I had to say, and why they felt that during group would be a good time to talk about it. One of them piped up about so-and-so “just got out of the shower and it’s 6:30.” My jaw dropped and my face was stuck in awe as I looked at them, turned and looked at the group, then at the chatty boys again. The rest of the community giggled at my reaction to having my mind blown by the most irrelevant, unnecessary, frustrating comment I had ever heard. I finally said, “Well, I guess now would be a good time to remind you guys that treatment is a time to focus on yourself and getting yourself better- not what others are doing, saying, or showering.” The class laughed again, and the chatty, disrespectful boys stopped talking. Then, I swear, not even 10 minutes later, I hear more whispering voices. I stop group and out of sheer astonishment yell, “Dude, are you kidding me right now? I just stopped group for other people talking and you continue to talk, forcing me to stop group again!?” They didn’t have much to say, which frustrated me more that they didn’t appologize and weren’t even talking about anything remotely related to group.
Then I finally lost my marbles. Many of them had not seen that side of me before and were mildly terrified. One patient described it as, “the feeling you get when you have really disappointed your parents, not when they’re mad but just really, really disappointed.” Unfortunately, my night at work did not ever get much better, and the weight of knowing Anna’s birthday was that weekend did not help. I was going to have to deal with a rowdy group while grieving my best friend on her birthday. There are very few times I don’t look forward to going to work, and that weekend was very much one of them.
I showed up the next day with a new smile and a new outlook and was hoping for a better day all together. And it was. Out of no where, I had people handing me acknowledgements. Many of them were very well thought out and meaningful and just kept coming out of no where. The acknowledgments kept appearing throughout the day. I managed to hold back my tears several times that Saturday.
I thought it was all over, but then, Sunday, December 11th 2016, more acknowledgements kept coming. During community that morning, the entire group of residents had given me an acknowledgement. Being the cry baby I am, I was immediately in tears of happiness and my heart was so filled with love. I know I make an impact somehow on these people, but it meant more than I could ever imagine to have them see and understand how much I really do care about them and how badly I just want them to get better. One patient started calling me “The Beast” because I wasn’t taking any crap from anyone and I only had time to help people not hurt them. To this day, I will never forget that feeling. It was almost as if all of the hell I had been through was justified because of these letters every patient had wrote to me about how much they appreciated someone being there for them. It’s kind of strange to think about because it’s typically the other way around; the patients have never had someone appreciate or respect them. Turns out, I need them just as much as they need me.