Three people in the grip of serious addiction, two dealing with heroin, one with alcohol. All dealing also with HIV. One is receiving methadone treatment at the hospital, hoping to transition to a residential facility where she can get the help and support needed to stay off the street and away from the cycle that has repeatedly drawn her in. I listen and we talk about her strengths and weaknesses, what works for her, what works against her. She wears a mask (I do too) but when she talks about her resilience her eyes smile in a beautiful way above the mask. We talk about ways to get support (including the Core Center and Project Connect) and we pray for those strengths to help her make good decisions. We pray for her life, as she knows it is in the balance if the addiction keeps winning. I pray for her now as I write this, and hope she is able to access the resources offered by the Core Center, to get strength wherever she can; for the smile I saw in her eyes to radiate from within her.
I had somewhat similar visits with the two other patients struggling against addictions they know will take their lives if they do not change. The power of this self-destructive force both mystifies and humbles me. I know God has planted something uniquely good in each one. I pray for that to prevail. I go on to visit a patient who has been in the hospital for nearly two months, dealing with literally one thing after another, his main issue one of cancer but with so many tentacles. He is not even fifty years old, but weary of all his treatments, which are not really helping him. Is it time to consider palliative care? We pray for guidance, and for a way through that will help him experience what freedom he can in whatever time is allotted him.
It is hard to know for sure what are the ultimate effects of the visits I can make to these Stroger patients through Bishop Anderson House. But I believe they matter, because these people matter. To us. To God.