It was Tuesday morning when Ben arrived at the Centre as normal and found him sleeping across two chairs at the dining room table. He woke, his eyes were bloodshot and exhausted, and there was a deep sadness in them. As he told Ben about the night he had just had both of their hearts were heavy. His addiction had caused him to become secretive, to lie and to make bad decisions. Decisions that led him to another night on the streets. Ben sat and listened as he told him that last night he had walked to the airport to watch the planes. To the exact place where Ben had taken him only a few weeks before. He dreams of one day becoming a pilot and in the depths of one of the worst nights of his life he had found himself drawn to that dream once more. Weeping and under the influence of solvents he had returned to ‘La Terminal’ to sleep on the streets. Thankfully one night was enough to make him realise that things needed to change.
But before the story can continue the question, ‘how did he end up here?’ needs addressing.
To understand, we must first backtrack in his story.
Four years ago, he lived on the streets for a full year, only a teenager, with no family and no home. The drugs had pulled him in and had kept him there. But he knew that was not the life he wanted. With the support of some people who were working with people living on the streets at that time he was able to leave. He moved to their volunteer’s house outside of the city. From there he lived with a family and found he could be happy, that he could have a ‘normal’ life. During his time living with this family he went out to work at the Pacific in construction. Unfortunately, whilst there, he was in a motorbike accident which landed him in hospital for over a month. When he returned to live with the family he relapsed and ended up taking paint stripper. Filled with shame he ran away, back to ‘La Terminal’ and spent a few nights in a hotel there.
That is when he came to us. He had met Ben and some of the other people who work with us here from his time in the volunteer’s house and with this family. So, in February when he showed up asking for help Ben and the team were more than happy to support him. He went into a rehabilitation home and whilst he was there Ben visited him and spent time getting to know him more. Ben found him to be a very genuine, clever, motivated young man. A man who had big dreams and who wanted to work hard to make them happen.
Things were going really well, and he was enjoying learning more about God and was managing to live without the drugs.
Sadly, one day while he was in the bathroom the metal in his leg snapped leaving him in agony and in desperate need of medical attention. The rehabilitation home called Ben and explained that they could not take responsibility for him and the paramedics did not turn up. Ben arrived with another team member and took him to hospital, where he had an operation. On leaving the hospital his options were very limited, so he went to stay with members of the street team for a couple of weeks and then onto the protection home, where another family from our team was living. He was cared for and shown love. It was not the best environment for him, as the house was under construction at the time and he was still on crutches, but he was happy to be there and be part of a family. He was motivated to study hard and focus on his recovery.
However, addiction is a complicated captor and in May, on Mother’s Day, he relapsed. He sought comfort from the pain of his mother’s death in drugs and the shame caused him to run away. It is hard to imagine the kind of pain he was suffering, a pain he felt could only be softened or forgotten through drug use. When the team found him and brought him back his shame was met with forgiveness and love. He was allowed to stay at the house while his leg continued to heal. Ben continued to visit him, spend time with him and take him to his appointments and counselling. Again, things were looking positive as routine set in and he continued to heal. Everyone found him a joy to be around and liked having him at the house and the centre.
Unfortunately, a little while later in August, the smell of solvents coming from his room, as well as on him, lead to the discovery of drugs in his room.
When asked about the drugs, he was so honest and open. He admitted his mistakes immediately and was very remorseful. He was clearly ashamed and very sorry. Ben and the team didn’t want to put him back into a rehab as he had come so far and was doing really well. After a lot of thought it was decided that he could stay at the home and a full programme would be made for him, accounting for his time and to keep him focussed. This program included his counselling, looking for a mentor and support classes. There was no point in focussing on the past, it was about looking forward and focusing on his future. Everyone knew that another relapse would mean his only option would be a rehabilitation home. No one wanted that, everyone loved having him here with us. He is such a delight to be around, he is so warm and friendly and always ready to help and serve.
Well, that brings us back up to the events of this week.
And that smell, that distinct smell that reveals an addict’s secrets.
On Sunday night Ben had taken him to church and had wondered, had thought maybe he could smell that all too familiar smell. But his perfume was strong and Ben didn’t want to believe he would have gone back to the drugs so soon. Yet his behaviour had been odd and a little distant. When Monday came around and another team member smelt that same, strong scent, and so questions had to be asked.
Ben, along with another member of the team, approached him with love. Only desiring to know the truth. Reassuring that they only wished to help. He denied it, insisting that he was not using again. They could even check his room if they wanted. His eyes darting and his voice panicked. It was getting harder to believe him. He was told that it didn’t matter, that no one would be upset or angry. We just needed to know, so that we could find a better option for him, and get him the help he needs. He persisted in denying his relapse, but at the house the evidence was blatant. The stench in his room was undeniable and drugs were found hidden in the same place as before.
So, his options were laid out before him, he could go to a rehabilitation home, he could continue to have our support as he recovered and post recovery too. Ben reassured him that we would be there to support him. But he could no longer stay at the house because it was not working for him and was not what was best for him. He would not listen to reason anymore, he was ashamed. He told Ben that he would never be able to change, he would always be an addict. Ben would not give up on him, but he insisted he needed time away from the centre to think. He said he would stay with a friend and come back the next day.
Trust may have been broken at this point, but hope was not lost.
Ben didn’t want to let him go and stay with his friend, but adults make their own decisions. All Ben and the team could do was hope and pray. Hope and pray that he would come back. Pray that he would make the right decisions. Pray that God would keep him safe.
Ben continued his work that night on the streets, constantly wondering how he was, if he was safe, if he would come back.
Now we find ourselves back at Tuesday morning, with Ben coming to the centre and finding him lying there asleep across two kitchen chairs. Having just had one of the worst nights of his life, but ready to make a decision filled with hope.
The night back on the streets showed him that his only real option was to go into a rehabilitation home. A place where he can be free from the addiction. A freedom that will in turn allow him to live his life and be free to see his dream of becoming a pilot realised.
By Tuesday afternoon he was on his way to the rehabilitation home with Ben and other members of the street team. He was filled with emotions, ashamed and deeply saddened. It would take some time for the joy to return to his heart and eyes.
Addiction is a crippling and dark possessor, taking hold of a person with a tight grip. Even when someone’s life if going well and they are happy and have support around them the addiction draws them in, it lies to them. It must be torturous to feel something having such a strong hold on your life and knowing it isn’t healthy or good yet feeling trapped by it.
We trust and know that freedom is attainable and can be reached. For this young man a future free from addiction and filled with hope and dreams is possible. It is possible, but we are not there yet, and the honesty of this account shows the reality of life. Along with all it’s uncertainty, failures and pain.
Editors Note: It fills me with enormous amounts of joy, as I edit and upload this blog now in October 2020, to be able to share with you that this young man is now drug free (Praise God) and has been since his time in a rehabilitation home following the above events. He is now working and serving in a new project that we are partnered with, ‘La Mano de Dios,’ that aims to serve as a rehabilitation home whilst also serving it’s local community and looking at ways to find sustainable work for those involved.
He is a man completely transformed and I look forward to sharing more of his story soon. Trust me it’s an amazing story one that highlights God’s faithfulness and transformative power.