Frequently a new person arrives in Red Deer and often they come to the kitchen to eat. Every age and gender is usually represented, so it does not come as a surprise to see new faces at mealtimes.
About three years ago, a young woman came to the kitchen to eat, but she was different. She was just full of life, very pleasant, courteous and always ready to help clean up after a meal which we of course appreciate a lot. I remember wondering at that time, “Why are you even here, with a friendly attitude and a work ethic such as you have, why would you be associating with this particular group of addicts?”
Shortly after she came to Red Deer, I asked to interview her for an article, but I think I scared her off, and she has remained remote ever since. She continued to come for meals but stopped volunteering to clean up soon after that.
Over the next couple of years, I have seen this young person gradually go from a vibrant, cheerful individual to a quieter more intense and introverted resident of the streets. As time went on it was becoming more and more evident that she was using. I’m not sure what, but her whole demeanor has gone through a metamorphosis, and it’s not fun to watch.
If my request for an interview scared her off from being friendly at the kitchen, how much more would she retreat if we approached her in order to try and help her make a change if she is not ready to? But then, she is not the only one to come to the kitchen and the street seemingly unsoiled by drugs, then turn into a full-fledged addict in just a couple of years. We have seen it in young fellows as well, but they do not show the change quite as much as females.
Once again I am reminded of a cliché that sort of helps to describe the situation I saw in this young woman. It says; “Like a frog in a pot.” Of course we all know the expression, but it is so well demonstrated in the lives of these young people when they come fresh to Red Deer’s city centre.
Most have used some drugs before coming here I’m sure, but to see a vibrant young individual gradually sink deeper and deeper in to that vortex of drugs, alcohol and all that it entails is one of the most discouraging changes to see in any person.
Questions, like where do you get the money for these drugs, (it bothers me to assume the worst), and how low would you go to stay in that trap, come unbidden to my mind? Then sometimes I get a call from a distraught parent or spouse or sibling, desperately looking for an individual. I just don’t have the words to console the person on the other end of the line as they pour out their hurts and longings to be reunited with whomever they are looking for and it sometimes bothers me to the extreme.
I’m sure there has been a lot of water under the bridge in the families of the sought for persons, but then maybe they did not see their loved one crawl into that pot. We have, and although we have tried in some way to stop the gradual decline, more often than not we have become witnesses of the water becoming hotter and hotter. Although there comes a time when we feel that it is almost too late to help an individual, we can never stop trying to convince in whatever way we can for them not to become another statistic of – A Frog in a Pot!
Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potter’s Hands.