Thursday, May 31, 2007

I’m Almost Ready To Take The Ride

Today’s remarks are from our Master of Ceremonies at the NEP Celebration, David Isaac. A member of Brandywine’s Board of Directors, David prepared for his hosting duties by spending a day with our outreach staff on the van for a firsthand look. What he took away from the experience was insightful and poignant, particularly a conversation he had with one client who was weighing his options about entering treatment.

I’m posting the full text of David’s comments instead of the audio because there was some background interference and I don’t want you to miss any of it. So, please enjoy:

“I’d like to deviate from the program here for a moment because I’d like to tell you about my experience the day before yesterday when I actually went out onto the needle exchange van. I wanted to do so because I wanted to stand before you tonight not just to speak about it, but to know exactly what I was talking about and having experienced it. It was really an honor and a privilege and educational all at the same time. I’m not unfamiliar with chemical dependency as a disease, but when it comes to heroin addiction and what it can do, I’m not unfamiliar with that either. I grew up in a neighborhood where that was everybody’s drug of choice. They didn’t smoke pot, they shot dope.

“My experience the other day was very, very broad. We went out for two hours and we were there waiting for the clients to come. One of the things that I observed which was remarkable to me was the cross section of the culture. This disease does not select lower socioeconomic people only. It does not discriminate as to whom it might grab. I witnessed, I think, a total cross section of our community.

“There was one gentleman who stuck out, actually two people who really stuck out. One was a guy who drove up in a late model automobile, and he was very well dressed. He had good clothes on, I don’t know that he was well dressed, because addiction limits us from being able to really take care of ourselves. And the sad part is, that he looked as though he could have been a professional type person, but he looked very washed up, very tired. And it stuck in my mind, because I think that some of us, until we see it, might have this image that isn’t necessarily accurate.

“And it spanned all the way to a person who was obviously very much hurting from heroin addiction. The last client that came up stood there and talked to me for about ten minutes, and we had some of the most intelligent dialogue that I had the entire day. And I thought to myself, he’s an expert. I had remarked to one of the folks in recovery, ‘Recovery - nobody is too dumb to get it, but there are some who are too smart.’ It really is a very, very nefarious disease.

“I firmly believe in the needle exchange program because of the benefits, the obvious consequences. But I asked a lot of questions, like, what if a client comes back the next day and wants to exchange needles? You know, I think from an addict’s perspective, there’s an opportunity here. When a client comes up and gets five needles, and he sells three, regardless of the fact that he does that, you’re getting dirty needles off the street. That’s the point.

“And there’s exposure for these people, that if they want treatment it’s available. Where otherwise, they would not know it’s available. And this fellow, who struck me as being intelligent, looked at me, and one of the last things he said to me was, ‘I think I’m almost ready to take the ride.’ And I thanked him and I said, ‘Well, I hope it’s tomorrow.’ In fact, I said, ‘I hope you’re ready. Because it really is a good ride.’ And that was my experience going out on the van.”

"I wanted to acknowledge the people who go out every day because I can tell you they go to the areas of the city that some would consider putting themselves in harm's way, because some of the activities that go on are unpredictable. But I have a sense that they're respected in the neighborhood. Rochelle, I think she would straighten them right out, regardless of what happens. I had met her, and five minutes later I said, I see the glue that holds this thing together."

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