I Know a Woman
Here is the definition of the noun “Transient”:
a person who is staying or working in a place for only a short time.
synonyms: hobo, vagrant, vagabond, street person, homeless person, down-and-out
I know a woman who I have not seen in about twelve years. She has three adult children that I am close to, and keep up with regularly. I heard that the other day one of her sons ran into her on the street while he was visiting downtown. They didn’t discuss much. They exchanged some conversation about the bible and then she gave him a flower and she was on her way. I don’t know how long it had been since they had seen each other. Her children don’t usually know where she is. They run into her occasionally, or sometimes get a call or a visit. I think that she would be technically defined as a transient, because she does not stay in one place for long. The reality of the situation is that she is a drug addict. She moves in and out of homes and places where she fills a spot amongst the other drug addicts who share the same space. There are a lot of people who don’t really understand how or why some people live like this.
Most people think that drug addiction has simple answers. It does not. Most people think that drug addicts either go to rehab and get fixed, or they go back to drugs and quickly die of an overdose. Most do not. Many people do not know that a large percentage of drug addicts spend the majority of their long lives being addicted to drugs. Most people do not know that a huge majority of drug addicts suffer from some sort of psychological disorder. This woman that I am talking about has been in and out of excellent rehab programs more times than I can count. She has had every so-called “opportunity” to beat her addiction. I believe that there is a very strong possibility that she has a mental illness that her doctors in rehab have failed to diagnose. I know that mental illness runs in her family, and I believe that her drug addiction is her form of self-medication.
This woman is not a terrible person. It might surprise people that I would say that, considering she neglected and abandoned her three wonderful children. I don’t think that she could do any better, and I think that her children know as much. They are three of my greatest heroes, because I have trouble fathoming what kind of courage it must take for them to let her go on her way, and exist as she must. Of course they love her, as most every child loves their parent no matter what. Her kids understand however, that their mother can not live any other kind of life, and that if they attempt to cage her, it will accomplish nothing but hurting them all.
I used to carry a lot of animosity towards this woman around, because I had witnessed how badly her actions had hurt her kids. I don’t feel the same way anymore. As I have come to understand more about the way that society works, I realize that we are all responsible for each other. Those of us blessed with greater self-confidence and control owe a debt to those individuals who have slipped through the cracks of community’s structure without getting the help that they need. I am responsible for contributing to the democratic government that provides for all of its citizens alike. We all know that mental health is not being given due attention in our country. It is just so much easier for all of us to convince ourselves that addicts are irresponsible, or lazy, or self-absorbed. That is rarely, if ever the case. In reality they are suffering, and we are doing nothing to ease their pain.