Seeing each person anew
When clients came in for rehab again and again, we lacked patience at first
A doctor who used to work with men struggling with alcohol and drug addiction told me the hospital where we worked wanted to start a new clinic, a place where people could safely come off alcohol in a non-medical environment.
He asked me if I would be interested in running this new facility. I applied for the role and was given the job.
After a lot of community consultation, we opened the clinic in an inner suburb of Melbourne. My assistant was a trained nurse with a lot of experience in this area, and together we chose staff: a mixture of professionals and ex-alcoholics. Because of their own suffering and experience, they understood where the admitted clients were coming from and how they suffered during withdrawal.
However, at one stage I felt our staff lacked patience with repeat clients. Workers in the field of the homeless and destitute felt comfortable with the way we respected their clients and used to send people to the center to sober up. But, once they were rehabilitated, they often returned to their old ways. This was difficult for the staff who invested so much in helping people recover.
I felt we had to accept these people the way Jesus accepts them, as they are, as people who want to recover but were struggling to do so. And I was able to share a maxim I had learned from Focolare spirituality: “to always see each person new.” When people came in again and again looking for help, we had to see them as though we were seeing them for the first time, even if they had been in many times before.
Most of the staff managed to do this despite the hurt. Then one day, a fellow who had a record number of admissions suddenly saw the light and gave up drinking altogether. To everyone’s amazement, he went on to achieve long-term sobriety and even started to help others!
By loving and accepting each person as they were, we were able to be more human in the way we responded to any situation.
— Kevin Kelly, Australia
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