Dee came to Pathways in April 2010. She was an energetic, petite white female that had “personality”. Dee was every bit of 100 pounds, wet with sand in her pocket. She stayed at an emergency shelter at night and, as other clients usually do, came to Pathways' Day Center for day services. These services include a hot shower, laundry facilities, use of client phones, food, life-skill classes, referral services, and an area to relax and get out of the elements.
Dee never met a stranger and would give anyone her last penny. But after a month or so, something strange began to happen. Dee’s crystal personality became cloudy and grim. She had been hanging out with a crowd of ladies who always complained and caused trouble with night staff at other local shelters. When I would pull Dee off to the side to talk, she seemed happy and okay. But she was definitely not the same person. As time passed, I found that this crowd was hooked on prescription drugs and would sometimes fake illnesses to obtain their “fix”. This all became too apparent when Dee came into the Day Center one day, staggering and complaining of headaches and dizziness. After about a half hour, she fell out of a chair. The paramedics were called, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. Because of her stated symptoms, they took her to the hospital. Later that day, Dee returned, feeling better and complete with two new prescriptions. And the games began.
Dee and her friends were eventually put out of shelters and boarding homes but somehow managed to put together enough money to get a room at a nearby motel. Sometimes, Dee would call Pathways for help, crying and saying “they’re not my friends”. Other times she called a friend for support, only to be left on the side of the road. Dee’s only alternative was to call for support from her family. Pathways assisted her in contacting her sister, who was sympathetic but declined to take Dee in. This was when I found that Dee had been through six recovery programs only to leave with the promise to start over. Her family seemed to have lost hope.
Pathways did not give up on Dee. Together, she and I cried and prayed, and she asked God and her family for forgiveness and a new start. Then, Dee received a phone call from her sister, who had found a recovery program in Tennessee. The fees were waived, and Dee seemed to be on the path to her new start.
But to my surprise, a week later I looked up and saw Dee standing in front of me. She had managed to wiggle out of going to treatment - again.
However, this time, she had managed to stay clean long enough to be eligible to return to one of Birmingham's area shelters. Maybe this was the new start. She initiated an approach to set new goals with her social worker and enrolled in classes at Fellowship House. After attending classes on a regular basis, she was given first choice for the next in-house program slot. She has since graduated into the next level, acquired housing and independence.
To make this long story short, I consider this a huge success for someone who dared to take advantage of her second - or rather third - chance. At last sight, Dee had gained at least 90 pounds and wears a smile that is contagious.
Carolyn Hogan is the Day Center Coordinator at Pathways.