This last Sunday, we received a surprise visit from a lady named Bryn. Bryn hadn’t been around for more than a year. The last time we saw her, she was well into a heroin addiction. She was about 5’’8” and about 110lbs, under 30 years old. She looked like ‘Olive Oyl’ Popeye’s girlfriend. Sweet, well educated and mannered but heroin was her god. She was always with another addict, Steve, who was about 5’2” and covered head to foot in tattoos. They came regularly for 3 years plus, but rarely stayed for the spiritual food. Then one day they were gone. Last Summer, she sent us a thank-you letter, letting us know that she moved out of the neighborhood to make the needed changes to fight her addiction. She reported being clean for about 90 days!
Back to the surprise visit. She came before church and asked me if I remembered her. It took a bit of time, since the transformation was so dramatic. Her eyes were the only feature unchanged. Still tall, her body was fleshed out and bursting with health, a gorgeous young lady. She said "I came to thank you for keeping me alive all those months and showing me the path to faith in God." (Her actual rehab took place elsewhere.) She had her new boyfriend with her, 6’7” and looking like a football player. Then she said, "I can’t stay here or be around this neighborhood, it’s too dangerous for me." Off she went into a new life. In Corinthians Paul writes “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, The old is gone and the new has come.”
This Tuesday, another young man walked in. We’ll call him Mitch. Hadn’t seen his in quite a while. Looked healthy and together and told us he been clean for months. Great news! Three hours later, he was found on the outside steps of the church, blue in the face and in the midst of a fatal overdose. We were quickly alerted and Vicar Tyler and John Solano moved into action. John called 911 and Tyler went for the ‘Nasal Narcan’ and administered it. (It costs about $80 a dose and is over the counter.) He began to recover and Tyler walked him around until he was stable. Like most of these incidents, Mitch would not stay for the ambulance to check him out. We are not sure but we pieced together that he had just got out of prison, an enforced detox and rehab. He came back to the old neighborhood, old friends, old dealers and something/someone triggered his need for heroin and then it was provided for him. More than likely it was Fentanyl laced heroin that nearly killed him. Overdoses and deaths from this lethal mixture are sharply higher. I would say that in this past 12 months we have seen more of this than in the last 10 years at FoG.
A couple of cautionary thoughts on environment and triggers:
Bryn had God, a new support system and a determination to not be in the neighborhood. Mitch put himself right back into the old neighborhood and friends and relapsed in only a few hours. Triggers are things that can bring about a relapse. Seeing a needle, passing by a bar, smelling alcohol on someone, being around a person who is taking drugs or is high. It may seem irrational but triggers awake the craving and the craving can become irresistible if unchecked. As we were conducting our nightly debrief Tuesday, it was apparent just how discouraging this front line work can be. It’s as if God sent Bryn to encourage us and Satan sent Mitch to discourage us. I told Tyler that we should consider it an honor that God would put us in this place to face these things. He’s prepared us and equipped us for just such a time as this. We can use your prayers.