Monday, July 2, 2012

Heart and Home

A FEMA trailer (travel trailer) in front of a ...
A FEMA trailer (travel trailer) in front of a formerly flooded house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Say a prayer: “God, inspire my heart, mind, and fingers as I write these words so that I create something meaningful, purposeful, and helpful – or, at least something not selfishly self-centered, boring, or just plain wrong.”
Begin the story:  After Hurricane Katrina I fled to the Ozark Mountains.  I remember crying all the way there as I saw mile-long  military caravans on their way to help us try to put back together the shattered pieces of our homes, our people, and our ways of living.  Those mountains were as magical as I am sure Dorothy must have felt Oz was when she finally arrived.  I stayed through winter, but the call came and I returned to New Orleans.
I was on staff at the first substance abuse treatment facility that opened in the city.  Counselors lived in FEMA trailers in the parking lots and many had been eating MREs for quite some time.  Clients began to arrive and, although almost all of us were suffering from some form of PTSD, we began to treat them.  I provided therapy, I got therapy, we dealt with the trauma, and after a year, I moved on.
I arrived at St. Christopher’s homeless and with my car, some clothes, and the determination that nothing, not even that awful hurricane, would stop me.  I focused all my attention on the intensive outpatient program, entered the doctoral program, and began really rebuilding my life.  There are no words to express the gratitude I have for the support and help that came from the people at St. Chris.  After two years I left St. Chris for a year, and then returned at the first chance to “come home”.
End the story:  Recently I went back to the Ozarks, looking for the sweet thrill of magic that I’ve felt most times I have been there since Katrina.  It was not there this time.  Puzzled, I looked for it…and, finally, when I got still, I realized that I have lived the story of Dorothy in a very real way.  My heart is with me now, and I am in Baton Rouge with my family – my son, siblings, and many people I work with at St. Chris.  What does Dorothy say? Something like this; “if I ever think I have lost my heart I only need to look as far as my own back yard, because if I have to look farther, then I have not really lost it”.
Make meaning:  Someone once said this about St. Chris… “People make their way here”… and he was right.  Some make their way and stay a short while, while others stay for a very long time.  Regardless, it is a place of wholeness. There is a spirit of healing and “heart” here that permeates what we do.  It was what I was looking for all along.  You see, “getting” the science part of my work as a therapist was easier than I ever imagined; it was the heart and soul lessons that were a little trickier to navigate!  And, whether I stay a short while or for a very long time, I am a better human being, a better therapist, and a better supervisor because of my time here; and, St. Chris will always be part of my heart and home.
Close:  We at St. Chris believe that we must do our own work in order to truly be able to help another human being heal from the ravages of addiction.  It is a gift to be a part of this healing community.

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  1. What a beautiful post. I knew the first time I visited St Christopher's, which happened to be for the two day family program, that we had made the right decision in selecting St. Chris for our son's treatment. I was told at the beginning of this journey to trust my son's treatment to the care of professionals. That can be difficult to do, especially when the treatment facility is far from home. I left the family program with the reassurance that my son was right where he needed to be. During my visits to St Chris I too have witnessed healing take place. I want to say thank you to Arlene and all of the staff for the life saving work you are doing in Baton Rouge.

  2. Lisa, thank you for taking the time to comment on this post and others. We really appreciate your feedback and appreciation for what we do here at St. Christopher's. I am so pleased that you have found healing in this process. We are all honored to do this work.


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