This Is Your Future On Drugs……Any Questions?

December 26, 2007

J works at a residential care facility for mentally ill and mentally challenged adults.  He has been working there since October, and he LOVES his job.  The staff, administrators and the residents love him too.  We recieved tons of Christmas cards, and even a few gifts from the resident’s.  They are always so genuinely happy to see him, and us, on the rare occasion that we visit.  He confesses to having to “make rounds” when he arrives at work in the morning, dishing out greetings and hugs to some of the residents.  I think he has found his calling, and I am thrilled that he loves his job, and no longer works afternoons.

We were invited to the facilitiy’s Christmas party Saturday.  J had to work all day, to help with the chaos, so the boys and I attended for a few hours to eat, visit with J and the patients, and to see Santa. 

Until now I had never spent much time in a place like that, or given alot of thought to the people that live there.  Never having delt alot with special needs persons, I had pre-concieved notions that were blown right out of the water.  I was introduced to a lovely woman, with whom I spent alot of time sitting and chatting with.  For most of our time together, I was under the impression that she was an  employee.  I later found out she is a resident that has severe paranoid psychosis.  Many of these people in the facility show no outward symtoms.  Watching the residents interacting with their families and each other did my heart good, and made me give thanks for how blessed I am to have children who are free from mental disabilities. 

One woman’s situation touched and saddened me at the same time.  She has the mindset of a young child, and you can tell by looking at her that she isn’t “all there”.   J has told me of some of her antics, and they are doozies.  There were several adults and a small child at the party with her, and I was shcoked to find that the well dressed woman and man were her son and daughter.  I wondered how a person with such severe mental disabilities could have “normal” well-adjusted children.  

I witnessed their gift exchange.  She presented them each with a “fuzzy poster” that she had painstkingly colored for each individual family member.  With each opening, she announced to the recepient, “I colored that for you, isn’t it pretty”.  It was touching to see the pride on her face as her loved ones admired her handiwork.  Then I would put myself in the shoes of her children, and think how hard it must be for them.  They have probably spent their whole lives not having maternal support, and having to take care of their mother.  My heart went out to her, but more so to her children.          

J and I talked later about how many of the residents had “normal” brothers and sisters, parents, etc. and I remarked about this particular woman and how shocked I was that her adult children appeared to be well-adjusted and affluent.   He agreed, then informed me that, while he wasn’t sure if this woman was one of them, many of the residents were living there because of irreversible brain damage due to heavy drug use. 

I wondered how anyone could do that to themselves, then thought what a great learning tool that could be for our children.  I think it would be so much more effective for them to see and interact with people in their hometown who’s lives have been adversely impacted by heavy drug use, than all the videos, lectures, and clubs we can provide.  I wonder if there is some way to do it with class and dignity, so that the resident doesn’t feel they are on display? 

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5 Responses to “This Is Your Future On Drugs……Any Questions?”


  1. Sometimes I think I’m perceived as callous because I tend to tune out sadness like that, but the reality of it is that I cannot bear the heartbreak of it all. When I focus on people who’ve done these things to themselves, or awful things in the news, I feel like I’m going to just crumble into pieces. Thank goodness for people like your husband, because where on earth would the world be without them? He sounds like he’s a very strong and loving guy.


  2. Wow- what a post. I think your suggestion is a good one. Juvenile offenders sometimes have to go visit prisons. Why not have them visit psych wards?

    I agree with LWB. Your husband sounds amazing.

  3. Alyson Says:

    @ LWB: I am often the same way. I think I have become de-sensitized to alot of the news because I don’t really want to think about it. I am so thankful that there are people who love working in places like he does, because I could not do it everyday.

    @ moonbeam: Glad you agree with the suggestion. I am a worrier, and was concerned that readers might feel that the suggestion was trying to turn mentally challenged people into circus freaks.

    J’s boss was recently bragging on him, and he was told that one of the reasons they like him so much was that he interacts with the residents so well. The said the last person in his position just ignored them.

  4. Red Says:

    You’ve read my “Freckles” story, yes?
    My sister ended up in a hospital much like that because her brain was completelllly fried from drugs, among other reasons.
    It happens, and it happens to good people who come from good families.
    I enjoyed this post – it made me have the warm fuzzies knowing that he takes much pride and time into the facility/residents. Not everyone is like that, it takes a special person to be caring and compassionate like he is.
    PS – Y’all are in my thoughts tonight :]

  5. Alyson Says:

    I LOVE your “Freckles” story, but I had forgotten that your sister ended up there because of drugs. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    Thanks for the good thoughts. He’s in the hospital, I’ll post more later.


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