You promise that you will always be my friend, right?

A year and a half ago, I received a referral for a young man. He had a long history of medical issues that were compounded by addiction.

After he had been sent to Utah from the Midwest to receive substance abuse treatment, he quickly wound up on the streets. When he eventually made his way to The INN Between, he had already accrued over 250 visits to ER’s in the previous year.

Samuel needed medical respite, but also needed to have eyes on him and help triage some of these issues before running to the hospital. His visits were largely due to some form of anxiety, pill seeking or drug related issue. Samuel was distant, had serious trust issues and a traumatic past. I tried hard to make him feel welcome and at ease in our home. The first day he faked a seizure to get an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He was almost immediately discharged and sent back to us when he took off. Samuel was gone until the following afternoon. We talked about it, put some plans together on how I could best help him and some tools for him to cope with his anxiety and desire to use. Things struggled along for a few weeks. He talked with me more often and was extremely candid about how he felt and his uncontrollable urge to get pills or meth. He began calling me regularly to check in each night and to let me know how his day had been, even though most often I had been with him at some point during the day. He could be exhausting and drove me mad at times. When my phone rang at home, my kids often would ask if it was Samuel...He was starting to grow on me.

In June of 2018 we moved to our new building. It was difficult for some of our residents and for Samuel it was especially difficult to feel comfortable in the new setting. Things really became difficult; at every crisis or incident, I was consoled by others that had worked with him and I was advised to take the loss. He truly was a tough case and there wasn’t likely ever going to be a breakthrough or improvement.

He blamed others for his screw ups and threw tantrums when things did not go his way. But we kept at it. After he took off one day, I began my usual routine of checking the jail and hospitals. He could hit every hospital from Provo to Ogden in one day, but I was not able to find him. He had had a few visits to jail for old warrants while he stayed with us and my last visit to court with him had me believing that jail was not likely. Weeks later I found him at IMC. He had almost lost his foot; they had fought to save it due in large part to his age. He would be in the hospital a month with an around the clock hospital sitter to keep him compliant. I brought him a cake for his 21st birthday and sent his family pictures. He discharged to The INN Between and once again we tried to chart a course to success. We had already decreased ambulance rides and ER visits significantly and it continued to drop. Samuel began to manage his own medications successfully, taking them appropriately and regularly. He was here at curfew every night. He called me when his urges to use were strong and used the coping tools we had discussed.

The day before Thanksgiving of this year Samuel took off. It’s not surprising around the holidays, but I was heartbroken, nonetheless. On Thanksgiving morning before arriving at The INN Between, I called my friend who does outreach and delivering meals to motels, called our case managers, just in case someone heard from him. That afternoon I received a call from detox, he had checked himself in and was concerned about his medications. That evening I took them to him. He looked awful. I asked how he felt. “I feel awful, I’m coming down and I’m sick, but mostly I am just sad that I messed up.” I hugged him and reminded him of how far he had come. Every period of sobriety is getting longer and longer. He’s holding himself accountable! He is thinking of others and how his actions affect them. This is huge. This is a success.

He’s still in detox. He likely won’t be returning to The INN Between, there are plans to get him into a more permanent place. His calls are fewer. I miss hearing about his video games and finding his pages of tiny writings laying all over his floor. But he knows where to find me. We have given him the tools to care for himself, given him a support system, helped him to reconnect with his family.

“You promise that you will always be my friend, right?” Samuel asks me as I am leaving detox. “Of course, friends forever,” I remind him. Sometimes, that’s all we need.