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Exit to Hope


Early this morning I picked up a passenger and we went on a road trip. My passenger is kind and personable. He also is struggling with addiction to alcohol and has for many years. We got on the highway and drove, making small talk, taking sips of soda as the miles passed by us.


Small talk led to deeper conversations about life and loss...trauma and relapse...rehab and hope.


My passenger has spent the past number of days in detox to prepare for his stay in rehab. Despite the success of the detox, his hands were still shaky. His spirit is tired, very tired. To be honest, so is mine. We have spent the past month watching him beg for help. We have filled out applications and referrals to get him help. We have driven him to detox, to the ER and back to detox...only to hear he was discharged without help. Our system is tired and at times ineffective.


My biggest fear was attending his funeral before any doors opened for him. He is so well liked and has so much potential to spread joy into this world, he just needed a door to open. Finally, one did and we got on the highway to drop him off at that opened door.


My passenger is also unhoused. He has many friends who are also unhoused. They have rallied behind him over these past few weeks. This community has also worried about him, cried with him and drank with him. My passenger told me as he hugged them good-bye they told him to not come back. I have also spoken these words as I put a client on a bus "I love you, do not come back". These are hard words to speak to someone you care about.


However, they are necessary when you care about someone struggling with addiction. You know if they come back, the struggle comes back as well. Too many lives have been lost to addiction, too many lives have been lost on our streets. My passenger knows he could have been a statistic. He does not want to be a statistic. We don't want him to be a statistic. So we are on the highway headed for Exit Hope.


We arrived at our destination and rang the bell. My passenger was holding three small bags, holding everything he owns in the world. A short woman came through the door and shook our hands firmly. A few minutes later I found myself in the car heading home alone, filled with hope for my passenger. Filled with faith that I will be on the highway again, with another passenger heading for Exit Hope.


~Sandi Kelch



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