This I Believe

Helen - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on April 11, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: change

I believe people can change. Not like in the Nike “Just Do It” way. Only super-athletes who excrete steroids can change in a swoosh. Not like in print ads for weight loss programs with the gauzy, slightly out of focus photos of before and after. They make it look too easy. Change is hard. Over two decades as a social worker, I have watched my patients change. They are alcohol and drug users, survivors of domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse. They are mostly poor. Change is slow. As we like to say in Spanish – poco a poco (little by little.) Juanita changed her life. It took about 10 years. She was born as a result of a rape and then her mother married the rapist’s brother. Juanita remembers her mother being brutally beaten upstairs while she and her siblings hid in terror in the basement. Her father was a former biker and gang member who drank himself into rages. Juanita was sent to live with relatives in another state. She was sexually molested and her body burned with cigarettes. Juanita told me she never felt loved or wanted. She came back to Chicago and met a man and gave birth to three children. He was a gang member and drug dealer. He brutally beat her. Juanita remembers one time he slammed her head so hard against a building that she lost consciousness. She started using drugs, rock cocaine and then heroin. I asked Juanita how the heroin made her feel and she replied without hesitation – numb. After many attempts to stop cold turkey, and several stints in rehab, Juanita is no longer using heroin. She is no longer with her abuser, and although she says she still loves him, she would never go back. Now that is change. Juanita has a 6 month old son. During our last therapy session he was with us the whole time. We passed him back and forth while we talked, and Juanita showered that kid with so much love and affection, with tons of little kisses on his little head. I believe change is possible and more importantly, I have seen it.