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  • I manage a women's sober house. I love my job and feel so lucky to have it It is truly amazing to watch these women grow and become well. I work at night, have my own bedroom. I always say they are my "bear cubs". And I'm momma bear. My job looks like this: long cigarette talks outside at night, joking around in the common rooms, being there when someone needs comforting, discussions of God and other monumental topics. When people ask me what I do, I make light of the true nature of the work I do. "It's a sick gig, they're just like my roommates, ya know? And, well, sometimes my roommates smoke crack, no big deal." This is a line I use often, and it always gets a couple laughs. Unfortunately, it is the sad reality of this work. Searching rooms for drugs, bringing women to the hospital, helping them put their belongings in trash bags, lying in my bed wondering if any of them will make it.
    Last Friday, a woman relapsed and chose to leave the house, against our advice. She did not want our help. She didn't want anyone's help. What did she want? To put her clothes in a couple trash bags and take a cab, to anywhere but here. There is always a look that someone gives before they leave. It's helpless, it's lost. It's heartbreaking. It's lives in their eyes. The first time I saw that look, I felt like I couldn't breath. Like someone had knocked the wind out of me. A mixture of nausea and breathlessness.
    I once pleaded with a woman for three days straight to stay at the house, because she had no where else to go. She "couldn't". She walked out with a suitcase, into a cold rainy November night. With the same story, headed anywhere but here. That one was so tough, I think it was the first time I had to watch someone leave. Now I'm so used to it that I'm shocked when they stay. Because so many of them "can't do it anymore". I told my friend about this last one, and he looked at me and said "...Isn't that sad?". It made me realize how nonchalant I must have sounded. "I suppose it is" I replied, but couldn't figure out if it was or not in my head. As if I was reassuring myself that it was indeed, very sad. I thought about it for hours last night. I couldn't get it off of my mind, as I was organizing all of her paperwork into manilla folders for our office. Erasing her name from the chores list in the kitchen. I thought of every time I had done that. Too many times. I came to the conclusion that it is sad, but without sympathy. The way out is here, and if you don't want it.... then you don't want it. I was one of them; I owe my sobriety to this house. I had a choice like they did. Every morning I still choose to live, and thank God at night for allowing me one more day of freedom.
    When I get to see someone transform though, that's why I stay. Even if its one out of a thousand women, that one metamorphosis is a sight that can't be explained.
    It also lives in their eyes, and also takes my breath away.
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