I’d like you to meet Chris (not his real name). He’s mid twenties, and lives in the East End of London. Life took a few bad turns, like anyone’s, but the bad turns kept coming and before long, and as is often the case in this part of the world, he ended up using drugs. A little at first but slowly the drug use increased and began spiralling out of control. He’s now on £80 of heroine, £80 of cocaine and 2 litres of cider a day. He can’t get any work and his benefits don’t cover the drug use, so of course, he has to steal to fund the habit. He lives in a flat and it would be alright but the lock has broken and without money to fix it people have got in and stolen everything he has, including his boiler, some one has even taken time to spray ‘Crack House’ over the door.
Chris’s story was one I heard about during a clinical meeting at the Specialist Addiction Unit in London’s East End. The SAU is there to help people with serious substance abuse problems which are too tricky and complicated for GP’s and community drug teams. There are a hundred and one stories like Chris’s and a lot of them are a lot worse, I could tell you some crazy, heart breaking stories.
We talk a lot about the broken and the dispossessed in Church, and quite rightly because Jesus did, but I am realising that I’ve spent a lot of my life treating them as an abstract group of people. My medical school is situated right in heart of the poorest boroughs in the UK and I guess I’m learning just how broken the broken are and how dispossessed the dispossessed are.
I know this will sound ridiculous but sometimes it’s a bit annoying being a middle class, middle England Christian. As a prime example myself I think I have maybe become a bit sheltered and distanced from the tough lives people have to live. With an upbringing like this you can never understand what it’s like to live in a world of poverty and without opportunity. More importantly perhaps, you can never really understand what it takes to ‘fix’ the problems. I’m not saying that everyone should be forced to live in poverty and isolation in order to understand the plight of some people in society but we, comfortable middle class types, should spend a lot more time learning about it and getting out of the way of those who do know how to help.