I don’t usually discuss my job in this blog, but sometimes my private life and what I’m trained for, do intersect. I went out to the Snowbird Tiki Bar in Montreal on Saturday night, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It’s a marvellous place, where the drinks are excellent.
When I got there, I greeted my friend and her friends. Six of us were seated together, in a cosy enclave. A couple sat beside us. At first I did not speak to them, even though they were visually striking. Attired in black, was a skinny, White guy with dreadlocks. He wore a “Lucifer is my light” t-shirt or something similar to that phrase. His girlfriend was a young, blonde woman, with facial piercings and a bob haircut. After I’d fully engaged with everyone in my party, I turned towards the couple and locked eyes with them. I used humour to break the ice. “Hello, brother of Lucifer,” I greeted the man. He smiled, non-plussed and amused, clearly getting the joke. I was not thrown off at all by his t-shirt’s declaration. I had made it a point to research Luciferianism years ago, when I read that Dani Filth, lead singer of Cradle of Filth, had dabbled in this ideology. In brief, Lucifer is not seen as a devil-figure, but rather as a liberator and symbol of enlightenment; the morning star. Adherents of Luciferianism are encouraged to follow their truth, and test all ideas before accepting them. Therefore, I saw the young man as a free-thinker following his path, rather than someone completely evil. I approached him with no fear. I introduced myself to his girlfriend as well, and we all shook hands and exchanged names. At some point, they got up and left, and more friends joined us.
The young woman came back to our area stumbling. She was clearly having trouble standing up. I asked her if she was okay, and like all severely drunk people, she pretended that everything was under control. She sat down, and after a while, I told her what I did for a living. Intervention work began, as I tried to establish a relationship of trust with her. She eventually agreed to go to the bar, and have a barman call a cab for her to go home. A young man in his late-twenties or early thirties, was out with his friends, and watching the whole thing. He was tall, brown-haired, bearded, heavyset, and strong. I didn’t get his name, but I’ll call him Peter, since I will be referring to him more than once. He smiled at me and raised his glass in my direction, thanking me for looking out for a stranger. I discussed the situation with the barman, and we agreed that she should leave with her boyfriend. However, that proved to be difficult for two reasons:
- Her boyfriend had seen her drunk many times, and he was not particularly concerned. It was his birthday night, and he felt entitled to enjoy it, despite her condition.
- The young woman could barely stand. She was barely able to remain conscious, and could not follow instructions to put on her coat, though I tried to help her.
Troublingly, two random guys offered to give her a pill to “help her stand up.” “WTF,” my brain thought. I’d always heard about date-rape drugs, and I did not trust these guys. Perhaps they meant to give her MDMA. But, “Hell no!” was the consensus all around.
At this point, I realized that we had to apply gentle but firm pressure to the situation. It was at this juncture, that Peter came over to help. “I had a girlfriend like this,” he said to me. I understood immediately why he got involved. He vented, “Her boyfriend is useless. She needs an angel. And jeez! She’s already drunk! And these assholes want to respond by drugging her some more!” Peter and I became her angels.
The rapport I had created with her boyfriend earlier on, came in handy. He tried to take control of the situation in a respectful way, but I explained to him that legally, the barmen were now responsible for getting her home safely, since she’d had too much to drink. In her condition, she was unable to give consent to anything, and we had to look after her well-being. I also made it clear that Peter and I were not going anywhere. We were not leaving until he and his girlfriend got in a cab. He relented under the pressure, and a genuine understanding that this was for her own good. But I think he would have much preferred if we did not get involved, and leave them alone.
The boyfriend seemingly called an Uber, but I could tell that this was not something that he wanted to spend money on, or could afford to spend money on. All judgements re: his financial decisions were left unsaid, since my objective was to get his girlfriend home safely. They lived together, and I correctly deduced that she was from an abusive home. I surmised that their relationship contained elements of abuse, that I could only guess at. But I limited my role to its time, place and context. If they both wanted help afterwards, it would be their decision to access it.
Peter shouldered her weight, to help her get down the stairs. She could barely stand up and walk, so he held her while we got to the end of the street. My earlier intuition about the boyfriend and the cab situation, proved to be correct. It was Peter who ended up calling them an Uber, while we waited inside a bank’s ATM. Neither him nor I had our coats on, since our objective had been simply getting this woman in a cab. The ATM was thankfully heated. While in there, Peter broke his silence. “Dude, you say you love this woman, but you need to care for her more. You need to do better. If you really loved her, you would treat her better.” WOW! In my mind, I thought “Go Peter!” We need more men like him. Men who genuinely care for and respect women, and call other men out on their bullshit. It was what her boyfriend needed to hear.
Her boyfriend felt less judgement from me, so was more vulnerable with me. He admitted they both needed help. “But it won’t happen this year,” he said. I corrected him. “It can happen this year, if you want it to happen this year. All it takes is changing one thought.” His eyes registered a light-bulb moment and he agreed with me.
At this point, I was hugging his girlfriend to keep her standing. She was more lucid by now. She put her head on my chest and started kissing my heart. At that moment, I wondered how much love and protection this child had ever received in her life. I felt her pain and sadness. She looked up at me and said “Thank you. Really, thank you.” And I did something I would never do in regular intervention work, where you empower people to make their own decisions, but you never tell them what to do. I told her to leave him. “Leave him, and go get help,” I whispered in her ear. “It’s there.” She nodded.
Will she or will she not? I don’t know. But I don’t worry about it. In my line of work, we are told we are like lighthouses for ships. They come to us when they need guidance, but then they leave. What they do with the counsel they receive, is up to them.
This past Thursday, a former colleague of mine posted something on her Facebook wall, which spoke to all of us who are intervention workers. It was written by Pierre Ouellet, who has a Facebook page called L’intervenant. He lives in Saint Eustache, Quebec, and offers Psycho-Social Intervention Services to both adolescents and adults.
I messaged Pierre, and he agreed to have his photo highlighted, as a person who represents doing good in the world. Pierre has been an intervention worker for 16 years now, serving adolescents and adults. Like all of us, he’s had to interface with the health system, prisons, social services, homelessness, shelters, family violence and mental health issues. Technically, he helps people recognise, deconstruct and reprogram their patterns. He accompanies them in their healing work. But this is not always easy. Realistically, he is a witness to a lot of pain, powerlessness, anger and disorganisation. But he recognises this:
I am the tool which is used in order to make hope possible.
He admits that sometimes he cries, drinks or runs for many kilometers. It is never enough. He feels anger against the system which propagates this human misery, on multiple levels. He accepts that some people will never leave their patterns of destructive behaviour. But he understands that trust is the basis of every helpful and healthy relationship, and he tries to give people someone they can trust. He started doing this work to give to others, what he himself was not given. What he finds most gratifying, is accompanying someone along their healing journey: Someone who truly wants it. I feel the same way.
Whether you are doing intervention work or not, all of us have patterns from our childhood, which we are trying to heal on some level. It manifests itself in different ways. This fact was made clear to me, by the work of Dr. Gabor Maté. He is a retired physician who developed the Compassionate Inquiry psychotherapeutic method. His website states:
Compassionate Inquiry is a psychotherapeutic method developed by Dr. Gabor Maté that reveals what lies beneath the appearance we present to the world. Using Compassionate Inquiry, the therapist unveils the level of consciousness, mental climate, hidden assumptions, implicit memories and body states that form the real message that words both express and conceal. Through Compassionate Inquiry, the client can recognize the unconscious dynamics that run their lives and how to liberate themselves from them.
His work has made a difference in my own life, and in my healing work with others. For instance, I’ve never had ADHD, but I understand it better because of him. I recommend his book to clients learning to live with this condition.
Knowledge can make you better able to direct your compassion, if it is already in you. We need to build a better world for ourselves and our children. I don’t have any, so I don’t have to worry beyond my lifetime. I know that’s not the case for many of you. Be the angels that people need. Hope that others will be the angels that your children need. We have to look out for one another. We are our best hope.