Monday, 15 April 2013

Labels and a Life Changed

I wonder how many things you have seen today with labels?

Maybe you made a coffee at breakfast? You knew it was coffee because you read the label. Someone, at some point, in a factory somewhere, checked to see what was in the jar and when it was confirmed that it was freeze-dried coffee, a great big label was stuck to the front, there for all to see.

And that's the thing about labels. The jar doesn't decide its own label. It's put there. Everyone can see it. There's very little back story and if you have ever tried to get a label off to re-use a jar, more often than not, you'll discover, it's going nowhere.

It's very difficult to remove a label once it's been given.


Today, I interviewed a beautiful woman who is one of our success stories at A Way Out.

If I was to label her, right this minute, it would say 'new and improved'.

Now healthy and clean, free of drugs for more than two years, this courageous woman shared her story with me.

From a young woman who would walk the streets selling her body to pay for an all-consuming heroin addiction, who lost her children because, by her own admission, 'all the drive she had left was for drugs', to a fresh-faced, articulate college student today, is quite remarkable.

But at times the labels given to her have been very different.

Growing up her label simply read: 'from a good family.' Her parents owned businesses, she never wanted for anything.

As a teenager and young woman, her label then might have said: 'likes to party and enjoys drinking.' She would be no different to many thousands of others who carry this one. But this was the one that led to others, much worse.

'Occasionally takes drugs,' replaced previous labels in her 20s, before it too was just a memory and 'hooked on heroin' became a more long-term label.

Except, 'hooked' may have been her choice of words, but 'drug addict' was the label given to her by anyone else.

It wasn't long, in fact, before written underneath 'addict' were also the words 'on the Game', as this beautiful girl became an emaciated, fragile 'object', now going out at all times of the day and night selling herself on the streets, to pay for a drug habit that ate away at her body and consumed her every thought.

But it was in her final stint in jail, where she asked the judge to send her, that the most tragic branding of all would happen.

"I was pregnant and knew I needed to be clean, so when I got caught for shoplifting I asked the judge if he would just put me away," she said.

"I was coming to the end of that when I had to go for a scan and was told the baby had problems. Nobody could tell me if it was because of the drugs, because of chromosome problems that they found, or because some punter had kicked me... but the baby passed away.

"I left prison on the Thursday and had to go to hospital on the Friday with my partner. I had to deliver my daughter."

Born in silence, the couple had to prepare to say a final farewell to their baby girl.

With no jobs and no money the pair pleaded with those around them to help them scrape together the £70 they needed to bury their daughter.

"Nobody would give us the money," she added. "All they could see was a dirty, drug addict and they just thought I would spend it on drugs."

The couple had to have the baby cremated, and despite having no lasting reminder of their child, the label just wouldn't shift.

But that's where A Way Out comes in.

See, we don't just look at a person NOW. We hold up their future and show them what could be.

In John 10:10 (the Bible, from the Message translation) it says, speaking of Jesus: "I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of."

And that's why we do what we do.

I asked this incredible lady what difference we have made to her life. This is what she said:

"Back then I had no choices. I mean, I did at the beginning, I didn't have to take drugs. But actually, it's never that simple. After that though, my life just got worse and worse and I had no way of escaping. Everything I did, I did because I was desperate.

Now I am sitting here, and I'm thinking, 'will I be a hairdresser, or will I be something else?' Now I have choices. And I can hope again. I hope I can have a normal life, just like yours. That's because someone from A Way Out was always there, never let me go."

So, on behalf of this lady, to all those who continue to support A Way Out, 'thank you.' Our message of Love, Hope and Freedom really does change lives.

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