A Warm Mother's Hug

Colin Cash and Gabor Maté
Gabor Maté (standing to the right of Colin Cash) is a Canadian physician. He has a background in family practice and a special interest in childhood development, trauma, and potential lifelong impacts on physical and mental health.

There was a book I read by Gabor Maté called “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction”, which I believe gives an accurate description as to why addiction is so powerful. To put in context the content of the book first, it's about a doctor who worked at a homeless shelter on the east wide of downtown in Vancouver, Canada. This homeless shelter gave refuge to those unhoused while having access to nurses and doctors to address some of the collateral damage associated with active drug use. Gabor worked there for 10 years and wrote a book about his experience working close to the hurt and pain of others in active use. 

He walked in one day feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, questioning if he was even having an impact or helping anyone. The average lifespan of his clients once he started working with them was three years. They would succumb to diseases and complications associated with IV drug use, violence, or overdose. He would meet with clients for hour-long sessions, counseling them while prescribing Suboxone/Methadone to lower the risk of death. 

One day, he asked a native woman why she continues to use drugs despite the negative consequences, and her response is something I think about regularly. She said the first time she shot up heroin, it felt like a warm mother's hug….Now that quote by itself seems meaningless until I unpacked it a bit.

This woman grew up in foster care feeling abandoned, then was sex-trafficked and abused into adulthood. All this woman knew was deep pain, and this drug gave her something she never felt before: a warm mother's hug….It almost brings me to tears when I think about those still running from their pain and masking it with drugs, looking for the warmth and compassion we think we find in drugs.

I put in a lot of work for my life to have these feelings of love and connection without drugs. Today, I don’t need to run and seek out that fulfillment from outside sources. First, I found those feelings in the rooms of 12 step fellowships and my sponsor, then as I grew, those feelings came from my kids and partner. The unconditional love in the eyes of my kids today, for a father who is present, hits parts of my heart I didn’t know existed. I feel my heart blooming and blossoming. At times, it’s scary to be this vulnerable and feel this much love, but I realized this is what I was chasing with drugs. Sometimes the whispers of my past tell me I don’t deserve this, but my ancestors are who I listen to when I pray and they tell me differently. I hope you guys get something out of this.

A’ho Mi’iw

- Colin Cash