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She is Someone

It was Friday. An extra busy day in the substance use disorder treatment center where, at the time, I was supervising medical residents.

As we were sitting around a conference table finishing morning rounds, the receptionist interrupted to say a high ranking university staff member had called on behalf of his daughter, who was desperate to get help for her drug use. 

“I don’t care who she is,” a new attending physician sitting next to me interjected loudly.

The receptionist looked shocked. “So, w-w-what do you want me to say to him?”

The receptionist looked terrified. I felt for her. She looked toward the door – she might have been considering quitting and running out the back exit rather than delivering this news of rejection to the university staff member. 

“Put her in my schedule over lunch,” the physician said.

The receptionist looked confused. “But, I thought you just said you didn’t care who she was.”

“I don’t,” he replied. “Who she is as someone’s daughter – or sister or cousin or friend – isn’t what matters. She is someone. She wants help. That’s what matters.”

During the time I worked with this physician, he repeatedly gave up his lunch hour or stayed late for people. And it never depended on who the person was. 

Of course, getting access to services is not always so easy and represents a major challenge of addiction treatment. But what an important lesson – refusing to define a person by her connection to someone else, and instead seeing her value because she is someone.  

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.