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Coming in From the Cold

A story about Counseling

“Cold and lost out in the world no one to talk to nowhere to turn.  She spoke only when spoken to, never asked for help because help was never given.  Alone for so long afraid of the past, afraid the way it used to be … Always to keep the pain in and never let it show.  Always put a smile on to cover the hurt.  Never tell anyone because they wouldn’t understand.”

Seventeen-year-old Jamika writes from experience.

The south suburban Chicago poetry-lover knows what it’s like not to have anyone to share the pain of living with a father who abuses not only alcohol and drugs, but his wife and children, too.

“I couldn’t talk to my mother,” Jamika said.  “My mother and I got along unless I brought up my father’s behavior, and then she’d get so upset.  She’s a very religious person.  She’d say, ‘God will change him.'”

But Jamika knew better.

She saw the effect her father had on her mother, who often left Jamika in charge of her three younger sisters, ages 4, 5 and 6.  Jamika would be responsible for getting her siblings up, dressed and fed in the morning, and later, making dinner and tucking them into bed.

Feeling no one was on her side, Jamika ran away to her grandmother’s house.  On her return, her mother contacted Aunt Martha’s.  Jamika received counseling for four months, including sessions with both her parents and with just her father alone.  She also joined a support group for youth with alcoholic parents.

“I enjoyed having someone to talk to, and someone to listen to me,” Jamika said.  “It’s easy to talk to the counselors.  They make you feel very comfortable, and they respect your confidentiality.”

Today Jamika is feeling more secure — more hopeful and optimistic about her future.  The serious, intelligent young woman is taking honors classes, and doing well at school.  She is planning to attend college next fall and study broadcast journalism.

Jamika is now a peer outreach worker for Aunt Martha’s Street Outreach Program.  She connects with youth after school, educating them about services and helping runaways get off the street.  Jamika is also putting her literary talents to use as youth editor of ShadowSpeak, a magazine featuring the poetry and artwork of young people involved with the Street Outreach Program.

She sees a better life ahead.

“Some kids who grow up in the family of an alcoholic or drug addict feel ‘This is what I was raised in,’ Jamica said, ‘so this is how I’m going to end up.’  But I believe there is a better way.  I don’t want to turn out that way.  I see how that ends.”

Aunt Martha’s 2000