The Safety Plan

“Character is what you are when no one is looking.”

“Oh…I’m early?”  I looked at my calendar, she was an hour early.  I was about to rush out the door to a meeting in the city, but there she was this interviewee.  I had about 15 minutes so I decided to interview her myself instead of passing her along to my colleague.  It would be a squeeze, but I liked to keep my schedule hoping.

“Please have a seat.  So tell me a bit about yourself and why you are interested in this position?”  She looked to be about 57 or so, thin, with watered down blonde hair.  Well groomed with the look of someone who had a couple of lifetimes that had passed before their eyes.  The dark night of the soul hung out around her crows feet.  Yet, there was a lightness and glow in her, that radiated a kind of wholeness of a person who operated from a true sense of self.

“Well, I’m in recovery.  I’ve been in recovery for 15 months.  I want this position because I want to give back.   So many people have helped me, I want to return the favor.  These girls need support from someone who’s been there.  This place helped me to not only save me from killing myself through heroin, but it taught me how to live a better life, how to transform my life.  Here…let me show you. I carry this with me everywhere.”

She pulled out a wallet.  On the front of the wallet was a clear pocket full of coins.  At first I thought they were Mardi Gras coins, then realized they were AA sobriety coins.  I smiled.  Everything about this woman spoke to my heart.  Transformation, recovery, coins that reminded me of my beloved New Orleans.

She pulled out a piece of folded up paper, very worn.  She handed it to me.

“This is my safety plan.  If I ever feel like using, I pull this out and look at it. It reminds me what to do, it also reminds me what I will loose if I use.   I opened it up and read the following:

My Safety Plan

I know I’m in trouble when I run into (people places things).

A list of names.

When I get into trouble I can call:


When I get in trouble I can go:

When I get in trouble I can use these coping skills:

  1. Ask for help, think, and say my consequences
  2. Self talk, run and leave the scene
  3. mental grounding, call support team
  4. focus on what matters, ,pray
  5. rewind and fast forward tape of my life

I will loose my kids, self esteem, money, job, my family, health…everything if I use.

I looked up at her.  There was a glow of happiness and purpose in her. This woman, had a courage and self discipline that surpassed most of the people in the well to do circles that I ran with.   This woman who worked two jobs, who raised her grand kids, who began using because her husband had died and the pain of that crushed her.  This woman who’s heart was broken in ways that most of us don’t dare to imagine, this woman who had died a thousand times in a thousand different ways, who had been abused, who had abused herself, and had risen from that despair to be here shame, holding her head high, and her eyes bright to say…this is me…this is me, and I’m here now…I’m here to help give back.

“This is beautiful.” I smiled as the tears silently fell down my cheeks.

It is the only time I have ever cried in an interview.

“Character is who you are when no one is looking.” she responded as I got up to end the interview.

“Yes…yes it is.”

A heroin addict in recovery had more character then I had run across in my life thus far.

I shook her hand.

“It has been an honor to speak with you today.”

She clasped my hand and nodded in the shared understanding that can only happen when words are no longer needed.

As I got in my car to zoom off to my next meeting, I was overcome by the wisdom of the meeting.  We all need a safety plan.  For anything in life.  When we get in trouble, when we feel sad, when we need help.

What’s your safety plan?  I encourage  you to write your own.  For when things go wrong.  When your world  seems to be crashing down, when you feel alone. Have a safety plan, write it down, and pull it out, to know…you are such an amazing beam of creative energy, worthy of safety plan, a safety plan co created with the Creator.


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