Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Finding a Voice: poetry and images


Donald Roach
Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Poet’s statement: This poem was created out of a life of childhood abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, desperation, and recovery, enabling me to rediscover a life worth living, an affirmation of the human person, and a new-found face.


Sober eyes

You know there was a time
When I was in a dark place
There was no light to be found
In my soul or in my face
I didn’t have any hopes
Had no steps for my dreams
I was totally bound by this addiction you see

Self pity then delusion
And the fear it would breed
Was as much a part of me
As the air that I breathe
I had to find a way to get out
Of this rut I was in
You know they say that’s a grave
It’s open at both ends

A power greater than me who
Saw the shape I was in
Sent another who had been
To the place I was in
They didn’t try to play games
Didn’t try to be coy
Just set my feet on a path
To find love, peace, and joy.
To find sober eyes.



Photography by Luis Antonio Rodríguez Ochoa


DONALD ROACH is a 56-year-old man who was born into an extremely dysfunctional family system, and grew into a man who didn’t have any idea how to live on life’s terms. In desperation, a close friend led him to the Miracles Treatment Program and saved his life. Today, he is a creative and productive member of our society, has a faith in God, and is a grateful human being.


Michael “Mick” Milson
Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Poet’s statement: “The Wind” is a poem reflecting on the long-term grief in my life after the death of my wife. I found that through poetry I was able to talk about my feelings, which began the healing process.

“Heart Sick” came about while recovering from alcoholism and chronic depression. Although fear and self-loathing are the shadows in my heart, I have found that as I share this poem with others who are also in recovery the “shadow” takes on new meanings with each of them.


solar eclipse

Photography by Luc Viatour

Heart sick

There is a shadow in the heart
That blinds the mind
Feeds the demon inside
Kills the soul.

Where the shadow is born? . . . Who can say?!
A child crying for love?
A woman screaming to be heard?
A man’s silent suffering?

What the shadow touches withers and dies
No longer a bright field;
But a barren waste.

Where is the sun?
Chasing shadows in someone else’s heart?
Where is the sun?
The cleansing sun?


The wind

A chill blew through my heart today.
I reached for your hand,
Then remembered . . . you were gone.

How long has it been . . .
Eight years?
A lifetime it seems.

Was it real, the life we shared?
Sometimes it seems only a dream.
A dream of sunlit hair and loving eyes.
A dream of moonlight and starlight . . . our gentle passion.
Only the dream remains.

Well, maybe not just the dream.
Regret lingers.
Regret for time wasted on worries.
Regret for not savoring the moment.
Our moment in its timeless embrace.

Where do I go from here?
I long for your gentle touch;
Soothing my mind; firing my heart.
Where do I go from here?

A chill blew through my heart today.

blurry woman

Photography by Elena Levitskaya, RN


MICHAEL “MICK” MILSON grew up in a small rural town in Illinois. Mick has served in the US Navy. He has also worked in the nursing, telecommunication, and transportation industries. He currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska, and is active in an addiction recovery center. He also writes poetry and plays the Native American flute. He uses his art to help others in recovery.


Kyle M.
Metropolitan Community College, Omaha, Nebraska, United States

Poet’s statement: This poem is about my stay in a detox facility due to my abuse of alcohol. Someone told me about a homeless shelter that was just up the street, and I entered the shelter’s treatment program. There, I took the advice from others who had walked the same path and “latched” onto their teachings to crawl out of the hole that I was in.


FallenThird day in
Still have not slept
My poor family
I know they wept
I had fallen back into
That familiar dark hole
Nowhere to go
I hated my own soul
A familiar face walked in
Then told me about a path
It was just up the street
Where I could let go of all the wrath
Where I would begin to face life
Begin to recover
To start latching onto the same holds
That had lifted so many others
The distractions of life
Jeremiah Neal
Acrylic on brick wall
20-feet by 60-feet


KYLE M. was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. Since the age of 18, he has struggled back and forth between active alcoholism and recovery. He has now been sober since December of 2010 and is a full-time student at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha pursuing a bachelors degree in biology or environmental sciences.

About the artist
JEREMIAH NEAL is a former homeless guest at Siena/Francis House in Omaha, Nebraska. While battling with addiction and other personal struggles on the streets, Neal was encouraged by Siena Francis staff to embrace his artistic talent. He hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in over 25 years. Art helped him define his future and find his voice. Today, Neal is sober and works to empower other homeless guests to find their voice and start new journeys. He has painted over 100 pieces of art and has sold several of his works. Neal grew up in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. He recently moved from Omaha to Atlanta, Georgia to be closer to his family.

Artist’s statement: Located right outside the homeless shelter that I stayed at for six months, my mural is in a spot where it can touch hundreds of other homeless individuals who have given up on life. I hope that it will change their attitudes, in a way that I changed mine. I am a drug addict and formerly homeless. I used to blame others for the loss of my job and my home. I remember sitting on the back porch steps of the homeless shelter and staring at the blank brick wall feeling hopeless, waiting for good things to happen to me. I thought I was going to die on the streets as a drug addict and alcoholic. But then, I realized I did not have to. I have a choice. I chose to look past the “road of distractions” to find God. God is working in mysterious ways, connecting with us as puzzle pieces do. I can’t keep waiting. God does not do all the work, which is why I am up on a ladder in the mural, doing my part and using my talent. I hope my mural inspires others who are hopeless and hanging out on that back porch.


Finding a Voice images: Click on any image to enter the gallery.



Spring 2012  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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