When I was maybe eighteen I was sent to a treatment center. I’d been arrested and it was part of a plea agreement.

My first day there another girl immediately took a dislike to me. I had no interaction with her to make her dislike me, it was just one of those things. And her dislike was quite aggressive.

She was a Blackfeet girl and had a few friends from the reservation there with her. Back in those days I was pretty feisty and known to get in fights — like, physical ones. But I wasn’t stupid. Those girls were tough and I knew if it got physical I would get my ass beat.

Each day the tension between us increased. Each day the threats increased. We’d somehow become enemies.

Then one night while I was sleeping my door flew open and that girl ran through it. She ran right to me and she flung herself into my lap. She said nothing. She just curled herself into me and she sobbed. I said nothing. I just wrapped my arms around her and held on tight.

We stayed like that, her crying, me holding, the both of us rocking, for a long time. And when she was done, she got up and left. We never spoke, not ever — not that night and not at any other time.

When you leave treatment they have this little goodbye ceremony for you. It’s meant to wish you well in your sobriety. During mine, she stood in the corner, silent, tears streaming down her face.

That night holding her was the first moment in my life I truly knew something bigger than myself. It was the first time the gaping hole I’d always felt at the center of my being was filled. And it was then I learned that the only thing that will ever, ever really matter is our ability to love.