Monday, July 18, 2011

There But For The Grace of God Go I

***Submitted by Diana, who is a regular contributor to Crying Out Now

There is a man who panhandles at the exit ramp by my train station. I see him often when I walk home. He wears jeans and a t-shirt with a leather vest and has longish grey hair. He looks like an aging rocker or a thin Harley guy. He has no sign explaining his plight, just a cup that he holds out to oncoming traffic. To me he has always seemed rather benign.

I say a silent prayer for him whenever I walk by. I feel for him and I wish him safety and recovery. When he holds out his cup to me, I smile and shake my head. There is pity, though. No judgment, just a sad sickly feeling for a fellow addict who has not found his bottom and doesn’t seem to be looking.

Tonight was different, though. I saw him as I exited the train station. He was stumbling as someone looked for change to give him. Tonight he terrified me. His eyes were clear blue. I couldn’t see his pupils. The sight of him jarred me, almost physically. Tonight this poor soul had no humanity in him and I saw where this disease could take someone. It was heartbreaking and truly frightening. I choked back tears the whole way home.

I suspect that this man’s drug of choice is something stronger than chardonnay or vodka, but that isn’t the point. And he may have been genuinely dangerous, but that wasn’t what I found menacing.

I don’t like to be around really drunk people. I hear my slurring voice in theirs and see my stumbling in their unsteady feet. I experience the conversations that they won’t remember and imagine the repetitive nonsense that I have fortunately blacked out. These people make me squirm but they may or may not be addicts. This man was the personification of addiction and he had reached lows that I am so blessed to have never seen.

Tonight I saw what my future really could have been if I had not sought and received help.


  1. That future scared me into sobriety too. I saw the people living in the mangroves and on burned out boat hulls, wading to shore to spend another day in the blistering Key West sun trying to find that next high. I cared for those who wrecked their vehicles due to the alcohol combined with pharmaceuticals (at that time Quaaludes were fashionable) and did CPR on their victims, often to no avail.

    Looking around at my small home in a decent neighborhood with my beloved spouse of twenty-five years, it feels as though those memories belong to another incarnation of me. I am so glad, Diana, that you are on the path to a better Everything. I promise it will just get more and more desirable as the years slip away.

    Thanks for sharing; it reinforces for me the rightness of my decisions around this subject of addiction.

  2. Oh I so relate. His presence can be a gift to us and, at the same time, frighten us because we really don't know what an addict/alcoholic would do to get a fix. I remember with great nausea what it was like when I was shaking so badly I couldn't walk.