He smelled really bad. Like, worse than week-old urine – he smelled like he was dipped in the sewer and then rinsed off with rotten flesh juice. I didn’t want to speak with him, but he was in detox and it was my job to counsel people in detox, which meant that I had no choice. Usually, when I meet with someone the first time, he or she usually says something introductory, like “Hello” or “Nice to meet you” or anything, really. But this dude didn’t. When I took a seat across from him, he didn’t say anything. He just stared straight ahead. His eyes were pure black; there was no life in them. Yet, they pierced me and left an impression on me that I have yet to shake.
While I introduced myself and attempted to make contact with him, he didn’t budge or remove his fixed stare. When I stood up to leave, however, he finally spoke. He said, “I have no soul.”
I sat back down. “Excuse me?”
“I have no soul. You’re wasting your time. I don’t feel a damn thing.”
“What, exactly, does that mean?”
“I could live, die, kill or be killed and none of it would make any difference to me. I use heroin because it keeps the darkness alive for me. And I want the darkness. So leave or stay; I don’t care one way or another.”
There was little doubt that he truly meant his words. I believed that he had no soul. Over the last few days, I’ve been asked two questions that brought this encounter to mind:
- Have I ever encountered “dead eyes?”
- What does it take for an addict to snap?
Before I met with the man with no soul, I hadn’t ever even experienced anything as dreadful as the sensory experience he presented. His stench confirmed, to me, his lack of a soul. Though he was breathing, there was really no evidence that he was alive. He found himself in the facility as a matter of course: Someone at the homeless shelter thought he would somehow be served well through addiction treatment. But whoever was had no clue the depth of his spiritual lack. His eyes were, in fact, dead. I’m quite sorry to say that in the years that have followed my meeting with the man with no soul, I have encountered those same dead eyes of his lodged in the heads of many people. Most of them are either addicted to heroin or to crack. But really, they all have dead eyes and those dead eyes are symptoms of a person with no soul.
The second question, in light of people with no soul, is harder to answer and requires some suspension of belief. That is, there is a “hokey” element to what it takes for people with no soul (or those on the path towards that consciousness) to “snap.” The truth is that in order for people to realize that they need to reclaim their soul (which in effect is the goal of recovery), they must have a revolution of heart in which they find a higher order of value than the drug (or behavior of choice). It may sound hokey, but Addiction is the singular focus of effort towards self-gratification and in order to break free from that spiral, addicts must fundamentally change their life in order to find and pursue all that’s good and strong and beautiful. For those with no soul, it’s the only way….