If someone were shooting a video of his feet while he walked, the video would have captured his stride and cadence and pace and any viewer would have recognized the steps of an elderly man. The viewer would notice the delicate way that each foot scooted across the floor and felt compassion for the physical deterioration that comes with a long life. However, the video would not have been of an elderly man. The labored and measured steps belonged to a man in his mid-forties who was coming off of a week-long relapse and who was losing his life to alcohol.
“Please, get dressed and let me take you to the E.R.,” I said to him. His sister called me and expressed deep worry that her brother was not well. He wouldn’t answer his phone and the thought that he was dead entrenched itself in her mind. I drove to his apartment and hoped that I wouldn’t find him dead. When I arrived, I found his door open and walked in. He wasn’t dead; he was lying on the ground with his arm covering his eyes. There was blood caked to his face and significant bruises covered various parts of his body. To me, it was clear that he needed immediate medical attention and it was either that I take him in, or I call an ambulance. Either way, he was getting his battered body to the doctor.
“No,” he said. “The doctors and nurses will give me the lecture and I don’t want to hear it.”
“What lecture?” I said, though I knew full well what he was going to say.
“They’ll tell me how I have to stop drinking or I’m going to die.”
I shook my head a bit. While my mission in life is to change the way the world sees suffering souls, I also recognize that sometimes anger cannot be helped. Medical staffs in E.R.’s tend to be overwhelmed by people doing little more than going to the hospital as a way to hustle drugs. Plus, the fact is that for someone with Hepatitis and liver cirrhosis, death is imminent if he or she continues drinking alcohol. So, the lecture isn’t really a lecture, but an attempt at trying to reach the part of humanity that drives the desire to live.
“Look,” I said. “We’re all going to die. Look at yourself: You can barely walk and it’s clear that you either fell or got beat up somehow. You need to see a doc; please, as a favor to me, let me take you in.” He turned towards his couch and winced as his body made its way into a sitting position. It was difficult to watch; it the moments that passed while he made his way across his living room, my heart filled with hate for the evil enemy I fight: Addiction. But I know that hatred clouds judgment, so I stifled my own feelings and said, “Please, come with me to the hospital?”
He sunk into his couch and closed his eyes. I thought he may have passed out because his breathing deepened in the way all our breath does when we fall asleep. However, he must not have fallen asleep; rather, he must have found something in his thoughts for which he wanted to live because he opened his eyes and nodded…