I saw a homeless man, hunched over, in what appeared to be his attempt to ward off the cold wind. I called out to him, but he either didn’t hear me or wasn’t aware of my existence. I came within two feet of him and asked him if I could take his picture, but he didn’t respond. But, even from two feet away, I could smell the alcohol vapors that emanated from him. He seemed to me to be the personification of addiction because he didn’t seem mad or sad or lonely or happy or anything. He seemed numb to the entire world. Maybe there was a time in his life when he cared about something other than alcohol. Perhaps there was a time when he languished in despair about the swamp of pain his life had become. But there was no hint of those days remaining in his hunched sleep.
But, his lack of attachment to life itself is, to me, the last stages of an addiction that has run its full and untreated course. He had no interest in trying to recover any hint of a life not lived for his daily dose of fermented potatoes, hops or corn. His existence was consumed in his drive for his drink and nothing else mattered. All that was left for him, really, was death. I have no doubt that someone will find him dead in an alley or even under the very tree where I took his picture. Hell, the thought hit me that maybe he was already dead. However, after about ten minutes, he moved his arm and I saw that he was still alive.
I know that there’s always hope for someone who struggles with an addiction, provided that the afflicted listens to the remnants of his or her humanity and strives to reclaim all those connections to the world that makes life worth living. In order to have health, we all need relationships that bolster our lives with creative and positive energy. We need a connection to that which is bigger than all of us. I don’t what anyone calls his or her god, as long as he or she calls out to Him (or Her). If someone who struggles with an addiction continues to live for the single-pointed need to pick up his or her substance of choice, that single-pointed drive will be all that the afflicted has left in his or her physical existence. No friends. No family. No music. No hope. All that’s left for as addicted soul who doesn’t pay attention to humanity’s needs is a hunched struggle against a cold wind.
If someone suffers from an addiction and he or she still feels something within this life, there’s hope. We need to build upon the base of those feelings and try to assist him or her in the reclamation of his or her emotional landscape. Even deception can be seen as a positive because lying is based upon fear of losing something. Emotions shouldn’t drive our lives, but they really are a necessary component to a full reality. When addiction descends into numbness, life has no meaning and all that’s left is waiting for death.