I was covering a shift in a detox center one evening and it was pretty much a typical crazy night. People being brought in by State Patrol for DUI’s, public drunkenness, fights, rehab send backs, people rejected from hospitals…a typical revolving door. A young man about the age of my kids was brought in by CSP and I went into the “intake” room to do his initial processing and talk with him. He was very combative, very drunk, very sad, very angry, and very familiar. I explained to him that I needed to start by going through his personal belongings and recording what he brought in with him. I started with his wallet. When I took out his driver’s license it all hit me. People look a bit different when they have been in the back of a police car and taken to rehab or detox. But, I knew this kid. This is when my two worlds collided.
During this time while I did CAC work and counseled people who had obvious substance abuse problems I also owned a bar. It felt good to be part of a solution, even if it was very small, because my other job was to be part of the problem. This kid was 100 miles from home, and so was I. He was a frequenter of our bar and was someone who I had worried about and talked to at length in a social situation. I knew his history and what his pain was. It was about that time he realized who I was also. In a professional sense I should have assigned his case to another counselor, but I just couldn’t. He was so far from home, in the big city, and obviously lost to what was happening to him. So, I stayed with him and made sure he was treated well.
That would be a great story if it ended there. But he continued on his road of destruction and kept coming into our bar, bringing a step brother usually and always talking about his time in rehab and how I was there. Not appropriate. Again, the two worlds colliding over and over.
I am a believer in you should not do something you do not like. Unfortunately for reasons like this and safety issues in the facilities I did quit. I had to, my heart was torn constantly and I could not just quit owning my own business but one had to go. I would have stayed there and quit working at the bar if things were different for us. I could not change the world there but I could make an impression and difference one person at a time. Of course there were cases that I could not make any difference and I just had to hold onto my seat. There is a percentage of the homeless population that is in the depths of addiction. There were court ordered persons that wanted nothing more to get away from me and go and shoot heroin. That is part of the addiction cycle and something you have to accept. You will not be able to help everyone.
That kid stopped coming in at one point, not because anyone told him to not come back or gave him a hard time…he just kind of disappeared. I continued to hold his pain and worry about him and hope he was still out there somewhere. My hope is that he stopped coming in because his life is ultimately better. Maybe he spends time with his child now and has worked through the painful breakup he was suffering through. Maybe he didn’t make it, I don’t know.
While there are people in this world that are responsible drinkers and do make the business quite enjoyable, it is the other side that darkens the days and nights and makes you wish you were anywhere but there.
I tried so hard to make a difference there. And that night when I looked at that kids drivers license and read Fort Morgan, Colorado…he instantly felt like family. I would not have done that 10 years ago. I was born and raised in Denver, anonymous, a number, a speck on a large canvas of splatter. I would have never considered a stranger or acquaintance as family. I would have never just taken it upon myself to care for someone because they were from the same county I was from. Shame on my heart, again and again.
I have written about us all being connected, somehow and some way. I have written about the importance of family and friends, and the importance of telling people you love them and care for them. I have not written about how I got there to that opinion.
It was a necessity for me to move away from Denver, to experience something smaller but entirely bigger than myself. It was time to shed the ego, the schedules, the skewed priorities, and bullshit. The six of us moved to a small town, with nothing to do but be with each other and focus on what was right. We did what we could, we made it through and all learned lessons we would have never understood while standing on paved ground 100 miles to the west.
The face of the missing kid from the story I told you, his face haunts me. I am not sure why but I will never forget him, his face, his voice, everything. I was taught so much through him, he made an impression on me while I was so busy trying to leave an impression on everyone else. I wasn’t open to it right away, probably an ego issue again, but today my mind very often wanders to these moments. And it is so impactful now that I have lost my son, that was his age. I lost my son that was probably equally pained inside and I could not see. Why was my focus so far from home. Five hundred miles away from home….what did I miss.