What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.ralph waldo emerson
In the Spring of 2019, I took a tenant of one of our rental properties to detox. We were not friends; we were barely acquainted. When he was discharged with nowhere else to go, my husband and I took him, and eventually his newly recovering girlfriend and their newborn baby, sick from the effects of her mother’s drug use, into our home.
This story is based on true events and real people. People who are different from, yet very much the same as, me. We’ve lead different lives and have had different opportunities. We’ve made the same choices and have given in to the same temptations. Yet the consequences suffered by each of us, and by those we love, are immensely different, and they are ongoing. Some of them for the lifetime of innocent bystanders.
I began telling this story because it was good material. It’d be easy to write, I thought. Most of it was documented in text conversations, and public records filled in details of past events I’d only been told about. A little imagination to create the characters I’d never met, and I’d have a juicy little work of non-fiction. A middle-class white lady rescuing the helpless, low-income couple from poverty and addiction, and lives spent in and out of prison.
I had it all figured out. A good story with a message of compassion, of witnessing others move beyond their past to discover the person within them. I was the narrator, but it was someone else’s story. It certainly wasn’t about me. It had nothing to do with me. And then all of a sudden, it did. It has everything to do with me.
For a long time, something inside me knew I needed to address my own relationship with alcohol, but I ignored it. In the weeks just prior to meeting Kurt, thoughts about my own drinking (am I an alcoholic?) began to consume me. So I drank more. And then I found a real alcoholic. At the time, I truly thought I was just helping Kurt. It’s what anyone else would do.
My new reality is this; I was only distracting myself from looking inward and facing some hard personal truths, including my own need for sobriety. By the time I took Kurt to detox, he was physically dependent, his body requiring alcohol 24 hours a day. My own drinking paled in comparison; I’ve never been that bad. As we said good-bye in the lobby of the detox center, I saw panic in Kurt’s eyes. He’d done this before and he knew what was coming. I, however, had no clue, but tried to cheer him on. It’ll be okay. You’ve got this. It’s just a few days. And then I heard myself saying, “I’ll quit with you.” He stared back at me, asking incredulously, “Who the fuck does that?”
Exactly. Who the f**k does.