After spending a wonderful evening with my partner, we left the concert hall and began to walk down the street towards our car. We approached a church on the corner of a street where two homeless people sat with their shopping carts containing all their belongings. This was not unusual site for this part of town so I didn’t think twice about it, but what really seemed to grab my was with what they were in the middle of doing.
As we approached closer, my girlfriend’s hand held mine just a little bit firmer, in anticipation for a potential response once they started to feel our presence. Having worked with several people who have suffered the grips of addiction, I felt relatively at ease feeling confident if there even was any type of interaction I would be able to navigate us through the experience.
They situated themselves just outside the doors of a place of salvation and worship, just trying to find their own degree of peace, but it was by means of chemical induction rather than spiritual connection.
Now only a couple steps away we saw precisely, in raw detail, what they these two individuals had been completely enthralled by. It was IV drug use. One man stood over top of the other so closely that their bodies were touching, as the other administered their peace serum, in complete plain sight. I was so close to them that I could have literally reached out and grabbed the needle out of the of the man’s marked up forearm. We could have been the boys in blue about to escort them to the slammer, but nothing else seemed to matter in either one of their lives. It was like the rest of the world was put on hold during those short few moments of injection. The cessation of whatever pain they had been battling with was of the utmost of priorities, to the point that two strangers inches away from them ceased to exist.
As I sit down and recall those brief footsteps I took past these suffering souls last night, the moment seems to replay itself in slow motion for me in such vivid detail. There was a part of me that was screaming inside for them to stop, and yet there was another part of me who totally understood the need to just turn the world off, even if it was only for a minute or two.
It was a symbolic moment. Watching two addicts, whom many would presume to be hopeless sit just outside of the front doors of a church where hundreds of people would attend weekly to receive their very own dose of sedation. Many would claim both techniques work just as well as the other when it comes to dealing with the burdens of life. Both usually offering communities that help one walk through life, except one leads to the loss of life, while the other commonly leads to rebirth.
Witnessing someone so in the grips of addiction that even the consequence of death or jail fails to even slightly deter them from second guessing their decision to use is truly powerful. Can you honestly say to yourself that you can relate to that level of powerlessness? How broken does one have to get to be at a place in life where foregoing even the most basic human necessities becomes acceptable in order to maintain that high?
I can’t honestly say that I see myself as much different as those two heroin addicts. I too attempt to fill my own emptiness from time to time through unhealthy indulgences. Sure, my escapism doesn’t lead me to death, but we both ‘use’ in attempts to abort pain.
I think that as humans we are born with this yearning to be filled with spirit or connection to make ourselves feel whole, regardless of geographic or societal boundaries that we are born within. I was brought to an odd place of peace as I empathized for these two sick souls, instead of my typical feelings of sadness when I witness suffering. What a blessing it is for me to wake up every day without the need to get my next fix. And what a great reminder it is for all of us to help those people still held in the bondage of addiction. Will you choose to help today, or will you continue to turn a blind eye to this grey area of humanity?