Friday, March 16, 2007

During my time of being 'residentially challenged' I got to know many folk who, unlike myself, were struggling with their addictions and in programs. Most of them have their own stories.

Good, decent folk, all. Im picky about the folk I hang with or even talk to. I dont hang with the sketchy - I dont allow anyone to drag me down.

These are folk I got to know.

When I left Berkeley, I lost touch with most, seeing some on occasion in San Francisco, hearing from others spread around California and the world. Most are doing good.

Keith, who when I met him was going through a Berkeley program, had a tough haul, but was invariably cheerful and religious. The tough former marine , although battered, was in good physical shape and kept himself in good condition. I like him, for he is honorable and a straight shooter.

Ive seen him in the intervening years, and although he is the same Keith, he kept falling down back into his addictions. But, he kept that same robust and dogged determination not to lose himself.

On my way to work this afternoon, I saw him. He saw me and the joy lit up his face.

I almost didnt recognise him. His muscular frame had lost a third of it's girth, his previously perfect set of choppers.. a good number were missing. And, as is wont for those who have into extremely heavy drug use his already dark skin had darkened several shades. His neatly trimmed beard was gray.

He looked as if he had aged a decade and a half from when we first met.

He was in bad shape.

We hugged.

"How are you, Keith?"
"Ahh, Joe - I wont bother you my stories."

And I didnt press it, no need.

We caught up, chatted. He asked me to spot him a few quarters, I peeled off a 5 spot. Enough to help, not enough to have him go on a bender.

He then asked me for a pen to write down his voice mail number.

"Sure. Why do want me to have it?"

And, at that point he stopped. He was hurt.

He still has his pride. But he understood why I balked.

You do not let junkies, functioning or otherwise, into your life. Even the good ones. They're not in control and will ruin yours. As I said, I will not allow anyone drag me down.

"I dont want anything. I just want to talk. To help keep my focus."
"Hm. Ok, here's my notepad..."

And so he scrawled his VM and work number into my book. And when he was done, he handed the pen and pad and said "PLEASE call."

We hugged and parted ways.

Long story short - Will I?

I don't know.


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