On a brief in-state vacation I met a homeless man, Viet Nam veteran, with a serious crack addiction. He told me his story while panhandling. In his fifties (Yes, he was a hardy dude.) he had had two strokes which had partially disabled him.
I told him that if he ever had serious thoughts about a recovery I would do what I could to help him. Told him that he would need to complete treatment first. Then I told him the name of my city and where the Salvation Army was located there. Gave him my phone number.
I expected that would be the last I ever heard of him. But I kept him in mind.
About six months later I was listening to the local radio and heard that a unidentified man had been found dead on the sidewalk near the Salvation Army shelter. And I thought it may be him. So I called the police.
Through some research I was able to piece together what he had done. He’d spent time in a recovery center getting sober and his physical health back and then he had entered treatment with the help of the Veteran’s program. Then he stayed for a short period of time somewhere in a small town in subsidized sober housing working a little job to save money and had arrived here.
He had been told his body wouldn’t be able to handle any more drugs or alcohol and he had stayed off the crack but gone with a group of new friends down to the railroad tracks to drink. On the way back he had a massive heart attack and died an addict’s death.
I wrote what I knew about him and drove to WI to give it to his family at his wake. They hadn’t heard from him in years and were grateful for my time.
At the wake they played Bob Dylan’s “Saving Grace.” It was the perfect song to send him off. Just the right amount of deference/independence.
When you know a lot of addicted people death becomes a common occurrence. And people come and go. . .