Every town has them. The addicts. Drunk or high, often before breakfast. Not to be harsh, but – damaged goods. They’ve made their choices – and now they’re reaping the consequences. Step aside and leave them to it.
Cardboard cut-outs of people, greying and familiar – yet alien too: hardly human. Watch how they act. Sometimes so still – silent and solitary, even in their packs. Bent double, hunched, crumpled and defeated.A blank-eyed, hundred-yard stare. What are they thinking? But get their fix and it’s a different story – zig-zagging into traffic, distracted, childlike, jangling nerves fizzing and exploding. Frenzied. Invincible.
You watch. But don’t get too close. They’re not like you and they know it: defensive, cornered, angry. ‘What are you looking at? Want a picture?’ Arms stabbing in the air, the jerking movements. ‘Spare some change?’ You cross the pavement. What a mess. Step away in case it’s contagious.
But it’s too late. Those people are me. I look in their eyes and see myself. Desperate. Angry. Defeated. Hungry. No better than me and no worse either.
I’ve been through the bins to feed my addiction. I’ve watched my body shrinking, wasting, consuming itself. I’ve sacrificed relationships and spat at those who tried to reach me. I’ve flinched under the pitying stares, the uncomprehending glances. I’ve scurried and hidden and lied and crawled and clawed to get What I Need. I’ve promised to get better. To turn the corner, to break the cycle. I’ve forgotten who and what I was, sacrificed my health, my dreams, my self-respect and when that ran out, pledged what belonged to others.
Now that my behaviour’s under control, I want to draw a line between Them and Me. I’m no longer a skeleton. I’m no longer crazed, enslaved, emaciated, dying. But even though I look better, we’re still the same. And when I judge them, I condemn myself. They’re not nothing. Like me, they’re just in need of grace.