A Walk Down Misery Street

I never learned any details of his terrible illness and his domestic violence criminal case. Did his ex-wife by any chance infect him?

What’s with him now? Where is he?

God help him!


Kevin: The Riddle of the Sphinx

Kevin was a mystery. Nobody could figure him out. He was a riddle to our group. After Sylvia’s revelation about her molestation, the endless stream of public confessions continued until graduation. By the end, all of the students knew who was molested, who had what illness, and who had done time in prison.

Over time, I came to appreciate the different aspects of this sharing.

Drug users and alcoholics who have been in treatment engage in psychotherapy, either individual or group, where open confession is a key factor in their recovery. Clinicians encourage their patients: “Don’t keep it inside! Don’t hold any secrets within! Let go of what you are hiding! You are as sick as your secrets.”

In my first years working with drug users, I couldn’t help but sense that I was entering a world not of real people, but of some type of ghosts. I observed that drug users love mystery. They love the shadows and the twilight. They hate the light. They won’t remove their sunglasses, even on winter evenings. Baseball caps are pulled low over their eyes. They cover their heads with hoods in sunny weather. They wear dark clothing. They prefer cars with tinted windows. Light is their arch-enemy. Drug users are night people, nocturnal like moths. They don’t fly in the light but distance themselves from it as if it is their worst foe. They need to hide things and hide themselves, even when it seems unnecessary. They complicate and befuddle everything they can, and they create mysteries out of nothing and then carry these mysteries in the gloom of their wailing souls, where they can nurture the monsters.

Unfortunately, sharing with others is no guarantee of success. The fact is that such revelations become routine. It may be difficult to disclose something shameful for the first time and maybe even the second. By the third time, disclosure is a little easier. By the fourth time, you are already used to it.