A Walk Down Misery Street

The whole world is against them.

Thus, the question put to Kevin—Are you an addict or not? —is not an idle one, but rather of primary importance, to be understood as follows: “Are you with us or with them? If you’re with them, Mister Kevin, so be it and best regards! If you are with us, then you are our brother—welcome to the family with much love!”

At that time, though, I still could not imagine what effort, professional skill, and human compassion would be required for me to gain access into this closed order, into this rough brotherhood, where they accept their own—even the lowest of scoundrels—without discussion or condition, while outsiders from the “normal” world, even sweet as angels, are accepted with great caution.

***

Addicts live in a lawless world like lonely wolves, each for his own survival of the fittest. At the same time, you cannot imagine the depth of empathy and compassion to their suffering comrades. How many times during group sessions have I observed a patient begin to “repent.” Such an outpouring often occurs after yet another relapse, when an addict experiences severe emotional pain.

“I lied, stole, hassled to buy a bag . . .” Listening to these confessions, I sometimes wanted to exclaim angrily, as if I were a judge “So, you picked up again! How dare you!”

But patients are not like judges. They know perfectly well that the man is in real trouble. He feels cut off from the world, like an outcast, with no chance to return. Probably this clinic is one glimmer of hope for him to believe that he may not have been “thrown overboard” yet. He won’t be condemned here but instead reassured. I do not exaggerate when I say that drug addicts and alcoholics know how to forgive and sympathize with each other at the highest level of humanity. This is the real miracle for me to witness—this moment when users with deep compassion and forgiveness resuscitate a hopeless addict back to life. I have rarely come across such miraculous mercy in any other place as I have in drug treatment clinics.

Are drug addicts the greatest humanitarians? Is this a joke?

No, it is true. No one is capable of being more humane to a drug addict during a breakdown than a fellow addict.

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