A Walk Down Misery Street

Some of them did not live at home, surrounded by loved ones, but in halfway houses, where there was often fighting and theft. After classes, I went to work or home, but they had to go to a clinic to continue their treatment. Among those who made it through, several were still on parole or probation or involved in different courts.

All of them were still “raw,” not only professionally but psychologically. The majority continued their old patterns: they quarreled often and went into hysterics or anger at the slightest provocation. There were those who went to the dean to snitch on their classmates or teachers and those who flirted. The instance with Sylvia speaks for itself, where a honeymoon for two ended in relapse and an expulsion of both love birds from school.

About a third of them—seven out of twenty—were unable to finish school. They mysteriously vanished, or—simply put—they fell off the wagon. And not for a day or two, but to the point that they forgot they were even enrolled in school.

Yet these “damaged outcasts” suddenly found the inner strength to raise themselves. They attended classes, did their homework, and passed exams for a whole year. Unthinkable! Many could not believe what they themselves had accomplished.

And tomorrow they appear in the clinics and hospitals of New York, not to be treated but to treat active2 addicts and alcoholics. They were supposed to do this. They?!

***

Graduation was an unforgettable sunny day. The whole classroom was decorated with flowers and balloons. The graduating students were in suits and nice dresses, and everyone was spotlessly clean, fragrant with perfume and cologne. There was endless patting of shoulders; there were jokes and there was laughter.

Alas, not that many spouses were in attendance. Mostly siblings and friends. Of course, teachers, administrators, and the director all came as well. They handed out the diplomas. Each graduating student gave a little speech as a farewell and thank you. Many began to cry before they could finish. No one was able to conceal their feelings. As I would later come to understand, with all their mastery of false facades and manipulation, addicts are unable to deal with emotions, especially positive ones that they’re so unfamiliar with.

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