A Walk Down Misery Street

I was also thinking that for a period of time my dad heavily abused alcohol, and because of this, our family life was so harsh. I knew from my own experience how much suffering alcohol brings into people’s lives.

And this work seemed aligned with my faith, specifically the Christian sentiments of fairness and compassion.

Okay, let’s give it a try. Go ahead.



It was one of those Queens neighborhoods where I imagine any well-dressed man would be uncomfortable during the day and downright terrified at night. Even the trains roaring across the tracks seemed to me in a hurry to pass through. I kept noticing suspicious characters hanging around street corners and bodegas, their eyes hidden behind sweatshirt hoodies or baseball caps.

And at one intersection: the sparkling, brand-new three-story Institute for Substance Abuse Counseling. This was my new alma mater!

After completing the interview and reviewing my application, the Assistant Director, Teri, who at first glance seemed a somewhat distant and arrogant woman, handed me a booklet with a list of classes and the rules of conduct for the Institute. She firmly warned me that there is no drug use on the premises of the school and violators would be dismissed immediately. It sounded very strange to me because I was going there to study and not use drugs. She quoted the tuition fee and I agreed with the terms. Then she congratulated me on my acceptance. When we were parting, curiosity got the best of her and she asked:

“Tell me, Peter: Why are you doing this? You seem like an intelligent man.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“Well, it’s all . . . drug addicts, alcoholics . . .” she grimaced.

“Aren’t they troubled souls in need of help?” I responded, not understanding why the assistant director would say such a thing and with such a look of squeamishness.