Walk Down Misery Street

Yes, an addict can detect the special scent of a fellow addict. It’s enough for him to notice a fleeting glance, a word, a vocal intonation, a barely discernible movement of the lips or brows of his companion to identify that before him stands a brother. He too is an addict, someone who understands, like nobody else on Earth.1

Once addicted to alcohol or a drug, a half-pint of vodka or a bag of heroin—put on a scale by your sick soul—will outweigh everything else in your life: the well-being of family, professional career, personal health, and even life itself. This is what definitely separates the addict from the “normal world.”

The world is hostile to the drug users, has no love for them, fears them, and doesn’t believe them. We kick addicts and alcoholics out of their homes and fire them from their jobs. We take away their children. The police follow them and put them in jail. Judges bang their gavels after issuing harsh sentences.

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.

***

Sometimes, though rarely, even the most seasoned addict cannot determine who stands before him: one of his own kind or the other? An addict or not?

That’s how it was with Kevin. No one could discover which one he was. He neither distanced himself from the group of students nor merged with it. He was neither ours nor theirs. Not with us, not with them. Decide for yourself. Better yet—don’t worry about Kevin. Just mind yourself.

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