Walk Down Misery Street

The Burroughs book made its invaluable contribution to this movement. This book opened the eyes of many to the fact that a drug user has his attachments, his friends, and his loves. He is still a human being.


I loved when Liza prayed. Liza grew up in a devout Catholic family. By her own admission, she had only really turned to religion when she began to fight with addiction. She said that without the Church, without God, she wouldn’t have pulled through.

This was true—her emotional state was very rocky. Poor Liza was often anxious about little things, would get easily irritated, and erupt in anger both toward her patients and colleagues. Her friends and enemies would often swap status. Sometimes she would lock herself in our office and cry. She would weep like a child whose feelings had been hurt, and I felt much pity for her at those times. Having observed her, I concluded that, without some deep inner foundation, Liza would not keep her balance. She would have broken down and spiraled into the abyss if she hadn’t taken up God.

When she was at the edge, about to lose her equilibrium, like a drowning person clutching at straws, then Liza would hang on to prayer.

“Oh, it’s all nonsense. They’re not worth my worry. I’ve been cursing too much lately. I get angry and cry a lot. That’s dangerous. It’s a sin. Kid, let’s pray together. It would be good for you, too.”

Liza knew that I was an Orthodox Christian and our prayers were similar, even though the languages were different. She slid her office chair towards me and took my hands in hers. She bowed her raven-haired head. I lowered my head as well, so that our foreheads were almost touching.

“If you want, repeat after me. You can pray in Russian. The key is to pray.” She became very serious.