Street Tales: Aging with addiction

On October 3, 2009 at 3:00 A.M. I wrote my first Street Tales blog involving one of the people on the street. I sleep a little better now, it is 5:00 a.m. as I write this article but still too early as far as I’m concerned. It seems like only yesterday that I wrote that story but a lot of things have changed since that day.

In 2009 this fellow I’ll call Larry was about 24 years old but already his appearance was of an older person. I didn’t think too much about it at that time, but on reflection I believe his appearance even then was attributed in large part to his life style which involved a lot of alcohol and probably some drugs. The one stand-out characteristic he exhibited was one of ‘I don’t care’, and that has not diminished.

I began that article with this: ‘Every time I see him (about three times a week), he’s drunk and staggering along with his buddies, joking and laughing.’ At that time, I asked him how long he was going to stay drunk to which he replied, “two years”. Well, two years passed a long time ago, and he’s still drunk.

I happened to run into him the other day and it struck me how old he looks. Nine years ago he was a robust young man in his twenties, and today he looks like he is soon to plant at least one foot in the grave. He doesn’t laugh and joke so much anymore and a poorly healed broken foot has endowed him with a permanent limp, but what is really striking is just how age under the influence has dealt with him.

Now I’m no spring chicken any more either; I am a little slower and deal with the normal aches and pains of getting older, but I still get a lot of comments that I don’t look my age,(maybe they mean act). In my books, flattery can get you brownie points. But when I compare how both of us have aged, I think that Larry has aged ten times faster than I. This is not a point to boast about but a comparison does showcase the effects and cost of hard living.

I don’t have enough fingers to keep tabs on how many times we’ve had to help him get up and on his way because he was so inebriated that he struggled to move, then two hours later he would be at the back of the kitchen, his amplifier plugged into an outlet and playing his electric guitar. He was quite good actually.

In the last few years, he has been sober more often, and it was then that you could converse with him a bit. It was during these times that he would acknowledge a belief in God and how he would never be good enough to make it past the pearly gates. This acknowledgment seemed to give him the permission to carry on with his drunkenness. Many attempts were made to help him make a change, to little avail.

Aging affects every person differently. Some are still dancing like chickens on steroids at ninety, while others look like they are just about knocking on death’s door at sixty. For most, growing older just fits the way they are. Some grow gracefully while others age kicking and screaming, but nothing ages people as fast and as ugly as drug addictions.

Just a quick glance at Larry one would assume that he was about sixty or more, but a second look identifies his aging as having been induced. I would love to see the day when all those on the street could somehow get off those aging drugs and be able to enjoy a normal life as they grow older.

Chris Salomons is a Retired Red Deer Resident with a concern for the Downtrodden

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