He showed up on our doorstep at 3 a.m.
He had been on a three- or four-day tear with both alcohol and drugs and he was just coming down. After three days, they stink. Remorse, along with the residual contaminants in their system, makes them slobber a bit when they speak.
He was a friend with a problem. So, because we had been concerned about him, I let him in. And as we sat in the living room, we began a conversation that taught me a lot about some of the different elements of our society.
This happened long before I was exposed to the street-life people and all it entails, so I was not prepared for what I heard.
Nor did I know how to respond to what was said.
I had always looked at drunks as lowlifes with no self-control, so the time spent with this man was preceded by my negative judgments. Why I let him in in the first place, went through my mind a couple of times that night.
Most of the first hour was spent listening to him denounce and blame himself for his lack of self-control, and how his actions would make people, especially his wife, hate him.
With some feeble assurances not everyone in the world hated him, that portion was dealt with in my mind, so I began to question him on why he went on these binges.
Several times, he had been caught and had spent a bit of time in jail, so it made me curious why he kept doing the same stupid thing over and over.
Whenever someone under the influence is coming out of a high, their remorse leads them to speak honestly. There may be some embellishment, but generally, they speak the truth.
What he was about to tell me caught me completely by surprise, so I could do little but accept what he told me as true.
The first thing was whenever he and his dad went to town, his father would stop at a bar, during which time my friend had to stay in the vehicle. When the dad came out of the bar, he usually had a six pack of beer and would give one to his son as a reward for staying in the vehicle. Hence, his penchant for alcohol.
Next, he spoke about when his father would go on a tear, which could last for several days. During that time, his mother would entertain different men, often within sight and sound of her son.
To say that he ended up with a twisted sense of right and wrong would be an understatement. This was my first exposure to this kind of lifestyle, but I can sure see where he got some of his attitudes and habits.
I cannot even begin to say I understand. I had no other lifestyle to compare it with. As we sat and talked until sunrise, his self-loathing became almost too intense even for him.
And because of his wife, he had learned about God and forgiveness, but even then, his bitterness came out.
“If God really cared, He would have stopped my car from working or stood in the middle of the road and stopped me from going any further, but He never did.”
When faced with that kind of emotion, platitudes, or even truthful discussions, would have gone nowhere. When they are still hungover, reasoning does not come into the equation. Their minds are so muddled, they cannot absorb reason.
Unable to progress with him in any way, and the fact I had to go to work, cut our visit short.
But I learned something that night: all of these events in his young life are probably some of the reasons why he was the way he was.
Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident with a concern for the downtrodden.