"I relapsed," he said over the phone. "I was shooting cocaine diluted in vinegar. Plus I was drinkin' a whole lot. I almost died in detox."
His liver is almost gone, and he just keeps pouring gasoline on the fire. We'll meet on Wednesday with my psychologist colleague and try to come up with a plan.
Another patient who I've been trying to find for six months also finally surfaced. His liver is also mostly shot, and he hasn't had a drink or used drugs in three months, or so he reports.
"Can't I have just a few beers a day?"
"Well, that's asking for trouble, really. We need to keep you clean. Plus, your diabetes is way out of control."
He regards me dubiously, then talks about liver functions, bilirubin, hepatitis viral load. Very impressive grasp of the issues, but still not sold on the sobriety part. Denial, I guess.
Some of our success stories are walking the streets today, while those who were not so successful (in our terms, anyway) are in the next world, hopefully learning some of the lessons they missed down here.
We all carry our pains and losses and traumas, and we all have deep-seated reasons for why we are who and what we are. It's hard to not judge another for how they choose to cope, but we might find their moccasins pretty damn uncomfortable if we tried them on for a day.
For every patient who manipulates us and pulls the wool over our eyes (or tries really hard to do so), there's another who's forthright, honest, authentic, and easy to read. The very sweet gentleman who I mentioned at the beginning of this missive is a troubled soul with a trauma history to which I am not yet privy. If I actually heard his story, his recidivism vis-a-vis drug use would make even more sense, but I can hear the plaintive note in his voice which calls desperately out for help, and we'll keep extending a compassionate hand. Whether he takes that hand remains to be seen, but for now we hope that our presence in his life can cause some small shift, some minor changes that could lead to major decisions about improved life and health.
We've seen some miracles, and I have no doubt that there are more to come. If he shows up to our appointment on Wednesday, that will be the first. If he comes to the next one, even better. If he goes on the wagon, gets with the program, stays clean, turns himself around and begins to help others do the same, then that's a miracle of the highest order (and we know several who have done just that), and I'll be the first to congratulate him on his recovery. Until then, that hand is extended, and the rest is up for grabs.