"Y'know, I never told you, but during my recent relapse I was using about forty bags of heroin a day, sometimes more." He looked me squarely in the eye.
"Forty bags a day? Shooting or snorting?" I asked.
"Oh, shooting," he said nonchalantly. "It was crazy. I never want to go back to that again. I feel like a new person."
"I bet. Now what?"
"Oh, maybe work, some volunteering, fix up my new place, hang out with my dog, work out. My appetite is back, too. I'm eating like a horse."
"Well, you look great, my friend. Take this opportunity and run with it!"
"Believe me, I know what's what, and this is something I'm not gonna waste. This is too good to be true!"
I checked his blood pressure, his heart rate, listened to his lungs, felt his belly, looked in his mouth, felt his cervical nodes, and checked for leg swelling. But mostly I was evaluating his spirit, his will to be clean and embrace a new lease on life. The physical exam was a pretext.
His eyes were clear, his voice strong, his resolve apparently firm. Having lost weight during the horrors of detox from heroin and benzodiazepines, his health actually quite good, he has gotten it together, and now seems willing to take his recovery at face value. This gentleman---a truly gentle man---has a fighting chance.
We shake hands at the door, my left hand on his shoulder.
"Y'know, you all have really been there for me and I appreciate that so much. It means alot." He has very kind and calm eyes.
"It's our pleasure. We do it because we care about you and believe in you. That's the bottom line. Keep up the good work. See you next week?"
"Same place, same time, man. See you then."
When I get to the office, I realize I've been smiling the whole way.