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Hey, even the Mona Lisa is falling apart – Tyler Durden

 

Some advice for those of you who may someday find yourselves homeless. Consider these pointers, if you will:
  • If you're going to be without residence anytime soon, try to make sure it's not in the middle of a winter storm. Sarcastic advice, I know, but true nonetheless. An icy mix of sleet and freezing rain makes life so much more difficult. Just imagine trying to pick up a fully loaded shopping cart and carrying it over snowdrifts, and you'll get my point.

  • You're a troll now. Live like one. Bridges, overpasses, nooks and crannies underneath decks. These are your friends. They provide shelter from rain, ice, snow, or whatnot, and, if you're lucky, also shield your "stuff" from prying eyes.

  • "Stuff" rules, unfortunately. I've hated material possessions most of my adult life. I thought they drained my soul. I've given up all my "things" at the end of relationships so many times that my wife used to say I was like a snake shedding its skin. Now, one of my single greatest concerns is how to make sure nobody steals the "stuff" I need to stay alive. Go figure

  • Newspapers are your friends. And not just for the words, although a little escapism from time to time is nothing to sneeze at if you're homeless. No, you can also use the newsprint to: (a) stuff in your shoes when they're wet to dry them out faster; (b) crush and stuff in your coat or sleeping bag to keep you warmer; or (c) lay out flat to keep your blanket and clothes clean at night.

  • Coffee shops, bakeries, and similar gathering places will keep you alive. This is not a joke. Any place that will let you sit in the corner all day, order a bagel and soda, and get refills all day long, while at the same time keeping you warm, is a godsend. Plus, the constant human interaction swirling around you will remind you why you're trying to survive in the first place. Which leads me to my next point . . .

  • Don't lose your soul. I had outlasted the worst ice storm to hit D.C. in ten years. Sleeping under the deck of a nursery school, I resolved to move before the kids came back from their snow day. Loading my "stuff" into a purloined shopping cart, I began the 3-mile trek to my new destination. On my way, I watched the sun rise, showering the freshly fallen snow with a million stars.

    After about a half-hour, I heard a young boy's voice call out from behind me. "Hey mister, where are you going with that shopping cart?"

    I looked up, wearily. The young boy was dressed for sledding, with a fiberglass sled nearly twice his height. All I could think of was surfing.

    "Just taking it down the road a ways . . . Hey, nice sled."

    The boy grinned a smile wider than his face. Holding his sled aloft, he shouted "I know! Isn't it cool? I'm going sledding!"

    I stopped, turned, and gave him the biggest thumbs-up I could manage. Smiling, I answered "Cool, you have fun, and be safe!"

    Grinning, the boy turned and ran up the hill. Now, I could have been grumpy and pissed off -- and ignored this boy -- but then look at what I would have lost.

  • You aren't your CV anymore. With all apologies to the movie, this is kind of a no-brainer. I've got a current CV I've been pimping out, and, oddly enough, it fails to mention the fact that I'm a homeless drunk. Not lying, per se, just not the "whole truth."

    If you're homeless, it means that there was a disconnect between your former life and who you really are. Accept it, and move on. That former life is over.

  • Don't lose your cell phone. Crazy as it sounds, you may well find yourself homeless weeks, or even months, before your cell phone dies. Grab that thing like a life preserver -- it may well be your last link to modern society.

  • Take a good, inspirational book with you. I've got two. The Bible, and "Gates of Fire," a book about Thermopylae. The first tells me how to live, the other, how to die. Enough said.
  • Stop lying. To yourself and to others. I could give you a million reasons why I am where I am. "My job as a litigator crushed my soul." "My wife's illness broke my heart." "My unexpected fatherhood scared the hell out of me."

    But it's all bullshit. I'm homeless because I'm a drunk. And not some romantic, Hemingway-style drunk, but a blackout drunk who spits out the meanest words you've ever heard, then can't remember them the next day. That's why I have no friends -- just contacts. That's why I live under a bridge -- instead of with my wife and son.

    And the sooner I admit that to myself and try to do something about it, the better my chances of ever seeing my wife and son again. And that's all I have to say about that.

I normally "node for the ages" and don't respond to other writeups under a node, however, it occurred to me that I must in all good conscience respond to the writeup above.

It's obvious that originalzin got hold of a computer at a library or someplace like that.

It's obvious that he spent a bit of time crafting the piece above.

It's also obvious that the time he spent could've been spent finding out where the nearest shelter is and getting some intervention, for his homelessness and his alcoholism.

Nearly twenty years ago I lost my job, suddenly, due to the death of the guy who held our company together. I received a years' severance.

By the end of eight months I was nearly in the dire straits that our friend originalzin is. I'd spent my money and was abusing alcohol, absent the funds to abuse the drugs of choice that I'd been abusing for most of my career in New York nightlife. Were it not for the gaggle of drinking buddies I'd accumulated, I would've been homeless; and was damned close to it. I slept on couches in filthy apartments and went hungry because I had to choose between booze and food.

The end of it, for me, was when I ended up washing dishes for a restaurant just so I could pay for a small room, get some food, and buy booze. A group of my co-workers realized that I was educated, well-spoken and certainly not dishwasher material. They got me help by way of a friendly local doctor who got me a bed at a de-tox, and when I finished up there, prescribed the medication I so badly needed (but had abandoned) to manage my depression.

I recall vividly sitting in his office and waiting for him. When he entered the room, he said, "so, why are you here." I can't remember the flowery line of bullshit and sob-story I gave him. At the end of it, he asked me again, "so, why are you here." He was silent as I thought for something brilliant to say. I guess he didn't have the time to go on this way so he offered up "your friends say you're in a pretty bad way; and they think you need help. Do you think you need help?" After another pregnant pause, it all became clear to me at once. I indeed needed help. I said, "I need help. I can't help myself right now. And I hurt."

The doctor said "that's better." I'm going to introduce you to some people who'll help you. And I, too, will help you when they're done with you. But you have to want to help yourself. If you give up on yourself, I guarantee you that nobody else is going to give a damn about you. You're a bright guy. You know you have a lot of changing to do. Now let's get started."

Part of me wants to travel to Washington, find originalzin, clean him up, and care for him; as I'm sure his mental state is fragile at best. His self-esteem must be nonexistent. I feel really, really bad about this. My need to help those who're in trouble is like a little elf sitting on my shoulder, tapping my ear and saying "do it; go help him!" The pain it causes me not to help him is excruciating. But here's why I can't help him.

One of my friends, a long-time AA member, shook his head when I told him how I felt. He told me two things that made me feel a little better. A) He's gonna have to hurt, and be able, after hurting enough, to approach the right person and say "I need help." B) When I voiced my concern for his health and safety, he laid a bit of sage AA wisdom on me: "God protects drunks and babies." Curiously enough, (and not being a baby), my life experience had proven this to be the truth.

By the way, there's another reason why I can't help him. I can't take care of anyone else until I take care of myself. And in light of my own recent losses and setbacks, my well is dry. I gotta take care of me before I can be of use to anyone else. I pray to God that he either finds it somewhere in himself to get help. Or that someone with the emotional fortitude to sit and talk with him long enough to convince him he's worthy of being helped, intervenes.

Even though work was a bitch today (very busy) and I'm cranky and my back and my legs hurt, I assure you that our friend will be in my evening prayers. Also in my evening prayers will be a prayer of gratitude for the fact that I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and a comfortable bed to sleep in tonight.

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