"Joe, I can't live like this anymore. I can't do this, being a <expletive> drunk. I need help," he said looking up at me with a look of desperation through tired, drunken eyes, one of which was blood-filled from getting tossed down a flight of stairs a week earlier. Then he took a swig of yet another beer.
"Did you make those phone calls every day this week like we talked about? That's the only way you'll get better," I responded, referring to calling area drug and alcohol rehab programs to stay on the waiting list for an open bed.
A few days ago, he was robbed of all his disability money when he passed out drunk in a nearby hallway. The week before, he lost all his clothes, except what he had on, when he left his bags at the last place he was crashing at because some of the residents were regularly beating on him when he was drunk (which obviously is most of the time), including the aforementioned tumble down the stairs.
This was supposed to be a quick stop to drop off some personal care items he needed. I did not intend to get into this conversation again; however, he was in a bad place and he was reaching out for help from someone who loves him, regardless of his situation or his past. As much as I have tried to fight it, I am that person.
This ministry has given me the opportunity to meet many lost souls in search of a better life. This ministry has enabled me to show God's amazing love by connecting to those most in need of a savior. More importantly, this ministry has taught me that some of the best work happens in uncomfortable, unplanned situations when you don’t think you have the time to handle it.
It's one thing to deal with a homeless drunk begging for a dollar at an intersection in the time it takes for a stop light to turn green. It is quite another thing to hop down into the gutter with that drunk and begin the process of getting cleaned up. It is at times heartwarming to see the progress toward sobriety and then heartbreaking to deal with the struggles, stumbles, slip-ups, and setbacks. I've learned it is a long process of ups and downs to finally break free from the ice-cold grip of addiction into the warm, grace-filled embrace of a loving God.
Another tough lesson learned is that we can't get him the help he so earnestly desires. He can get the help only if his desire for sobriety is strong enough to push him to do the legwork. We can only try to guide and encourage him, and to love this neighbor as the Lord has commanded us. I wholeheartedly believe that I am in this man’s life for a reason and I am confident that he will eventually manage to get over his addiction. In the meantime, I will be there at inconvenient times to help lead him toward sobriety and to continue to show him the love that’s missing in his life.