It turns out that nothing I said saved him; but then I stand in a long line of failures when it comes to that. He told me once that he could never work with addicts because they will break your heart. I had no idea he was talking about himself or about me. Because it’s true. My heart is broken.
It was another hopeful addict in the rehab program where I teach journaling who broke the news.
“John,” I asked before he shared his writing. “Did we lose Stan?”
He put down his journal, took off his glasses. “Do you mean is he using again, back out there?” He raised his chin in the direction of the door.
“Yes,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied.
Stan writes like a man on the edge. Broken and raw, so desperately honest. His essays were breathtaking and sometimes before he would get up from the sofa from where they all read to me near the microphone and camera in our Zoom meetings, to walk back to his seat….I would say, “Wait. Just wait a minute.”
Truth like that needs stillness.
He would tell you he’s been saved more times than he could count. He would say he wants a sober life; he wants off the streets. He would say he’s tried so many times.
And then he will just break your heart. After all, we cannot always keep a person from falling off the edge or walking down that path of sorrow. We can’t always stand in their way. I’ve worked enough with the dying to know you can’t change the life they’ve led. You can’t narrow down and point to the errors of their ways or to the place of harm and take them back to make different decisions or run from the evil.
What’s done is done. And we can grieve together and we can beg for mercy together. We can weep or laugh at the nonsense of it all. But nobody can change where they’ve been or what they’ve done. What’s been done to them. And sometimes in the stillness, my prayers are as flimsy as paper wings.
And yet. I still pray. And I still listen to the stories and sometimes stare in silence as the truth takes my breath away. And sometimes, they are saved. Sometimes they walk away from the edge. And sometimes, they die in peace. And my heart, as broken as it sometimes is, keeps beating.
You are the light of the world!