In today’s world of schedules and time tables, planners and datebooks, it is easy to miss the simple things in life and it is even easier to get wrapped up in our own troubles so much that we forget others care for us or we forget to care for others. I found myself in a similar situation to this earlier this year. I had just graduated high school, was trying to come up with enough money for college, and was dealing with the effects of a cocaine addiction I was desperately trying to keep secret from my friends and family.
I had begun to use cocaine early in high school to deal with the effects of my parents divorce. During junior year I was able to come clean and deal with my withdrawal symptoms with the support of a few close friends who had stood by me through it all. In my weakest moments when I thought I couldn’t continue to stay strong through my battle for addiction, they would tell me they cared, they believed in me and I was able to battle through to the end. By that December my cravings had almost completely stopped and I was able to go through my day like a normal person.
But this past spring all that changed. I was having trouble at home again; my boyfriend and I were fighting all the time and I found myself using again. I started small and worked my way back up again to 40 or 50 hits a day. I couldn’t make it through a shift at work with out my sweet addiction taking control. While I was being sucked into the world of drugs again, my cousin Liz had a friend who had just gotten home from Iraq, and he was developing an addiction to alcohol. She thought I might be able to help him, because my family has a lot of alcoholics in it and she knew I identified well with people like that. One night he was over at her house and she called me up and told me he was on his second six-pack of the night and she couldn’t talk to him anymore. So I was thrown on the phone with him.
I asked why he was so drunk and he told me it wasn’t his fault he drank so much, it was his ex-wife’s fault, the military’s fault, anything but his own fault. He told me how he used to beat his wife because she would cheat on him. He told me about doing body recovery on fallen comrades in Iraq and about brains lying in ditches along the road. Finally he told me about Jonathon Thornsberry, a man he had known from his unit who had died from an IED explosion. Thornsberry left behind a wife and two kids. The reason he was drinking so much is because he felt he should have died in Thornsberry’s place, since the guy had a family, and he had nothing to come home to except an empty house and a bottle of Captain Jack. He said it didn’t matter though; nobody cared. It’s why he wished he could die; he drank to die.
“I care,” I whispered in a voice so small I’m surprised he heard me over his own sobs.
“I know,” he whispered back. I was the first person who had stopped to listen to his story. I was the first person who had decided to care. So I also decided to tell him my story.
For the last few months we have both helped each other overcome our own insecurities and addictions. He and I know each other better than two people ever should. He knows things about me that my closest family does not know, and I know things about him that his mother doesn’t know either. We have helped each other change for the better, and given each other strength in our personal moments of weakness because we took the time to care. Nowadays it is easier to open a check book to help people in need, but I believe the power of personally caring can help so much more.
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