Ronald is working hard to get his feet under him, living at Earl’s Place and rebuilding his life. He told me about bouts of homelessness… sometimes it would be a breakup with a girlfriend, sometimes drugs, though in the end it would always lead back to the drugs. “They just rob you,” he told me, shaking his head and echoing a sentiment that I heard from almost every man I talked to there, that it seemed like he was an entirely different person when he was using, a person he didn’t know or recognize. “It’s a distortion of you, they distort everything,” he said, talking about the times he was using. Now, he’s glad to be clean again. It’s giving him a chance to stabilize, erase that distortion, and get back to the person he truly is.
So often as a society we judge those who are addicted and using substances, whether it’s drugs or alcohol, but let me tell you something… Most of the time, they are judging themselves harsher than we can ever judge them. They are shaming themselves, wondering how they came to a place of such intense distortion that they don’t recognize themselves anymore. Nobody in that position needs anyone else to heap judgment and shame onto them. Empathy is always the path, and can heal us all.