Holidays and Gray Hair

My birthday flew by, squashed between three holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas/Chanukah and New Year’s Eve. While time was having its way with me, I had to go to the dermatologist to have various blemishes checked out.

The older I get, the more I hate going to the doctor, even though, as my wife Mary Esther says, it’s good for me. When I was young I never did things that were good for me. If it felt good, it fit my definition of good—even though the drugs that cursed my younger years were not favorable to my future.

People become homeless for many reasons, and I’d have to say that drugs were half of the cause of my homelessness. I was also dual-diagnosed and seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist from the time I was seven years old. In other words, there was something not quite right about my psychological and emotional development.

My parents did the best they could, but, unfortunately, they learned from their parents, and their parents were three cans short of a six-pack of Schafer Beer—you know, the beer you drink when you’re having more than one.

Folks, I never was one for heavy drinking. All it did for me was make my head spin and the bed rock when I got home and tried to sleep. However, I had a girlfriend who had a sister who was hooked on heroin, and she kept a few bottles of codeine-based cough syrup in the house in case the heroin dried up. Back in the day, they called that a drought.

Today, droughts almost never happen, but the heroin sold on the streets is mixed with all sorts of things. When a person sticks the needle into their vein, they’re never sure if they’ll live to pull it out.

I started using way back. The movie “Spartacus,” starring Kirk Douglas, was playing in the theatre when I drank my first half bottle of Robitussin A-C. The mix of antihistamines and codeine brought on the dreams, and I knew I had found Nirvana. Of course, addiction is the one illness that has a voice, and it always lies to you. Even when I was sleeping on the stairways of abandoned buildings in New York City, I thought I had it made, that everything was alright.

I felt good, so how could things be wrong?

In my life today, I don’t take drugs to get high. I take them to stay healthy; I take them because my doctor says that if I take this drug, I will be able to urinate without standing at the toilet for 15 minutes.

In the 1960s, I used to go to a doctor by the name of Parker in Franconia, New Hampshire. He’s gone now, so I can reveal his name. I would be sitting in his office with a mix of people, some young, some old. I remember one elderly lady who said to me, “Wait until you get to be my age—you’ll come home with so many pills that you’ll have to put them in day boxes to keep track of when to take them.”

Of course, I didn’t think of the future because I believed I had no future and didn’t care. I was in college at the time, and Dr. Parker gave me whatever I wanted. I used to read the “Physician’s Desk Reference” to see what symptoms I had to show to get narcotics and hypnotics.

Dr. Parker was in his late 60s, and he was what people like myself called “a croaker.” Croakers give you what you want, not necessarily what you need. Back in the day, there were so many croakers, I was running a string of about 10 to 13 doctors a month.

It was the good old days when there were no computers to link all the doctors and the drugstores. I just had to keep a notebook that listed which day I would see a certain doctor and which drugstore I would cash the prescription at. I couldn’t trust my memory because I was always so high that my mind was like a maze, like the twisting path through the bushes in Stephen King’s “The Shining.

I never thought things could go so wrong. Finally, I reached the point where the money went to the drugs instead of the rent. I loved the holidays because I could obtain money from my family for more drugs. What the hell—if you can’t get loving and nurturing, money takes the place.

We had a saying back then. It came from a comic called “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers,” and they said, “Dope will get you through days with no money better than money will get you through days with no dope!”

How did I ever survive it all? Today, I don’t get high, and I live in a beautiful apartment and take a shower every day. Then I get to put on clean clothes instead of wearing the same clothes for a week.

I have a wife who loves me, and we actually put up a Christmas tree and have fun doing it. Back at the beginning of this little tale, I talked about going to the dermatologist to be checked for the Big C, and I’ve been treated for it. I didn’t know what okay was in the past.

I didn’t know that okay was taking care of myself and the people I love. I’ll never forget the days I spent homeless. I didn’t think everything could go so wrong. Today, I can celebrate the holidays without blowing my consciousness into oblivion.

Folks, if you are reading Spare Change News right now, and you must be if you’re reading these words, don’t forget to help the people who need it. People helped me, and that’s why my illness of addiction is in remission.

I can celebrate the holidays and remember them too. Bless you and your loved ones and not just during the holiday season. As I write this, it’s 15 degrees outside. Imagine having no place to go right now. Right now, help someone who needs it. Every day is a holiday if you make it one.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

Related posts