Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Skid Row is Everywhere

The news was already there when I got up this morning.

Harry* set out to drink himself to death when he was only thirty after the wife and daughter left him and the only one who could put up with him was his mother.

And then she died five years ago. And the family home started to fold in around him. A light fell off the ceiling, a toilet leaked. Furniture collapsed. Newfoundland Power cut off his electricity and the wainscotting hung off the walls. Floorboards went missing - used for firewood, more than likely. From the outside of the house you'd never guess of the devastation within.

It got so bad that someone lent him a camper and he moved into this, parked on his own driveway, with his dog and a kerosene heater. Things worsened and Health Services were called and they moved him into a unit in a senior residence which he proceeded to destroy. His dog was taken by kind neighbours and is a playmate of Ansa's.

Health Services tried to get him admitted to a detox and rehab programme but he would get belligerent. They called the wife and daughter to try and force the issue to no avail, they had washed their hands of him.

He weighed 300lbs and was completely yellow in appearance when he had a stroke 5 weeks ago. They managed to dry him out in the hospital during his month's stay and his residence was fumigated and cleaned out while he was gone. He was told if he wanted to go home to his government housing unit it would be under the condition that he have a full time personal home care assistant provided by health services .

The assistant started yesterday and brought healthy groceries into the unit. When he left at the end of the day Harry was seen getting into his van and went missing for 4 hours.

He finally showed up around 9 last night, looking the happiest he'd ever been seen, they tell me.

It was the assistant who found him. On the second day of his job. Harry was sprawled on the floor in his living room with his arms open wide, looking like some kind of angel, my friend said. It wasn't long before the police came with forensics and yellow tape and cameras and abrupt words to tell the specators to leave the scene.

Speculation has it it might have been murder.

My take is suicide.

He was 49 years old and had been trying to do just that for the past twenty years.

*not his real name, but all other details are actual.


  1. What a sad sad story, but you related it beautifully and with great compassion.

  2. Reminds me of the guy who lived in the house behind ours. He was equally resistant to any kind of help or self-discipline and just drank himself to death. Once someone has started on that kind of psychological meltdown, it's almost impossible to reverse it.

  3. It gave me a chill down my spine, we are all just a hair's breath away from Harry's fate.

  4. It's a disease of the mind - alcoholism, amd it seems nobody has yet found a reliable cure.

    Whenever I read a sad story such as Harry's
    (so beautifully told by you, WWW) I remember George Best the Manchester United soccer player from Northern Ireland.
    He had everything, fame wealth, sporting skills, the love of a legion of fans - yet he couldn't stop drinking, even after receiving a liver transplant. He, like Harry, virtually commited suicide.

    I guess we have to class severe alcoholism as "terminal".

  5. Thank you Marcia.

    Nick, I would differ with you there, being an alcoholic myself with nearly 25 years of sobriety and having seen others gain recovery even when classified as hopeless. But one has to want to stop.

    Nora, well said my friend, we all are indeed. I certainly am.

    T, the only cure I know can be found in any phonebook any place in the world and that first phonecall offers a way out.


  6. Like you, WWW, I too suffered from alcoholism, though in my case the alcoholic was my wife. They call it the 'Family Disease' with justification. It rips families apart.
    You are right, the cure can be found in any phonebook, but it takes great courage to make that initial call.

  7. RJA:
    Oh the destruction is terrible and the family is often sicker than the actual alcoholic. My family has a lot of it. Thankfully many are sober.

    I was chilled by his death, we are all but a breath away.


  8. Incidentally, WWW, I wrote my previous comment in some haste as I was late for an appointment. I meant to add that I considered the written style of this piece to be truly excellent; wonderfully descriptive and so emotionally evocative. You have a great talent.

  9. Thank you RJA, how kind of you to take the extra time and tell me this!

  10. I have a hard time feeling sorry for him, it was his choice. But then it took me 40 years of being married to one before I would except the fact that nothing I did or didn't do was going to change the fact that he loved the drink more than any of us. I divorced him this year to save myself.

  11. Dearest, will you send me your email address? I have to re-enter it into my email program and I only have your old one.


  12. There is nothing on earth that will stop a determined drunk do himself to death one way or another.
    What a terrible waste of a human life.


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