November 7th, 1981
This morning while walking Sadie through Washington Square— a drunk derelict staggered toward me. I started to quickly change directions when I realized there was something pleading about him that made me stop and listen. He was asking where the nearest Catholic church was. He was a wreck— old blood on his shirt— new stitches covering one side of his head, a swollen lip and eye. He was crying. And drunk. Begging for help. He said he was sick— and his vision was starting to go. I felt so horrible at this spectacle of a man dying from alcoholism. I told him to sit down on a park bench and to wait for me— that I would go to get help. I hurried back to the apartment not sure what to do. I called an ambulance and went back to the park to wait with him. He was still there. A policeman on horseback had arrived and when he realized that the man was drunk— told me that the ambulance would not take him. And I suppose he cancelled the call through his radio— because and ambulance never came. So I was left in the park still wanting to help this man who was sick. He refused to go to the men’s shelter— and kept insisting that he needed to get to a Catholic church— “They have to help” he said— and pulled a string of beads out of his pocket— a broken rosary. “This is all I have left” he said. I walked him to St. Joseph’s— only to find that the rectory was not open. I left him leaning in the doorway and told him to wait while I went home and made some calls. Jim told me I should tell him to go to an emergency room and not get involved. I called St. Vincent’s emergency room and was told they would not take drunks— who had no other immediate medical emergency. I called Intergroup and a woman told me I had no business being in Washington Square— she had another man, Mark, speak to me who was— finally— compassionate to the situation and my need to help. He gave me a list of phone numbers to call and thanked me— in behalf of the drunk. I was left with the fact that the only place for man like that to go was the men’s shelter. So I went back to buy him a sandwich and try to convince him to go— he was gone. And I was left with a mix of anger— sadness— and horror.
This disease kills.
Dick M. is in town for the weekend— we spent a lovely blustery November afternoon uptown. We went to Hayden Planetarium and wandered through the Museum of Natural History. He is 5 months sober and his transformation is dramatic. He is a joy.
During the past week or so, I have been having extraordinary moments of great intensity— feelings of great happiness— some fundamental peace. I believe it is the healing of the wounds of self-hatred. Tonight during a meeting with Joanne and Dick, I was aware of a complete sense of happiness with who I am, what I am, and where I am. My life is wonderful. I have never felt so healthy and vital and alive.