Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Twenty years ago, when we first moved to town, my husband had a
good friend at work. His life has fallen apart since then, despite a nice
wife and two lovely school-aged daughters. He lost the job because of
addiction to pain meds. He managed his habit for a while, was taken in
by another woman who got him work, but has slid almost to bottom
and has been living at a homeless shelter while being given
methadone (I am not sure by whom). Note: We haven’t seen him in
the last five years. Last night he called, said he had been kicked out of
the shelter for drinking, had nowhere to go, and “wanted to get
clean.” We gave him a place to stay for the night and investigated
detox programs while he threw up all over the guest room. He has no
insurance and the wife has a restraining order against him. I am not a
bad person but I’m not equipped to live through his detox and
mainstreaming, let alone a relapse. What can we do?
Scared For Him and Us
Clearly he needs more help than you can give him. Getting off drugs
that have a severe physical component of detox is not a trivial matter.
He needs to be in the care of skilled professionals who’ll know what to
do if something goes medically kaflooey. This is clearly in the Don’t try
this at home! category, unless you are a medical person who’s trained
for his needs, and ready to take time from your life to be there 24/7
for him. Helping a friend is a great when a friend is down, but helping
someone in severe distress find care is smarter and more viable.
If he’s down to calling people he’s seen twice in five years, many or all
of those who’re closer to him have been tried, tested, and likely
abandoned the idea of rescuing him. He sounds like he’s spiraling
towards bottom, and classic wisdom is that people don’t really change
until they’ve hit bottom. Best would be a referral to a detox center
through the ER of your local hospital.
Call every local social service agency until you find one that provides crisis and detox care to the homeless and insurance-less. Pray hard that there’s such a nonprofit still functioning. Get him to and through the referral and intake
process. But do not take him at his word about more than what you
can verify with your own eyes. Until he’s clean and off the meds, or on
the right ones, he’s a live grenade ready to off, teetering at the edge
of failure. Getting him help is the best you can do. Plus contacting his
family to help make a better safety net for when he gets out.