I have come to the realization that no matter what I do, no matter how much money I send, it will not be enough. Kind of like alcohol for the alcoholic, there is never enough. But last weekend something came to me, something that my friends had told me for quite some time, something that I knew in my heart of hearts—that I just could not keep giving him money above and beyond what we agreed to. Initially, it started out with $100 a month, but that was not enough. Then his dad agreed to $200 a month to be doled out incrementally by me as I saw fit. Of course I would have saved money by giving him large chunks at once, but I knew the money would be gone within a week or two. However, it is usually gone by early in the month anyway, then the incessant, relentless, phone calls start—multiple in one day. Then last weekend I just stopped taking my boy’s calls, not listening to his messages, and deleted them. This has been very difficult to do this, but I know that the minute I listen to him or hear a phone message, my resolve will crumble. In speaking with my wise friend, Janet, she made a good analogy. When I told her that my giving him money relieves the fear, guilt, and anxiety. She said giving him money is like an addiction; the anxiety and apprehension build up and is relieved only when I send him the money he requests. It is a tremendous relief, and I feel better temporarily, but it starts to build again, and the only relief is when I send him money again. Although there is an overwhelming sense of relief, I also have a sense of tremendous resentment, which equals anger. Then the cycle starts again, over and over. Just like an addiction, I needed to just stop this cycle because it is no good for him because he will never get the help he needs and no good for me because I am continually being drawn into his chaotic world. It is a symbiotic, sick relationship. I have to be strong, and I pray to God that this is the right call and will not result in a tragedy because I will never forgive myself. I just have to trust in the Lord that He knows what I don’t and will some day lead my son out of this never-ending maze to a better life.
Invisible people exist all over the world. My friend commented on my recent post about older women being invisible by noting this, although this is a different type of invisibility. When I was in Antigua, Guatemala, the narrow streets were lined with beggars, appearing to be either sleeping or motionless, with their bowls waiting for people to drop coins in. I even took pictures, all the while feeling guilty. Everybody would just literally walk over them. But it seemed their assigned “job” in life was “beggar”, and their job description included being as unobtrusive as possible. That is definitely not the case in Manhattan. When I worked there, I encountered the “invisible” every day, in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, the Subway, the street leading up to the bus terminal (40th and 8th). These areas have been “cleaned up” since the last time I was there, but I distinctly remember avoiding the urine soaked stench on one side of the street by moving to the other side. Before the cops cracked down on the homeless, you would be greeted each morning by society’s outcasts, hanging around right outside or even inside Port Authority, begging for money. Sometimes they would come up to you while you were on the line waiting for the bus to arrive, and we would just ignore them, pretending they were invisible. A day never passed that I was not approached in the Subway by a panhandler. Everybody on the train would virtually ignore them, staring right through them as if they were not even there. We all seemed to have an unwritten code that said, “Do not give money to the indigent”, but sometimes my heart would break for someone. I’ll never forget a dirty homeless young man who collapsed to his knees on the subway train, begging anyone to help him, while we all pretended he was not there. I don’t know how other people felt, but I SAW these “throwaway” people and always thought, “There for the grace of God go I” and knew it could happen to anyone, even me. I think the main culprit was drugs, alcohol, mental illness, or most likely, a combination. Where mental illness goes, so does addiction and alcoholism. Not all alcoholics are severely mentally ill, but the majority of homeless are mentally ill and abuse drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medication. I never would have thought that a loved one would fall victim to that exact same fate, but it happened, which shows it can affect anyone even if you feel you are immune. I hope that some of these people came back from the living dead, by getting the help they needed, but I will never know. More resources are needed for the mentally ill, but until we realize that this can and may touch your life, we will continue to see invisible people.