Wednesday, September 26, 2007

People like Jimmy

I just read on another blog about the suicide of a local fellow who had a sad existence. I know that there are a lot of Jimmy's out there. You and I probably know a person who is on the fringe of everything. Not someone that you can really reach. Maybe the person has a drug or drinking problem. Maybe the person is really hurting.

I know that I vacillate between wanting to reach out to someone who clearly is a mess and just leaving that mess alone. I've learned from the Al-Anon program to realize that I'm powerless over others. And that I didn't cause the problems of others, can't control them, and can't cure them. Yet, what about having basic human concerns?

For example, there's a fellow at work who smells of booze every day. He's been in and out of rehab a bunch of times. I don't know whether he goes to AA or not. I have worked in the same building with him for many years, know his ex-wife, know of his drinking problems but know nothing about what he thinks, what he likes to do or anything else that would give a glimpse at the real person. I would like to sit down with this guy and ask what's going on, yet I hold back. There are lots of reasons that come to mind about holding back: will I be rejected? Is this any of my business? Don't I just detach?

So how do we reach out a hand to someone like Jimmy? All of us are God's creatures no matter how miserable we look or how sick we are. Maybe the only thing that I can do is just pray for anyone who is troubled and just give them up to God.


  1. Perhaps you could just start up a simple conversation with him to open the door to a casual relationship. Eventually, over time, he might open up to you about what's going on in his life. While I do believe in handing things over to God, maybe you could pray for God to show you if you should intervene or not.

    Let's say you do nothing and he ends up like Jimmy. You'll probably ask yourself why you never attempted to talk to him. I just posted last week about a friend of mine from high school who jumped in front of a local train. She had a husband, two kids, and a nice life. The people very close to her knew she was depressed and did try to help her. But before I knew that information, all I could think of was that I wished I could've talked to her and made her see what a worthwhile person she was.

    I'm still shocked and devastated over this. I wish you luck with your co-worker. How nice of you to even be concerned...maybe he would really appreciate that if he knew.

  2. I have learned - over much time in Al-Anon - that all I can do for any other people - is to accept them 'as-is.' It is not my place to attempt to change, guide, or correct another - - - besides - - -each person is entitled to the dignity of 'falling on his/her ass' in order to get to the next level, whatever that may be. I have great internal compassion for troubled folks, but accept my powerlessness in being able to provide help or answers. Now, if they were to ask me to take them to a meeting, I could do that. I make an effort today to treat everyone equally - with respect and simple acknowledgment of their presence. I did not do this in my early days, and had to learn that I treated strangers better than my own family. I'm grateful for the Al-Anon program, which showed me the way to change this defect. Meanwhile, I will keep this special person on my prayer list. Bless you, Syd, for your compassion!
    Anonymous #1

  3. Syd,
    I just encountered this same exact situation yesterday and I am at a loss on what to do. A fellow student in my (of all places, a counseling class) approached me to ask me how my lunch with my son (who is in recovery) went last week. At first, I thought I was imagining that she smelled like alcohol (it was 9am) then when she approached me a second time (around 10a) I could really smell it on her. My first reaction was to look at the floor. My second reaction was to get away from her. My third reaction was the feeling of guilt because I felt the first two. Today I am at a loss and tomorrow I will see her again in another class. I guess I am having a real problem with this for two specific reasons; she is in classes to be a counselor and she asked me about my son (in recovery) while she herself was drunk. The guilt I felt had to do with my reactions because no matter what I have gone through with my own son, father, previous marriage, the bottom line is I should have been more empathic and I was not. It was almost as though she triggered something in me that I myself was not aware of. I shared this at a meeting yesterday. As a matter of fact I was the speaker and my topic was on feelings. How ironic and appropriate? And speaking of a HP, I was not suppose to speak yesterday but our speaker could not make it at the last moment and I was asked with 15 mins to spare. How crazy is this? Thanks for sharing and allowing me to vent. I feel better already.

  4. I think you're probably right that all you can do is put them in God's hands. But letting someone know you care is a start. And then the rest is up to them. You can't really DO anything but that, right?

    Annonymous's comment regarding treating strangers better than her own family is very true for me and something I must always watch out for.

  5. Good questions.
    I have no good answers.

  6. Hmmmm I can't think of anything that other people did or did not do that influenced whether or not I drank. Does that help?

  7. i've also got a 'friend' who i could attempt to help 'cause she really needs help, and she knows it. but somehow i also cannot bring myself to do it. don't know why....

  8. I can't change anyone but yeah, I can pray. Even knowing someone a bit doesn't change my powerlessness over the disease.

    While you are praying for Jimmy and others like him, could you add Sober Chick too? Shes been struggling oh so long

  9. Yea, sometimes being in the right place at the right time is what has to happen. Let him know you care, that's about all you can do, & pray for him.

  10. I found it totally draining with some of the OUTREACH calls. (people I never met in-person at face 2 face but only from phone bridge meetings). Exhausting.

    I still do service by chairing a Wednesday night meeting 'On How al-anon works' but if my phone number is asked I say I'm working on a project and can't give it out anymore or take calls.

    I am still doing service.. and I have a kind gentle voice that other commented on.. and that has to be enough.

    And I am working on a project.. MYSELF. I just don't say that.. and not asked what project. I've been finding out how I can help others and how it is best not to get involved.

    When the old times call and drain me from my face to face; and they never take service (NEVER) and they don't buy the books or if they have don't read them.. don't work on the steps; just want to vent and let off steam.. (I have to say as still relatively new (18 months); I find it a bit draining getting calls from people in the program for 10+ years..

    I started doing service pretty quickly at my face to face meeting.. .. first taking a topic; than 3 months of setting up the coffee and all; and twice begin the person to make the topics for people to pick and twice being a secretary.

    With service does come more healing .. and feeling part of the program.

    Being drained by people not working the steps but want to talk about drama... and more drama.. is just I think too Vampire-ish to me.

    They get to vent and then do the same-old........and then vent again about the same thing repeatedly; 18 months later the same lady is calling me to tell me the same stuff. (hugs) I am avoiding people and not being so open to getting close to people I feel will drain me and I'm not helping them at all. They don't want to change at least NOT YET.

  11. Thanks for this post, my mother is an alcoholic and I've beginning to understand that I cannot change her. Yesterday she was found dead drunk downtown and instead of getting angry I feel that all that I can do is support her, pray and hope that she'll find her way to recovery.


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