Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Shower Curtain

She walked into the kitchen where I was cleaning up after dinner and said, “I want this.” Actually, it was more like a command than a request or a statement.

I turned from the sink and looked at what she was holding. It was the new shower curtain that I had recently purchased, still enclosed in its clear plastic case.

“You live in a hotel,” I replied. “What would you do with a shower curtain?”

“I’m gonna cut it up and make it into a dress,” she said.

“That’s absurd,” I said. “That cloth is too heavy for a dress. Besides, I just bought that and…”

“But you ain’t using it now and I want it!”

“I am going to put it up. Soon. So you can’t have it.”

“Well, can I have your coffee maker then?”

Do you get the drift?

Every time she came to my house—no, every time I was in contact with her anywhere—she wanted something.

Once she “borrowed” my expensive (to me) Bose radio because “I ain’t got no music to listen to in my room.” When I asked for it back, I learned that her boyfriend had pawned it. (Luckily I was able to retrieve it after paying $70.00 to the pawn broker).

Another time she left my house with my nicest chess set in her backpack. By the time I had realized that it was gone, she had lost four of its pieces.

I could go on, but the memories actually hurt.

I had tried to help her when she was down and out and stranded in Louisville. She had been introduced to me by an ex-parishioner who, I later learned, was fed-up with her “I wants.” I assisted her in returning to her Pennsylvania home and thought I had done a mitzvah—a good deed. Within three months she was back in Louisville—and in need.

In that manner she bounced in and out of Louisville—and my life—for two years. And each time she contacted me her situation was… desperate.

Eventually even an old helper-dude like me learned and I would say no to her demands and not back down. Eventually I learned what it means to befriend a manipulative drug addict. It’s a relationship with lots of pain and few, if any, rewards.

The last time I heard from her was about 15 months ago. She telephoned—collect—from a jail in Arizona. I did not accept the charges.

The shower curtain she wanted now hangs in my bathroom.

FYI: Alex is still taking his meds OK, napping a lot, and spending his awake time wherever I am. I snapped this photo of him at 9:09 p.m. this evening:


  1. wow. very vivid--excellently written. Perhaps you should write a book? Anyway, that sounds rough. Gotta be hard to be in that situation.

  2. it's a good thing that you got her out of her life, at some stage you have to realize that if she doesn't want to help herself, your help will always be needed, and that is just not right.

    give a hug to alex for me ;)

  3. That's a sad story.

    Give Alex a hug from me.

  4. You were good to put up with as much as you did. Sometimes people need to be abandoned in order to learn: too bad she didn't!

  5. Yeah, you tried, but she was just dragging both of you down. I'm glad you're rid of her now.

    Hope the napping isn't too rough for Alex. :-)\

    Just kidding, I know how drowsy I get when I take allergy meds. Hope he's doing better.

  6. Many people think that bath curtain is a simple and dull thing. But it brings an emotion to your bathroom. It can literally change the way your bathroom looks!

  7. It is so hard to help a drug addict. I think the words "I want" sums up everything about them.

    I enjoyed the song of the day. I never heard of Storefront Congregation. I must check out their music.

  8. I have a slew of family like this, and it never gets any easier unfortunately. You never get the trust back, and the "want" is always there. Well, as long as the person remains in this stage. For some, they get help on their own accord and it works out. But that isn't the norm, and it's a shame.

    My heart goes to you Nick. Because even though you did the right thing (plenty times over i am sure) i know how tough it is to think of that person and have that tugging hope that they will one day just be okay.

    Glad to see Sir Alex is out and about.

  9. It is so hard to have to make the choice to sever the ties, but sometimes when you have a toxic relaltionship like that you have to. You did what you could when you could. You are such a sweet kind man.

  10. Thanks for sharing your wisdom Reverend,

    Love tells the truth, even if its not what another wants to hear.

    Blessings to alex and you,


  11. Nick
    I am still having problems when I come over to visit. There is always a nasty blip noise and then sometimes I can comment and others times I am just locked out. Then the computer locks up and I have to go out of the system and sign back on. Yours is the only blog with this problem for me.
    I always wonder when they were babies did they say "I want to grow up to be a drug addict?" NO I am sure but some do not have the ability to pull themselves up. You tried. Bless you. Glad to see kitty kat is awake. Take care Peace

  12. Hey Nick, Thanks for coming by to wish me a happy birthday. Beautiful cat. Sad story but so well written. I serve as a money coach at my church (helping people learn to manage money). Most of these folk are recovering (?) addicts. I haven't been in your position and hope to never be in that position. You went above and beyond to help her. Glad I know about your site. I'll visit again.

  13. well i also reamber meeting her and one word comes to mind wow she was a trip! lol i am also very glad she is gone out of your life! take care pal! your frind Tiffany!

  14. Sometimes it is the hardest thing in the world to say no. But sometimes you just have to. However, the shower curtain would have made a really funky skirt.

    Love the photo of Alex. Has he been ill? If so, Edward and I do hope he's feeling better.

  15. Jay Are: Thank you. I have written parts of a couple of books, but never finished one.

    Sweets: Yes, it is a good thing I got her out of my life and that she has thus far stayed there. Still, I keep thinking of all of her wasted potential!

    Abby: Yes, it is sad. Alex is right beside me; I’ll give him a pet or two from you.

  16. Liz: I know. Perhaps you’ve hit on one of the missing elements in this story: I have a fear of abandonment, perhaps from the deaths of all 4 of my grandparents when I was very young. I know that I loathe abandoning anyone myself.

    Squirl: You are so right about her dragging me down. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the world of drugs from her and her cronies. Perhaps I need to write some posts about some of those characters I met through her. Some were humorous and others were fear-provoking; all were the types I had only previously encountered in novels or TV shows.

    Alex’s napping had been a concern of mine until his vet confirmed that it was a natural result of the meds. Yesterday morning was the first time he went outside to play since I began giving the meds to him; he only stayed outside for about 10 minutes and then came in and took a nap. At the moment he is looking out through the door that he requested I open for him but he shows no inclination to explore the outside world.

    Sergey: Well, sir, what do you think of the shower curtain that I refused to give to her?

  17. Simon: I agree that the words I want may sum up the demands of drug addicts; yet, I have always known and worked with non-drug addicts that also center their lives around those words. Perhaps I need to share some of those stories as well?
    Thank you for commenting on Storefront Congregation. They are a Kentucky group, centering (I believe) on Lexington. I’ve not heard them live in years. Their CD is one of my favorites.

    Xmichra: I wonder if she’ll ever find herself free of the drugs. I helped her get into a methadone program during the last months that she was around Louisville. But even then I was the one paying for the methadone treatments. Her boyfriend and she remained unemployed; he was in his late 30s and had not held a job since he was 19 years old, always being supported by a woman. Sad. I found it very sad. Both of them.

    Yes, Alex is doing OK thus far. He has now moved about two feet closer to the open door. (See my comment to Squirl, above).

    Sassy Mama Bear: Thank you. You know, after I finally did cut my ties with her, I felt as if I had failed her. Even when, months after I had last heard from her, she telephoned from jail, I very tempted to accept the telephone call. However, I knew why she was called and even constructed her words in my mind: Nick, I want you to put up money for my bail.

  18. Maithri : Yes, I fully agree. I value truth highly. Blessings to you and your mission and most important work, my dear friend.

    Lady Di TN: I wish I could figure out what is causing your problems accessing Nick’s Bytes. The only times I have had similar problems is when I use IE and I’ve found the culprit to be Flickr link. If you can scroll down your browser when that happens and see if Flickr is flickering—flashing on and off but not loading—let me know. I can easily disable that link if it is causing folks problems.

    That’s an excellent observation. Freud suggested that there is such a thing as an “addictive personality” and contemporary researchers have found a gene that alcoholics share. So I wonder if addiction is biological or sociological. There is problem a debate going on about that somewhere.

    JC: You are most welcome. And thank you for dropping by Nick’s Bytes. Do you perceive that addicts—recovering or otherwise—have difficulty managing money? I have found that to be true through the years: I suppose it relates to poor impulse control.

  19. Chica: Yes, you did meet her. Yes, she was (and I suppose still is) “a trip.” I found it a shame that, with the natural beauty of her looks and her soul, she did so much to herself to make both appear ugly. The thought saddens me.

    Please don’t forget to contact me if you do come to Louisville this weekend!

    Pamela Terry and Edward : Yes, saying “no” is difficult. Do you really think the shower curtain would have made an OK skirt? I must trust your artist’s eye on that!

    Yes, Alex is suffering from allergies—lots of allergies. The latest is a rash on his tummy that led him to lick off all of his tummy hairs. The meds—especially the cortisone—seem to be working. At least I’ve not observed him licking his tummy since he began the meds.

    Blessings to you and Edward! May you have a good weekend.

  20. There are givers and takers - I know which I prefer. Keep her out of your life Nick.

  21. There is always a risk associated with caring and helping. Fortunately, it doesn't always turn out this way!

  22. My personal experiences with drug addicts have been very similar to yours.

  23. You are such a kind, caring person. I think it's right that we give when we can and it's right that we quit giving when we see the "I needs" are endless. You did your best and now you don't have to regret not trying to be there for her.

    I do like that shower curtain! Can I have it? ;-)

  24. you're a good man. it's a good thing to want to help people but it's tough sometimes to realize when the helping is really not helping. i think she will think of you as a positive influence on her life - but what she does with her life will have to be her decision.

    good post.

  25. Most druggies are self-centered and selfish.

  26. I guess most of us have had to learn this lesson the hard way. I used to feel a little guilty about not giving my time, energy or emotion to anyone who just wanted to use them up. Then I realized that I wasn't helping them anyway. Now I'm careful to give myself only to those that give as well as take.

  27. Akelamal: Yes, I shall keep her out of my life. She must be reading my blog: When I awoke about 10:00 last night from a nap and checked my voice mail, shehad called and left a message on my answering machine:. "Nick, this is _________. Give me a call." That was the first I had heard from her since June of last year. I did not return the call.

    Dana : Yes, there is risk. I have no problems with risks or being vulnerable: I’ve been that way all of my life. And of the many risks I’ve taken with people I believe that I have been “burned” only about 4 or 5 times.

    Jean Marc: Actually, she was the first hard-core addict I had ever attempted to personally help so I can’t make any generalizations from the experience.

  28. Carol: Thank you. I agree. There are times when I see gifts and potentials in people that (perhaps) they don’t see in themselves and when they are self-destructive I have the urge to give them what they need to succeed. What she taught me was, until she ended her drug addiction, which was for her primarily pain killers and methamphetamine, she couldn’t deal with anything else.

    Robin: Thank you. You, too, are on target. By providing her with not her wants but even her needs—food and shelter—I was probably enabling her drug habit. Her constant threat to prostitute herself to obtain food and shelter hooked me into providing for her, even though my intuition told me she was prostituting for drugs and would continue to do so no matter what assistance I gave or didn’t give her.

    Anonymous: Again, I can’t make any generalizations. As a social worker and pastor I have dealt with other folks addicted to drugs who didn’t seem as “needy” as she; however, she was the only person I ever allowed into my home.

    Twyla: You are so right! And the “hard way” is the way I have learned that lesson! I hope I have learned the lesson, for I gave much more of my self that I really could afford.

  29. Could this cat have any more dignity? I think not...

  30. I had a leach in my life. Every once in a while he contacts me with an attitude that I owe him. Of course he conveniently forgets the fact that he swindled and conned my father out of a very large sum of money and that I am now in a great deal of debt because of his actions. I chose to get past it, for my sanity and move on.

    *hugs to you*

    *A belly rub for Alex*