Nebraska Center for Writers

by Dave Harm

Have you ever been to a larger size city and walked through their busy main streets? You'll look into the windows and see merchandise, you've never seen before. You'll stop into a little cafe and try some "home cooking." You'll watch the people walk by on the sidewalks, the cars behind them, racing in both directions. Then reality sets in, ever so slowly, a dirty man, with torn clothes, has his hand out, begging for money. Some look away, others feel pity, while still others are angry. I know, because I seen all these feelings when I was homeless. I heard stories from the Bible, and was told to "get a job!" I was harassed, kicked and spit upon. It didn't bother me, just please, give me your loose change. I grew up in a proud home (with what the outside saw) that had strong values. But they didn't see inside the closed doors, it was quite dysfunctional. It was from this craziness, that I survived. I survived homelessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, divorces, numerous court cases and jail. That craziness made me who I am. That craziness gave me a life, it gave me an excuse. For most of my adult life, my childhood ruled me. Marriages failed because of my parents. It was their fault I lost jobs. On and on, it went. As long as it was their fault, I did not have to accept responsibility for my actions. That was until my drinking could not be avoided. In court rooms, they didn't want to hear about "poor Dave." They would not let me push my responsibility on someone else. Looking at many years in the penal system, the fear of God set in, and I realized this was my last chance. Some would say, I quit to avoid jail. They are correct. But that fear has kept me sober for over nine years. I still remember my last drunk, my first day in court, and my first counseling session. I was defeated, scared, and totally hopeless. If I didn't go to court, there is little doubt in my mind, that I would be dead. Either someone would have killed me, I would have killed myself, or alcoholism would have done me in. While alcoholism, helped me survive many trials, it should be stated that, all these trials I created! Sobriety, brought new challenges. Most people call this — life! Pay bills, accept responsibility and try to rebuild burnt bridges. Sobriety gave me strength and courage to move forward. I am so thankful, that my wife, Betty did not have to go through breast cancer alone. If I was drinking, I wouldn't have been there for her, physically — maybe, spiritually — no way.

Reprinted with permission
from Damaged Merchandise: Poems and Stories
of an Alcoholic Addict
Copyright © 2004
by Dave Harm

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Nebraska Center for Writers