Addiction – 13 December 2013

Posted: December 13, 2013 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


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This morning was painfully cold, minus fifteen degrees (five degrees Fahrenheit), and with the windchill it felt like minus twenty-five (minus thirteen degrees F.).  Overnight it’s going to minus twenty-four,  it will feel like minus thirty-one (minus twenty-three F.). I had a scarf wrapped around my face, but the wind against my forehead was a searing burn, near to being unbearable. Seeing Gyslain was a surprise.

“Hello, my friend. It’s a cold one isn’t it?”

“Hi, your name is Ghyslain, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“I have a hard time remembering names. Even people I’ve known for five years; I forget their names. Where did you sleep last night?

“I slept inside.”

“Were you at the Mission or the Salvation Army…”

“Salvation Army. It’s really dirty there.”

“Were you bothered by bed bugs?”

“I didn’t ask for a bed, they’re on the second floor. I just asked for a mat. I slept in the basement.”

“Are there no bed bugs in the mats?”

“I cleaned it with alcohol before I put my sleeping bag down.”

“Jacques used to bring bed bug spray with him, whenever he slept in any of the shelters.”

“Yeah, alcohol does the same.”

“Do the mats have plastic covers?

“Yeah, I just took a rag, poured alcohol on it and wiped the mat.

“How long have you been on the streets? How many years?”

“Twenty. I started in 1995.”

“What was it that caused you to be on the streets?”

“I had an addiction problem since I was twenty-five. When you’re addicted you end up on the street. I used to live on the Quebec side (of the Ottawa River), but I owe money there, so I moved here.”

“Do you get any pensions, or street allowance?”

“I get the GST (Goods and Services Tax) Rebate and some others. In January I’ll be getting Welfare. My worker has set up the papers for me.

“After twenty years on the street, they want to see you housed. She wants me to live at Hunt Club, but that’s too far. I need to be downtown.”

“Little Jake, Shakes and I live in Carlington Park. Shark and Irene used to live there. It takes us forty-five minutes to get downtown on the number fourteen bus.”

“Yeah, that’s too long. I gotta get out of this cold. Thanks, man. Maybe I’ll see you next week.” He packed his belongings into a duffel bag and headed off towards the coffee shop.


  1. Thank you for sharing this, and for caring about the invisible and forgotten.


  2. paulfg says:

    Clicking “Like” somehow feels very privileged and irrelevant. Your gift of humble actions/words is stirring something in me to look deeper here. No commitments, no promises, no knee-jerks. But something important is stirring. So no Like either – just a quiet thank you.


    • Hi Paul, thanks for your kind words. I enjoyed your post “Come away from the gate” especially the lines, “As we commence Christmas, why not come away from the gate? Let love in. Let God in. Let Him keep his own gate.” ~ Dennis


  3. omtatjuan says:

    It has been cold here on the Left Coast and the authorities have been finding homeless people dead constantly. I cant even imagine what it’s like up there..


  4. When I lived in NYC, there was a homeless man I would see in the same spot every morning on my way to work outiside the deli I got my coffee at. After just once, it turned into a ritual that I would bring him a coffee and croissant, or whatever I was having, as well. I wish I knew what ever became of him and the others that have crossed my path. Thank you for you.


  5. hafong says:

    Thank you for following my blogs, Dennis. I had trouble reading yours for awhile because alot of the patients we had had trouble with addiction to drugs and alcohol. They were difficult to deal with often. But now that I am removed from the scene, I can read your posts.


  6. toad (chris jensen) says:

    Reblogged this on thisoldtoad.


  7. toad (chris jensen) says:

    i spend most of my time, writing on a laptop, so i would you could say i’ve got it easy being in some place that has free wifi….

    Cheers Dennis!


  8. glenn says:

    This is a sad and frightening account. There are times, such as these, when in conversation that I will express my gratitude for having a roof over my head which often receives a nonplussed look from the individual that is participating. It is frightfully cold this time of year around these parts and I realize how fortunate I am. Thank you for helping me to maintain some perspective.


    • Hi Glenn, thanks for your comment. I agree, it is a frightening account. I worry that many of my friends won’t awake in the morning because of where they passed out. Thanks for your post “I Made a Choice to Not Drink”. This is a very heartfelt, honest account of how it feels to be an alcoholic. I’m sure that it will be of benefit to many readers. Merry Christmas. ~ Dennis


  9. bluebrightly says:

    Thank you for the follow, and bringing your blog to my attention. It’s an interesting concept – just the simple act of making these lives a bit more visible, without commentary or judgement. I like that. Good luck to you, and may this project grow.


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