I liked Tony. He enjoyed verbal jousting, and, beneath a cocky, adolescent veneer, his eyes portrayed intelligence and his conversation hinted at depth. Having a good professional rapport with him, disclosing my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I advised him a couple of times that life gets better. At twenty one, Tony was oblivious to the wisdom imparted by someone twice his age. With the tick tock of the clock resounding, the amount of agonizing breaths it would take to reach age forty was unfathomable.
I saw him again when he was securing his benefits in anticipation of moving back into his housing. He had gained some weight and his unruly hair had been sheared off. He seemed to have found a new center of gravity. His feet were planted in one place, instead of shuffling and shifting, as they would have when I had last worked with him. He was warm and friendly, giving me a quick hug and making steady eye contact as we spoke.
Tony described his year homeless: in conflict with others and in continual, aimless motion, he almost didn’t survive. While in emergency housing, he took his entire sixty thousand milligram supply of Seroquel, fully expecting to die. He could not recollect how he made it to the kitchen floor to pass out. He woke up in ICU, hooked up to monitors and with tubes up his nose.
“That was it for me. I haven’t cut in over a year now.”
“You had an epiphany,” I said.
He shrugged. “I look at it more as a God thing.”
An epiphany or miracle? Road to Riverhead or Road to Damascus? How Tony arrived at the decision to live matters far less than the fact that he did it. The choice to live may be made at any age and in any stage. Once we’ve gleaned the knowledge that we’re more than a biological stew of bones, blood, and tissue, there is no going back.
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