Good Morning: The right person...

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Michael Hutchins

There are many phrases out there for the coincidence of being in the right place to make a difference in something. The right person for the right job or being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference. I think I was both of those things this past week.

I don't say this to boast, but I seriously think I play a part in potentially saving the life of a close friend. My experiences, feelings and perspectives possibly helped me say and do the things needed for someone I care about to change themselves for the better.

I've known him going on two years now. Our friendship has only grown stronger during the pandemic as both of us were in the same impromptu support social group for a group of mutual friends online. In that time, all of us knew that he had his problems with alcoholism.

He hid it fairly well behind a demeanor of boisterous bravado, humor and bucking against the norms. He played it off as being a social alcoholic, but hints of deeper issues always were bubbling under the surface.

"I drink so that I can sleep," was a common phrase, and I had more than my share of late-night conversations where he would be finishing off a 12-pack before going to sleep. I don't think there was anyone in our group he was blind to the issue, but none of us knew what to say or do.

Things hit their peak about a week ago after a night of heavy drinking and conversations on a topic that tends to rile him up. However, on this night, his obstinance and irritability hit their peak and he exploded in a tirade of pent-up anger and frustration. At that point, we all knew it was the alcohol talking and not our friend.

However, how many other times had it been the alcohol? It was a question I asked myself repeatedly that night.

My friend woke up the next day, feeling awful, but remembering anything from the previous night. I was the one who had to tell him what he had said and done the previous night.

As a little backstory, this is not my first encounter with addiction and substance abuse. Multiple family members have faced this demon face first, with varying degrees of success. While I wasn't often a direct witness to it, I did see, and feel, the effects of it in their lives, and by proxy mine.

Those experiences led me to swear off alcohol entirely throughout my entire life. Their pain and struggles ultimately kept me from repeating those same mistakes.

Despite all this, I've never had to intervene. It is not something I have any experience with, but here I was, with a friend who needed to hear hard words.

As he wrestled with what had happened the night prior, I said the only words I could think to say: "I think you need help."

There was a silence that hung over everything and I couldn't figure out if I had said the best or worst thing at the time. After a long pause, he agreed to seek treatment.

This in and of itself had its own hurdles. Upon seeking help through a hospital bill, my friend received a hefty bill before he was referred to a specialist detox program. In secret, he confided that the bill was everything he had saved.

In order to have the best chance of getting through this, I knew that we needed to stop this from hanging over his head so he could focus on recovering. In secret, I gathered some of our mutual friends and told them about his need. After a brief discussion, we vowed to help. 

Over the weekend, one of our mutual friends helped an online livestream to raise the money for the treatment. It only took  about eight hours. I did my best to help as an impromptu hype man.

I have never been the most spiritual person in the world, but I can't help but feel that something — fate or something even higher — put me in that position and made sure I was equipped with what I needed to make a difference. I played my part, and it is a very humbling feeling.