Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

30 April 2007


Well we did take Jose-Luís out to the West Peak Inn for our little "...or else" talk. Lalo figured it was remote enough that he couldn't walk out on us, which was true. If you don't have a boat (or a helicopter!), you can't get there from here. It was also a safe bet that we wouldn't be interrupted, and could talk in peace.

Now, it is not fair to characterize Jose-Luís as a semi-coherent, strung-out crack addict who can’t go more than a few minutes without a “fix” any more than I am falling-down-drunk alcoholic. In fact, he functions perfectly normally during the day without any kind of intoxicant. He is usually a pleasure to be and have around.

It’s just that he likes to party at night. And he becomes a different person. Once he gets started he has absolutely no self-control. Rent money? Food money? Power bill money? He’d spend them all in a single night. If we pay him on Friday, his money is gone by Monday. This happens every week. (Maybe we should start paying our guys on Monday instead of Friday! Hmmm.) Addicted is addicted. I like to drink, but I don’t steal to support my Rum and Coke habit.

Lalo acted as a go-between/interpreter since Jose-Luís speaks virtually no English.

I wanted Lalo to make sure that Jose-Luís understood that this bail-out came with strings; he had to do his part. We had expectations. There would be no second-chance – this was it. We would help him this time, but he had to help himself. And by that we meant staying away from those destructive “friends” with whom he was inclined to engage in bad behavior. Lalo said that he’d be keeping his eye on him. (And believe me, nothing happens in Bonacca Town without Lalo knowing about it. If someone drops a dish, Lalo knows before it hits the floor.) We did stress that if Jose-Luís did not change his ways, he would lose his wife and kids, his place to live. Not “could” or “might”…but would lose those things.

Those were the stakes. Now, the big question: Is that stuff important to him? I honestly believe that to some people it is not. They are so self-absorbed and self-involved that they actually, deep-down cannot and do not care about anyone else, even their own offspring. Unfortunately, sometimes these people marry and have children.

As we talked, I looked in Jose-Luís’ tear-filled eyes, trying to determine if he was genuinely sincere in his nervous apologies and anxious promises, or just telling us what we wanted to hear. I’ve been down this road before and I’ve been lied to by the best. It has made me jaded, suspicious and somewhat callous. People lie, it’s that simple. People will do whatever they have to do to extricate themselves from this particular situation here, this jam-up right now. They’ll worry about tomorrow when it gets here. Things have always worked out for them in the past. There’ll be another Lalo and Robert and Mr. Bob who’ll bail them out.

So I really don’t know. All I do know is that I’m no accurate judge of people. I cannot predict what Jose-Luís will do this weekend when faced with the same friends and temptations as he was last weekend and the weekend before that and all the weekends before that. Will he sit at home with his wife and toddler children, just enjoying their company and reveling in the fact that he has a wonderful family? Will he go to bed early Saturday night and get up early Sunday morning to take the family to church? Or will the “fun” of running the streets with his friends be so attractive and compelling that he’ll go out “just for one beer” and end up staying out all night? I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too.

I hate being a pessimist with stuff like this. Normally I like to think positively, and I do believe in the power of prayer. So who can tell? I do know how addictive cocaine (especially crack) can be. I know how hard it is for some people to quit. There are no formal treatment or “rehab” programs of any kind here. But even if there were, it would be incredibly difficult for him. This guy is teetering on the edge, one foot out in the air and the other on a banana peel. A feather’s touch could push him into the abyss. It’ll be interesting to see if we can pull him back to safety.

Back at the dock at the end of the day, Jose-Luís got out of the boat to leave. “¡Es importante que recuerde que sobre hablamos!” I said, which was my pigeon-Spanish way of saying “Remember what we talked about.” “Sí, sí,” he said.

I certainly hope he does. We’ll know soon enough.


Sharon Jones - sltmjones@hotmail.com said...

What a sad story and probably with no happy ending. Unfortunately on Guanaja there are no programs for this type of problem. We have hopes in the near future for help but that is months away. In the meantime the people on this island that deal in making the drugs available will continue to turn a blind eye to the great damage they are doing to their fellow man. I wonder how they would react if their own child had this same problem. Of course, they would have the money to ship the individual off to "dry" out. My heart goes out to Jose-Luis but only he can determine if he is really serious about getting his life back on track.

Hal Johnson said...

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Jose-Luis. Addiction is such a powerful influence because it usually takes a monumental effort to escape its grasp. Going back to old ways is seldom a matter of making a choice; it's a slippery slope that stays with one thoughout a lifetime, and those banana peels are ever-present.

Jose-Luis has to fight two addictions, in a sense. He has to fight the lure of crack, of course, but he also his to escape the desire to be out there. For many twenty-something guys, just staying home is a major hurdle in itself. Heck, in my twenties and thirties, I wasn't addicted to alcohol, I was addicted to bars and taverns. But then, when in Rome . . .

It was good of you to agree to participate in the intervention. Interventions may not have such an encouraging "return on investment," but sometimes they provide the necessary spark. I sure hope that'll be the case with Jose-Luis. I hope many people will pray for him.

Bob Barbanes said...

One of the problems here in Guanaja is that for the local kids it is a dead-end place. There's not a whole lot for them to look forward to at the moment. Their future must look rather bleak - as opposed to American kids who really, really can grow up to be President if they put their mind to it.

So there are many challenges for guys like Jose-Luis who, it must be said, aren't kids anymore but adults living teenagers' lives.

Fortunately, he seems to have gotten through this weekend, something I was skeptical of. So maybe there's hope.

On the other hand, Lalo and I just shelled out 6,500 lempira (about $325) for his rent. And 2,000 lemps to the power company (about $100) to keep their power on. It's not a whole lot of money - it just sounds like it in lempiras. So the little bastard is "into" us big time now. 8,500 lempira is ass-whipping territory if he backslides. (I'll get Lalo to do that - he's bigger than me.)

andis said...

Maybe you could Google Narcotics Anonymous and print out some spanish material on the 12 steps and addiction, might be helpful to the guy, finding out he isn't the only one with that kind of thinking and actions. Interventions are great, but a bit of helpful tools can go along way, I will pray for him