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Chapter 2 of Book V of an epic memoir about homeless existence in Maine

by | Oct 2, 2022

illustration/Katy Finch

Chapter Two: My Last Time

“They become feeble and tremble, they want warmth and life.” 
Erich Maria Remarque, ​All Quiet on the Western Front

Until Barbara pointed it out, I hadn’t realized I’d been in Logan Place for three weeks. The first couple weeks, I’d moved from unit to unit in the proper fashion. After I slept at Ox’s five nights signed in under his name, I went to Brian’s for five days signed in under his name. When I left Brian’s, I signed in under Koral’s name for five days. Leaving Koral’s, I signed in under Joe’s name and stayed with him. But after the incident with the smashed guitar, I hadn’t signed out of Joe’s. The last few days, I’d been hiding out, bouncing from unit to unit. I’d been trying to figure a way to leave without getting Blaze in more trouble than he was already in. But there was no way to do that, and Joe really couldn’t​ have been in any more trouble with Logan Place. I was right. He had blown up his own spot. I could have just walked out and it wouldn’t have affected Joe in the least. But in my head, I had to sneak out. So I went for it.

I headed down the stairwell for the emergency exit. When I got to the door I found it was magnetically sealed. I realized that if I forced it, an alarm would be activated. That would only aggravate the situation by involving the authorities. So I started walking toward the main entrance. I had to get out.

In the first-floor hallway I ran into Hida, an African guy I knew from having been homeless with him. He was an acquaintance; not really a friend, but he wasn’t my enemy. I asked him for help, using the syntax of a command: “Hida, let me climb out your window.”

His English is very broken. I don’t know ​exactly​ what he said, but I understood what he meant: No. Yet he was also motioning me to walk with him. So I did. What did I have to lose?

We walked to the front desk, and in his belabored English Hida told the guy on duty that I was checking out. I just waved at the guy and scurried out the door. Carrying my replacement guitar, bag over my shoulder, I hit the street.


I needed help. I was done drinking. It took 40 years to figure it out, but I’m not any fun when I drink. I may have enjoyed it at one time, but the thrill is gone. I want to drink. I want that Good Time Feeling. But once I do, I quickly go from wanting to drink to needing to drink. That’s not fun. That’s sick. And I ​was​ sick. 

But I had more than a liter of gin, half an ounce of pot, tobacco, a guitar, and a phone. All I needed was a ride to Lewiston. I had gotten sober at St. Mary’s before. I could do it again. I just had to get there. 

I decided to walk down Park Ave. to the Resource Center. I didn’t know who I was trying to find, but I knew what. I began asking random strangers — ​every person I saw —​ if they happened to be going to Lewiston. My odds weren’t good. Lewiston is like the Biddeford of Androscoggin County. That probably means nothing to anyone not from Maine, so by way of comparison I might say Lewiston represents to Portland what Jersey means to New York. But to me, it stood for Salvation.

I got within a couple blocks of the Resource Center and asked about the fiftieth person if they were heading to Portland’s Jersey. “Why don’t you try the Central Service Office?” some guy suggested. 

This was genius. Why hadn’t I thought of it myself? I obviously needed help. I hadn’t even told this guy why I was asking, but he knew. I must have looked awfully sick for him to have recommended Alcoholics Anonymous. I was less than a block away from the CSO. While the program had never worked for me, it had worked for many. And the entire premise of the program is Drunks Helping Drunks. After thousands of meetings, I’d figured out that much.

I went right into the office, and the guy there said he couldn’t help me. He was the only one there. He couldn’t help me because he couldn’t leave the place unattended. As I leaned on the counter, feelin’ ’bout half past dead, two men entered. One of them purchased a large-print version of the “Big Book,” Alcoholics Anonymous​ — the kind you read when your prescription glasses have become more expensive than large-print editions, I guess.

“My, that’s a mighty ​big​ ​Big Book​ you have there,” I joked. I might have felt like shit, but I hadn’t lost my sense of humor. “How would you like to do a really ​big​ good deed for the day?”

I explained what I was getting at and he explained that he couldn’t go to Lewiston. But he had an idea. He drove me to a rehab on Forest Ave. and dropped me off. This place, Liberty Bay, is residential, and they were very up-front with me: without insurance, there was no way they could help. Once again I discovered the more you need​ help, the harder it is to find. 

I asked if I could sit down and rest for a few. I had a long walk back to the Block — that’s where I was going. While I sat there, a group of people working around the office — ​all of whom were likely addicts themselves —​ took mercy on me. After discussing it amongst themselves, they provided a driver who took me to the detox at St. Mary’s in Lewiston.

At St. Mary’s they registered me, but they weren’t clear as to whether I was being accepted for detox. It seemed they doubted how sick I was. I still don’t understand why. I thought they were probably going to accept me, but I had to be certain.

“Look,” I said, “I’ll be honest with you. I have a liter of gin in the bag, a bag of pot, tobacco, and my guitar. I’m not giving up any of it until I have some assurance I’m being admitted.”

“We can’t promise that,” was the reply. 

“Then I can’t give you my things. I want to go.” And security escorted me out of the building. I wouldn’t be detoxing at St. Mary’s.

Outside the hospital I messaged a friend, an old friend who is actually 20 years younger than me. She was one of the neighborhood kids from Old Orchard Beach. I’d known her since she was 16. Now she was 28, with two kids and her own apartment in Lewiston. 

That’s where I would detox. And I did. She had a spare bedroom. I had to sleep on the floor, but that’s a big step up from the pavement. I nursed the bottle for two days, smoked pot and cigarettes, and played guitar. I’d already had my last drunk, at Logan Place. Now I’d had my last drink. 

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