Beach Bum


Image Source: Vivian Maier

“Ah Christ, there’s that bum again,” Harry said. “I see him here all’a time, passed out on the beach. What a drunken loser.”

He and Melinda were walking the beach in the morning, having cut class for an end-of-semester R&R day. The sun was up and already hard at work, and the man on the sand was starting to turn pink on the exposed right side of his face.

“Oh, don’t be so quick to judge, Harry,” Melinda said. “He’s sick. We should be helping him.”

Harry stopped in his tracks. “Sick?!? What, does he have the sniffles? How, exactly, is that no-good drunken bum sick?”

“From everything I’ve read in class, I can say that addiction is an illness,” Melinda said. “Just like schizophrenia or any other sickness. And I’ve talked to many recovering addicts, and I’ll guarantee you that none of them would have chosen to be addicted.”

“Sick, my foot!” Harry said. “If he didn’t want to be ‘sick’ all the time, he shouldn’t have started drinking. And now he should stop!”

“Yes, but how?” Melinda said. “How do you just stop? It’s not just as easy as that.”

“How do you stop?” Harry said. “Permit me to demonstrate!” He took a long pull from his Budweiser and threw the bottle deep into the water. “There! I stopped!”

“There are other factors, Harry!” Melinda said. “Biology, and family and environment and…mental components that we don’t even understand! Why would anybody choose to pass out on a beach? But why couldn’t he stop himself from doing so?”

I was out drinking until 2:00 this morning!” Harry said. “Do you see me passed out on a beach like a bum?”

“Well!” Melinda said. “I’m glad your internal wiring is so perfect! And that you’re perfect enough to judge others. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get the lifeguard!”

Harry walked away in disgust while Melinda flagged down help. She went over to the man, turned him on his back, and gently woke him. He could only mumble, and all he could say was “thank you, young lady” and “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry.” Over and over, “thank you, young lady” and “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry,” with tears streaming down his scorched, sand-encrusted cheeks. Melinda watched as the man was wheeled into an ambulance and taken off, and for both of them, the morning continued…

Dedicated to those that know the sickness. Strength to those that are fighting it, and peace to those that didn’t make it.

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26 comments
  1. Great one, Brian. Have you looked into donating this to an organization that helps the addicted?

    • Thanks, man! Just wrote this yesterday, so haven’t had a chance to ponder future use, but I would certainly do whatever I can, since I’m in the club myself.

  2. Yeah- I know about all about that sickness- great post!

    • Solidarity. 😉

  3. I was afraid the man on the beach was going to be dead, but I’m glad he wasn’t. I’d like to think Melinda saved him by her action, though I’m sure it’s not that easy. I wonder if Whitney Houston’s death was the catalyst for your thoughts? Your story made me think of her and everyone who has been down the addiction path. Your dedication gave me chills.

    • Jeannette, you’re on to me! Yes, this was completely “inspired” by Whitney’s death. I never read the comments on any news article, because it angers up the blood too much. But I did see one or two comments this time, all along the oh-so-predictable lines of “well, she should have just put down the crack pipe,” and “well, *I* can go without” and etc. I’m sure you’ve heard it all as well. This is my response to those that have never known addiction yet still know that it’s a choice and those that don’t make it don’t make it because of their bad choices.

      • Or, as I was trying to say in English, this post is my response to those that have never known addiction, yet still just “know” that addiction is a choice, and that people die not because they’re sick but because they make bad choices.

  4. morezennow said:

    Both my parents were addicted to booze. I didn’t understand it during my childhood, how they could pay more attention to the bottle than me. Now that I’m “grown up” I do understand, a little. From a clinical perspective, far removed from my personal life, it’s easier. Once emotions become a quotient it is much more difficult. My mom overcame her addiction and I am so proud of her. She is free to be the person she wants to be. My thought for all those struggling with any type of addiction is this: know that someone loves you and will take your hand to walk beside you as you stumble or crawl.
    Another great thought provoking snap. Sorry for the lengthy reply!

    • Six months and I love your input at any length. Snap that off!

      • Or, in English, “Six months clean for me…”

  5. Sarah said:

    Brillliant Brian. This is brilliant! You are a VERY talented writer! One that can help a lot of people too. I just love this….

    • Thank you so much.

  6. Well done and great timing…

    • Yeah, I wish it weren’t so.

  7. Alex @ Raw Recovery said:

    It’s so sad that our country has stigmatized mental illnesses and addictions to such a dangerous degree. No one chooses to be addicted, there really are so many other factors that go into it. I can relate in terms of my eating disorder and people would say, “Just eat! Use your brain!” I’ve lost a few friends this year not to addiction but to mental illness and people are so quick to say, “If only she or he had done x, then y would have happened.” I guess I try to do my part to talk about the raw side of things and show people what it’s really like, but that judgement of others is hard to change. Thanks for posting this. It’s really beautiful.

    • Alex, you are so correct and I’m so glad you commented. We didn’t choose this. But we are choosing to shed some light on the subject, and hopefully to help some people along the way. And I’ll take that over any presumption of expertise and unsolicited counsel any day. Good on ya…

  8. Very powerful and immediate story, Brian – thanks.

    • Thanks so much.

  9. wow!!!
    🙂
    janet

    • Why, thankya, ma’am!

  10. AgrippingLife said:

    This is great. Perfect, really.

    • Thank you so much! I sure tried to make it a compelling piece. 😉

  11. Read this again…superb writing.

    • I’m honored, David; thank you so much!

  12. curvyelviesays said:

    Beautiful…..

    • Thank you so much. Great to have you on board.

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