Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lucky to be a pensioner

It was a brisk autumn morning in Adelaide and I was unaware my supermarket opened not at 6am but at 7am. I had no idea they had changed their hours. I was out early just before 7 and got an apologetic we'll be open soon from the store lady who was letting other workers in. On the bench sat a man around 35, maybe 40. So we exchanged pleasantries about the fresh morning and the fact we were too early. Then I thought he had said he had just come off shift work. "No, I am lucky to be a pensioner", he said. Pensioner? At his age?  He was clean , nicely dressed and the right weight but  then he started to babble. I got a whole potted history of his life in 5 minutes. He had been in rehab to get off the needles, as he put it. " I still pop pills though and I don't care. I said he should look after himself but he was oblivious to my comments. He then started talking about his brother scabbing money off him, his mother going into a nursing home. "I guess I hit her about a bit." He was so matter of fact about the chaos in his life but I was happy to listen because he had the best Australian accent and I haven't heard one of those in a while. That made me think. Then he was talking about how the brother used his mother and how she had always been drunk when she was younger. He started to feel the pain of it all and get angry and got up and walked behind me. I was going to turn around to see what he was doing but figured it might anger him further because I would seem untrusting of him. I really wasn't sure but he walked back and sat down. He was grateful rehab had cleaned him up and helped him. He was talking about how the drugs would do him harm and how he would find out when he was old. He didn't seem to understand he could change that now. The shop opened and I grabbed my trolley. I passed him by once or twice and he was happy to shop. I was left thinking...well I have to work damn hard for my  living and he seems like he could work. Maybe not. Maybe his substance dependence makes him unstable. Maybe he has other issues...like his family of origin problems. I thought about that. Had the mother not been a drinker he and his brother might have had a better chance at a successful life. Early intervention helps. It just kept going through my head...there is evidence that early intervention helps. He could use a bit more help because he has nearly got it, how to really look after himself. Is he still being helped? Are we helping parents who are abusing alcohol and drugs to manage their children? Are those children being enabled rather than disabled? I have spent the whole day wondering about all of that.

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