Bryan Caplan  

The Pathos of Doing the Best I Can

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The Power of the Median Voter ... Roger Farmer on NGDP futures t...
Edin and Nelson's Doing the Best I Can is packed with poignant stories, but here's the one that almost made me cry.
...Ritchie Weber knows what it is like to hit rock bottom.  Just two years ago he was spending nights huddled in a slide in Tacony Park on Torresdale Avenue... Heroin and child support consumed nearly all of his earnings - he had to scrounge dumpsters for food... but no matter how bad it got, he never missed a day of work.  And he didn't let a week go by without seeing his nine-year-old boy.
How Ritchie turned his life around, at least for the time being:
"It was a time in my life when drugs were so important to me that that is all I concerned myself about..."  But even then Ritchie kept stopping by to see his son.  "I had long hair and was unbathed for days at a time, and I remember crying to my son, telling him how I was sorry.  And I remember my son hugging me, saying it was OK, as long as I just came to see him.  That Christmas I didn't have anything for him.  He said me just being there was all the present he needed."

The turning point finally came when a friend tried to convince Ritchie that to conquer his addiction he needed a change of scenery; the friend had a contact in Florida who had agreed to set Ritchie up with a job and an apartment.  Initially, Ritchie thought he should grasp at this lifeline, but the thought of leaving his young son instilled a strong conviction he couldn't simply flee from his problems. "It was the thought of never seeing him again that ripped through me... I knew I had to break down and face everything that I caused in order to keep my son in my life."  Accordingly, Ritchie started attending AA and NA meetings, determined to claim his sobriety.  Being homeless and sober was the hardest thing he had done.
Of course, if I heard the same story from the point of view of Ritchie's son - or the boy's mom - I'd probably be feeling outrage rather than sorrow...




COMMENTS (4 to date)
Tanstaafl writes:

wait, are you feeling outrage for a just for becoming an addict? You can hold him responsible, but outrage requires a bit more, no?

According to the quotes you provide (and that’s all I have to go by) he
- gave up his home before defaulting on child support
- stayed in his son‘s life (as well as he could)
- refused to run away to a different state
- joint AA/NA to get a realistic chance of getting rid of his addiction

Now this all sounds almost too good to be true, but you wrote in a previous post that the author wasn’t uncritical with his subjects, so presumably the facts are checked?

Hazel Meade writes:

This is both a testament to the power that addiction can hold on someone, and to the power of a parent's love for their children. In this man, those two forces were at war to the point they nearly evenly balanced each other out, though eventually the parental bond just marginally won over the addiction.


Thaomas writes:

I must have missed something. Why would anyone be feeling outrage at anything about the post turning point story?

Floccina writes:
Heroin and child support consumed nearly all of his earnings

The fact that he could work confirms my bias that heroin should be legal and cheap. I have heard other stories of heroin and opioid addicts who hold down jobs and take reasonably decent care of their children.

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