A New Year's wish for Ben.
I don't know Ben. I had never seen him before in my life and I probably will never see him again. Sometimes it is important that we drift into each other's orbits for a while and then lose ourselves in the sea of souls. Ben was one of those people, on the downside of life trying to hold it together and wishing someone would understand he isn't a bad man. He's just a man struggling with a lot of demons, trying to keep his head above water in the game of life, wishing someone for once would just be cool with Ben being Ben instead of judging him on his demons.
Ben had a rough 2004. His longtime girlfriend dumped him, he lost his job and he is wrestling with his alcoholism and his cocaine addiction. He went out for New Years Eve, supposedly to meet friends who never showed up, although I am not certain these friends exist. He is in his early 30s, but his lifestyle has given him the appearance of a much older man.
So, here I am out on New Years Eve with a beautiful woman on my right arm and my closest friends by my side and I'm spending the hour leading up to midnight talking with Ben. I don't even remember what I said to him, but by the end of the night he was toasting me and telling me he was growing his hair long again as a tribute to me. The only thing I remember saying to him, because I repeated it several times, is that he isn't any less of a person because of his problems and that what other people think of his demons is not important. It is how he feels about them and what he wants to do about them. "You want to quit? Do it for yourself, not because someone tells you if you don't quit they're going to leave you. Do it for yourself because that is who you have to look out for. What do you want out of life, dude? If you're cool with what you're doing, do it, but if you aren't, then get to a place where you are cool with it."
"Okay, man, I am going to quit the white lady and smoking starting tomorrow."
"What, are you insane, Ben? You can't quit both of those at the same time. Be real, dude. One step at a time. Just don't forget. Do it for yourself, not because someone tells you that you 'have to' because you don't have to do anything."
Whatever you do and wherever you go, Ben, I hope 2005 is a much better year for you than the last. You're okay, my friend. Just get right with yourself and you'll find the way.