Podcast Season 2: Hunger & Resilience

S2: Episode 14 - Rick

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode 14, Rick.

Rick: My mother was an alcoholic. My first memory, she was an alcoholic and everything that comes with it, running bars, strange men. And she always picked the ones that were pretty violent people. Uh, they would, they would beat her up on a regular basis. Why she picked him, type of people, I really don’t know. I think she had a mental illness. She seen her dad murdered when she was a very small child. I, I don’t know how it come about, but she, uh, took us to this Mexican family. She said she’d be right back. So I wasn’t too concerned. But, uh, she just never came back. Poor Mexicans didn’t know what to do with us.

I started drinking heavy when I was about, uh, 14 or 15 years old, I’d say. By the time I had reached 16, I was a full-blown alcoholic. I, uh, I had this friend, a good friend of mine. We decided one night we were drinking that we would go over this girl we knew. And, uh, she let Phyllis sneak through her bedroom window. So we was racing down this dirt road and, uh, come up on this bridge and he went off of the bridge. The steering wheel had smashed into his chest. Blood was coming out of his mouth. And then he got quiet. He turned kind of white looking. And I had, I remember I had a bottle of whiskey and I sat there drinking that whiskey and talking to him basically all night till the sun came up. And then an old farmer and a tractor came over to the bridge and seen us. He said, it’s not hurting him because he’s been dead for a while.

I drank to get drunk and to pass out. I didn’t like liquor. I didn’t, I didn’t like taste of it. And that’s not why I used it strictly for the effect. Uh, I didn’t like who I was. It took away my shyness. Took away my inferiority, made me feel like somebody, and I thought it was the answer to, uh, life. Little did I know I’d found the end at the same time. I just didn’t know it. You die slowly and horribly. Times when I was sleeping under bridges and stuff. You get to look pretty rough. I’m probably a pretty terrifying sight to the normal human being. Matter of fact, I was sleeping under a train trestle one time, drinking. I guess. I, uh, I climbed out from under this bridge and this dog was coming down the track and I thought, oh, great, a dog. And I started to approach the dog and he, he put his tail between his legs and ran like somebody had shot him or something. I scared him to death. And I thought, well, that’s how people see me as well. They’re afraid of me.

I believe starving to death is probably one of the, uh, the worst kind of death a person could experience. It’s, it’s, it’s long, it’s slow and it’s agonizing. Hunger is not missing a meal. Hunger is you go to bed hungry, you wake up hungry and you’re hungry all the next day and you go to bed again hungry. And all you think about is food. It’s impossible to sleep. And, uh, the gnawing in your gut. I’ve heard people going to restaurants and say, well, I’m gonna get this because I’m starving. They don’t know what starving is. Let ’em go a week without something to eat. And starving will take on a whole new definition for these people. To me, I just get extremely depressed. I mean, if you go hungry long enough, you see things that aren’t there, you become extremely paranoid. I think fear starts to take control. It’s just a bad experience to have, to live, live with. And unfortunately, a lot of the world lives that way. Well, one of my, uh, fears and has been the fear of, uh, of dying alone in the gutter, sort of like a road kill you see on the side of the, the highways, there’d be no interest in my dying. And, uh, that seems pretty pathetic to me. I’ve got to change my behavior. If I could get to be a better person, I could at least make friends, real friends. And, uh, I, I haven’t felt that in a long time. If ever.

[Outro Music]

Host:  This is a weekly podcast season two, narrative histories and stories about the experience of hunger close up. It’s also about resilience and understanding. I met Rick in Little Rock, Arkansas on the street. We talked on three separate days. On the third morning of our conversation, Rick said, “okay, Michael, I’m going to tell you everything.” And he did. Addiction is so profoundly difficult, so terrible. Rick is so likable, so admirable. A voice has a power. We are grateful for Rick’s deeply honest revelations and his presence. May something in his story stay with you. I’m Michael Nye. You can go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for photographs and transcripts. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else.