Marion Hagerman appreciates your concern.
But it's OK to give up on him, he says. Everyone else has — which might be the only sensible thing to do.
Hagerman has been drinking for 39 years. He drinks despite decades of lectures, prayers and punishment. He drinks despite two years of homelessness, six DWI convictions, six treatments for alcoholism and 13 months in jail.
What's ahead for Hagerman? The 54-year-old can see only one thing in his future — more drinking.
That's why he feels lucky to live in a hospice for alcoholics — St. Anthony Residence in St. Paul. There, 60 men can — and often do — drink until they die.
There are no counselors, no scolding, no 12-step programs, no group hugs. Just the love of Hagerman's life, waiting for him every day — alcohol.
On his weeklong binges, he chugs vodka, beer or mouthwash. They are interchangeable to him, he said, gazing around his 12-by-12-foot concrete apartment.
"I drink," he said quietly, "until I kill the damn day off."
For three years, St. Anthony has been operated by Ramsey County, St. Paul, the state of Minnesota and Catholic Charities, at a cost of $18,000 per person per year. It's one of four so-called "wet houses" in the state.
Like a growing number of wet houses across the country, it allows alcoholics to drink, even when it's killing them.
Some experts attack places like St. Anthony. "To me, a wet house is nothing more than a house of despair and death," said William C. Moyers, vice president of foundation relations for Hazelden treatment centers.
"It is never too late for someone to get help," Moyers said. "Just because there are people who have been through treatment before does not mean we can write them off."
But the men staying at St. Anthony say alcohol isn't just a habit — it is who they are. If any kind of treatment were required, they would return to a homeless life of fear, disease and tremendous public expense.
It's not uncommon for a homeless alcoholic to cost the public more than $1 million during decades of drinking — for multiple jail stays, emergency room visits, rounds of alcoholism treatment and other costs.
But the costs and the suffering are greatly reduced once they arrive at St. Anthony.
"This place is a godsend," said 61-year-old Ron, a 40-year alcoholic and former South Dakota farmer who didn't want his last name published.
He plans — as much as he plans anything — to drink until he dies at St. Anthony.
"I am happy here," he said.
'IT'S JUST SO HONEST HERE'
Social workers refer homeless alcoholics to St. Anthony.
That usually happens after a dreary cycle of drunken-driving arrests, hospital visits and trips to detox, the county-run centers for sobering up.
"A counselor might say: 'You've been through treatment six times. This doesn't seem to be working for you,' " said Bill Hockenberger, a former alcoholic who manages St. Anthony.
These are not soccer moms on chardonnay. Hockenberger's clients have no family connections, no jobs and no money. "These people have burned their bridges. They are done couch-surfing," he said. "They have peed on their last couch."
The alcoholics arrive at the 3-year-old building, which looks like a modern twin-tower hotel out of place in an industrial park. There's no sign outside.
Inside, each room is like a minimum-security jail cell, with one light on a wall, one window and concrete floors, walls and ceilings.
They arrive as refugees of countless anti-drinking treatments.
"Treatment is a bunch of B.S.," snapped Ricky Isaac, a three-year resident, as he drank a beer on the center's drinking patio.
"Those AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) people make me sick. I hate hearing about other people's problems. I have my own problems. If you want to quit, you quit on your own."Rest of Story