A Burnout Leads to Alcoholism and Being All Alone
Jackson, a native of New Mexico, who also grew up in Wyoming, and has since bounced around from state to state, says it can take very little in our rush, rush, rat race society to lose your footing.
“My breakdown was basically like a domino effect, it took a little bit of time. I split up with my wife, moved, got more responsibilities at work and then just the depression of not being around people that I wanted to be around and then just the normal pressures of life,” he remembers.
He says he doesn’t see his wife anymore or his daughter, but he’s proud of her as she’s in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University. He remembers how even though initially they wanted to help, he pushed his family away.
“I wanted to sleep all the time. I didn't want to wake up and do anything,” he said. “I started pushing my friends and family away and all of a sudden all I wanted to do was drink and not do anything other than numb the pain. My family, they tried to help but I was in such a bad place at the time my head was so mixed up, I couldn't help myself, let alone allow somebody else to help me…. I pretty much pushed everybody away because I didn't want them to see me like that…. I was too proud. I pretty much buried myself in the bottle which made things worse. It took me a long time to get out of the bottle and now I’d just like to get back on the top side.”
Now Homeless in Reno
A homeless life, he says, can be extremely dull. He looks for aluminum cans to recycle, or for day labor jobs. He usually gets food from local churches, but avoids the shelter at night.
“Because of my anxiety and stuff like that, I can't stay around other people. I can't stay in the shelters. It just drives me almost insane. I usually stay wherever the dark places are, out of the way, whether it’s a bush or behind a wall or whatever," he said.
He says the biggest challenges for him are staying away from others on the streets during the day as well, avoiding being robbed, and finding bathrooms where he can clean up. He says he’s seen lots of despair and drug use.
“I've seen everything from somebody stabbing [someone else] for something as simple as a cigarette. I've seen you know the drugs out here on the street. You know the meth and all that stuff it drives these guys nuts. I mean they stay up for four or five days at a time. And some of the stuff that they do is just I mean you want to help them but you can't get through to them. I mean they'll do everything from go out here and jump in the water in the middle of winter time. I mean it's just crazy the drugs that are out there,” he said.
Stuck in Reno's Underworld
“It's like this paralyzing effect. I don't know how else to explain it," he said. "I mean you can't go in anywhere. You know you can’t keep your hygiene up and all that stuff. You know it's hard to look for work when you're dirty.”
He says he would like to find any job, even cleaning dishes, but he now says he feels like a pariah who will always get rejected.
Fears for Reno’s Future
“The biggest message I'd like to send out there is … most people are probably one paycheck away from being where I'm at. I mean anything can happen if you don't want to be in my spot, plan for the future,” he said.
He says people should also lose some of their pride, face their reality and seek help when they need it. “I've got lots of regrets. Probably too numerous to count. Probably the biggest one that I regret is not asking for help when I had my nervous breakdown,” he said.
He fears with rising rents though that more people could become homeless like him in the Biggest Little City, especially as it moves more toward a more hi-tech business environment.
“They're driving up the cost of apartments, [you] can't hardly get even in an extended stay motel anymore. There's a couple property owners here in town that are buying up some of the downtown on Fourth street and stuff where a lot of financially challenged people live and a lot of those people are on fixed income. You know they're getting social security checks and stuff like that. And if they raise the rent they don't have a place to go,” he said.
Photos and Reporting by Prince Nesta for Our Town Reno