Road to Ruination

Sunday August 25, 2019   I like to strike up a conversation with the folks who want their picture made. That’s how I met John Wayne Voisine, a 49 year old homeless man who happened by my outdoor flag studio. I asked if he wanted his picture taken. He said, “Sure!” He was a friendly guy. I could tell he wanted to talk. After introducing myself as “Janthephotoman” which usually brings a smile, I began the conversation by asking, “Are you homeless? (because so many are.) He said, “Yes, I am.” but reassured me that he was on a list for an apartment and is hoping to get a place soon. ( thought to myself that JW might have a long wait. Inexpensive housing for single men is hard to come by in Providence. Men are usually last in line after needy families and single women.) I asked about the “John Wayne” handle thinking he was putting me on. He laughed, “Yes, that’s my real name. My grandfather named me! I love it, everyone remembers me.” Without pause he added proudly, “You know, I’m clean now. It’s been exactly 3 years, 5 months, 16 days.” as he double checked the calendar on his phone. Then he told his addiction story, one I’ve heard too many times before, a common path to ruination. “I was a chef in a restaurant and got injured on the job. My doctor prescribed  OxyContin for my pain. I got addicted to it. After a while it stopped working.  I needed something stronger. I started using heroin and eventually I got hooked on Crack.” He said drugs ruined his life. He seems to have gotten some of it back now, very proud that he has quit the drugs. He smiled, eyes shining, as I pushed the buttont. As he walked away he said “I’m clean now, and thankful to God for my second chance.”