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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Drug Addiction: A Hazy Shade of Spring

I finally watched Less Than Zero. Only you know like 33 years after it came out. Robert Downey Jr's character, Julian Wells, played a really convincing drug addict. Obviously they take a lot of liberties with the original novel and some liberties with addiction. However, at one point in my life I spent some time around a friend who suffered from drug addiction. Unfortunately, the film was pretty accurate in its depiction of the downward spiral. At some point in my life, I may or may not have inhaled (as Bill Clinton said re: marijuana). However, I was offered a more highly addictive, harder drug than that. Fortunately, I grew up in a family and faith that frowned upon that. I also was blessed with an ability to just say no to things like that. This evidences itself in my take or leave approach to potentially addictive medicine, including painkillers after a surgery. I've had a few procedures and know that painkillers are "nice" in terms of blunting pain and helping one to feel alright. But, the few times I've taken them, post-procedure, I rarely have gone through 25% of the prescription. I do take medicine for anxiety, but once again, I've been able to take or leave it. I thank God that of my imperfections, that a weakness for 'needing' addictive drugs is not one of them.
So, I know from personal experience--a friend who had a hardcore drug addiction-- as well as experiences of others that drug addiction is NOT a pretty picture. Drug addicts:
  • Don't realize or underestimate the addictive potential of the drugs they choose.
  • They alienate those closest to them.
  • They are subject to harsh withdrawal and a desire to make it go and just feel good again.
  • They have the delusion that "I'll just get high one just one more time", even after they have had a crash or they have a 'sober' moment when they realize the damage. See the point above.
  • They have the inability to keep employed.
  • We (their family/friends) wonder if we are enabling them when we help them out.
  • They are often 'off' or shaky even when the when the have been sober for a bit.
  • They struggle with staying clean, even after a stint in rehab.
Unfortunately, the friend that I mentioned who struggled with drug addiction, died way too soon. It was a spring day years ago. From what I heard, she didn't die during a high. She was driving a vehicle she wasn't used to and was supposedly texting at that point and lost control. It was on her way home from a 12-step meeting, ironically. I suspect even if she was 'sober' at that moment, that the up and down ride with her addiction had taken its toll on mind and body. In other words, I suspect she "off" or "wasn't herself" when the accident happened.
Besides losing a friend, the worst part about it for me was that I predicted it with chilling accuracy. Earlier in the day she had asked to borrow a little money or to get her something to drink or something like that. I knew that that could or would be enabling her and told her I couldn't do it. She wasn't happy about that as addicts often aren't when their requests are rejected. I'd gone to a meeting with her previously when she asked--I think for moral support--but that night I didn't. After rejecting enabling her, I talked to a friend of hers a little later. I told her friend that I couldn't control whether my addict friend finds a way to get what she doesn't need, but that I wasn't going to inadvertently enable that. I said, I don't want to enable her and get a call later that she had wrapped her car around a tree. Famous last words...

Unfortunately, the next morning, I got a call from another friend that she had died in a horrible one-car crash the previous night. She swerved off the highway and the foundation of a sign. I then told him what I said to her friend. I was like, "I wasn't meaning to be right or make a prediction". But, sometimes somehow you just know when a bad outcome is inevitable. I had helped another friend years previously with alcohol detox. That gave me enough hubris to think I could "be the difference-maker". Anyway, the circumstance with my friend had reinforced something I think I already knew on some level, but denied: You can't "fix" everybody. People needing help have to be ready to help themselves before you can help them to get to a better place. I had to relearn that you can't help everyone.

You never forget a circumstance or person like that. I guess in the back of my mind, I always knew that she would go too young, that her life wasn't going to have a good ending. I had told her about two weeks prior that she needed to get herself together as I didn't want to be reminded one day of this conversation being one of the last we had. Unfortunately, once again, that was a 'prediction' I didn't want to be right on.
Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is this:
  • Always seek a healthy outlet for your life's worries.
  • Never start something that you have to convince yourself that you won't get hooked or that you can stop at any time. If you have to convince yourself, you've basically already admitted you are at-risk.
Anyway, thanks for reading this if you've gotten this far and I hope you have gotten something out of it. I don't know how to end this except to say, always make good choices and encourage loved ones to do so too.

-- Rich

* The irony of the situation is that the friend of hers that I talked to before her accident eventually was claimed by drug addiction (or its affects as well). I kept in touch with her friend for a while, but years later I checked her friend's Facebook and it said, "In remembrance of"... I found out the details of hers friend's passing through a common friend of all of us.


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