For the first 20 years of my life I figured I’d try anything twice. Beginning with my childhood, I was a veritable lab rat for pharmaceutical meds like Ritalin, Lithium, Prozac, Wellbutrin, you name it. I quickly discovered I hated them all and fought the forced psychological experiments with fervor.
As a young teenager I discovered marijuana and felt more comfortable with a natural self-medication to assist with typical human feelings like anxiety, attention, mood stabilization, joint pain, normal issues everyone deal with. If I had a mentality for complacency I’d have known that’s as good as it gets and that would be the end of this story.
Being the stubborn Irishman that I am, I next began my dance with the devil’s elixir. Perhaps by repeatedly confusing my father’s scotch on the rocks for my iced tea as a boy, I acquired a taste for hard liquor at an early age. I drank beer like water and whiskey like, well, water.
My dad got 2 DUIs when I was a boy and hasn’t drank a drop in 2 decades. My aunt drank herself to death in her late 60s. My childhood best friend’s dad, a father figure to me, didn’t make it past 50, and my best friend helped him to his early grave.
I was never a habitual drinker. I never felt the need to drink in the morning, or every day. But when I drank, I shut down the bars, and it certainly did not have the same mood stabilizing effects of the devil’s lettuce. I had to get my own DUIs, near fatal car accidents, achieve veteran status of drunken motorcycle rides at 100 plus mph, fighting those who loved me most for no reason, embracing unprovoked nudity, and pretty much hitting rock bottom before learning to moderate. I’d like to be able to have a drink when I want for the rest of my life, but I don’t ever care to again get wasted on booze.
The same friend whose dad died of liver failure has a terrible addiction to opioids, and I was naïve to that during our teenage years. I was just seeing what the big deal was all about while finding typical conduits of rebellion and teenage angst.
I used to get prescriptions to nerve pills like Xanax, and he would eat Percoset and oxycodone by the handfuls. He was dishonorably discharged from the Army after overdosing in the streets of Baghdad. We used to mix and match, and then discovered cocaine, and always adhered to the mentality that if one is good, multiple is better. So we mixed our pills with our booze and our coke and then discovered psychedelics and things got weird.
After a while I was ready for a change and planned a trip across the country, culminating with a month in Vancouver, British Colombia, where we were free to legally indulge in my favorite medicine, gods great greenery. After the month, we began making our way down the coast, rediscovering the mind-expanding effects of psychedelics in Seattle, and then stalling in Portland for a few weeks while we got caught up in the homeless kids addicted to hard drugs epidemic.
In Portland, we found our drug cocktail to be smoking crack and freebasing heroine procured by prostitutes. My bro and I had gotten into a (drug-induced) fight, and I spent Christmas alone, with a highly unbalanced psyche. But I realized this chapter needed to end quickly.
That was almost 15 years ago. I still smoke pot moderately and I’m somewhat of a bit of beer snob, wine connoisseur, and liquor aficionado. I enjoy snobbishly turning up my nose at cheap booze and the people who don’t know how to imbibe. I appreciate identifying various flavor bouquets, the wisdom to know when to say enough, and no more hangovers. I will even eat some mushrooms in the event of requiring mind expansion, but I condemn hard drugs and overindulgence.
It is difficult to value a person’s argument if they haven’t suffered. I try not to condemn something with which I have no experience. Drugs and alcohol happen to be a topic I have experienced intimately. I have suffered and navigated the trials of adversity. I have felt the cold grip of evil against my skin and know that finding clarity is a battle in itself, let alone reaching the light.
Do I have significantly greater willpower than the masses who fight and loose with addiction? Is my environment and resourcefulness more conducive to positive health than theirs? If they asked me those questions I would answer with a question for them: “How bad do you want it?”
We learn by making mistakes. If a mistake is made, a lesson is learned, and if the mistake is repeated, it is no longer a lesson and becomes a perpetual way of living. Only the foolish claim certainty while the wise admit doubt.
I cannot quantify my willpower, I can only attest to the merits of hard work and the splendor life can provide if you allow it. Everyone’s circumstances are so individual it is impossible to base one’s life upon another’s. I maintain a compassionate outlook to the struggles of addiction. It has lurked over my shoulder my whole life and ruined the lives of many of my loved ones, and I expect my sentiment is no different than anyone who reads this.
I’ve been on the Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team in the Red River Gorge since 2011, and in that time I couldn’t tell you how many fall victims I’ve rescued where drugs and alcohol were a heavily contributing factor. It saddens me.
I built a really fun motorcycle last winter. It was one of the best and my favorites I’ve ever built. I really loved it. I kept it chained on my front porch, underneath one of my 8 surveillance cameras that always record. I live in a decent neighborhood, but there are some not so decent neighborhoods on either side.
Exactly 3 months ago to the day, the chain was cut and my bike was stolen off my front porch at 2:35 in the morning. I have footage of the crime. It ruined my summer.
Later, multiple people approached me, explaining they knew who stole my bike, a local junky. One of them even sent me a screenshot off facebook containing a picture of my bike in a dark and dingy barn somewhere, just begging for me to rescue her. There was a sighting of my bike in a local trailer park, with neighbors who agreed to testify against the criminal. They arrested the junky, held him for 24 hours and then released him after he failed to produce evidence.
That angers me, immensely.
Two weeks later, my lawn mower was stolen in broad daylight, along with 2 full gas cans! Again, this was recorded on CCTV. Our judicial system is a mockery of government and so out of balance, they have more incentive to collect revenue by ticketing me for speeding than attempting to “rehabilitate” criminals with drug dependencies.
At first, I just wanted to leave Kentucky. Part of me still does; this home is tarnished to me.
But as the months passed, I accepted this reality isn’t exclusive to Kentucky. Alternatively, there are less densely populated states such as Alaska, where a person may be less likely to encounter junkies, but human nature craves social interaction, and wherever that occurs, overindulgence is waiting around the corner.
I was the victim of a drug-induced crime wave that swept the nation this summer and I felt violated. I have no reason to expect it won’t happen again. They probably won’t cut a chain locking a motorcycle to a porch under surveillance, and they probably won’t steal my mower in broad daylight. They probably won’t kick in my door, kill my dog and rob me blind. They probably shouldn’t mainline heroine and smoke meth.
I left a ski trip in Colorado to go to the funeral of my friend’s dad in Charleston, SC. His own son wasn’t there. He was in prison. Later, I was supposed to be his best man, but he got a DUI before the wedding after I’d booked my flight.
They ended up getting married at the courthouse, but a few years later, his wife and baby’s mama, overdosed and died. He was in prison, again. For the past decade, he’s been on a perpetual cycle of black market opioid addictions and suboxone prescribed by the VA hospital.
His last stint was 5 years in the penitentiary for strong-armed robbery of a pharmacy. He tried to kill himself and overdosed at his mom’s house where they ended up picking him up. He got out early due to prison overcrowding and he’s back at it again.
As I reflect on my life, the choices I’ve made, the arduous work I’ve put forth to right my wrongs, the choices we make and the effects those choices have, I contemplate how I managed to break free and why he is still imprisoned by his addictions.
Before I left Carolina, before I began working on myself, I tried to help him and it just hurt me more. I learned you cannot help others until you’ve helped yourself. In my family, we have a joke referenced from a line in the movie Airplane: “it looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue”.
As cliché as it sounds, there is always an excuse to put off hard work, but there is no better time than now.
I don’t want the possessions I’ve worked so hard for to be stolen by a junky who’s going to sell them for next to nothing for another quick buzz. I don’t want young children, like my friend’s little girl, to grow up with the odds stacked against them. I don’t want the People of America to be so chemically dependent their senses are diminished and they become stupefied to the point of being unable to fight for their rights, stand up for just causes and begin to work together instead of fighting over differences.
I realize, now, that why I am able to sit in my comfortable house and write about this with a clear head, while the junkies live in squalor, blinded by dependence, taking what they want, that it is not my exceptional willpower or resourcefulness or good fortune that separates this stubborn Irishmen from those god damned junkies. It is all that in conjunction with a desire to overcome obstacles and endeavoring to persevere.
The following excerpt of poetry by Robert Frost comes to mind and has taken on new meaning to me. If only the junkies weren’t afraid of an organic adventure.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.