Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Drug addicts overdose on self-righteousness

In the latest season of “Mad Men,” one of the great moments of the final episodes is Don Draper’s encounter in the lobby of the Time-Life Building with a former flame from the first season of the show, Midge.

Once a lively and delightfully odd Greenwich Village artist and a former worshiper at the church of Don Draper, she’s now a thin and evasive shadow of her former self, even while trying to fake it in the scene in the lobby. Midge claims she was trying to sell some drawings to a publication associated with Time-Life, but her husband – and fellow addict – spills the beans when Don takes her home to the hovel where she’s now laying her head.

Actually, she tracked Don down and set up the “accidental” encounter, her idiot husband said, and her main purpose is to hit him up for some money. Her husband claims his father is a chef and the husband can make chicken cordon bleu for the three of them, if Don will just spot him some cash to go buy the ingredients. Don hands the guy a $10 bill, and he races outside – not to buy the ingredients for chicken cordon bleu but to negotiate the purchase of heroin for injection into his arm, Midge says.

Midge admits to Don that she’s a heroin addict and can’t quit even though it’s horrible. She tries to come on to Don and he tries to buy a painting with a check for $300. When Midge asks what she’s going to do with a check, Don whips out his money clip and gives her $120 in cash; Midge returns the check and he rips it up.

Don leaves the hovel with the horrible painting under his arm, though later when he’s about to throw it out, it suddenly causes him to think about his company’s “addiction” to tobacco money and – unlike Midge – whether he can kick his company’s habit and move on.

Whether Midge’s fate will ever be resolved in a future episode or season is unknown as yet.

Tyranny of addiction
Back around the holidays, there was a letter to an advice columnist for the news site from a woman whose brother is a crack cocaine addict. He’s also a teacher, and trying yet again to get “clean,” but of course he needs help getting into rehabilitation. One of his gripes to his sister is that while heroin addiction is almost noble in the eyes of many, crack addiction just lacks the cachet. Perhaps he forgot that heroin addicts were called junkies in the past. I can still recall an ad from the late 1960s or early 1970s where parents discover their son’s “works” and realize to their horror, “My son is a junkie!”

Trite, I will admit, but no doubt true for many people.

Today, there are many people, including of course the elite and celebrities, who are addicted to everything from marijuana to Maalox and more, but there are also many people who aren’t addicted to anything. But we only hear from the addicts, who are almost eager to let us all know that they are “in recovery” and are working on degrees in counseling so they can land high-paying jobs in the recovery field.

The “Alcoholics Anonymous” model has been applied to just about every substance, but after all these years it seems like every meeting hall is booked up for meetings of people addicted to everything, and bragging about how they beat their addiction.

Here in Florida, there is much talk about pain pill addicts and just about everyone who’s accused of any crime will at some point announce that they’re addicted to something and demand government-paid rehab. In fact, I wonder if there aren’t some people who are addicted to rehab.

Even elected officials are jumping on the rehab bandwagon, with a recently convicted and now incarcerated Palm Beach County commissioner claiming that she is addicted to drugs and alcohol, and requesting assignment to a prison with a rehab program. Oh, and she met the Pope once, just in case playing the religion card might work, too.

It didn’t work all that well, as she got a prison term but she also got a break for being addicted.

To a lot of people, my comments here might seem harsh, but I have to say that I feel pretty self-righteous because I’ve been tempted to fall into the realm of addiction and overuse, but always made the right choice. I have made those right choices the first time, and have never had to explain away my behavior.

When I was in my early 20s, just after getting out of the Marines, I was offered cocaine. I was shocked, because the offerer was a friend, but my reaction was that while marijuana was one thing – though I was not a regular user of the substance – cocaine was something different. It’s been decades since I smoked a joint, by the way, and even if it were legalized and sold at drug stores, I wouldn’t buy it or use it.

I always wondered how my life would have turned out had I said yes to cocaine that one time. I’m glad that back then I had the wisdom to say no.

The thing that upsets me about addicts is that they seem to have the life that was denied to me. While they get to go to meetings, meet people and inspire others, doesn’t it seem unfair that those of us who got on the straight and narrow and stayed there are made to feel like somehow we’re the ones who made the wrong choices?

I am not an angry conservative who just disdains everyone else who is not with the program, but a liberal who believes that at some point, you have to take responsibility for what you’re doing in life. How is it that I have never shirked a responsibility, never let a desire for a substance affect my behavior or job performance, and never did something to be ashamed of, and yet I feel like so much of life has passed me by?

Anyway, this isn’t about me but about those who seem to feel that world owes them something because they became addicted to something.

Still, it’s frustrating that everyone wants to look good by giving the drug addict a break, “help,” “rehab,” etc.

I read recently that the relapse is an integral part of rehabilitation, and that addicts in recovery are expected to have a certain number of instances where they relapse back to their addiction, and must then be extracted from the legal consequences with no penalty and be rehabbed again.

Let’s see, if I screwed up at my job again and again, how many second chances would I get? Not as many as your average doper gets.

Look, it’s disheartening when there are real people suffering real diseases (cancer, AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc.) out there that there are many whose main affliction is an affinity for certain substances, which they then deem to be a “battle” – as in, “Jones is battling an addiction to pain pills.”

Then they are given the status of nobility in our society, while those of us who are not addicted to anything are made to feel like we’re doing something wrong.

Well, I won’t have it. I won’t be a burden on society by lamely claiming some addiction. I will face life head-on without drugs or alcohol, and let whatever happens, happens.

I won’t get credit for being noble or brave because of my battle with Anacin, but I will come out feeling like I’ve lived life honestly and without excuses.


May 31, 2011 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. If you are so jealous of what drug addicts get to experience feel free to try it yourself.

    I assume you won’t because in reality drug addiction sucks and the vast majority of drug addicts are not celebrities or anyone who “inspires” people particularily (except maybe other drug addicts in their immediate viscinity).

    I say the same thing to the families who say that being the family member of an addict is way worse than being an addict yourself because the addict’s pain is blunted by drugs. If that was really true then the RATIONAL thing for those family members to do is get on some of them good pain blunting drugs and live it up – but the actual reality of what its like to be constantly anxious about supply, frequently dipping in and out of withdrawal, constantly feeling guilty for hiding your drug use and for any misbehavior it’s led you into engaging in, all the shame of the failed attempts to quit and so on – in reality all that shit is horrible. The family member doesn’t even have to care, they can decide it’s all too emotionally exhasting, tell the filthy druggy that he isn’t welcome in their lives and live normal happy lives – thankfully most of them have enough compassion to not do that, which does mean that they suffer a lot, but I wouldn’t say more, in the end.

    The whole jealousy for the fucked up thing though, I admit I understand it. All through school I was angry that “at risk” kids (the poor, the emotionally disturbed and the stupid) were given all these special programs to allow them to overcome their risk. I was insanely resentful about it. I wanted special progams, I wanted free trips to places, I wanted to get away with acting like a complete twat in class and instead of being punished get given a special teacher to give me individual attention and praise and soothing. Why the fuck was I being punished for being middle class and keeping my emotional crises inside instead of acting them out on the rest of the school.

    But hey, my life didn’t go so badly (uh, apart from the whole drug thing >_> but shhh!), I am in university doing well, I have people who love me (which is more than can be said for some of the “at risk” kids). They got that help because they *needed* it, I didn’t because I only wanted it, and when it comes to allocating scarce resources need trumps want unfortunately.

    But yeah, I will agree with one thing. The whole recovery industry is a self consuming farce. I just read a website telling me that I have absolutely no hope whatsoever of quitting drugs without their rehab. In bullet point format why without their help I am doomed. Well, unlike some people I have actual work and responsibilities I have to take care of, I can’t just take a month out to go to some facility I can’t afford. So I should just throw my hands in the air, accept it as hopeless and take some more drugs to deal with the shame of that? Of course I shouldn’t. That whole site was a really evil manipulative advert. It was an advert playing on all the fears someone might have (can I handle withdrawal on my own, won’t I just use again, can I really do it) and saying “no you can’t, yes you will, no so give us money”. And the actual success rates for those places are in reality very low.

    And if I ever get of drugs, the last thing I want to do is spend the rest of my life obsessing about drugs, talking about drugs, living in the past so I can vicariously get off on the descriptions of my clients exploits. I’m going to want to get on with my real life, the life I want to be living, have kids, create something truly useful and meaningful that is of value to humanity, make my mark on the world, go to other countries, meet all kinds of diverse and interesting people. I don’t want to be stuck in a drug groove even after I’ve stopped being a druggie. I just want a normal life.

    Comment by sam | October 11, 2011 | Reply

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