of Cost

March 22, 2011

If you have a moment, I’d offer my thoughts on addicts and addiction.

I’ll endeavour not to seem sanctimonious or patronizing but chances are…

I’ll begin with Jeremy. His tale is short, tragically.
I’ll begin with Jeremy because I imagine all of us have or do know him.
Jeremy was possibly the smartest, funniest, most compassionate and loyal friend I’ve ever known. Jeremy was my friend, heroin was his and Jeremy is dead.
When I was told of his predictable end I don’t believe I even blinked. Heroin had defined his life and it seemed fitting that it had also defined his death. It was a relief. Not so much for me as I had abandoned worry for him after the fifth time he had OD’d or possibly the third time he violated his parole, having pissed dirty or actually committing crime to fix. I think why I never abandoned him otherwise is because Jeremy NEVER made excuses for himself.
Once, when he had robbed a Subway shop on Castro, with the cab he was driving idling out front and then dropping his cabbie badge in his haste to get away, leading to his arrest, I went to put money on his books at the jail. As he sat across from me, he told me something that has always stayed with me and in large part defined my future perspective on addicts and addiction.
“I wasn’t high…when I got high”.
Jeremy made no excuses for his abhorrent behavior. He never whined about his addiction and how he was a victim of his circumstance or the circumstances beyond his control. He, when not high, decided to get high. Anything from that point on, the robberies committed or getting turned out by a trio of transvestites in the Tenderloin because he was too high to resist, or his ultimate demise, was borne of conscience, lucid decision.
I don’t drink. I don’t or have ever, because I know, fortunately, that if I did, I would never stop.
I know this because of other behaviors of compulsion I struggle with. Because it runs in my Family. Because it would be easy and I’ve learned, at great cost, that there is no free lunch. Everything has a price.
The cost of addiction, unfortunately, is often carried by those who care or love the addicted. That is the crime, that is the inexcusable burden that addicts expect or are too self-absorbed to even consider, the rest of us to assume.
That they may continue their selfish pattern of behavior as if they are the only one affected, as if they are the victims.
The human cost is incalculable. The broken homes, the crime, the violence, collateral death by drunk drivers, the billions spent on fruitless attempts at rehab only to be repeated again and again.
Costs, incalculable, but derived of calculation. The calculated decision to use.

I’ve another friend. Many years ago he woke to find himself a drunk and, while lucid, decided to not drink again.
I know the theme, the mantra, “Once a drunk…” but I also know this… he doesn’t drink. I know he could. He knows he may, but he hasn’t, by calculation.
I hope for his sake but more for the sake of the rest of us, that he never does.

of Public Abandon.

March 12, 2011

On The September Eleventh, my Bother and I were driving through New York State. Back then I was an ardent NPR listener and likely drove my Brother crazy with my obsessive need for news and round table discussions but I was the driver and the rules are, the driver picks. I always picked NPR. Diane Rehm’s Friday news roundup was something I looked forward to weekly. That week, in particular, I was glued to the radio. Ingesting any and every scrap of just breaking or analytical content.

Till I happened upon Ira Glass and This American Life.
I had naturally heard him before but rarely lingered as his format was not usually my cup of tea. Human interest stories highlighted by his nasal narration. Act One, Act Two.
This day though, I stopped to listen. It seemed, for a moment, he was actually reporting on some affect of the aftermath of the attacks, with a reporter on the street interacting with the public and he in the studio asking questions of her. What I heard, just one sentence and it’s inflection, changed or began to change how I listened to and in the end, quit listening to, NPR.
“Cause it’s the Flag”
When I heard him say it, I could also hear his eyes roll. I heard him tell me that he thought the very idea that anyone would consider the Flag sacred, ridiculous. Silly. Beneath him.
You’ll recall, that week and for some weeks after, the resurgence of patriotic fervor. Everyone was buying and deploying those car window flags. Stickers. In so many neighborhoods, the small brass fixture on the trim next to the door, so long empty, were again employed holding flags.
I admit, freely, I was also swept up by it. Enjoying and relishing the sudden unity and camaraderie, even if borne of tragedy. Ira Glass and his implied derision didn’t quite suit my tastes. It did, though open my eyes, and ears.
I started to hear and comprehend the outstanding assertion that NPR held and practiced bias. I heard Terry Gross badger her guest Bill O’Reilly but tolerate and even encourage his then nemesis, Al Franken. I heard the Ombudsman, assigned investigate that very instance, deny and rationalize the accusation. I began to hear the constant drum beat of America was to blame. I began to turn it off.
I’ve since joined the cacophony of voices demanding the elimination of public funding for, not just NPR, but PBS and the CPB. I am actually enjoying the recent, graphic, demise and public outcry for as much. I sat back and smiled as two figures, with the coincidence of identical name but unrelated, offered related but opposite views on their positions. One to Congress, the other to potential donors. Affecting the disgrace of both.
Just desserts. Please Sir…may I have more?
Laugh it up Ira, you can bet Juan Williams is.