Addiction Can Take
"I will do anything to change the way I feel."
It was a nasty moonless night when the police delivered Phillip to detox, half-naked, barefoot, and in handcuffs, out of his mind. Phillip was a young, well-muscled black man, tall and angry, very angry.
He had gone soldiering in the Middle East for his country and returned with a purple heart and an addiction to heroin. He lived on the street.
His first day in detox, Phillip covered his head with a blanket and refused to speak. No one dared speak to him. The second day, he pulled the blanket over his shoulders like an Indian brave and glared at everyone in the room. Still, no one spoke to Phillip.
The third day, he raised his hand (his medicines were beginning to kick in) and gave the best definition for addiction I’ve ever heard.
“My name is Phillip,” he said gently, “and I have a feeling disease. I will do anything I can to change the way I feel.”
“Reality is just a crutch for people who can't handle drugs.”
― Robin Williams
A Conversation in Rehab
Mike and I were on our way back to rehab from a meeting on the other side of Atlanta.
“My grandfather ran moonshine across the ridges of Harlan County, at least until he got religion,” said Mike, pulling into the parking lot at rehab.
“He became a preacher of the Holy Word. My father would drive him to four or five tent meetings a day. He preached at revivals, on the radio, and on TV. You hated to see him coming because you knew he was going to preach at you until your ears turned red.”
“A real foot-washing, hellfire-and-brimstone kinda guy,” I said.
“I’ve always believed that he swapped alcoholism for his own brand of hyper-religiosity.”
“Then there’s Bobby,” I said, “the New Hampshire dentist—a heroin addict who gave up the needle for Kentucky bourbon. Now he gets drunk every night.”
“I met a businessman at a meeting in Buckhead,” said Mike. “Told me he was a real alcoholic. After he quit drinking he found himself working 10, 12, even 14 hours a day. He asked me if I thought he’d swapped addictions.”
“Probably,” I said. “You know about James, don’t you? A full professor of medicine at the university whose pleasure was self-administered Demerol. When he got to rehab he gave up the narcotic and started smoking unfiltered Camels.” Mike laughed.
“There’s a guy named Wimpy, a dentist in my morning group. Another Demerol guy. His other addiction is buying VHS tapes!
He would shop furtively at the video store, hide them under his coat until he got to the counter, buy them surreptitiously, then sneak them into his house. He had a whole wall full of them in his den. He never actually watched the movies, only bought them addictively, and then put them on the shelf.”
“Let’s not forget Jerry,” I said. “His father is the dean of the law school in San Francisco. He’s a compulsive gambler. Has spent over a hundred thousand of his dad’s money. Drinks like a fish.”
“We’re a strange group,” Mike said. “I know of a famous Hollywood actress who was arrested for compulsive shoplifting. She apologized in court, but the judge sentenced her to drug abuse treatment.”
“My buddy Dan is an emergency room doc from Sacramento. He loves the crack pipe. His sister’s addiction is bulimia—another form.”
“And there was a guy in morning group who admitted to masturbating fifty times a day. Somehow he managed to hold down a full-time job.”
We pulled into the driveway at rehab.
“One last story,” I said. “Big Jed is a bad meth freak. He grinds his teeth all day long.”
“Yep,” said Mike. “He told me he ground down his natural teeth and two pairs of dentures. Picked up his habit after being discharged from the service with PTSD, a problem for a lot of us.”
“We’re a decidedly unusual group,” I said.
“Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction.”
― William S. Burroughs
A Story from the Bowery
Shooting up Epsom Salts!!!
“Back in the ’60s,” Dr. Taylor began his lecture on addiction, “I toured the Bowery to see what the most infamous drunks in the world were like.
There I met another physician who had lost his way. He panhandled on the street to buy wine and lived in an empty tenement with no utilities but no rent. Together, we discussed the nature of our illness.
To my surprise, he pulled out a needle and injected himself with a large dose of magnesium sulfate. Epsom salts.”
“Then he went over behind a post and had an enormous bowel movement. I asked him what in the hell he was doing. He said, ‘Well, it’s the least expensive way to change the way I feel. It’s certainly cheaper than heroin.’”