nly a relatively small percentage of Americans are drug (including prescription drugs), chemical substances (like glue and meth), and alcohol addicts.
Do not be misled. The price to all of us is high beyond imagining. Aside from the emotional, spiritual, moral, and political cost, in money alone you have already paid and paid and paid. The cost of bailing out the U.S. economy will eventually pale in comparison to our 35-year Drug War. It is already into the tens of billions of dollars. And this doesn’t include the cost of sending millions of people to jails and prisons for drug-related, non-violent offenses.
When I think of how we are all affected, I see in my mind’s eye the famous map of cyberspace created by Bill Cheswick and Hal Burch at Bell Labs (shown above and at http://www.cheswick.com/ches/map/gallery/isp-ss.gif) in the 1990s – not a mere net or spider web.
Another view of that interconnected world shows how U.S. cyberspace is linked. The image is a strong metaphor for how we're all linked in drug addiction. From: http://personalpages.manchester.ac.uk/staff/m.dodge/cybergeography/atlas/geographic.html
The Lost Child: A Mother’s Story by British writer Julie Myerson will soon be published by Bloomsbury Publishing in the U.S., nearly six months after its publication in Britain, which was followed by a tidal wave of scrutiny, criticism, opinion pieces, reactions from her son and other family members, and moral indignation by many. The controversy has struck a personal chord. I feel I need to address the issue personally and publicly.
The criticism was fairly predictable: She was chasing money at the expense of her own child. She was seeking revenge for the hurt she suffered. She was trying to teach her child a lesson. She was betraying her child’s privacy. She ruined her child’s life.
According to Britain’s Times Online, the son’s father justified the publication based on politics and public policy: believing “the book will expose the ‘emergency of skunk’, the super-strength cannabis that can permanently damage growing brains.”
Americans are more open to books on difficult personal stories and memoirs, on topics from alcoholism, autism, drug addiction, incest, insanity, through nearly the whole alphabet. And thank goodness for the openness if it serves to help others who are suffering or if it helps to guide reality-based public policy.
For more on Beautiful Boy (pictured above), go to http://davidsheff.com/.
I own or have read or am familiar with many examples of books involving drug addicts and their families and addiction as a condition, including Come Back, pictured above) by mother and daughter Claire and Mia Fontaine. Why do I have these books? How do I know enough to comment credibly on the subject?
I’ve been there. I have lived most of my adult life involved in my daughter’s unrelenting addictions. Learning what I know, chasing knowledge, making sense of my life have been my means of survival. I feel the strong compulsion not to take what I’ve learned and know to the grave. I will write about it.
A writer’s motives for telling a hard story are simply not relevant, as long as he or she tells the story as truthfully as can be recounted; readers must realize that each story or memoir is the writer’s personal memories and perceptions. Then the story has to stand on its own as valuable or worthless, regardless of whether the writing was for a high moral purpose, was an expression of the author’s passion for the subject, or was a way to make a buck.
Truth does not betray, in this case the drug addict. Truth may be harsh, it may be unpleasant, it may be ugly, it may intrude, but truth doesn’t betray. We betray ourselves when we can’t accept the truth and its reality. That is called denial.
In fact, the reverse is true: drug addiction betrays an individual, a family, communities, life in general. Telling these stories truthfully has intrinsic value.
Generally readers can smell crap and garbage and dishonesty a mile away. They may buy it or read it anyway, helping make the authors rich. Formula romance, mystery, and western fiction or “tell-all” biography and non-fiction come to mind. Is a writer getting rich from crap because readers buy it a reason for moral indignation? I call that a waste of time and energy.
Some crap and garbage and dishonesty take longer to be revealed, as was the case in James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces pictured below.
Drug Addiction and the Addict
Addiction steals people away.
The harsh reality is that using addicts are generally one- dimensional people; their individuality has been hijacked by the thing they chase incessantly regardless of other people, like their parents and even their children, or their own lives. Not love, not shame, not guilt, not a sense of responsibility nor obligation nor ambition – none of these otherwise human guidelines drive the using drug addicts’ lives. Only two behaviors drive their day-to-day existence: lying and manipulating; only these stand any chance of leading to success in chasing down the drug.
Two books in particular are told from the point of view of the addict: What's Left of Us by Richard Farrell (shown above) and The Night of the Gun by David Carr (shown below).
According to Farrell on his Web site (http://whatsleftofus.com/site.html) he wrote his memoir of his life as a heroin addict in response to Frey's untruthful account in A Million Little Pieces.
Principle vs. Reality
We are only human. We often have to inform our principles with realities.
Addiction to alcohol or illicit or prescription drugs is life threatening. That’s the reality. I strongly urge parents who suspect their children of using drugs to do whatever it takes to intervene – including suspending privacy. Parents of addicts have to re-think their own principles and their obligations to their children, because the end of the using addict’s story is death or prison. They can’t keep it up forever.
I would urge those who feel moral outrage at the writing of these stories and memoirs to re-channel that energy into something more valuable, like getting out of the Drug War and turning it into the War for Treatment, Education, and Research.
The books mentioned in this post are available at retail on-line or community book sellers.