Addiction – on the death of yet another celebrity.

You just can’t understand addiction unless you’ve lived through it.

Yet another famous person has died of a drug overdose. It was an illegal drug but plenty have died of drug overdoses of legal drugs. This just highlights the tragedy that is drug abuse and addiction. Hundreds of people die all the time from drug addiction, legal and otherwise. They aren’t famous, but their deaths are just as tragic.

Even if you don’t die, addictions steal your life. You aren’t quite fully human when you are in the pit of addiction.

Just before you start in with the “But for the grace of God, there go I” line, think about it. Many people have addictions. They are just socially acceptable ones. You probably have an addiction and don’t even realize it. The best addictions just masquerade as habits. It is just something you do. You don’t know why you do it, you just do.

Gambling. drinking. Smoking cigarettes. Eating too much. Eating unhealthy food. Even being angry all the time can be an addiction.

Anything you do unthinkingly that is harmful to you is an addiction. It doesn’t matter if you think it is a problem yet or not. If you let an addiction have its way, it will slowly take over until the addiction is driving you. It will take over and use you like a puppet.

I remember what it was like to smoke pot. I smoked for ten years. When I started it was once a month. Then over time it was once a week. At the worst it was all day long.

I’d wake up and get stoned. When the buzz would wear off I’d smoke some more.

Meanwhile I was in college. I had a job. I was fully functional as an adult. All my bills got paid.

Nobody knew I was a pothead unless I let them know. The only people I let know were other people who smoked. We had a code between us. We kind of felt each other out, like Masons. There wasn’t a secret handshake, but there were still tells.

I remember one time I wanted to quit but I just wasn’t ready to go cold turkey. I told myself I could slow down. I didn’t want to smoke every day. I took my supply of pot and my pipe and I wrapped them up in plastic and sealed it with rubber bands. I then put it up on a shelf in my closet so I’d have to get a chair to get it. I figured this would make me think several times, way more than twice, about what I was about to do. I figured it would slow me down.

I remember time and time again going for that bundle, opening it up, and smoking, and the whole time wondering why I was doing it. It was as if I was possessed. I didn’t want to smoke, and here I was smoking. It was insane. Nobody was forcing me to do it, but I couldn’t stop.

I felt helpless.

And this is just pot. It wasn’t heroin, or oxycontin.

People say pot isn’t addictive. They say it is a gateway drug, that it leads you to other, harder drugs. I say otherwise. I know. There’s about ten years of my life that pot has, that I missed. This is why I’m opposed to the legalization of pot. Look how well we are doing (not) with alcohol. Look how many people’s lives are ruined by it.

A lot of people think they can’t become addicts. They can drink or smoke or snort or swallow whatever they want. They think “That can’t happen to me.” I say, why not? What makes you so special?

The only way to be special is to not do it at all. You can’t tame an addiction. You can’t do it half way. You can, at the beginning. Then it gets bigger and bigger and it will win, every time. There’s a honeymoon period at the beginning. It is all sweet and wonderful. It is your best friend, your lover. It fills in all the gaps. It makes the bumps in your life not so bumpy. It makes things warm and mellow. It makes life not hurt so much.

Then it gets harder, and it wants more. It takes more to make the warm feeling come. Then it costs more, and that has you bothered, so you do more to not worry about it. It spirals. It is a snake eating its own tail, but you are the one being eaten.

Every time you get near the edge of the abyss and you survive, you think you’re lucky, and you can do it again. There is always another sign telling you that you’ve gone too far, you should turn back. That car crash. The arrest. Your spouse left you. You got fired. There’s always something after the last road sign on the way to your demise. You think you can stop before you get to the end of the road. You’re enjoying the ride, you think. You can stop any time. But you don’t. You want to see how hard and how fast you can drive this thing. You don’t realize that the whole time you are the one who is being driven, and you’re being driven to the very edge of madness – and sometimes beyond.

Sometimes you stop. Sometimes you get off. But then there is still danger. The lure is always there.

The bad part is that even when you get clean and sober, the addiction is still there. You’re two years sober and the moment you forget how hard it was to get clean, you’ll try it again, and fall for it again even harder. There won’t be that honeymoon time like at the beginning, where you’ve got it under control. It remembers, and you’ll reset to how things were at the worst.

You can’t control it.

You aren’t special.

I could say “Just say no” but that’s naïve. The moment you tell some people to not do something, they are going to do it.

There is no simple answer to addiction. And there is no way of understanding it unless you’ve been there. If it was as simple as just quitting, nobody would be an addict. And there wouldn’t be any more overdoses.

Pray for peace for the addicts. Pray for strength to resist the pull. Pray for all those who haven’t heard that siren call to turn away from it when they do.

Thousand-word story, part two

story2

I have wandered further on this isolated planet. It has been three weeks now and there’s not been any sign of a rescue party. I might as well see if there’s something else to this planet other than the wild forest and the crashing waves. I think I’ve wandered along the beach enough. There has to be something more.

The more time I spend away from the sea, the more I think the strange dark skies aren’t the norm here. The further I get, the brighter it gets. Maybe there’s something to the violence of the waves that makes the skies there seem so dark. Or maybe it was just a season. Maybe the sunlight was less over there and brighter over here. Maybe it is just like winter in the northern parts of Canada back home. Sunlight there isn’t as long as elsewhere. I just didn’t think I’d walked far enough to see a difference.

Maybe this planet is smaller. Maybe it is further from the Sun. Maybe I should have paid attention back in Mx. Griggsby’s science class. I sure didn’t think I’d need that information now. Not like I really need it. Knowing what size the planet is isn’t going to save me. Knowing how to find food and water, and maybe other people, will do the trick nicely now.

Good thing I was a Girl Scout. That, I paid attention to. I know how to set up a tent and set a broken bone. I know how to open a can with a knife and how to start a fire without a lighter. Maybe soon I’ll need to use those skills.

Mx. Griggsby told me to always pay attention, but Grams told me what I wanted to pay attention to. I guess I should call Grams Mx. Grams, out of respect, but it doesn’t seem sensical.

I’m glad that a few years ago somebody came up with the gender-neutral term Mx. to show respect. When you become an adult, it is nice to have something to add to your name so everybody knows it. Sometimes you need the prefix so you know yourself.

None of that matters now. I’ve not found anybody else, adult or child, to exchange names with at all, much less polite prefixes. But up here, on this ridge, I can see signs that humans have been here. Down in the valley I see lines in the red soil. Looks like somebody has been farming. I wonder what they can grow in this iron-rich soil. It sure looks like Mars down there. I wonder if all the soil is like that.

The mountains in the distance look inviting, but I can hear from here the calls of the animals. Fortunately it isn’t that loud from this far away. I wonder why they live in the forest and not anywhere else? Is the soil too dry for them? Too acidic? I’ve not tested it yet to see how different it is from Earth’s. I’m glad I brought my kit with me. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the information, but information is power, right?

The purple rocks and waves below are interesting. The rock I’m standing on is the same purple. It seems sturdy enough. That looks like a tidal pool down there too. So strange to have a pool right next to a barren plain, but there I go assuming this place is like Earth. Every place is different in some ways, and the same in others. Kinda like how England is almost the same as America. Or is it the other way around? I forget.

Are those stars in those rocks? That can’t be. Stars, down there? Why aren’t they up in the sky like they should be? Maybe that’s just the glint of some mineral. I’ll have to go down and check tomorrow.

As for now, I’m tired. It’s taken me two days to get up this rock to see this view. I’m glad I went to the gym all those years. I sure didn’t think I’d need the exercise like this. Most people scoffed at me for actually exercising my own body. They take pills for that, or hire surrogates to do their heavy lifting for them. One person too many said “Hey, why don’t you exercise for me!” and darned if somebody didn’t figure out a way to do it.

Nobody here would have surrogates working for them. Anybody who lived here would have to do it all themselves. They’d have to figure out how to make their own tools too. Nobody is supposed to live here, but it sure looks like somebody does. Or at least did. The only way that somebody could get here was accidentally on purpose. That’s the way to do anything off the books and out of the way. You just happen to end up having an accident. You kind of plan it, but you can’t look like you’ve planned it. So you sure can’t take any big tools with you. They’d be noticed. Then you’d be challenged, and challenged is the last thing you’d want if you were planning on defecting to some off-the-charts planet.

Now I’m starting to think about this. Do I really want to meet people here? Would that be safe? Would they be sane or scary? Would they be like squatters in abandoned houses or hippies from two centuries ago? Sometimes people drop out of society because they never fit in. Sometimes they reject society, sometimes society rejects them. They might not take kindly to somebody dropping in unannounced.

Fortunately Grams taught me how to “Hello the house”. Back in the mountains of Appalachia when her own Grams was a girl, she learned to yell out “Hello” to a house she was approaching. This prevented unfortunate encounters in the days before telephones were common to announce you were a’visiting. Unfortunate encounters like having your head blown clear off.

I sure hope that any people left here are friendly.