My anti-drug is …


At my former workplace, one of my colleagues displayed a funny headline from The Onion in his cubicle:

Drugs Win Drug War

Many of my friends are current and former drug users. Pot, acid, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, alcohol, speed, X — you name it. None of them have ever had to borrow or steal large sums of money from me or have me drive them to get their stomach pumped. So it’s never been any more of a sticking point than if they were left-handed or right-handed.

I claim no first-hand knowledge of drugs, other than the occasional sip of beer or wine or the daily dose of caffeine. So my anti-drugs (as the current pointless public service announcement goes) are also my drugs.

drugswindrugwar.jpg The majority of Americans are likely far better acquainted with the ins and outs of daily drug use. They themselves or their family members, neighbors, colleagues or friends are deep into recreational substance abuse.

But it is with very little authority that I can speak about the harmlessness of potheads, or the epidemic of crack, or the economics of meth, or the inevitability of experimentation/escape. It is a world beyond me, one to which I’ve never been explicitly invited, and one I have no real interest in exploring.

Call it cowardice or good sense or bad instinct, but my willingness to try new things ends there.

I have a passing familiarity with addictive behavior, as we all do. I can get hooked on a video game and not stop for sleep or food, even as the world passes by. I know it, I choose it, I enjoy it as only a junkie can. It’s not good for me, but I can live with that.

I can also wean myself from these addictive tendencies or avoid them from the start. Maybe I’m lucky in that way that some others aren’t.

I certainly can’t hold my liquor, and my period of heavy drinking was quite brief, starting senior year in college (a late bloomer) and ending a couple of years afterward. Hunter S. Thompson, I am not.

The world is a cruel one at that. People suffer and can be miserable for days and months and decades. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone a stiff drink or some other means to temporarily escape their realities and numb the pain.

I have not had to endure such hardships in my comfortable existence. I have overcome some setbacks — loneliness, unemployment, self-doubt, depression, anxiety — but without a chemical crutch. I am thankful for my lot in life, and I don’t judge others (usually) for their drug choices.

Even legal substances can kill. My then girlfriend nearly bought it after a repeatedly convicted drunk driver plowed his car into her car. My friend’s stepdad shriveled into a pitiable nothingness after an early lifetime of heavy smoking.

I don’t see all drugs as all evil, much as I don’t see all foods as all evil. Twinkies aren’t going to kill you unless you eat only Twinkies. Marijuana isn’t the same as cocaine, which isn’t the same as Vicodin, and so on.

I take newfound pleasure in writing, something that was almost painful for me in a previous life. On those first few dates with the right woman, I go through highs and then crash, putting my body through wrenching elation and pain. I can savor a good steak like a hit of heroin.

It may not be fair that people like me can sail through life with simple pleasures and no need or want of drugs. We play the hand we’re dealt. While I have a great admiration for those who overcome adversity to “make something of themselves,” I have little scorn or unwarranted pity for those who dabble in drugs.

If I have kids someday, I won’t let them near drugs. They’ll have to keep their brains sharp enough to decide for themselves once they reach adulthood. At that point, it’s out of my hands.

But I still love my friends, addicts or not. And I’ll love my kids, addicts or not.

Love is plenty potent for me.


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