I recently had a drug problem. My X-wife has a drug problem. My son has a drug problem. America has a drug problem. But his is not thee drug problem they like to harp on in the news about – meth, opiates, heroin, bath salts… BATH salts?… seriously? What ever happened to good old airplane glue? Anyway – this is not about that – this is about a drug problem that is much more deliberate and sinister than that. This is about the LEGAL drugs in the most blindly, capitalist, American sense. Me, my X-wife and my son, along with millions and millions of American’s citizens have all, unwittingly, become integral parts of the Perpetual Cycle of American Pharmaceutical Drug Dependency (hereinafter referred to as PCAPDD). This serves only as an American, capitalist, money making machine who’s earning potential has justified the turning of a blind eye to the destructive power on her citizens. We were… I was, sold a bill of goods and I bought it hook line and sinker.
My opiate addiction stemmed from back pain, exasperated by my athletic activities every other night. A common story. And despite the fact that it was comparatively mild, it rained destruction down on my life none the less. The likes of which I couldn’t see at the time, nor could I ever anticipate or comprehend. And the efforts and sacrifices I had to make to get back to this happy place I am in now are both typical and legendary. It’s only now, decades after my addiction’s inception that I am quite happy and proud to say that I’m no longer a part of that destructive cycle. My X-wife is just now recovering from the same social illness (update 2 years from this original post… “no she isn’t”).
But my 21 year old son, that’s another story.
THE EVOLUTION OF A MENTAL ILLNESS
– or – A GREAT MARKETING PLAN
When I think back to the 70’s, no one knew what A.D.D. was. In the 80’s, only 5% of everyone I knew felt they had it, but 90% had still never heard of it. But in the 90’s, only 5% of everyone I knew DIDN’T have it – and EVERYONE knew about it. It was the Illness de Jour of the decade! So what happened? Did we all just go MENTAL all at once? I think a more plausible deduction might be that we were only convinced that we did. And what is marketing but simply ‘subliminal convincing’?
Somehow, the parent’s message to their kids in the 60’s which was “be just like Johnny”… changed into the 70’s “don’t be anything like Johnny”… and then that changed into the 80’s, “who gives a crap about Johnny”… and that finally changed into the 90’s “you must be BETTER than Johnny, or Johnny will be better than YOU!” ALL of these messages were DEAD WRONG! Up until this point in my life… I looked at my place in the world as compared to other people. Wow, talk about built in stress for a life that’s already stressful! You don’t have to be LIKE anyone or any thing… you just have to BE. I know that now. But lack of that basic parenting understanding back then led me to this point now. Back then, our hyperactive, still infantile social media told us what was wrong with us. And it scared us into believing them. Just like those shady late night real estate gurus will flaunt their 2 successful students, so did the drug companies. So to fix what we were now sure was wrong with us, we were then handed a magic pill that someone else paid for no less. We figured that we lived in modern times… such things were possible right? Shortcuts were indeed available. So we were told that this magic pill would fix all our problems and we believed it. It was just too much corner cutting temptation for us to resist!
Wow what a BIG mistake!
I take 2 important lessons from this gigantic error in personal and parenting judgment… “Nothing important, or worth while is EVER easy”, and, “There is never, ever, ever, a magic pill.”
A.D.D. ENTERS THE AMERICAN SUBURBAN VERNACULAR
Jaded, uninterested and uninspired. How did this happen? We were so happy, prolific, prosperous, politically correct, sane, but just crazy enough. Living the life we thought we were supposed to. How could these feelings creep into our ideals. It was truly fucking everything up.
So when we all were told that there was a REASON we were jaded and uninterested and uninspired, it never occurred to us that the actual reason for that was that we were all simply living jaded, uninteresting and uninspired lives. We were so cosy under the protective bubble of the “greatest country on earth”, assuming the association alone made our lives great. Maybe to those looking in, but to us looking out, not so much. So boy were we ever relieved, enthralled and excited to know that a white jacketed scientist person with a funny accent in a clean room somewhere found a REASON for this unexplainable phenomenon. Yes, he found the reason, and what’s better – he gave it a name! And if it had a name, it stands to reason that is was sure to have a cure… right? RIGHT! So we were ripe for the picking and Xanex and Aderal popped up on the landscape. They went after the adults first… but once they had us turned… it was only a matter of time before they turned their sights on our kids… enter Ridalin. Recognizing this as a tremendous profit center, the drug companies got together with the marketing companies and went to work. And BOY did they cash in! And where there’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of corruption and a LOT of “looking the other way”. It’s amazing what you can overlook with a few crispy-foldy’s in your pocket. 10’s of thousands of families were crumbling before our eyes like a train wreck in slow motion… but never mind, these 4 guys got REALLY rich! Then everyone got into the act until this morphed into a gigantic money machine, and those 4 guys turned into 4,000 guys, mayors, executives, governors, congressmen and don’t forget about our funny talking man in the white lab coat. He was ROLLIN’ in it! At that point, we had a perpetual motion machine that simply could not be stopped. And thus, the PCAPDD was born.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS
1. Marketing companies inform you of it’s name and symptoms so you’ll be afraid of it
2. Drug companies ‘urge’ doctors to tell you that you have it, and to prescribe their drug to cure it
3. Pharmacies gladly supply it and make a huge profit from it
4. Insurance companies pay for it – and then take a healthy kickback for it (did you ever wonder why your insurance company would cover only one particular brand?)
5. Shady politicians gladly take campaign contributions from “special interest groups” to ensure that when they’re elected, they’ll look the other way from the millions of needlessly addicted citizens, and above all, make sure that NO legislation is EVER passed that would ever interrupt the cash flow of this this gigantic cash cow for everyone along the supply chain.
6. And closing the circle is dad on pain-killers, mom on… well, what ever the hell she’s on, and my son on Aderal. And that’s for life – but only if they market it correctly.
And so the Perpetual Cycle of American Pharmaceutical Drug Dependency continues to turn! This cycle churned and churned and churned for decades, soaking dollars out of my son’s, my X-wife’s and my pockets, through one clever channel or another. Then, when we realized that they boy is TOO far gone and hitting harder stuff to get his life’s rewards, after he’s completely destroyed anything he’s achieved to that point in his life… that’s when the wolf steps out of the sheep’s clothing and tries to sell us a “Rehab Plan” that is sure to cure him from this evil scourge – where ever he got it THAT from (nudge nudge – wink wink). A rehab plan that your insurance company says they will pay for. But when you get your next premium notice, you’ll realize that you’re the one that’s paying for it. Where’s the ‘insurance’ in that plan? They’re making it on the front end, they’re making it on the back end, and they’re making it on all points in between. At this point, I find Mexican, illegal aliens far more trust worthy when it comes to obtaining drugs.
WHY SETTLE FOR IT ALL WHEN YOU CAN HAVE MORE?
So submarkets were then invented and new illnesses cropped up all over the place to scare us out of money and sanity. To this day, my personal favorite is “restless leg syndrome” are you KIDDING me? But we bought it didn’t we? Its simple existence speaks to that fact. But they had to sell it, so for every new illness, they had to have an acronym for it so that housewives could feel like they REALLY researched it and sound really smart when justifying giving it to their husbands and children. It started with A.D.D, and then it morphed into the popular A.D.H.D., and the age specific A.A.D.D., J.A.D.D., but the fact of the matter is that it’s all C.R.A.P. We were all lead to believe, or better put, we were convinced that there was a magic pill to fix your life’s ills, and your children’s too. After all, the man on the televisions said so right? “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”… I mean come on people, he was admitting it right up front, “what I’m about to tell you has no basis in fact, but we’re hopeful you’ll look past that tiny detail and buy our product anyway because you’re familiar with my face, and I’m very handsome.” The newer more modern drug advertising just REAKS of MARKETING and has nothing to do with healthcare. They give you pretty pictures… really fancy logos and pretty color combinations… they show typical Americans frolicking in the fields and on beaches while they read off an laundry list of side effects from ‘mild rashes’ to ‘trouble sleeping’ right up to ‘cardiac arrest’ and even ‘death’?! A 4 hour erection?… bring it on, that’s a walk in the park! But we bought it anyway! Has there ever been a market that was so determined to hand over their money that they eschewed the admitted possibility of death from their concerns? Bought into it, we did, hook line and sinker. And what’s worse, we unwittingly taught the same values to our children. While we were enjoying the short-term contentment of instant gratification and faux-wellness, we had no idea that we were actually trading that in for long-term wellness of ourselves and that of our children. But ‘they’ did… ‘they’ knew it. And to me, that’s far more criminal than smuggling in pot from Mexico.
At this point is bears mentioning the unconscionable amount of money, law enforcement man hours, public resources and facilities dedicated to the eradication of POT smoking and the incarceration of those caught doing it. It’s like two of those huge tree-log trucks passing each other going different directions on the highway. You’d think that a simple phone call would have saved a lot of trouble.
AND IT STARTS
So my son, being a teenager at the time, was too young for life’s experiences and successes to drive him. Making matters worse was that he was now medicated so that his senses were dulled into apathy. Which in turn, creates the need for ‘more’ stimulants. And this, over a period of time, like all stimulants, became his faux-reward, unwittingly replacing the concept of personal accomplishment as life’s rewards thereby knocking them quite a few notches down on the priority list. A dangerous web we weaved and this was the making of a career drug addict right under our noses… and I was the pusher.
Most people think of a drug addict as a filthy heroin junkie in the gutter scratching his arm. Well, there’s 1 advantage the heroin junkie has over my son. The junkie, he knows, just as everyone that sees him, what he is just by looking at him. Whereas the victims of the PCAPDD, like my son, are much less likely to be called out, confronted or helped until the damage has been done. Even they are not aware of what’s happening to them, giving way to the typical lament of the unaware addict, “why does my life suck?”, “I just don’t feel like it”, “why does no one like me?”, “I can’t catch a break”, and my personal favorite, “I must be the unluckiest person in the world”.
The PCAPDD is a slow killer. It changes you over time and you eventually become someone else and you don’t even realize it. And this is never a person that you, or people that love you like more than the person you used to be. But the worst is when you try to stop taking the drugs. What happens is that you sink into a sleepy, short-term depression that tricks your brain into thinking that you need the drugs more than you ever did. Because of this, frequent relapses are common. This residual effect is what I call the 2nd stage of withdrawals. Few see it coming and it usually takes months to dissipate. Surviving that is the key to long-term success and happiness.
I fear that my son is in that space right now because he is sure he needs his meds to function ‘normally’, a common addict’s trait. Now the word “addict” I’m sure he would feel is very harsh. But there’s no other word for it. Is there a word for sort of hooked on drugs? Is there one for hooked on drugs but not drugs that anyone cares about? The fact is that he’s been taking them for 3 years now admits that without them, he gets all discombobulated and has no desire to do anything. I’m sorry my son, but that’s an addict. That is exactly what happened to me when I kicked my opiate habit 6 months ago! I thought I was stuck like that forever. But eventually, my body and my brain reset itself and my WILL and WANT-TO came back to me. Just as it was before I bought into the big marketing scheme of the 90’s.
But what’s worse than just the meds he’s on, is the lifestyle he’s become accustom to. He admitted to me that he takes a pill to sleep… a pill to wake up… a pill to study… and the ‘pill’ he takes for fun is alcohol. And recently, he’s even started drinking coffee, which he’s NEVER done. Not because it tastes good, but because it wakes him up! So to me, the greatest of all illnesses here is that he thinks that’s ‘normal’. His life has morphed into surviving each day by moving from 1 stimulant to another, all day, every day. But I can’t blame him, because that’s how how his parents did it while he was growing up. After all, it was his parents that gave him his first pill… how could THAT be wrong?
THE PAST ENDS HERE AND THE FUTURE STARTS NOW
Wow – now that’s deep! But true every moment of your life. But the difference between my experience and my son’s is that he won’t have to figure all this out on his own. He’s got me to show him that living like that AIN’T IT! He’s got me to admit my mistake, to take the blame, to help him step back and see the pattern developing. He’s got me to show him love and support and the right path to true inner happiness is almost always the hard way. Failing all that, I’ll be there to slap him around a bit until he gets it. And don’t think I won’t!
This started to become clear to him when I shared with him the only thing that saved me from what was shaping up to be a life long dependency. That I actually had to leave the country long enough to kick the drugs I was on, survive the short term physical withdrawals for a couple weeks and then survive the long term psychological withdrawals for a few months. It was only then, looking back, that could I clearly see the pattern of behavior that I had perpetrated. As he listened to my experience, he was VERY tuned into my words as he admitted that my story sounded strangely familiar to his limited experience of 21 years.
SON, I COMPLETELY FUCKED UP!
So I had atoning to do. I fucked up and admitting it was key here. And my only salvation is to save him from the same pain I suffered through, and to give him the insight and perspective that took me 20 years to realize. So I put it to him… is it possible that he was misdiagnosed and we were ALL too eager to “fix” him with that magic pill? That his lack of motivation may have simply been that he was a teenager? Because that is pretty common with teenagers, right? And that he and myself and my wife at the time, were always looking for the easy fix, that “magic pill” that would fix everything so we could quickly get back to acting happy. What an easy-sell for the drug marketing companies – we were lambs to the slaughter! I reminded him that he was not always uninspired and lazy… that before 18, he always had energy and motivation until he was told it wasn’t enough by television, by his teachers, by his peers, and especially by his parents. Constantly being reminded that he wasn’t quite good enough.
I told him that I know now that that thinking led us down the wrong path, a path that I and his mother are just now, recovering from. And a path that I believe he is presently on. He really took that to heart, and I think it scared him a bit too. Good.
Of course SOME people need drugs… drugs are good and useful and necessary to those who are truly ill with no alternative for a functional life and I can certainly acknowledge that. My contention here is that it’s our inherent laziness that lead to this horrific abuse that has permeated every sector, class, creed and faith of our society. It was my lack of understanding and attention to the most precious thing in my life, my children’s well being, that brought me here. And if you’re still reading this, you’re likely in your 50’s, your eye’s are welling up, and you’re feeling the same guilt and shame that I do. We were too busy patting ourselves on the back for the big house we bought and for simply being American. We glossed over the fact that we were being flagrantly absent in the most crucial decisions on our lives, usually because we were hitched up to the credit machine and working our asses off to pay for the over inflated lifestyle we justified was best for out kids. My advanced years now tells me that they didn’t ask for, not did they need the big house, the pool or fancy education… all kids REALLY want and need is genuine ATTENTION and LOVE form their parents. Past that, they’ll grow up just fine and everything else is just gravy.
THE HAPPY ENDING
So I don’t blame the American Pharmaceutical industry or the doctors or the politicians that perpetuate this social illness. OK, I do a bit. But I AM pissed off, dismayed and thoroughly disgusted. But at the end of the day, I blame ME because I am the central character in every ‘story’ in my life. Who else could be at fault for its condition? I have choices and I had choices every step along the way and at that time. And at that time, I chose wrong. I am the seed that made that poison ivy grow. Without my need for the quick, easy fix, that billion-dollar industry does not exist.
Once I took that first fateful pill… once I allowed my then wife, and ultimately, my own son to do the same… the ride for all of us started. Not lurching out of the gate like an old roller coaster, but a slow rolling start like a 10 year old Prius, a ride that gathered speed before we knew it. Even a 10 year old Prius can do 80! This is a ride that I now know will ALWAYS end in a crash. It’s only a matter of how much of yourself is left when they pull you from the wreckage.
As addictions go, I’ve mentioned here that mine was a mild one. But it could have been much, much worse had I not caught it in time. But even then, its effects were devastating to my family and me. But without that experience and my recent recovery, I would not have been able to see the signs of the same addiction in my son and my X-wife, the mother of my children, who I badgered, bugged and bothered until she copped to her issues and got on the path to wellness. Had I not gone there and back, I would have been reduced to little more than a spectator, watching from the distance, the same slow destruction of their lives I’d perpetuated on myself. Without my near demise and subsequent resurrection, I would not be able to be the steady hand needed, the voice of experience, the builder of happy thoughts and sweet memories what was the man that I used to be, and the father that I have once again become. 6 months ago, I could not have dreamt I’d be capable of such feats. But 6 months ago, I was a drug addict.
Sobering isn’t it?