If you were to look at my house in Washington from across the street, you would think that it was very unremarkable. There would probably be an overweight, black and white dog on the doorstep. Cars and trash cans in the driveway. Nothing extraordinary. Upon closer inspection, you’d notice a combination-code key pad on the front door in place of a lock. A little different, but nothing too weird. You’d enter the house and notice the pictures of three kids. My mother would emerge from her latest kitchen project, or her bedroom, and politely greet you. And most likely tell you how to improve your life via career, character or financial development. That’s the kind of person she is. It’s an ordinary house, an ordinary family, a very ordinary life. For sure. What you wouldn’t know is that this time a few years ago, my parents were like zombies. They didn’t socialize. They rarely smiled. They rarely did anything for themselves. They’ve come a long way. A keypad has replaced the lock to prevent a family member from coming to the house uninvited and unannounced. My parents have been ten times happier since completing this step.
My mind is too uncomfortable and my thoughts too loud for sleep at this moment. So I’m obliged to scribble and to post. Why do I do this? Why must I constantly parade my problems of overcoming depression and a bleeding heart on a little page on the Internet? I think I’m looking for some validation. I think I’m looking for some admiration. I think it’s the same reason why two-bit garage bands all over the USofA are making myspace pages for their bands and sending links to all their friends. In this day and age, of so many people, so many faces, so many names, so many identities, we just all want something of our own and some attention for what we’re good at. We’re all, to some degree, needy. We’re all more or less desperate. We just have different methods of manifesting it.
Take celebrity life and celebrity obsession in America. Why do celebrities become celebrities? Why are they driven so constantly, so passionately to claw their way to the top of fame and fortune? I for one can’t tell you for sure why because I’ve never been a celebrity. I probably never will be. But I do know that I used to take pleasure in gleefully reading about the messes of their lives and fashion choices through gossip articles and websites. Why? To keep up with the news? No, I don’t think so. To feel like maybe my life isn’t quite so bad? Possibly. Because I was hypnotized by their power? Yeah, probably.
But now celebrity life isn’t quite so funny anymore. It’s becoming very apparent that these people have serious, serious problems. Anna Nicole Smith is dead and has left a tiny little innocent life behind. No father figure is stepping in for her baby girl. Brittney Spears spent last weekend checking in and out of rehab, shaving her head and getting tattooed. These events would have been trivial to me had I not listened to a radio show this afternoon that touched me. Sound clips from a Scottish comedian talked about how maybe he’s a little off poking fun of these people, because he was once an alcoholic. While the entire world snickered over Brittney Spears’s very public break-down over that weekend, this man celebrated a major milestone in his life: 15 years of sobriety.
2007 has been bizarre, that’s for sure. People that know me well have heard me talk about this awful daydream I occasionally have, where I’m away from home and I get a phone call that my little brother has died. This daydream has been so real to me that I know exactly what pieces in my wardrobe I would take to his funeral. But so far as this year has shown, he is not dying. He is not overdosing. He’s planning to get married. There’s something very significant to me in that.
The reason why this all hits me very hard is because I have spent a good deal of time over the past years dealing with drugs in an emotional way. Drug addiction hits close to home because it is in my family. I spent a good part of last year with people that used drugs via a sibling, a relationship and a summer job. I have spent the whole of this year grappling with and finding a way to manage depression, due to a chemical imbalance that my experiences set off. Drugs are serious business. Marijuana is the most glamorized and misunderstood drug on the market. People that use it twist themselves into so many knots of lies through rationalization and self-justification, they become monsters. Drug users are liars and cheats. They are two-faced, manipulative cowards. They’ll disarm you with their charm while slowly bleeding you to death.
Like the Scottish comedian said, addicts are people with thinking problems. We all have a thinking problem to some degree. But some thinking problems are so powerful that addiction is used to fill the void. Anna Nicole Smith felt a powerful void. Brittney Spears is feeling a powerful void. My brother, who I hope to God is sober, feels a powerful void. Addiction is a potent illness that makes a person do ugly, ugly, ugly things. Addicts render the very essence of life, their agency, to whatever stimulation or depressant they use. So for that reason, I am not trying sit at the great bar of judgment and play God. I don’t know how God is going to judge people based on altered brain chemistry from a learned dependence, or based on horrible life experiences that lead people to experimentation and escapism. I don’t know how it’s going to be in the next life.
But you know what? They are still responsible for their actions. They are still responsible for this life. They need help, they need guidance. One radio host talked about how celebrities need people in their lives who will make them take it down a notch. People who will confront them. I would have told him that addicts don’t listen to reason, they can only listen to their addictions until they hit rock-solid-hard bottom. Don’t you think that for every addict out there, there’s not a family that watches the person suffer, and feel their pain? Don’t you think that for every addict in the world, there isn’t at least 10 people closely associated with that person that wants their success above all else, but is powerless to change them? Addicts need to want to listen. They need to want to change. They need to want to stop destroying themselves and everything around them. Many celebrities aren’t going to change because they can get what they want, no matter what. And just as drug-addicted celebrities are going to die from overdosing, many people that you and I know will continue to suffer from drug-related problems, and they’ll wreck hell on everyone in their lives. Drugs aren’t just a problem for the rich and the famous. Drugs are a problem for everybody. We all have a black sheep in the family. We all see bums on the street. We all know kids that are getting pressured to smoke dope by their peers. And we all know families that are being ripped to shreds, down to the very fiber of their beings, because of drugs. Or alcohol. Or porn. Or some other addictive habit.
Tears, pleadings, beggings, confusion, sleepless nights, guilt, sickness, pain. These are ways that drugs hurt others but seem to be lost on the addicts themselves. And I hate them for it.