The needle and the damage done


Call them Fred and Sally. They met in Alcoholics Anonymous, both were drug addicts trying to stay clean. They didn’t get it, couldn’t get it. Instead they went back to drugs, while their friends (including me) watched as they ended up mostly homeless, smoking crack, shooting drugs, and destroying what was left of their lives.

He blew up a successful business and now lives at the Salvation Army, and might be clean, we don’t know. He burned too many bridges and is too untrustworthy to get close to now. She was recently found dead, overdosed on cocaine. She leaves a sixteen year old daughter who now has no parents (thankfully her grandmother stepped in a while back and is raising her.)

A classmate of mine destroyed his life on alcohol, abandoning his family. When his sister finally tracked him down, she learned he was on life support in a hospital. She called his son, saying you need to know your father is dying. He said, they can pull out the tubes for all I care.

That’s the damage that addiction and alcoholism do. There’s many victims and too much collateral damage. And none of it had to happen.

I recently met a man whose father was a heroin addict for decades. He never knew his dad until his final two years, after he got clean. He said, wow, my dad was a great guy once he stopped using, and they had a good two years until the physical damage of decades of drug use caught up with his father and killed him. But he died having a son who cared for him, rather than one who loathed him. That’s what getting clean and sober can do. Families heal. Lives get put back together again.

(I’m not a bystander in all of this. Today, I celebrate seventeen years without alcohol and drugs. A fitting day indeed. Earth Day 1990 was the day I returned to the planet.)

  • Joe Hartley

    Happy Birthday, Bob!

  • DJ

    Happy Birthday! Seventeen years is awesome.

    But when you say, “None of it had to happen,” I have my doubts. I was explaining just the other day to a 17-year-old trying to get sober that when an alcoholic or addict stops drinking and using, there’s a big hole inside. “Normal” people say, hey, great, you’ve stopped drinking and using, your problems are over. But for an alcoholic, that’s when the problems start. Unless one finds a suitable replacement for the chemicals. This is something that normies and doctors have a hard time understanding. Those who “get it” are truly fortunate/blessed/lucky/miracles (choose your word). The majority die of their condition.

    “You’ve been standin’ on the corner for a thousand nights
    It’s the slowest corner known to man
    Watchin’ strange faces passin’ ‘neath the lights
    With a bottle wavin’ in your hand
    You got just enough money for some nothin’ to go
    It ain’t exactly what you planned
    So lonesome that you can’t even say hello
    And no one seems to understand
    So you’re a mixed up kid, come on and join the crowd
    The ones that only fit where they’re not allowed
    Out on the streets and you’re feelin’ blue…..
    Travelin’ light
    With a hole in your soul where the wind blows through
    A hole in your soul where the wind blows through…” –Peter Case

    Never underestimate the gift you’ve been given.

  • If they’d stopped in time, none of it had to happen. Why some get clean and sober and others never do is a bafflement to me.

  • DJ

    And to all of us.

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