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.)