It sneaks up on you like a coyote in a dog park—one day you are chasing a couple balls, the next you are being eviscerated. With booze it generally takes a few years. With drugs like GHB and meth, your first walk in the park could be your last.
My stumble into the steam was a steady flow of chardonnay. The self-imposed grape-swig twisted a fairly nimble creative energy into something about as clever as a bag of ferrets. It was a slow stroll. My steadiness on terra firma is one of those ‘one day at a time’ things you’ve heard about.
There has recently been such a rash of overdoses and suicides from the craziness that abuse and addiction cause—and way too many instant deaths from ‘recreational’ drugs—that it resembles people hurling themselves off life’s buildings like confetti. What in the hell are we doing?
I hadn't seen Terry in 20 years. He once worked for me as a writer, and he went on to become an elementary school teacher, falling in love with a very cool guy. Running into him at the West Hollywood Recovery Center across from the Log Cabin was a jolt. His skin had turned ashen, his blue eyes blank and his teeth were—well, they were gone.
Terry dabbled in a double life until the singularity of the high won out. His home became an alley, Melrose Baths replaced his king-sized bed and he forgot to show up for his job. Fancy bars turned into those found at our local sheriff’s station.
I asked local licensed psychotherapist Chris Lawver how easy it is to get started in a cycle. “Let’s say it’s Saturday afternoon, I’m horny and want to use, or ‘party.’ Bars aren’t even necessary anymore. All I need to do is log onto an app like Scruff or Grindr, take a few naked selfies, upload, connect and off I go. ‘Hey man, parTying today? What are you into? G-cocktails. WhaT’s up Mr?’ Within no time it’s an awesome afternoon. Six to 12 months later, that story will turn into a tragedy of losses.”
In some cases Lawver’s timeline is generous. We’ve seen a few local cases recently with guys whose friends say they were not addicts—they just took too much one too many times and died.
West Hollywood Councilmember and L.A. County Supervisor candidate John Duran says, “None of these guys believed the dose they were taking would result in their last day alive. They believed they were going to take it, manage it, not overdose, have fun and wake up the next day.”
One of the smartest cats on the planet about this stuff is Jimmy Palmieri, founder of The Tweakers Project. “Scare tactics don’t work. Changing behavior is tough, and recovery is not for sissies. Government, recovery homes and 12-step groups all have an important place, but I think it starts with friends. With your peers.”
Jimmy’s right. With AIDS we had walking billboards in sight daily. Drug use is a dirty little secret we think we can hide—and we can, until we can’t. You likely won’t be scared until it’s too damn late.
Clearly it’s far easier to ignore things, but the truth is we have a visceral responsibility for our brotherhood of man. Tolerance and love is key. Sure, everyone has a responsibility for one’s own life, but from time to time we all need a hand. Keep a keen eye on yourself and your friends. You take care of me and I’ll take care of you. It’s the only way this can work.