I ditched my last substance addiction on May 28th, 1988.
I was at a party talking to the wife of a friend. As we conversed, I put a Marlboro into my mouth and said,
—You know, I wish I could give these things up.
—So why don’t you? I mean right now, —she responded.
I put the cigarette back into the red and white box and left the box at a nearby table. That was the last time I smoked anything as I also stopped smoking pot because, after all, that too was smoking.
Substance abuse has been a part of my life forever. I’ve seen it destroy friends and relatives. Destroy them and often kill them. I’ve had my own brushes with addiction— from amphetamines which I used to cram for exams and stay awake while working the graveyard shift, to some of the most dangerous recreational drugs. I successfully graduated from a twelve step program after some close friends obliged me to enlist because of too much recreation.
That was back in the eighties: Another lifetime.
These days, I get off on exercise. I can’t run anymore; however, three mile walks and 40 mile bike rides produce almost as many endorphins. Now, I don’t even like taking ibuprofen because I read somewhere that it increases the risk of heart attacks or strokes. I can deal with pain. Sports does that for you.
I thought of addiction and alcoholism as I read and translated Manuel Vicent’s piece on Dylan Thomas. Drunks and addicts think they’re cute—I did. But they’re not. Someone, maybe Naipaul, wrote, “Hate oppression; fear the oppressed.” You could say the same for drunks and alcoholics. Hate their disease, but be wary of the infected. They—we, have the capacity to lie, deceive, and manipulate.
The first step to overcoming addiction is to recognize it. Then, get into a support group. I hated the religious theme of NA and AA, but went along with it. I met attorneys, teachers, two principals, several doctors, and a priest during my own recovery. Some are still friends even though I stopped going to meetings in 1988. I question the efficacy of the steps and the program, but I would not have won the battle without the support I found at the meetings.
I am writing this and publishing this for all readers of the AVA, but for one person in particular. He has talent I can only dream about, but is mired down in alcoholism and is destroying himself. He seems to recognize the problem. I hope he can get to the next step.