Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We All Fall Down

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I have a dark fascination with addiction. I don't understand it, but I know that it is real and accept that it is a part of our society. It's everywhere. Of course, for every drug addict there is an ever widening circle of the people impacted by the drug addict and their actions. I think it would be very difficult to find a person who has not been touched in some way by addiction. Despite my years in the restaurant business, I have had minimal exposure to hard drugs or the people who use them. Most of my knowledge comes from reading memoirs and the experiences I learn about when there is a drug related death in a friend's life. Unfortunately on this particular day in January, I've spent time reeling from both of those occurrences in a single day.

A couple of years ago I read two nonfiction works written individually by a father and son, David and Nic Sheff. The father's book, Beautiful Boy, shares the heartbreaking story of losing a beloved child to a life of drugs, prostitution and criminal activity. And that Beautiful Boy, of course, is Nic. His tale, Tweak, told matter-of-factly, with false bravado and a persistent tone of disbelief, taught me about a world where drugs repeatedly ruined, and sometimes ended, lives. Nic has a new book out, We All Fall Down, which I just read in record (for me these days) time. The repeated trips to rehab, the 12 Steps that never were taken, and the disappointment that constantly waged war with the hope for a happy ending, made this book a real page turner. Knowing that Nic had relapsed after the original success he experienced with Tweak was disheartening, but this was one of those books that can cause a reader to hold their breath. Powerful.

Which brings me to the other part of my day. Perfectly lovely parents are not guaranteed that their children will escape the allure of hard drugs. I've been to some wakes and funerals over the years and too often they have been for people younger than myself. To witness a parent bury a child is to witness one of the deepest sorrows imaginable, and as a parent, I think it is impossible to attend these funeral services without projecting how one survives such a tragedy. I don't want to ever know.

Addiction is an illness frequently accompanied by undiagnosed mental illness. Depression is common, as is a history of abuse, and self esteem issues. Closing the book on Nic Sheff's struggles only to learn about a friend's loss of their beloved child to addiction and depression, is nothing short of shockingly sobering. On Friday morning when I share books with students as part of their class' requested "booktalks," the Sheffs' books will be included. While I've never subscribed to Nancy Reagan's Just Say No policy, I will do my best to make sure that children Know the reality and perils of drug experimentation and addiction. And then, Friday night I will attend the wake of a friend's child and do my part to offer consolation from the ultimate loss. We all fall down. I suppose that being surrounded by family and friends willing to support us, through our struggles and sorrows, is what allows us to keep picking ourselves up.

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