Tune in on Saturday, August 1st@ 12:30pm for my interview with Mark Sunshine about drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. The Sunshine Report – 1510 The Zone. Check out Mark’s blog for information about finance, the economy and business @http://www.firstcapital.com/blogs/mark_sunshine/.
Archive for July, 2009
Greg Giraldo will be performing at Loft 107 on August 10, 2009. A&E, Sierra Tucson & Core Company NYC are hosting the kick-off party for the Recovery Rally. Info for this exciting event can be sent to you by request – firstname.lastname@example.org. Joe Schrank, Kristen Johnston and many others will present a funtastic evening for those in the recovery community.
At Just 27, Dash Snow was an accomplished artist from a prestigious family, a legend in New York City’s downtown art scene. He also died of addictive disease and has become anther talented iconoclast consumed by his own self hatred, entitlement, isolation, romantic grandiosity, his depth of feeling and curiosity, his need to create and individuate from his family. Like Basquiat and so many others, Snow left the world in a grimy, junkie tradition, the stuff that makes great cult films but is sad and tragic for his family, his friends, and especially his child left with a legacy and family tradition that is extremely difficult to shake.
Snow lived a life shrouded in mystery, addicts often do. They like to keep people guessing, it helps with the “maybe they are better” tone that addicts like to foster; it creates room for them to be left alone. Snow had a carefully cultivated image that included using his own semen in his artwork (art? really?) and creating what he called a “hamster nest” which was shredding some 50 plus phone books, drapes and linens from hotel rooms and then doing drugs until he “felt like a hamster”. Where to begin?
I often think of addiction as an invisible, odorless gas, it can be tricky and nuanced. Not so with Snow; it was profound, acute, even cartoonish. It is easy to draw the obvious parallels and tie it all together into a clichéd message, as clichéd as his death. Maybe the lesson is accepting that some addicts just won’t be on the earth for very long.
Whenever I am on my soapbox I often wonder what it all means. Having worked in chemical dependency and being interested in the politics of it, I form a lot of opinions. I stand and point, frequently. I advocate for treating chemical dependency as a health issue and not as something that can be addressed by paramilitary interventions, but what does all of this mean?
One of the ways to foster change is to support recovery high schools. Recovery high schools are community based scaffolding built around young people who are committed to living intoxicant free and need help to do it. In other words, we can send kids to treatment, but then what? High School? They don’t call that institution HIGH school for nothing. Currently there are 30 recovery high schools nationwide (not one in NYC, c’mon New York 12 steppers, get active!). They range in size and funding but in my view they bring a complex issue into honesty. They address a chronic problem at a maintenance level rather than when the fever spikes and the crisis hits. The outcomes are great. Grades are better, graduation rates are better, and matriculations to higher education rates are better.
One of the difficulties about measuring success in recovery is that we will never know what isn’t happening, who knows what would become of the kids if they didn’t have a recovery high school to attend? Jail? Maybe? Death? Maybe? Emotional turmoil? Almost certainly.
I attended the association of Recovery High Schools in Indianapolis and learned a lot. The highlight for me was that Greg Ballard, mayor of Indianapolis, took the time to attend the conference and address the attendees. We need more people in government who understand the power of recovery, especially for young people. Additionally, Gil Kerlikowske sent some staffers to scope out what recovery schools are and what they mean. I also learned that Gil visited North Shore Community High, a recovery High School in Mass. Thank you Mayor Ballard and Czar Kerlikowske for supporting these schools. Any chance you can get mayor Bloomberg to look into this?
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Gil Kerlikowske called Michael Jackson’s death a “wake up call about prescription drugs”. I guess. Is anyone confused about this? Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Judy Garland, Anna Nicole, Heath Ledger, Chet Baker, Jean-Michele Basquit, Lenny Bruce, Kurt Cobain, (is America awake yet?), Chris Farley, River Phoenix, Jimi Hendrix (now? Now is America awake? Must have hit the snooze button), Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Chris Penn, Charlie Parker, Freddie Prinze, Dee Dee Ramone, Sid Vicious, Hank Williams. Arguably none of these other people were as famous as Michael, maybe Marilyn Monroe, but wouldn’t these other drug related deaths be wake up calls? Are we so loaded that even with a wake up call we go right back to sleep.
The problem with the wake up call idea is that it implies that chemical dependency is a lesson to learn. That the answer to this complex health issue is ‘education”. Kerlikowske has been quoted as saying “addiction is a disease”. Wake up calls make no sense. It’s really pretty offensive. If Jackson had died of Leukemia would Kerlikoske call it a “wake up call”? No, no he wouldn’t. That would imply that he was “at fault” and “deserved” his death. If this serves as a wake up call the wake up is to us that we still don’t think of addiction as a diagnosable disease!
How thick is the denial of America when it comes to drug addiction? So thick that people are “speculating “ that Michael Jackson had an ‘issue” with drugs. Story after story in the media about his prescription pill habit but it seems as though nobody is saying he was an addict. Let me go out on that limb. Michael Jackson, like millions of other Americans, was a drug addict and it killed him.
Much of his behavior is classic addict behavior, such as detaching from family and friends. Addicts do that one all the time, unless they need to hustle money from family. Michael seemed to have enough of his own money. So he runs off to wherever he was, creating barriers between him and his family. He is a sad tale of brilliance that ultimately consumed him. That is a common story among addicts, different for him because of whom he was and his public persona, which added layers of complexity to his addiction, most notably that people, would tolerate virtually anything from him. The man walked around with a chimp. The chimp was a ring barer at one of Liz Taylor’s weddings. Who else but drug addicts would have a chimp as a ring barer?