Check out what the The New York Times has to say about our sober living home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Seeking Sobriety in Brooklyn.
Archive for the Uncategorized Category
Chicago, they say is called “The Windy City” not because of a weather condition but because of the legendary dirty politics; a reference to the “wind bag” politicians. Alderman Ricardo Munoz is no stranger to controversy and questionable ethics. Recently, Munoz disclosed he is an alcoholic and he sought treatment at an outpatient clinic.
Some would say this is a premature announcement, others would claim its inappropriate. We all love the stories of redemption, those stories of people who were destroying their life, learned their lesson, and then moved on with their life to share their story and save others. The problem with this paradigm is that it is rare and can serve as a source of shame for people who don’t fit into this mold. Additionally, many people try to force their square peg into this round hole, abandoning honesty in lieu of fitting in.
This brings up the whole issue of anonymity in the recovery world. There are a few ideas about this. The 12 step guard, fiercely defending the traditions of AA would say we must “always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film” . The AA traditions seem to be solid, they have worked for a long time but there is an arrogance associated with this idea. It assumes that everyone who is in need of an arresting alcoholism is a 12 step zealot. Not True. It also assumes that advocacy is self-disclosure, also not true. There are many roads to Damascus and while, I believe that 12 step is what works the best for the most, who really knows. Alcoholism, the forgotten step child of public health, isn’t researched all that well so largely what we are doing is throwing pasta at the wall and seeing what sticks. Can you imagine if this is what we did with other diseases that impacted every American?
I think we need to re-think and update the very fabric of how we approach this issue and its long reaching tentacles. I am all for people sharing their struggles with alcoholism. I also don’t think we need to hide the imperfect struggle most people experience. I have no idea how effective Munoz is as a city official but I certainly support his decision to come forward and share his story. The HIV community clued in right away that silence=Death. Will we make that same discovery?
There was a story in the Herald-News regarding the drug policy of Lincoln-Way high school and the zero tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol. It seems some parents think the policy is too strict. They appealed to the school board and the school board rejected the idea of changing the policy, citing reasons of keeping students “safe and drug-free”. Sure we all want that but if they were doing that would they need such a harsh penalty?
I like adolescent kids, I like their humor and their culture, although I hate rap and so I give them more latitude than most. The idea of an adolescent not trying intoxicants or waiting until marriage to have sex is fine, I guess, but not realistic. It’s a tough thing with adolescents because they certainly respond to narrow limits and boundaries, especially boys, but is it fair to think they won’t step outside of that boundary? It’s not. Kids don’t have the cognition for risk assessment that some adults have, that’s why they drive too fast, eat shitty food and act like assholes half the time (again, at least the boys do). When my son reaches the age of teen angst he will be told that intoxicants are not part of our family, I don’t give a monkeys balls what everyone else does, and we won’t accept drinking, or drug use and I will urine screen and breathalyze him. Do I expect that he won’t try things? No I do not.
There is growing literature out there about teenage drug use. Most of it says if they can delay their experimentation or trial period until the age of 21 they are exponentially less likely to develop a chronic problem. What’s the best way to steer kids clear of drugs. I really wish I knew. What I do know is that this kind of fear tactics (one strike and you’re out) doesn’t work. What they do is create a system of fear and secrecy, two things that never help any community with chemical use.
The school district in question has 7,000 students. Do they have any peer driven AA meetings, alternatives to teenage culture that does not include drinking? I’ll bet they don’t. For years New York State had the Rockefeller drug laws. Mandated sentencing with no latitude, treatment alternatives, or discretion allowed. This sounds like that. Did the laws help the state, community, or addicts? No and this won’t help the high school system doing this either. Ok, parents, let’s have another meeting and I will come and speak. They will dismiss me as a loud mouth, opinionated jerk, but when I get through with them, you will feel better.
Medical Marijuana is a topic that comes up when talking drug reform and policy. Currently 14 states have decriminalized medical Marijuana. Is this a good idea? In California one can go into a Marijuana dispensary and have a brief phone consultation with a doctor and they will give you a prescription for just about anything that ails you. There are those who say this is a thin veneer for legal marijuana; that this is a not so clever street corner scam. I am not so sure. I think more research is needed but there does seem to be some medicinal value, especially for cancer patients.
Illinois is the latest state to take on the medical marijuana issue. It may not fly there. The police are warning that this will only lead to “more crime”. That is a weak and frankly stupid argument. In one of the more bizarre comments I have seen, Phil Cline, former Chicago police superintendent says, “ The passing of this bill is going to lead to more crime and drug use. Street gangs (and by that he means black people) will open marijuana dispensaries and they’ll use the profits to buy guns and drugs and to bail out other gang members (again, black people). Too bad he said this because there are people who will believe this because Cline has been a high-ranking police official. What is the truth about the legalized medical marijuana? Are they a good idea? Do they help people? Or are they, what people say, just a way to legalize marijuana.
If we have learned anything from prohibition it should be that taxing and regulating reduces crime. Has Cline not read the history of his own city where blood and violence in the alcohol trade were part of the daily life in Chicago during prohibition? Let’s say gang members open medical marijuana dispensaries. On a way, they have marijuana dispensaries already. They do dispense the product. If they dispensed the product out of a medical dispensary they have to pay taxes and don’t need guns. Kind of like, oh, alcohol a far more damaging substance than Marijuana. As a side note, ALL states have decriminalized, taxed, and regulated alcohol. So in other words, yes, medical marijuana dispensaries are a thinly veiled way to legally distribute the product, but is legally dispensing the product legally a bad idea? No, no it is not.
The Hollywood kid problem. I have often thought that children of famous people are like marriage or communism; better in theory than practice. I think my favorite part of the Cameron Douglas case is his numerous quotes about how he lives to entertain and make people smile. By that logic, selling Crystal meth out of the Gansevoort hotel fulfilled his dream. I am sure that made many people happy, at least for their night of clubbing in the meatpacking district.
The Douglas family had been plagued by addictive disease. Eric the much lesser known brother of Michael died after years of smoking crack. I don’t know the man but I’ll take a wild guess and say Michael Douglas is no stranger to booze, who knows. In other words, Cameron comes by it honestly. His rich and powerful family pleaded with the judge to cut Cameron a break, I guess the judge listened because he got five years for a “10 year minimum sentence”. That makes no sense at all. If the minimum sentence is 10 years how did he get 5? The Judge scolded Cameron’s parents, which they may or may not deserve.
So many issues jump out at me from this. Is he a Hollywood brat, the product of poor parenting, a narcissistic culture? Yes, I am quite sure he is a less than pleasant human. Is he a criminal? I guess, he did break the law. Can he be rehabilitated? It doesn’t seem likely. He is 31 years old and has been this way for a very long time. It is possible that spending 5 years in jail will give him the motivation to create sustainable change but it won’t teach him any lessons. More than likely, he will manipulate his parents and blame them for the way he turned out. They will cave in to their guilt and provide him with some stupid life where he is invested in blame and scapegoating, which, by the way, will NEVER support a person in recovery.
This is a very difficult problem. Does he deserve a prison term? He might. Let’s not pull any punches. My general rule of thumb is to side with the kid, dog, or addict but often addicts not only deserve the mess they create, it may in fact be the best way to help them. Certainly, if they are going to get better, they need to take responsibility for their actions, and be held accountable.
Who knows, maybe Cameron Douglas will speak when he has five years sober and begin it by saying “my bottom was when I was sentenced to prison”.
It’s a safe bet to say that we’ve all been in school circles and gossiped. Who was what with whom, relationship break-ups, who had a STD, whatever. The funny thing about school gossip is that it doesn’t seem to change all that much as we grow up. Now that I am the parent of a school age child, I have found that the school gossip mills are alive and well, even in adulthood. Much of this seems to go down in the parking lot at drop-off and pickup but it’s there nonetheless. I try my best to be an active participant in the day to day life of my son, which is difficult given the geographic separation and the nature of my work (for those of you who know, try scheduling an addict to do something). In any event, I was not able to attend a recent back to school night at my son’s school. Imagine my surprise when the school gossip machine revealed that there were parents that brought bottles of wine in to the classroom to enjoy at back to school night. Really? How odd!
I guess this is harmless, there were no children present and I assume everyone is of legal age and it was just wine sipping (according to the Head of the School). However, to me it sends a message, a contradictory message confusing to youth and adding chaos to any system. Dichotomy does not support prevention, so having this kind of thing in a system is really not helping the “just say no” message infused into school systems. So in other words, “no drinking kids unless you just need to try some Pinot Noir sitting on a tiny chair in a kindergarten class listening to the daily routine of your 5 year old”. The cynic is me takes it one step further: What if you don’t like alcohol but need to unwind after the stresses and pulls of parenthood? “Mind if I smoke some crack or some weed on campus”? Oh, wait, that’s different…..Is it?
Of course I couldn’t just let this slide, so I inquired as to the rules of our school and specifically how it responds to drugs and alcohol on campus. In the guidelines, written by the head of the school, for prom night it states “if we determine that someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, we will immediately contact you and will ask that you come and pick him or her up.” A decent policy for young prom celebrants. Should this be system wide? Should back to school night also be intoxicant free? I will go with a resounding “yes” on that one.
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.