Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy, Joyous, and Free

Happy New Year, one and all.  As it the morning after a holiday replete with more alcohol than The Sigma Chi house during Hell Week, I thought I’d take a minute to rant a bit on something that’s been bouncing around in my brain like a toddler on Red Bull.

Many of you know that I am an alcoholic.  And, in case you didn’t: “Hi, my name is Jen…”  As an alcoholic, I have learned that the only way to not wind up insane, incarcerated, or dead is to schlep my punk ass to an A.A. meeting at least once a day, read my Big Book, and have some serious tete-a-tetes with the Big Man Upstairs.  And, really. . .how cool is that?  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was eight years old and wrote an essay stating: “When I grow up I want to be a weepy drunk who plows her car into a tree and winds up in a jail cell with a 300 pound woman who smells like flop sweat and PBR but as far as diseases go, at least I got slapped with one that comes with jalepeno poppers and umbrella drinks.  Sorry. . .gallows humor.  In all seriousness, though, how cool is it to have a disease in common with doctors, lawyers, Academy Award winning actors, brilliant artists, and some of the raddest mofos in the Portland metro area.  And the treatment for this disease?  It’s totally FREE!  I get to hang out with these crazy bastards, eat candy, and talk about myself.  I’m telling you, A.A. is the bomb.  For realz.  But while I loves me some A.A. like a fat kid loves cake, I am increasingly made aware of the appalling lack of understanding surrounding addiction and recovery in this country today.

While I think The United States of America is the coolest kid on the block, and I cry like a little bitch whenever I hear The Star Spangled Banner, it pisses me right off every time I hear debates and political filibustering about spending tax dollars to place restrictions on the sale of drugs and alcohol.  This may seem counterintuitive to what I’ve just said, but bear with me. . .  History has shown that banning illegal substances/activities does nothing to curtail their production and consumption.  While prostitution is still technically illegal in Oregon, you can get a knob-shine from the gal of your choice on East Burnside.  And do you know when Alcoholics Anonymous was founded?  Two years after Prohibition was repealed; which should indicate to you the efficacy of attempting to banbathtub gin.  If I felt like really letting my Republican flag fly I could draw a parallel to the increasing fervor regarding the restriction of firearms in this country, but I digress.

The point is that the United States government could declare a militant fatwa on mind-altering substances and Americans will revert to licking toads and huffing Scotch Guard to get high.  It’s human nature to want to feel less. . .human.

Maybe, instead of spending billions of dollars on federal prohibition statutes, and propping up Nancy Reagan’s St. Johns knit-clad corpse to remind us to “Just Say No”, we could spend some of those government dollars to subsidize treatment facilities for those recovering from addiction. . .or open some sober living facilities across this country that will help men and women in recovery learn to acclimate to life in the “real” world, rather than kicking them out of a detox facility after 28 days and leaving them blinking in the sunlight as fucked up and confused as a groupie when Lollapalooza leaves town.

Addicts and alcoholics need treatment.  They need recovery.  They need a chance to feel like human beings rather than second-class citizens, because despite the stigma surrounding addiction, it is, in fact, a neurological condition.  You wouldn’t fire someone for having epilepsy, would you?*

*Well. . .you might.  If you were an asshole.  But, I like to think that most people aren’t.  Life is just more pleasant that way.

You wouldn’t ostracize someone with clinical depression.  And I’m betting you wouldn’t lock someone in jail for having post traumatic stress disorder.  And yet, according to statistics, of the 2.3 million prisoners in our nations prison system, 1.5 million meet the criteria for drug and alcohol dependency. 

One-point-five-freaking-million.  Take a minute to ponder that shit.

Have you pondered.  Good.  OK, moving on then. . .

Perhaps. . .just perhaps. . .our tax dollars would be better spent providing rehabilitation services rather than paying to have someone sit on a concrete bench in an orange jumpsuit watching Adam Sandler movies.  Here’s a thought:  Why do we find it necessary to punish someone who has already done a blue-ribbon job of punishing themselves?  None of us entered A.A. or rehab on a winning streak, folks.  We don’t drink and use because we have a drug and/or alcohol problem; we drink and use because we have a LIFE problem.  So, why not focus more on venturing down the rabbit hole and figuring out WHY we ended up at T.J. McChucklenuts every night sucking on mai tais, rather than slapping our hands like recalcitrant children?

What sort of pious, self-righteous, society have we become when we spend our time wringing our hands in righteous indignation over these despicable addicts and alcoholics while we pop another Xanax and surf some internet porn.  Addiction is addiction, y’all.  Legal or not, we all have our shit.  So why don’t we all start owning our own, rather than throwing other people’s in their faces like a spastic orangutan.

I say, free the courts and jails of sick men and broken women who feel the need to use chemicals just to feel human.  Rather than banning alcohol, let’s tax the ever-loving shit out of it and use that money to provide cognitive therapy, and rehabilitation for people devastated by its use.  But, most importantly, let’s stop deluding ourselves into believing that treating someone like shit who already doesn’t believe they deserve to live isn’t doing anybody any fat, freaking favors.

Ten percent of the population of the United States of America is an alcoholic and/or drug addict.  Ten percent.  She’s making your latte at Starbucks.  He’s passing you the offering plate at church.  She’s teaching your sons and daughters to read.  He’s falling asleep next to you at night.  She’s sitting at her computer, reaching out to you and begging that if you make but one New Year’s Resolution this year, that it be this one:  Show compassion.

Happy New Year to you all.  I wish you peace, love, and joy in 2015.




mothers little hleper said...

Happy New year Jen..may your year be filled with peace, love, joy,happiness and welcome back.

tbunni said...

Awesome post, Jen. The problem is, you make sense. People in charge don't want sense, they just want to feel good about themselves. As in, make everyone else feel shitty. Or so I've observed in my 55+ years on this earth (this time. We'll get to the previous ones later.) And you are incredibly right. We ALL have our hangups. Mine just happen to be socially acceptable (fabric & book hoarding)and yes, I hide fabric when I buy it. So maybe we should all have a place where we can just admit we're human. And not perfect. And maybe not judge others.

If we could all just do that, just a little more, it would be a Happy Freakin' New Year after all.

Hugs 'n' joy - you deserve it!

Anonymous said...

Jen darlin

you make perfect sense !
the road we walk though not predictable - is one we walk together.
you have my love & my complete support.

your Norm

Cindy said...

Great ideas.....the trouble is that the people who have the power to make it happen are the ones who deny there is a problem. Wishing you good health in the new year :-)

Dave B said...

Hey Jen,
Thanks for sharing.
Your blog makes me, and I am sure others, feel less alone. It is like having a mini meeting that is only a click on the desktop shortcut away.

StephRocks! said...

Hey darlin', your friends out here in the real world (and from that haze commonly known as undergrad) are hoping you're ok. No more FB? Check in with us so we don't go hunting you down only to interrupt your wedded bliss :-)