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Celebrity Rehab: the Hills

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Celebrity Rehab: the Hills

We all need to feel like we are good at at something.  Even better when you know somebody who is good at something you aren't.  Like for instance, I can't fix a fucking thing.  I'm a goddamn unopposable-thumbed primate with a hammer.  I can barely hang a picture; it'll take me three hours to hang drapes.  The last thing I had to assemble was a drawing desk Justine bought me (when I briefly, and unadvisedly, toyed with the idea of getting a second Master's in graphic novels). After several hours, I gave up and just glued the fucking thing.

So when I need something assembled, I call my buddy Rich.  He installed the flat screen on the wall, hooked up the wireless cable, rerouted the Internet.  (He's also good for fiscal advice.  Love-related?  Er.  Not so much.)

But everyone offers something.  Me?  I am the go-to guy for all things drug-related.

Like when my friend in Miami C-Love was having problems with the downstairs neighbors at his condo on the beach a few years back and called me for advice.

"They keep me up all night," C-Love said.  "The landlord needs to evict them.  I think they're doing drugs.  Their door was open the other day and I could see all these lighters, like with their tops popped off, all over the bed and floor.  What's that mean?"

I explained to C-Love that his neighbors had a crack problem.  Crackheads pop the lighters because, being crackheads, they opt for the .89 lighters (eschewing the fancier and more expensive $1.99 Bics).  They can't wait in between hits and so they overheat the lighters and the tops pop off.

These days, I get mostly these kinds of inquiries: "I think So and So might have a problem with [insert drug name here].  What can I do to help?"

The answer to these is simple.  Not a fucking thing.  There's a great scene in the movie Drugstore Cowboy by Gus Van Sant (for my money, the best drug flick out there)

where after Bob (Matt Dillion) cleans up, a counselor asks him why he doesn't become a counselor himself, try to help other junkies.  Bob says No thanks.  The counselor asks why.  Bob says (I'm paraphrasing), "Because no one--and I mean no one--can tell a junkie to clean up until he is ready." These calls I get are usually from concerned friends and family who think if they can only say or do the right thing, step in and somehow explain to their loved one that they are going down a bad road, they can avert the inevitable tragedy.  Ain't gonna happen.

Not that I don't try to impart wisdom.  I mean it's one of the few things I've done successfully (brief [un]fortunate relapse following my second divorce, notwithstanding).  When I used to encounter resumes and other applications that asked to "list accomplishments," I would mull including "successfully kicked heroin."  But I thought the magnitude might be lost in that particular forum.

Anyway, I bring this up because I received an e-mail the other day from regular reader Duane S., who currently lives in--but is not from--Texas.  He writes,

Hey Joe,

I hate to do this to you on a Monday morning but I want some advice or maybe it is more accurate to say I want your thoughts.  Sorry for the subject of the email [rehab] because I was trying to figure out the best subject but figured less is more.
Anyway it appears that the city of Houston decided that they will give permits to a house nearby that will house recovering addicts.  It seems that it will be a halfway house for lack of a better word.  Needless to say the local community is somewhat up in arms about this development.  The house will be less than a half mile from the elementary school.  To make matters worse, they stopped bus service to this school this year, which means many kids will be walking by this house to and from school.  My oldest son would be included in that.

So here is my quandary.  I understand some of the concern, I mean as a parent, who wouldn't have some concern?  Top that off with a rather conservative community and, look out, you have a potential bomb here.  I also believe that these people deserve a second chance; we don't know their story, and who are we to judge?  I would be lying if I said part of this [doesn't] stem from your story.  There seems to be this stereotype that all addicts are from the inner city and gang members.  Berlin, CT, [our hometown] does not qualify as "inner-city." 

So, I would be very interested in your thoughts on the matter, because they are having a meeting tonight about it and I am sure it will be highly charged up.  I don't know how many people will be on the pro or at least the understanding side of it, but I think it needs to be represented.


And this was my response:


That's a tough one.  As a former addict, I'd say, fuck yeah, they deserve a second chance.  Some of my best friends--friends I still have and hold dear today (an ex-junkie pal, now sober and a father like I, was just in my wedding party)--benefitted from such programs of tolerance and understanding.  Furthermore, you're right; ex-addicts, even the urban ones, are rarely "gang members"; they tend to have been so beaten down, are so ashamed, that they'd probably make safer neighbors than the ones you currently have across the street, docile, meek, and all that.  The real hardcore types aren't making it into a halfway house. Halfway houses interview--stringently--to see who can get in (after a six-month stay in a long-term treatment program, I once interviewed and was rejected.  They saw my attitude still sucked.  And they were right); you get the best of the bad apples, the ones who have already had the mealy, bruised parts treated and peeled away.  By the time they get to the halfway house, they are back on display. And they know it.  Residents are generally required to attend meetings, and are fucking serious about their sobriety. And if someone does fuck up and get high or drunk, they are spotted immediately and kicked out. Managers of these residences understand the tenuous relationship with the community at large, and within their own house, as well; they can't abide by anything less than 100% compliance.  

As a parent, however, I'd be every bit as leery as you are.  As a homeowner, I'd be worried about my property value.  And as dad, I'd be concerned for my child's safety, even though what I just told you is 100% true and I believe it.  Logically.  As a liberal and a Christian, I'd feel guilty as shit for even thinking these things.

Hope that helps.


And that concludes this week's edition of Celebrity Rehab: The Hills.  If you or a loved one has a problem with the pipe, the spike, or the butter knife (I made that last one up because I needed a 3rd drug tool, preferably one that rhymed), send your questions to Candy and Cigarettes.  Or you can save your time and just tell them what I once heard while hanging out with my old pal Mike Henry after a reading by Alan Kaufman.  The subject of a mutual friend came up, a guy who was still "out there." This woman said, "I saw [him] the other day.  He looked like shit.  I just wanted to tell him: Stop doing that...and eat something." 

Stop doing that.  And eat something.  Best advice on drug addiction I ever heard.

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