Thursday, September 29, 2011


"Boys are dying on these streets." -Malkmus

Every now and again I receive a gift in the form of someone else's suffering at the hands of the insidious disease (and I have come to believe it to be a disease) of alcoholism (my all-encompassing term to denote substance dependence of all varieties). I know there are other causes which might warrant the expenditure of my energy (sometimes human suffering seems overwhelmingly ubiquitous) but recovery from alcoholism is an effort I make daily and thus news of this kind tends to hit home. A friend of mine from High School was the latest (in an increasingly lengthy list of acquaintances) casualty as a result of this potentially terminal condition. Immediately after learning of his untimely demise (2 weeks shy of his 26th birthday) a line from Pavement's mysteriously pensive song "Grounded" came to mind: "Boys are dying on these streets." It hit me hard... They really are. PEOPLE I KNOW WELL are perishing regularly as a result of what I believe to be a lack of adequate treatment (or perhaps a lack of recognition of the need for treatment) for a CHRONIC CONDITION.

Here is the newly revised official definition of addiction written by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (a legitimate society of physicians and medical scholars working in the addiction medicine field):

Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction

Short Definition of Addiction: Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

I italicize the last line to drive home the point that this does kill people. Many of these deaths could be averted if a proper perspective regarding substance dependence were to be adopted by our populace.

Allow me to step down from this soapbox. I created this post to express an experience I had as a result of this news. Today I am able to feel true empathy for those grieving over his death. I know the hopelessness involved in this struggle. But it also serves as a not-so-subtle hint that I cannot rest on yesterday's work. If I want to avoid the same fate, it is up to me to create that alternate reality (by staying spiritually fit in various manifestations). Thank you Cam, your death was not for naught.

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