I do not understand how a person becomes addicted to drugs. It seems like it is obvious how instantly damaging it is to yourself. Then, I realize it is not unlike my addiction to food. One huge difference is that I really MUST use food several times a day. That same reality is not true of drug addiction. At least, not in my reality.
Getting high in high school and college was fun. It was only sporadic recreational use for me. I never used any needle drug. I did take things like “White Cross speed” which, quickly gave me an M80 of a headache. I remember being sure my skull would split down the center letting my brains be exposed before the grey matter began to slide outside of the now broken brain case. Within an hour of taking the speed I was exhausted and had to go to bed and sleep it off. The friends I was trying speed with were all high and fast and loud and incredulous that I had a headache and WORSE had to go to sleep. I have to admit I was rather shocked at my physical response to the drug. It was not a lot, one pill maybe, two. Either way, my expectation was to have the same experience as my friends. Nope. Just went to bed and slept it off.
This reaction was a HUGE surprise to all of us. This made me sure I was not ever going to be a drug addict. It just was not fun. Now, I did take some other pills recreationally. I had a friend, “J”, who was a dealer. For the longest time I did not know that. I just figured his was the safest place to be when experimenting with “uppers“and “downers”. He had them. I accepted them when offered. We had none drug times we just hung out with a group of his friends and one cousin. They were Morroccan Jews. As I recall his cousin grew up there. Only moving to America in his late teens. I felt close to his girlfriend, “E”. We talked about so many subjects. There was only one time we were high that I was confused and seriously uncomfortable but, I did not know how to extricate myself from the situation. So, I turned away until, it was over. We never spoke of it. Not one word. Maybe we were all embarrassed.
It was at J’s I tried cocaine. In my body it reacted very differently than everyone else I have EVER known. Again, like the speed it just made me tired. I tried coke a couple of times. Once or twice by itself and once while high on weed. STILL nothing. They were all high and chatty and goofy and nonsensical much of the time. I just wanted to go to sleep. It wasn’t really just a “want” the drugs forced me to NEED sleep.
People would talk about how they felt on speed and cocaine. I just did not understand it. My friends were absolutely shocked that I would need to sleep off something that would, did, and was always reputed to make you happy and speedy (ergo “speed”) and able to stay up for two to three days at a go. I could do the staying awake two to three days. Without these drugs.
Since, the “uppers” did not work it seemed logical to try “downers”. NOW, I understood how my friends felt on “uppers”. My reaction to these drugs was completely antithetical to everyone’s understanding about the effect these drugs have on a person.
There was one time I went dancing my then, boyfriend, “G” and a group of friends and co-workers. They were using or “doing” speed. I however, decided to use Valium. Blue. If I recall correctly, blue Valium were 10 mg each. I could not stop dancing all night. I did not feel high enough (enough?) or as high as my group. I took a couple more of the Valium. Since, I wanted to stay awake and party all day and night I kept taking the Blues. At some point my boyfriend asked me how many Blues I had taken. I think we were on the dance floor at the time. I had NO knowledge of the medicinal power and correct usage by official medical professionals. I thought about it trying to recall how many Blue Valium I took that evening and night. “8”. That was my answer, eight. He was, at first, shocked and then, he was afraid I would overdose. In my happy, enjoyment, energetic response to him was, “What do you mean?” He explained in a rather scared voice and worry on his face that I ought to be dead after taking that much. That made me think “HOLY SHIT! I ought to be dead??? But, it felt so fun. Ahhh, THAT is where the addiction would have started had I been that type of person. Had that type of personality? That just was not me. I HEARD what G said. I respected him and totally trusted him. He wanted us to have fun augmented by our recreational pill-taking drugs. G was only concerned for my LIFE! My LIFE?? What I heard from him was that I really could have DIED!?!?!?! END. STOP. CEASE. CONCLUDE. DISCONTINUE.
Shortly thereafter recreational drugs stopped being, “Cool. Hip. Fun.” ” Besides, everyone is doing them.” I got it. I did not want to die. NOTE: Weed not included. You cannot die from Marijuana. Even children who have accidentally eaten weed infused foods we now, call “edibles” or for medical purposes, “MEDibles.”
I did not then, nor have I EVER used injectable drugs. Well, unless you consider the medical requirement to have chemo-therapy drugs directly pumped into a “port” that had been implanted inside my left upper chest with a rubber tube inserted into my subclavian vein under my collarbone. NOTE: Cancer FREE since, December 2013. YAY!
Moving on… I suppose had the message of imminent death message having travelled along a different synaptic pathway or singular nerve impulse my brain might not have acknowledged and accepted that the pills I took that night and those before. Maybe drug addiction really is that simple. There may be another set of synapses, for example, different eye colors in siblings, those synapses are minute. Maybe, impulse control sectors of an addicts brain does not exist or it is weaker or damaged in some way. Is that a mental illness, a disease, like a cold, or cancer?
Addiction, I always hoped, was far from me and my family. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Even as a child I knew that over using prescription drugs could be deadly. I know this because, those prescribed drugs my mother used were purposely over used. She nearly died. Had my little brother and I not found Mom on her back on the floor of her bedroom, wearing a thin cotton nightgown. If my other sisters were there or Dad I have no recollection of. I only recall myself and my brother screaming at Mom and trying to wake her up. Hard. I think Dad heard us crying and screaming and ran upstairs moved us away and tried himself to wake her. Someone called for the ambulance. They came. Without regard to her privacy or modesty they put her on a gurney and carried her down the stairs. Her nightgown had been pulled up to her waist by all the movement of her body. She had no underwear on. Like you or I do today, our neighbors heard the sirens, saw the emergency lights and came out to find out what happened. They saw my Mom’s mons pubis and fat tummy. I kept trying to follow mom on the gurney and pull her nightgown down. I recall yelling at the EMT’s, “Pull her nightgown down.” Many times. I was maybe, eight. That would not be the last time she would make that same failed attempt.
So, why was I surprised that my younger Brother, Daniel, became addicted to drugs. It started in his early teens. After our Father died when he was approximately nine. Mom could not, in her state of pre-existing mental illness, act in his best interest. Not that I did not try to get her to see what was going on. That was my failure. There is no way to know if Daniel might have been successful in reaching his personal goals had he not become addicted to stronger and stronger drugs. Cocaine was his undoing. Crack. Mix that with his own mental illness of Bi-Polar Disorder with some other kind of psychiatric aspect diagnosis.
Accepting one’s mental illness is really difficult. But, after multiple stays at drug rehabilitation centers, he finally acknowledged he was not really fully in control of his life. I feel somewhat guilty about Daniel’s life because, there may have been something I could have done differently. However, I was still a kid with plenty of emotional issues about loosing my Dad and Mom’s inability to function for quite a while. Though, as an adult I never lived near my nuclear family. In fact, I lived in Alaska. Over the phone I would talk with mom and my sisters. Often, I heard of Daniel’s drug addiction screwing up his life. He had the most amazing intellect. I believe his intellect was on par if not better than our Dad’s. Dad had been an attorney.
I never questioned that Mom and my sister’s loved Daniel. It is how they expressed that love. I regularly advocated for Mom and my sister’s to stop rescuing him. I believe that often their form of rescuing was enabling him. Making it easier for him. Easier to pay off his creditors, living with one sister, and with Mom. I was in the other camp. Let him fucking hit bottom already. Maybe, that would make a positive difference in his life. Daniel got very angry with me when I told him I would not enable him in any way. No, he could not live with me. He could not borrow money from me. He could drive my kids. Are you KIDDING ME!?!?!!!?!? Why the fuck would I allow a drug addict, who may be high, on who knows what, to drive my two toddlers ANYWHERE! Not even when they got into their early teens. At some point the kids chose to go in the car with Uncle D. Without my permission or knowledge.
That was part of the dichotomy of Daniel’s personality. He was very loving with children. And a lot of fun, too. He could and would laugh with them and play with all of his nieces and nephews. They LOVED their Uncle D. My kids were not regularly exposed to him.
Because, we lived so far away it was only once every year or two their father and I would go home to visit families. I always wanted to make sure my kids felt like they were a part of a larger family than just the four of us. Yeah, I know: If my family was so problematic why did I want my kids to know this? I guess, because, it was where both their father and myself came from. Might make more sense to them as they get older. Or not. Anyway, both myself and my ex-husband grew up not far from one another.
My kids did get to know their cousins and their Babba and their aunts and uncle. Cousins most important of all. I wanted my kids to have different (I hope better) relationships with my sisters and brother, our Mom and my aunts and uncles. I was successful in this. They do know and deeply love and are loved by their cousins. Even with all of our mishegash.(Yiddish=problems, nutty)
Daniel graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in Economy. He was so bright he applied to and attended Duke University to add a Juris Doctorate to his credit. He started. He made it through one maybe two semesters (Sister’s you may correct my timelines if wrong.)
Drugs did it again. The multitude of drugs he would try and choose at any time always, seem to have been with the cocaine, in all its forms, as the base of it all. Yet, another diversion fr0m his desired path.
At some point he lived in Berkeley. Talk about an easy place to find any drug you want. And he did. He worked at some point at a cab driver. Talk about the most convenient method of finding and buying drugs. He was in Oakland when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake hit. His apartment building was ok. He told me he was close enough to smell the deaths of so many caught on the Cypress Street Viaduct (Nimitz Freeway) when the upper level collapsed downward directly onto the lower level. The tragedy was very difficult for the World but, so much more for those who lost their friends and loved ones there. There was also an immediate and then, long term pain for those who lived nearest. The scent of human bodies decaying in such numbers must have been the worst thing First Responders experienced approaching the bridge. The damage and scent spread to the immediate neighborhoods becoming weaker as the wind dissipated it. Not before my Brother decided to move.
Daniel then, was accepted into a program as Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. I believe he studied Bio-Chemistry here. At least, until, he let the drugs push him off the rational path. It was at SIU-E he successfully worked on a ground breaking study of frogs and how their physical ability to jump worked. He joked he was named in the Credits. Unfortunately, he was cited as “Others”. The research paper was originally published in a highly regarded Nature magazine (see below), Landing in Basal Frogs: Evidence of Saltational Patterns in the Evolution of Anuran Locomotion, appeared on the cover of a prominent nature magazine Natur Wissenschaften. This research was republished in magazines and had TV segments devoted to the new research around the WORLD in some of the following magazines and several YouTube videos. (see below)
- Here’s a video segment about our lab from the Australian science programCatalyst.
- Scientific American Podcast
- Smithsonian Magazine
- BBC News
- U.S. News & World Report
- New Scientist
- Discover Magazine
- USA Today
I think we all thought this was finally going to be THE thing that will put him straight. We were all wrong again. I believe he was living with our Mother at this time.
And then, he got high. (Afroman)
He worked on and off in St. Louis. He had many friends. His dog Shimone was his Best Friend for the last 15 years. Sadly, Shimone had a brain tumor. Daniel fought to do everything possible to extend his life. Until, there was nothing left he could do and Shimone was euthanized. That shook him to the core.
My Brother, when I spoke to him just after our niece’s wedding in Austin, TX, not more than a few weeks after Shimone died, sounded depressed that he was unable to make it to her weddding. I sent him photos and videos.
I have no idea how much more depressed Daniel was from Shimone’s death to be compounded by his inability to attend one of his niece’s wedding. We all wish he had been there. Sober.
Daniel worked as a Peer Counselor at a local hospital in their rehab center. He used once while in this position. Yet, they did not fire him. This boggles my mind. How can an active user be counseling other addicts as a Peer who made it through? I will never know.
The next time he used was his last.
Daniel died June 20, 2016. His heart stopped. Next to him the police told my oldest sister was a very small plastic bag with “white powder” in it. They declined to test it.
CPR was performed on him by his roommate and best friend and neighbor from the time he was found until, the EMT’s arrived. The EMT’s then, took over. After trying to resuscitate him for the ethical and regulated amount of time.
Daniel appeared to have had a massive heart attack. I remember being told that at some time we learned that Daniel had called another NA or AA person. My recollection is that Daniel called because, he was too high and was considering getting or taking Heroin to come down. His friend convinced Daniel to go home and go to bed.
WHY DIDN’T HIS FRIEND CALL 9-1-1??????
Daniel had called because, he was “too high” is that code for overdosing??
If not it should be. We do not know whether he actually did ger and use Heroin. In my whole life with my brother it NEVER occurred to me he would use Heroin. Or anything else.
Daniel’s addiction won. Daniel LOST HE DIED.
His torment is over. Our hearts broke.
His friend of 20 years and trusted Rabbi eulogized Daniel. It was clearly difficult for Rabbi to eulogize someone he loved, alternately angry with and so much more. Rabbi said so many true things. Daniel could piss you off as fast as he could “insinuate himself back into your life without ever having to say he was sorry.”
Rabbi gave, IMHO, a true and honest and conflicted and violent and loving and dedicated and frightening about the man who was all of these things.
Drug addiction claims another one.