Killing the Disease

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The actor and comedian Robin Williams took his life today. Beyond this, I personally know very little of the details of the death or the events leading to the suicide.

There will be (and already is) prolific speculation regarding his motives in ending his life.

I’ll confine my discussion to what I know and how it may relate to this sad event.

Mr. Williams was a self-identified alcoholic/drug addict. Media reports indicate he had over 20 years sobriety before a relapse in 2006. He reentered rehab this year as a maintenance measure to maintain his sobriety, according to his representatives.

If I was putting money on it…I’m guessing he died sober.

Here’s what I do know. The effect chronic alcohol and drug use, particularly cocaine (a substance Robin admitted abusing), has on the neurochemistry of the brain is devastating. It takes at LEAST 2 years of complete abstinence before the user’s brain chemistry returns to a state of being where the individual is able to experience the same level of “happiness” that they did prior to use. Chronic, long-term use further damages/inhibits these receptors.

I know of many in the recovery community that suffer from profound depression; surprisingly, quite often after several years of sobriety. Unless you have been afflicted with this disease, it’s very hard to impart just how cunning, baffling, and powerful the allure of these legal and illegal chemicals are on the biology and chemistry of the brain.

In short: years of alcohol and drug use will cause changes in the structure and chemistry of the brain…often leading to profound depression.

Here’s what I also know. Robin didn’t need to take his own life. There are a myriad of drugs that combat these chemical imbalances and help maintain the homeostasis of emotion needed to…well…live.

Again, I don’t know the precise circumstances. I’m as heartbroken as anyone over the news of his death. He was a beloved celebrity that brought all of us many hours of joy. But I also lost a brother. A brother in sobriety. We lose brothers and sisters every hour of every day to this disease.

And it is a disease…

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died, I made the argument for the disease model of alcoholism and drug addiction.

It is a disease. Just like depression. Just like heart disease. Just like cancer.

But nobody seems to care.

As long as it doesn’t happen to you or someone you love, it seems much easier to judge…to question the “will”…the “fortitude” of the sufferer. God forbid one did that for someone with cancer, but we do it with alcoholics and addicts every day.

And they continue to die of the most insidious and hated disease in our culture.

And we lose a lot more folks from this disease then we will from the current hysteria over Ebola.

It makes me sick…

Rest in peace brother. I know you are…I’ve witnessed the aftermath of enough suicides in my professional life to know you didn’t kill yourself Robin…you killed the disease.

If only we, as a society, could have killed it for you.

 

 


There is a Solution…

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I heartily profess to be no expert on middle eastern affairs, Judaism, Islam, Palestine, or the history of any of these regions/religions.

I am however a human being with empathy and an opinion. And a sense of fair play. Some call it common sense.

28 Palestinian children…children…have been killed in the last 24 hours. 27 Israeli soldiers have died since Operation Protective Edge has begun. Young men defending their country against an onslaught of rocket fire from the terrorist organization Hamas. They didn’t need to die.

This is the broad outline. The justifications are spewed by both sides. “They don’t recognize our right to exist…they are terrorists bent on genocide…we have a right to defend our citizens”. Hyperbolic statements are the order of the generation. And the truth lies in all corners.

The Jews have indeed suffered since the times of Ramses II. They are the so-called “chosen people” and have suffered a millenia of genocide and displacement. They are the proverbial abused child.

But study after study shows that the child who is abused, quite often becomes the abuser. And institutionally, I believe this is the case with the state of Israel.

Don’t get me wrong. They have terrorists at the door step (and tunnels) and they certainly have a responsibility to defend their state. But how much is too much?

I’m reminded of the legal concept of self-defense. An individual is allowed to use the same measure of force when repelling an assault.

Can the state of Israel claim this moral high ground? Of course not; and therein lies the fundamental problem and the solution to this conflict.

We, the United States, have wisely invested in the security of Israel for generations. However, the politicians who have been the beneficiary of this military aid…this state of the art weaponry, have been irresponsible in their deployment.

And I, as a tax paying American citizen, demand that my government take immediate action to stop the killing. We have the ability to be a game changer in this centuries old conflict, but we lack the moral courage to do it. It simply doesn’t poll well.

I see a glimmer of hope when the moderates in Israel are finally speaking out against their grossly aggressive government policies. For too long Israel has received a pass, largely as the result of empathy with their historic plight.

That ends now…at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s time for those moderates in Israel to demand restraint. To demand that their government take the moral high ground and rely on their superior defensive technologies. Put the onus of blame on the extremist in Hamas and garner the support of the region and the world.

Stop being the bully, protect your citizens through restraint. Stop the campaign to eliminate your neighbors and just take a deep breath and realize…children are dying. Innocent little boys and girls.

A paradigm shift is all that will end this endless loop of blood.

The killing must stop…

 


The Sport that Cried Wolf…

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I, along with millions of other erstwhile Soccer/Futbol enthusiasts, dutifully tuned in…or at least collegially kept up with, the World Cup tournament in Brasil. We were treated to a relatively deep run by the Team USA and some extraordinary individual performances by athletes from around the world.

We were also treated to a professional “sport” devolving ever closer to professional wrestling.

Yes, I’m referring to the staged “performance art” called WWE or WWF or whatever iteration it has taken on these days.

FIFA…I’m lookin’ at you. Square in the eyes in fact.

Your “brand”…your sport is becoming ever more increasingly difficult to watch, much less enjoy. Aside from the spectacular performances of some, the overall tone of this Cup has been flooded with flops. Oh, did I forget to mention borderline conspiratorial officiating.

I guess I should lower my expectations. After all, the World Cup is run by an organization rife with documented corruption and profound human rights abuses. The 2018 games hosted by the Russian Federation and their charismatic dictato…er…leader, Vlad Putin should be a real hoot.

The 2022 games in Qatar have set the bar below the horizon for widespread bribery and immigrant worker deaths in preparation for the games.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11019010

So it is against this bleak backdrop that I appeal to these neer-do-wells to clean up their sport.

Stop the flop.

My primary sport of choice…NHL Ice Hockey, is the antithesis of this widespread sissification. Hockey players play with broken bones, bloody stitches, and this year, Dallas Star player Rich Peverley died…yes DIED on the bench. After he was revived and on the way to the ER, his first words were “Can I go back in”.

That my friends…is what sport is all about. Competition. Guts. Honesty. Integrity.

Everything this World Cup has lacked.

The floppers are hurting themselves as well as the sport. Brazil star Neymar catches a knee in the back and goes down screaming…LIKE A HUNDRED PLAYERS BEFORE HIM…and the medical staff, with a liberal wink and nudge, casually toss him on a litter. Never mind the fact that he ACTUALLY broke his back. This is where a player will get hurt and where their histrionics will damage other players. Stop crying wolf lads…

Enough. My son’s girlfriend is an accomplished high school (now collegiate) Soccer player. She’s disgusted by this effeminate display of sportsmanship.

You’re losing me guys…the casual fan. But more importantly, your losing the millions of AYSO players that live for this sport.

Time to clean it up.


Coming Up for Air

Phew. That was tough. Tougher than I thought.

I work full-time and go to community college carrying just under a full-time unit load. I’m currently in the Honors Transfer Program with an eye towards enrolling at UCLA in the Fall of 2017 as an English Major (an admission I realize is suicide on a blog).

The Spring Semester ended yesterday and I got my ass handed to me. It wasn’t unmanageable but it seriously kicked my butt. 9 units, three core UC/CSU classes.

Poli Sci was the easiest of the three. I’ve been a political wonk/news junkie my entire life so a lot of the material was intuitive. Pretty sure I aced this class. The irony here is that in a former life I was a radio reporter and interviewed my professor 35 years ago when he sat on the local Board of Supervisors. Pretty sure this guy is at least 83 and still pretty darn sharp. Very inspiring.

Intro to Western Civilization was brutal but ultimately, fascinating. I had no idea I would have an interest in Ancient Civilizations, but now I’m hooked. That the teacher was rated on RateMyProfessor.com as one of the hardest history profs was something that eluded me prior to enrolling. She was extremely difficult. Her tests (minus the Final) were all essay. She required a 10 page research paper with 3 original sources. Suffice it to say Rate My Professor is now my first stop before I enroll. I did learn quite a bit in her class but ultimately was frustrated by her lectures. They were schizophrenic and didn’t seem to follow any form of structure that I (or my classmate) could discern. But at the end of the day, she had a passion for history and knew the material. I got an A.

Finally (and here’s the tricky part as this professor follows this blog and I’ve yet to receive my grade), despite the fact that I didn’t use Rate My Professor the last two semesters, I’ve scored big-time in my choice of instructors. My English 101 professor was fantastic and superb at the art of creating cogent research papers.

But this semester, serendipity caught up with me in my choice of English 102 instructors. Dr. Gino Pellegrini received his doctorate in English Lit from Purdue and specializes in multicultural studies. He is brilliant and personally inspiring. He is “that” teacher. The inspirational one. I have had only one other; Mrs. Doi in high school developed a love for English in me that continues today. Dr. Pellegrini nurtured that. His teaching style was engaging and the 3 hour class flew by. And did I mention he was incredibly hard? Early on in the semester I had a come-to-Jesus moment where I realized I was in way over my head and had no business being in his class…I was caught for the fraud that I am. But I persisted and worked hard. He made us write our asses off in class. Although I despised the handwriting, I loved the pressure, the immediacy of collating ideas and doing my best to make sense of them. It was a lot like blogging. For his final, he required a rewritten portfolio of our work and a research paper on an author. I chose my literary inspiration, John le Carre and had a literal blast writing it. I know he’s considered a genre writer, but I hope my paper changed that image. The Final was a 3+ page hand-written essay on Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I had prepared an outline in my head prior and felt pretty good about what I wrote. What I didn’t expect was the emotion that welled up within me as I wrote the paper. This is an extremely bleak work and as I wrote I suffered for the characters. It was emotionally draining. When was the last time your professor pulled that out of you?

Dr. Pellegrini demanded the best of me and I can’t thank him enough. I needed that. It has given me the inspiration I need to continue on the path I’m on and face even greater literary challenges.

You can check out his blog here.

So for better or worse, I have more time to blog. And I intend to, as the next 3 semesters will be void of any English classes. Maybe it’s time to get rolling on my novel too.

Either way…I hope you all had “that” teacher that inspired you. I’ve been lucky enough to have two in my life…

 

 


There is a Time for Censorship…

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This was too close to home. Both literally and figuratively.

The murders at UCSB were committed by a deranged man that went to High School next door to mine. His crime was committed in the campus community of a university that is well known to our area. One of the victims was from one of our local high schools.

Most chillingly for me however, the Facebook post of the older brother of my son’s best friends, and a friend of mine: “IV deli got shot up. People taking cover in Blaze. Stay inside and stay away.”

My friend was working at Blaze (a well-known Pizza place on the loop) when he heard the gunshots and saw the terrified bystanders take cover in his place of business.

I’ve had enough.

We’ve dissected Sandy Hook. We’ve examined the effects of the Reagan era mental health funding cuts.

We’ve talked gun control ad nauseum.

Now misogyny is being introduced into the debate of yet another tragic mass murder.

When. Does. It. Stop?

Here’s a humble suggestion: STOP publishing the names, details, videos, manifesto’s, and psychotic rants of these killers.

STOP IT NOW.

My son asked if I watched this clown’s YouTube video. Of course I didn’t. Why in the hell would I want to watch the pathetic lamentations of a killer. Apparently I’m in the minority though.

If the media would self-censor everything but the basic details of the killers (ie. age, location, occupation) perhaps these individuals wouldn’t develop such a sense of final self-aggrandizement.

They KNOW they are going down in a blaze of glory. Their pathetic lives will be celebrated by the TMZ’s of the world. Their meaningless existences will be broadcast and examined by every voyeuristic media outlet.

They will be famous. Their lives will finally have meaning.

Stop it. Just stop.

Let’s celebrate the lives of the victims. The innocent lives snuffed out by this nameless/faceless madman or woman.

Let’s not give these losers any more type, air-time, exposure.

Let’s leave them under the rock.

If we do this, maybe they won’t crawl out into the pale light any longer.

I’m not looking.

I encourage each and every one of you to do the same.


Seeking Meaning at the Tip of a Spear

One of the most fascinating byproducts of my return to college is studying history. I’m currently enrolled in a class named Introduction to Western Civilizations. The course begins with the Ancient Babylonians and Sumerians and the wonder of the Fertile Crescent. Yesterday we were introduced to Henry VIII. I recently finished our semester project, an exhaustive research paper that was to be heavily sourced and presented to an instructor quite familiar with the material. This was one I couldn’t fudge. I trudged through and received a much better grade than I had expected.

The subject of my paper was Alexander the Great and his impact on current military strategy and tactics.

We have been exposed to a wealth of material about wars through the ages. Prior to the Common Era, or the existence of Christ and the acceptance of monotheism, most, if not all of the conflicts revolved around land or access to natural resources.

But the common theme of warfare since the emergence of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, et al, has been the persecution of those individuals whose views did not comport with their own. In other words, if you don’t worship my idol, the value of your life is nothing and you have become a threat to my belief system. Therefore, I will kill you.

Clearly outrageous behavior back in those dark days before science enlightened us and allowed us to think critically and resolve many of the mysteries that were deified in ancient times.

I truly believe that deep within each man and woman, there is an unexplained (as of yet) hunger for meaning in our lives. Why are we here? What is our purpose? Compelling questions that have endured through the ages…along with the accompanying fear that if thy neighbor doesn’t share our conception of our god, it’s okay, if not encouraged…to kill them.

I am a spiritual man. I am not an atheist. I pray daily. I pray to an unseen spirit or energy. I don’t know what form my God takes. I deeply respect the freedom all mankind shares in worshiping whatever God they choose. I do not respect their ancient need to kill each other over these beliefs.

The inherent value of studying history is that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors.

For those of you who hold a certainty about the form and existence of your God, I applaud you. I also ask that you put the spear down and let the rest of us worship our own God.

After all, don’t you think that’s the answer to the question: WWJD?

 


Cleopatra, 2014 AD

In the den of schizophrenia, I simply sought knowledge.

My purpose was simple.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

A grade. A pass. A complete.

You found your way to my side and I admit I was happy.

I had seen you to the north, and had discreetly hoped you’d make the journey.

And we shared notes, and knowledge, and even some of our detours.

Your blush

The richness of your lips…how can I turn aside?

We are all slaves to time…to the preordained timing of our circumstances.

Close your eyes and imagine…

Feel the comfort you see in my gaze and know

The heart is the mirror of the soul

And the heart doesn’t lie.

 

 


The War on Drugs and Social Darwinism

 

Courtesy The Guardian

Courtesy The Guardian

In the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin argues that natural selection acts by “rejecting that which is bad, [while] preserving and adding up all that is good”(3). The modern conservative movement has manipulated this theory into a de facto form of Social Darwinism through the imprisonment of non-violent substance abusers. In Jarecki’s documentary “The House I Live In” this is described as “the holocaust in slow motion”.

The term substance abuse encapsulates those suffering from addictions to both alcohol and/or drugs. Specifically, alcoholism has been classified as the “fourth most serious health problem” in the United States (Lee 104). In fact, in 1967 the American Medical Association “would pass resolutions acknowledging the disease model of alcoholism” (Lee 101).  The DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association’s bible, classifies drug addiction as a primary disease. If we can then accept the linear logic that addiction and alcoholism are recognized as disease by the two most austere organizations responsible for public health policy in our country, to classify sufferers of these diseases as criminals is not only inherently wrong, but a form of Social Darwinism (Edwards 6).

Since the inception of the so-called War on Drugs, despite having “less than 5 percent of the world’s population [the U.S. has] nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population [and] imprisons more people than any other nation in the world—largely due to the war on drugs” (Charlotte 1). Upwards of one quarter to one half of those behind bars are for arrests related to drug and alcohol abuse. If it has been empirically proven that alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases, why are we imprisoning these individuals? Is it not clear that society must demand a paradigm shift in the “focus from stopping someone from ‘doing drugs’ to helping someone ‘overcome’ drugs” (Mann 12)? This is not to argue that all alcoholics and drug addicts have not committed crimes or that their primary offense was non-drug related. However there is a large number of “offenders who are merely people who have an addiction to illegal drugs, but no other form of criminal behavior” (Mann 2).

The War on Drugs has resulted in a generation of incarceration and a proliferation of the Prison Industrial Complex. The statistics are quite stark:  there “were more than 1.6 million drug arrests in the U.S. in 2010. The vast majority—more than 80 percent—were for possession only” (Charlotte 1).  On any given night “More than 500,000 Americans are behind bars […] for a drug law violation” and in “the last three decades, the adult arrest rate for drug law violations increased by 138 percent” (Charlotte 1).

The disease model of alcoholism and addiction has fluctuated over the last two centuries and has profoundly affected our nation’s drug and alcohol policies. The primary policy solution however has been that “a prohibitive, punitive approach has been emphasized. Racial and socioeconomic disparities have been exacerbated by the inequities of drug laws” (Lee 99).

As Edwards argues in Behavioral Healthcare, “Our society does not like to deal with people who have tremendous needs. Instead of confronting the issues, our response has been to lock up people with chronic medical problems and keep them out of sight and out of mind” (6). From the outset of President Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs, this is exactly what has happened to millions of Americans suffering from a primary medical and mental illness. We have literally locked them up, and thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, figuratively thrown away the keys.

President Nixon’s declaration of a War on Drugs compounded with the Reagan administration’s draconian budget cuts to social programs, effectively removed the safety net for millions of Americans and created a downward socioeconomic spiral for inner-city youth.  The resultant proliferation of alcoholism and drug addiction kept an even pace with the Conservative party’s agenda to eliminate, through imprisonment, an entire “lower” class of our society.

In 1972, President Nixon issued an Executive Order that eventually led to the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency as to tool in his stated War on Drugs. This “war” flew in the face of the political and medical evidence with regard to drugs at the time. One study “recommended decriminalization of marijuana use, stating:  ‘The actual and potential harm of the use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes with the greatest reluctance’ but Nixon was not deflected from the pursuit of his agenda” (Lee 105).  According to Lee, the War on Drugs was a “thriving business” and in a 1973 speech to Congress, Nixon declared an “all-out global war on the drug menace” demanding the reinstatement of mandatory minimum sentence for drug offenders (105). It is not entirely outside the realm of possibility to imagine that there may still be prisoners serving time currently for marijuana possession charges brought on in this era.

Continuing the conservative agenda, President Ronald Reagan declared that “government is the problem” (Lee 106).  He then promptly spent the balance of his administration enacting some of the most severe budget cuts to social services that our country had seen, while increasing funding for “law enforcement, the penal system, and further military involvement in the War on Drugs” (Lee 107).

To understand how the modern conservative movement has turned the Prison Industrial Complex into a de facto form of Social Darwinism, one only need look back less than 100 years to view the roots of this Eugenic movement. In 1927 the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Buck v. Bell said “[t]here generations of imbeciles are enough” and granted the authority for forced sterilization (Tan 65).  An entire class of citizen was disenfranchised by this ruling and it set the stage for the conservative parties philosophy with regard to so-called “inferior” forms of humanity—drug addicts and alcoholics.

The term Social Darwinism was coined not by Darwin himself, but by sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer.  He and his supporters “saw society as a competitive struggle where only those with the strongest moral character should survive” (Reich). In fact it was Spencer rather than Darwin who proffered the phrase “survival of the fittest”. This newly christened movement, Social Darwinism, “offered a perfect moral justification for America’s Gilded Age, where […] the gap between rich and poor turned into a chasm, urban slums festered, and politicians were bought off by the wealthy” (Reich). This describes social conditions that are mirrored today:  a vast disparity between rich and poor…the “one-percenters” and the socially exclusive practice of imprisoning an entire segment of society for non-violent drug/alcohol offenses.

The practice of Eugenics, or the social manipulation of reproduction based on desirable and non-desirable traits, is the end result of Social Darwinism. The United States is not alone in this practice. Nazi Germany was the most extreme example of this medical and social manipulation, but the eugenicist Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler who created the term schizophrenia,  categorized alcoholics and drug addicts in the same class as “criminals, prostitutes […] ‘immoral’ people, the mentally ill […] ‘gypsies’, and vagrants” and they “were seen to constitute  hereditary ‘threats’ to the Swiss nation” (Gerodetti 40).

As the Prison Industrial Complex has risen, so has the need to fill these prisons. Privatization of prisons has created a cottage industry for an entire segment of the population; from prison guards to the various ancillary services required to keep them running. These businesses operate like any other for-profit business model and must be kept at peak census if they are to turn a profit. The War on Drugs provided the ideal solution to this business model. The implementation of mandatory-minimum sentencing guaranteed a steady supply of bodies to fill the cells. The conservative party’s “tough on crime” mantra and institutional insistence on criminalization of what is factually a public health problem, has created a scenario where a disproportionate number of people with disabilities (addicts/alcoholics) are effective removed from society. Who are these people? The vast majority are low income and people of color. For example, African-Americans “compromise 13 percent of the U.S. population, and [use] drugs at similar rates to people of other races. But blacks comprise 31 percent” of those arrested for drugs and “more than 50 percent of those incarcerated in state prison for drug law violations” and of “those in federal prison for drug law violations in 2010, one-third were Latino/a and 44 percent were black” (Charlotte 2).

That “blacks have been arrested for drug violations nationwide at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates” cannot be dismissed (Charlotte 2).  This is a direct result of the conservative movements efforts, through the War on Drugs, mandatory-minimum sentencing, and criminalization of addiction, to disenfranchise an entire “undesirable” portion of the population—Eugenics and Social Darwinism by definition. The “lifelong penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans” (Charlotte 3).

Social Darwinism is alive and well today. Eugenic ideologies have “persisted through the subtle influence of cultural beliefs concerning marginalized groups” and society is only seen as safe when “such people are locked behind the walls of an institution or when deceased” (Balcazar 35).

In addition to the morally bankrupt philosophy of criminalizing drug addicts and alcoholics, the financial burden placed upon the United States is immense. While the Prison Industrial Complex is thriving, the self-perpetuating cycle of addiction and imprisonment continues in the vacuum of effective treatment strategies. Even law enforcement is in general agreement that stopping the supply-side is grossly ineffective. Recognizing addiction and alcoholism as a disease and treating it as such is the consensus among professionals in the industry, yet our political framework, the conservative wing in particular, takes a short-sided view of this reality and continues to perpetuate a problem that actually has a solution. As Edwards so succinctly states, our “society can no longer afford to spend billions on warehousing people with substance abuse problems”.

Darwin could not have possibly anticipated the obscene political capital that would be expended in his name—namely the gross misrepresentation of his theory of natural selection into a public policy that disenfranchises millions of American’s each year through the Prison Industrial Complex and the conservatives War on Drugs. It is indeed, the “holocaust in slow motion”.

Works Cited

Balcazar, Fabricio E., Pamela Block, and Christopher B. Keys. “Race, Poverty and Disability: Three Strikes and You’re Out! Or Are You?” Social Policy 33.1 (2002): 34-38. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

Charlotte Street Films. The Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Race. 1-3. New York. 5 October 2012. Media Kit. 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.thehouseilivein.org/.

Darwin, Charles. (1859). The Origin of Species: Chapter 4—Natural Selection. Retrieved from http://profkev.com/texts/Darwin_origin_Chp_4.pdf.

Edwards, Douglas J. “A Tale of Two Crists.” Behavioral Healthcare 28.4 (2008): 6. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Gerodetti, Natalia, and Veronique Mottier. “Eugenics and Social Democracy: or, How the European Left Tried to Eliminate the ‘Weeds’ from its National Gardens.” New Formations 60 (2007): 35-49. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

The House I Live In. Dir. Eugene Jarecki. Charlotte Street Films. 2012. Film.

Lee, Dorothy R., Paul Lee, and Philip R. Lee. “2010: U.S. Drug and Alcohol Policy, Looking Back and Moving Forward.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 42.2 (2010): 99-114. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Mann, Jim. “Substance Abuse Control: How Do We Measure Success?” Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table (2010). 1-13. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Reich, Robert B. “The Two Darwinisms.” The American Prospect 16.12 (2005): 56. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

Tan, Morse Hyun-Myung. “Advancing Civil Rights, the Next Generation: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and Beyond.” Health Matrix Winter 2009: 63-119. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

 

 

 


Melancholy in the Waning Hours of Parenthood…

My son, Me, My daughter

My son, Me, My daughter

In less than six hours from now, I will no longer, technically, have kids.

My youngest child will turn 18 and will legally become an adult.  Yes, I will always be a “parent” (my “children” will vouch for this) but I can no longer accurately describe them as “kids”…they’ve become adults.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I find myself filled with melancholy right now.  My brain is awash in all the things I could have, should have done…

Was I the best parent I could have been? Absolutely not…I failed on many occasions, sometimes on an epic scale. Do I wish I could go back and do things differently…be a different parent…be a different person…you’re damn right I do. My “kids” deserve the best and I failed them in that.

What I can say is that I tried. Yes, I failed at times to achieve perfection, but I did the best I knew how to do at the moment I was in at those points in my life.

During their lives, these guys lost their older brother after five years of suffering, watched their father lose his career on the fire department as the result of the disease of alcoholism, waited for their dad while he did 39 days in jail (I cannot imagine many scenarios more crushing than calling your child from jail and awaiting the automated voice that tells your child they are receiving a call from the city jail), see their parents through an acrimonious divorce, see their mother remarry a man that they hated, and struggled to find themselves in the midst of these challenges.

And find themselves they did. Both “kids” have matured into exceptional human beings. Kind, caring, ambitious, intelligent citizens of their communities. One at George Washington University pursuing her passion to change the world and another embarking on his dreams at the University of Oregon.

Lest this digress into an exercise in self-flagellation, I will admit to this: I turned it around.

I set an example.

I got sober and I worked hard. I devoted my life to their emotional and intellectual well-being. I didn’t have the financial resources to give them half of what they deserved, but I can unequivocally say I gave them my heart and soul and am guided by an overriding desire to model the axiom that if you get knocked down…no matter how far…you can get back up and succeed.

Every year since they were pre-teens, I write them a letter. Here’s the letter I’ll be presenting to my son in his eighteenth birthday tomorrow, the day he becomes a man:

 

Dear (son),

I have no idea if you save these, but if you don’t, please save this one. It contains the keys to a happy, rewarding life. That’s a big claim, I know. But it’s true. And it’s deceptively simple. Here are the keys:

 

  1. Fear is the root of all negativity in your life; find a power greater than yourself to place your faith upon.
  2. The key to genuine happiness is getting out of your own head. Put others needs ahead of your own. Service to others is the only way to achieve true happiness.
  3. Be disciplined. There are no shortcuts. Work hard and you WILL be rewarded.
  4. Life isn’t fair. If you are counting on this, you will be constantly disappointed. See #3 for the corollary to this.
  5. Be on time. Be trustworthy. Be respectful of all people regardless of their station in life. These three things will give you a HUGE advantage in your professional career.
  6. Be humble. No matter how successful you become, remember #2. Humility will pay dividends in your life. Karma is real…I lived it.
  7. Have fun. Surround yourself with positive people.
  8. Keep your side of the street clean and let God handle the rest.
  9. Own up to and admit your mistakes, no matter the cost.
  10.  Do good things and good things will happen to you.

 

If you strive to do these 10 simple things in your life, you will find success beyond measure.  Good luck son…I am always here for you!

 

I love you,

Dad


Eloquence Personified…RIP

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“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movement of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”

–Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera


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