Don’t Read The Comments Or A Piece About People Who Think Drug Addicts Deserve No Love, Empathy, or Compassion. Even After They Die.
We all know the First Rule of Internet. Let’s all say it together: Don’t read the comments. Don’t. Read. The. Fucking. Comments. Oh, and if you have written a book, especially a memoir wherein you stand metaphorically naked and flawed in front of a universe of complete strangers for 300 pages, don’t you dare read the Amazon reviews.
Alas, people are stupid. I’m talking about myself here. Because I read the comments. And the reviews. And, man oh man, it is so fucking hard to not be able to respond. But writers whom I respect and admire say it’s in poor taste to do so, so I sit, mouth-zipped, squinting at the words, trying to figure out how my fellow man (or woman) could be so devoid of empathy.
I already explored this topic ad nauseum here, so I’ll spare everyone an encore. However, I’d like to do a sequel.
Here’s the theme of the sequel. Drumrolllllllll. Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Again: ADDICTION IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY DESTROYER.
It’s not racist or classist or sexist or phobic of anyone or anything. It values all of us equally. It doesn’t care who you are or where you come from. It doesn’t care how successful, talented, wealthy, or smart you are. Or aren’t. It doesn’t care if you are loved. Or not. It doesn’t care if you come from a good family or if you were spawned by Hitler himself. And it certainly doesn’t care if you want to beat it. In fact, that only seems to make it work harder to destroy you.
Regardless of who you are when it sinks its rabid teeth into you, it will turn you into someone you’re not. It will make you lie and deceive; betray and manipulate; disappoint and let down. It will make you withdraw and isolate. It will drive a wedge between you and your loved ones, and it will make you hate the ever loving shit out of yourself in the process.
It is a relentless, menacing, brutal, nasty, mother fucker of a disease.
And let’s be real clear about that: IT IS A DISEASE.
It’s important to couch it in these terms because saying it’s anything other than a disease implies that it lies in the part of the mind, heart, soul and spirit that is responsible for making decisions and exerting will.
How could it? Who would willingly decide to deteriorate? To lose friends and family? To ruin careers and futures? To disappoint people over and over and over and over and over and over and over again? My daughter is four. The other day, she lit up like a Christmas tree when she told me her teacher was proud of her today. This is human nature. We innately want to win and succeed and thrive and prosper. This is why romantic comedies exist. No kid looks into her future and says: I’m going to be a drug addict someday. I’m going to have everything going for me, and die alone at 30 years old.
And, yet, this happens to all sorts of people. Again and again. And again. And again. And again. In 2016 alone, it happened to 64,000 people in America. 64,000 human beings with hopes and dreams, plans and futures, all dead from overdose.
I recently published a book about the roller coaster of loving an addict and the harrowing process of grieving his untimely death from a heroin overdose. I must confess, when I read customer reviews of those who have given the book one or two stars, it pains me. And not because of the lack of stars. (Although what did you want me to do, guys? Literally bleed out all over the fucking page?) It hurts because the people who don’t care for the book have nothing to say about me or my writing. The people who hate the book hate the addict who died: My little brother, Harris.
One person called him an “egomaniac who acted like a child and used people to get what he wanted.” Disclaimer: This lady also gave Twizzlers a 1 star review, so she may just be a monster, period, end of story.
Another person said he was sad that Harris died but that he seemed like every other drug addict in this world. Um, yep. He was, in fact, a drug addict, so that does, in fact, make sense. This reviewer also read Chris Farley’s biography, which was also written by his sibling (his brother) and, according to the reviewer, was written so terribly that he couldn’t even finish it. Well, thank you for critiquing someone’s writing in my Amazon review, dude!
He concludes that Chris’s and Harris’s stories were the same. Someone “incredibly talented, incredibly burdened and incredibly self-centered” who was “willing to do anything to anyone to get his high no matter who he screwed over or how many times.” Like I said before, addiction is an ugly disease.
This guy also says he feels terrible for Harris’s family, who he “shattered,” so he manages to have empathy and compassion for us — for the sober ones. And he does acknowledge that “there is a lot of scientific information starting to show it is a medical issue, so [he’s] not impugning his character or desire to overcome his addiction.”
BUT HERE’S THE KICK IN THE NUTS: “Harris seems to have been given every chance, and especially chances well beyond anyone I know because of his money, his family, and Hollywood connections, and he still overdosed and caused his family such horrible pain.”
YES. YES YES YES. LET’S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING:
It doesn’t give a shit who you are or where you come from.
It doesn’t care how successful, talented, wealthy, or smart you are.
It doesn’t care if you are loved.
It doesn’t care if you come from a good family.
It is a relentless, menacing, nasty, mother fucker of a disease.
Would you say of a person who has died from cancer, “Yeah, I mean, it’s a shame that he’s dead, but he had more opportunities and money and success than anyone I’ve heard of so my empathy dance card is full.” Cancer doesn’t give a fuck about any of that shit!! Cancer can kill you no matter who you are.
This is the same lame argument my one one-star reviewer gave the book. I think this one was my favorite: “Perhaps I am bigoted against those who essentially win the genetic lottery….born in to everything, allowed to pursue their dreams, find success and yet still manage to ruin their lives, but in the end are viewed by fans and fellow artists as a ‘magical junkie.’ As a recovering heroin addict I can relate to a lot, but I couldn’t get past viewing him as a poor rich kid whose inability to get clean (despite being given every opportunity imaginable, that others in less affluent circles would literally kill for) proves an inner weakness and lack of consideration for those who loved him and that shouldn’t be glorified.”
Did you guys know that only “poor” drug addicts who are given no opportunities in life deserve our sympathy? Welp, it turns out that those are the rules! So jot ’em down and post ’em on the break room wall!
I mean, hate the book, hate my writing, hate me for being a whiny, insufferable See You Next Tuesday, but don’t shit all over a fucking dead guy. Or, fine, hate him, but love him, too. Because, yes, drug addicts suck. I don’t shy away from that in the book. They can be self-centered and myopic and manipulative and careless and unfeeling. There were times I was so enraged and angry at my brother, I couldn’t bear to speak to him. But I acknowledge that that IS the disease. Cancer patients lose their hair and appetites and energy. Drug addicts lose their humanity. The disease steals it from them. And it does so ruthlessly and relentlessly.
The irony here is that I know I’m going to get negative comments on this piece. And I just want you to know before you post them that I will read them. And I assure you, they will make me feel like shit. And if that makes you feel good to know, then congratulations to you.
For everyone else, especially those who haven’t been personally touched by addiction, just because it’s a difficult disease to wrap your head around doesn’t make it any less real for those who are struggling with it. So dig down deep, access your humanity, and practice empathy for those who are going through it.
All of us are fighting battles.