Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pastor Jones and the coffee

Best news from the weekend: I am going to see Van Morrison in person on March 6th in Dallas. WoooHooo...good for me.


On occasion part of my career is serving as an expert witness in construction legal cases. I had a ‘bloggable’ experience a few weeks ago, but have never really tried to place it into any sort of cultural context.
I’ll just lay it on you in its raw form and maybe some discussion by wise readers might help me sort it through. I was engaged by a large Baptist church (hired gunslinger on their behalf) and showed up at one of the many ‘litigation discussion’ meetings where the pastor of this rather prominent church was presiding.

After an opening prayer the pastor launched into a critical monologue regarding a story in the newspaper about a large methamphetamine lab that had been ‘busted’ the day before in the church’s city. He ranted and raved some time about ‘drug users’ and their damning activities in the community. Having spent time in law enforcement I don’t disagree at all with the premise of his thinking or the need for eradication of culturally damaging drug use, but as he raved on he was chugging coffee like he needed a much larger cup, then turning to his assistant for more coffee when he did reach the bottom of the ‘too little’ cup. He also made certain she had more pots of coffee brewing as the meeting proceeded.

It seems easy enough to brand him as a hypocrite, but then I think he might just represent the easiest target since so many of us drink coffee or use Nyquil or other depressants in the course of our day. A lot of us have also given the conversational ‘thumbs down’ to drug addicts and drug law breakers.

It makes me wonder, and I know you could see this coming, just exactly what happens if we took the money and ‘illegality’out of illegal drugs. Starbucks seems to be fine with the US government while making a profit selling its acceptable form of ‘stimulant’.

I know this is a dark and confusing area to explore, but it seems obvious that except for an occasional ‘oddball puritan’ we all use some type of substance to alter our basic chemistry every day, just as this pastor was doing; though he remained oblivious to the awkwardly obvious coffee consuming cultural connection to the drug lab he was raving about.

Have you used illegal drugs? What leads a person there rather than just ...oh, say drinking 10 cups of coffee like Pastor Jones?

Here is my thought for what it might be worth. I think there is a connection to ‘breaking the law’ that works in concert with the pharmaceutical effect of the illegal drug.

Another way of saying the same thing: Perhaps some people would choose ‘illegal’ drugs that render the same biological effect as ‘legal’ drugs simply because the act of breaking the law is an added bonus?

A third way to say it; the reward of the drug is intensified by the measure of the risk in arriving at its reward?

Maybe if society were to remove the ‘bonus effect’ ?
Postscript: I spend a lot of my energy training as a track athlete, running in masters track competitions. Recently Ken Stone, a fellow blogger, wrote an inspirational story about a masters track athlete recovering from alcohol and heroin addiction. It may interest you for its 'human' component alone. You can find it here.


Jenn said...

Not sure if I qualify as a wise reader but I'll take a stab here.

I will be speaking from a familial experience, I guess. My brother is admittedly a heroin addict. It will probably kill him. Which will in turn, kill part of me - but that's a whole 'nother story.

Anyway - we've had many talks about it. He's actually very intelligent...which some people might think oxymoronic with drug use. But he is.

For him - it's simply the affect the drug has on his body. He cycles - sober, then alcohol, then pot, then heroin. His body builds up a tolerance to each and he moves to the next in search of the escape which forever seems to elude him. I believe he is sober now...but I have no idea really.

My father and sister are also alcoholics - and that, I believe is purely a physical addiction.

So I have one family member addicted to heroin, and two others addicted to alcohol. One illegal - two legal.

I can't call this one for all drug users, but in my experience it's all about the high or low.

There is a point at which, I believe, the user just doesn't care one lick if their drug is legal or not.

Myself - I enjoy my coffee and occasional ciggie.

I apologize - this got much longer than I intended.

Jenn said...

I can't believe I forgot to say how jealous I am that you get to see Van Morrison!!! YAY!

Seven said...

Thoughtful, especially with your personal observations of family. I suppose its pefectly possible that when the chemistry is required, then illegal v legal is a silent argument.
Thanks for reading and sharing.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I've done illegal drugs in the past (and yes, I did inhale...;) but that was in my younger I stick to lots of caffeine and the a couple of ciggs in the evening. I drink too...which I know I shouldn't do because I often do it to excess on the weekends. It's all done at home so I'm really not hurting anyone but myself, I guess...but still...I know it's not healthy for me.

I'm married to an alcoholic...he'd get completely smashed AT LEAST every other night and I never knew what I was coming home to. It almost destroyed our marriage early on until I finally said I'd had enough and told him I wouldn't hold him back from his drinking anymore...but I didn't want to be around to see him destroy himself either. So he quit completely (for about 7 years). He's back on the booze now but it's not as bad as it was before.

As far as the harsher drugs...heroine, coke...I'm not too familiar with those. We did have a family member up north steal a script from her doctor to get some prescription drugs (Oxycodone, I think)....but with said family members track record, it didn't come as a surprise. She's been in trouble for different things for YEARS.

Honestly, there are certain drugs I think they should outlaw completely and then there are others that I think should be legalized.

That, however, would make for one long conversation....:)

Seven said...

Hi PQ,
Yep I think it probably does open up miles of discussion and thought so thanks for sharing to the extent you did. I have a preference for a whisky or twoin the evening and grass was always around in the 70's.
I've been tagged! Dang now I gotta think, and its always dicey.

Pat said...

From my own perspective, I think the "addiction" genes may be inherited via personality. Have you ever met someone who had absolutely no contact with a parent, yet has the same facial expressions or mannerisms as that parent? (In animals they call it inherited memory). Anyway, I digress...

I know a woman who just can't say no to pot. She avoids any situation where it might be present because, if it IS present, she indulges. She says that the "altered state" is what attracts her so strongly to the drug.

Aside from the extremes (like your picture -- urff!), what's the difference between sitting down in the evening to relax with a glass of wine, or sitting down to relax with a line of cocaine (other than the legal issues)?

The difference, for me, is that I like the taste of wine. There is absolutely no other beverage on the market that can even come close to those semi-dry wines, so I drink a large glass of wine every night (sometimes two).

Sometimes it goes to my head quickly (meds), and sometimes it doesn't. When it does, I kick myself in the tookas for drinking that much -- so, for me, it's not about the alcohol.

A former employee of mine became MIA for almost two weeks, from home and work. Nobody knew where she was. They found her in a crack house, and she told the police that she wasn't "...ready to go home yet." She has 30 years in the civil service system, three kids who are each living at a different relative's house now (no two together), and an excellent job. Gone. Poof. Just like that.

We (those who don't do illicit drugs) sit back and ask how she could throw it all away like that, what was she thinking, etc.

Yet, as a former smoker, I can tell you that when you have a big, hairy gorilla on your back, it takes a lot of work to get it off. Non-smokers can never understand the addiction -- they say "just stop smoking then," as if a long-time smoker could just make it happen, just like that.

What about gamblers? It's not anything physical but it's an addiction nontheless.

I think we can be spending way less time trying to FIGHT the addiction, and more time trying to UNDERSTAND addiction and address it from that direction. As I began to prattle about, I believe that there's a "gene" in our personalities that controls addictions. If we can inherit the same eyes as our mothers, or our grandfather's baldness, why can't we inherit our father's addictions?

Pat said...

Sorry, I didn't really answer the question about legality vs. illegality.

I'm torn on the issue because I have an addictive personality (I smoked for 26 years). I don't believe there's any such thing as a "harmless" drug and, as such, I don't think that legalizing them would do much good for society beyond the probability of revenue for the states.

If you legalize illicit drugs, it stands to reason that even more people will use them. We wouldn't dream of repealing drunk driving laws, laws that are designed to punish people who make bad decisions based on the use of LEGAL substances.

Legalizing illicit drugs would also open up a new set of issues such as use during the work day -- if they're legal, why can't I snort a line at lunchtime and come back for the afternoon on my coke high? It's legal, isn't it? It's not like a beer that you can smell on my breath, after all.

Why shouldn't I be able to smoke pot around my kids if it's legal? Oh, sure the smoke isn't all that healthy for them but hey, people smoke cigarettes around their kids, don't they?

Having been a smoker for so many years, I wish more than anything that we could become a nation of non-smokers. NY State is going to double the tax on a pack of cigarettes, bringing them to more than $6 per pack -- but that won't stop the truly addicted.

And I think we're kidding ourselves if we think that legalizing and then taxing illicit drugs will work. We'll still have the illegal meth labs, we'll still have "black market" trades for these drugs (because they'll be WAY cheaper without the government intrustion) and we'll still have dealers, junkies, and crime over drugs, legal or not.

It's in our nature to persue our addictions in any way that we can.

Seven said...

All excellent points...I knew going in to this one that us bloggers would not solve this...but you never know when a thoughtful comment, like so many you make, might trigger some profound change in someone else's (or our own) life.
Re: the addictive peresonality. Yes, absolutely I believe in this phenomena.

Grant said...

I've met some (rare) people with non-addictive personalities; one guy I knew was actually a casual heroin user. He'd shoot up every so often, but if it wasn't convenient, no big deal.

I've done most drugs that didn't involve a needle and enjoyed them all, but I quit because they weren't worth the jail time. I mostly miss acid and crystal meth, but I'm willing to settle for beer these days. It's cheap, it makes us holler and try to have sex with everything, and the fuzz won't confiscate your house if they find an ounce.

I know others who have quit because they weren't worth the trouble. All of my friends would make bad public school speakers. None of us has ever had a bad trip, lost our jobs, or done anything bad while under the influence, except one guy I know who got a DUI and a couple of others with pot-related lack of ambition.

This reminds me of the first line from a manifesto in that mostly unfunny Dragnet movie - "We believe that bad sex and good drugs form the cornerstone of a great democracy."

Seven said...

I think weekends at your place must be interesting.....
Just trying to imagine your talk to elementary school kids...hmmmm
This is a 30-30 so if the teachers calls you a little snot....hehehe

a fish on a bycicle said...

I deliberately didn't read the thoughts of your other contributors to this discussion, I wanted a clean palate as it were. I'll go back later.

While I was at university I tried pretty much whatever I could lay my hands on. Of course there are all sorts of pressures, peer group and the need to look 'cool' amongst them. But I genuinely think that my main driver was curiosity. I wanted to see what the effect would be.

Some substances were very boring, most in those days were mood enhancers and/or hallucinogenics, many were a downright dissapointment. But they almost all had one thing in common, they weren't particularly addictive. (I'm not ignoring morphine based drugs, but they 'happened' accidentally).

It appears to me that anything that we would call a designer drug has a proclavity to addiction designed in. Obviously, it's somebody's product and their margin.

I don't think that what we call drugs are intrinsically any more evil than cigarettes. And I have an inkling that we shouldn't be criminalising hapless addicts.

I don't know how to do it, but I wish there was a way to deflect the anger directed at victims of addictive substances to the people who designed them. Enough of us have tried to give up smoking to understand the principle?

Seven said...

Good comments Colin and I think your thinking is running somewhat parallel to mine. I think we make heavy distinctions and judgements of folks for no reason other than that their drug of choice is illegal. And of course we also remove their freedom when they are caught. I worked many very dangerous situations including armed robberies as a police officer where the people apprehended invariably were trying to support their drug habit.
That in itself can prejudice a more careful examination, but I can't help wondering if we worked more at education and less at incarceration....

Robert Shapiro said...

There is a time now when we are all considering, in good heart the needs of each other. We feel those needs promptly and urgently almost every day. As a result we find ourselves considering whether human nature is growing worse or on other days whether it is growing better. Given that I feel it is necessary these days especially, to find ways to serve the needs of peoples especially those who are suffering, I know it's easy at times to overlook the fact that those who are suffering are often on drugs, legal or otherwise and the reason they behave as they do is the dire need for those drugs and the means by which they have to go to to acquire them. It seems that legalizing the drugs would be the simple solution but it might be simpler to not legalize the drugs but to legalize the treatment.
Many drugs which even have therapeutic uses are illegal and Doctors in the US at least cannot use them. If people could legally seek help for their drug addiction and go on programs which might be more widely available and accessible without causing a serious impact on their personal profiles such as a criminal record might, then perhaps we could come to a solution. No, I don't think legalizing heroin is what to do but legalizing treatment - something like methadone or more things like that - that I feel would be very good.
Let's see if we can make the treatment in such a way as you don't have to be rich in order to get it and look at it from the broader picture - if we were in this situation, would we not need and love to have such a organizational structure available to us and one in which we do not have to go shuffling in, hat in hand and prostrate ourselves in order to get it. I feel that this can be done and it can be done benevolently. It will take many people but it can be done. I believe in our capabilities.

Seven said...

Excellent guiding thoughts Robert. I think this is a stronger and higher articulation of my idea that when we take their freedom rather than helping,we move away from what God would have our purpose be.
Nicely articulated.
If I were in Hawaii I would vote you into the legislature!

Thank You.

Jenn said...

I cannot agree more with the idea of making treatment more accessible.

I do know that San Francisco offers a really good treatment program - very long and thorough - and free to anyone. Well, one has to get arrested first. But then rather than punish and set free, SF punishes and then treats. It's a start.

Anyway - we'd be heading in the right direction as a society if we started making the priority healing rather than punishing.

I sound like a hippie now. But I don't care.

Rick - my how you've grown up!

Seven said...

Would you please notify my friends about this growth. They will be very pleased!
BTW: I was a Hippie...genuine

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