The careful addicts of heroin, amphetamines and tranquilizers that I’ve known who ate rather well died in their early 50’s. It is obvious that drug abuse is not the path of the Super-Ager. And as I reread this I feel the need to comment that they all lived deceitful agonizing lives that disrupted hundreds and thousands of people in their network. Talk about bad karma!
Say, “‘No. Thank you!’ to drugs.” That was my parents’ message to me on an Indiana farm 50 miles from any drug dealers. It was excellent advice although agonizingly repetitious. At least 8 times a year from age 9 to 19 they barraged me with the following lecture:
One puff of a marijuana cigarette starts an addiction. It’s so fast, you won’t know it’s happening. One puff leads to heroin addiction and then you would be destroyed. Your life would be ruined. You couldn’t hold a job. You wouldn’t have a family. No one would like you. Heroin addicts have to steal and women have to do terrible things to get their drugs. Never start with a puff!
That repeated brain washing worked! It worked as well or better than Nancy Reagan’s program from the 1986: “Just say no” to drugs.
On tokes of grass: During the late 60’s of Sex, Drugs and Rock in Roll in New York, all of my friends smoked a little “weed” on weekends. I normally took an obligatory puff or refused. I took a lot of teasing. That was fine. Being out of control really doesn’t appeal to me.
During that time I met a lot of wafty people without careers who weren’t heroin addicts but who smoked several joints a day. Oh, and my roommate dated one carpenter with missing fingers who one day went to work too wafty.
Now, as to heroin warnings:
In the late 60’s, I too often and reluctantly met 3-6 heroin addicts lounging in my colleague’s living room. We rode home together on the subway to the Lower East Side after teaching in Harlem. The husband she adored used the living room as a heroin den from 2-4:15 weekdays. She explained the addicts usually got their first hit at 10:00 am on their own and came together for their second hit of the day with her husband. Normally these very “relaxed” (sloppy, drooling with sanpaku eyes) men graciously excused themselves and left when she came home. S. liked that the men stirred out of their slovenly states faster when I came home with her for a cup of tea. The scary part (and later reassuring part) was the first time they saw me she heard them discussing me the next day. They had cased my apartment. They knew I lived on St. Mark’s Place, with a huge balcony, the color of my sheets and that I owned too little for them to risk robbing my apartment. Even so, I had the doorknob to my balcony fitted with an electric charge!
Her much older husband, a functioning heroin addict who had been through recovery numerous times in 25 years was a popular teacher of recovery (?) and pop psychology. He taught at G.R.O.W. a growth center on the Upper West Side. She taught classes in Expressive Movement there. I taught classes in Family Reconstruction and The Five Steps of Communication.
And as my parent’s projected: One of our female colleagues at G.R.O.W. started experimenting with drugs with students and got hooked. She became addicted to a variety of drugs, lost her classes, clients, apartment, friends, savings and ended up living on a small sailboat on Long Island Sound eking out a living by crabbing and fishing. She died within a year of her “freedom” or as her colleagues thought–her downfall.
So, thanks Mom and Dad for all the warnings.