By Mike Wilcox
We have probably all encountered someone who’s let substance abuse take over and eventually ruin their life. Whether opioids, heroin, meth or plain old alcohol, the chilling effect these drugs have on our bodies and minds is incredible.
Having been in the bar business, I saw it all the time. Drugs and alcohol consumed the lives of many patrons. I felt bad for many of them, but consoled myself thinking they probably behaved better at home than they did in my establishment. They really weren’t addicted — or so I thought.
My thoughts now, however, lie with an old friend who has allowed alcohol to take over. I got a call a few days ago from another old friend who told me about Glenn’s situation. I had lost track of Glenn, having seen him only once in eight years, at my father’s funeral.
Glenn, whom I employed for a few years in the late 1980s, was smart as a whip. Had he tried out for “Jeopardy,” he would have been a star. Everyone liked Glenn; he was always the life of the party and willing to go the extra mile to help you.
Glenn, however, had demons and at the top of the list was alcohol. He was a happy drunk who used the drug as a crutch to overcome his fear of failure. As his employer, I knew something was up when he was usually unavailable by phone. When I did reach him he always had an excuse for not accomplishing his task for the day.
We parted ways but still kept in contact socially. I could see alcohol was consuming his life and didn’t know as a friend how to handle it. Thus I quit hanging out with him.
Then the call came from my other friend. Alcohol had destroyed Glenn’s marriage and ruined any chance he had of keeping a job. His ex-wife had let him live several years in the basement of her house until it he became too much of a burden.
He had nowhere to go so he now sits in a homeless shelter. He has hit “rock bottom” at age 60. He drinks fifths like they were cartons of milk, and the once picture of health has a liver and pancreas that will quit on him any day. He’s a walking corpse and constant reminder of how alcohol and other drugs can destroy good people.
Glenn and others I know are why I write about the destructive, addictive nature of drugs. I want the world to know there are millions of people like Glenn who need help. We have been ill-prepared for the opioid crisis, but the addictive and abusive nature of alcohol has been with us since the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
Yet little has been done to counterattack drugs. We declare them unlawful and throw people who are caught in jail. That is not the solution. I pray that our leaders will eventually understand that we need more treatment centers that are affordable for the common person.
As it stands we have centers for the ultra-rich. Betty Ford in California is attended by all sorts of celebrities. And we have overnight or weekend detox centers.
But what we really need are treatment centers that will take patients for a month or three months, so they really have a chance to gain sobriety. And they need to be affordable.
If we had treatment centers of this ilk, my friend Glenn wouldn’t be in a homeless shelter. Heck, he might even be sober and have a decent job. There might even be thousands like him who would be productive members of society. Just think, wouldn’t that be great?