Walk Down Misery Street



Perhaps there is no jollier group of people than drug users! No matter how low fate has dragged them down, or how high it has raised them, they find a reason to laugh. Their genre is not tragedy, but tragicomedy. In no other place—theater, cinema, or even the circus—will you encounter such roaring laughter as you find in drug treatment clinics!

This is all so strange, because there is hardly any other place where you will find such an abundance of sorrow and grief in all different forms. Close your eyes and point to any drug user, and without fail you will hear a story of abuse, arrests, and suicide attempts.

Despite this, substance abuse clinics rumble with laughter. It is hard to say if this is due to the addicts’ levity and lack of seriousness or their resilience and survival skills.

In this bizarre world, however, there is a category of people who do not laugh. They rarely make jokes. Humor and laughter do not belong in their scope of existence, although they may have once been cheerful people with a good sense of humor. But their lives changed. Changed so that all that was bright and cheerful was no more. These people rarely smile . . . only in that singular moment when their son or daughter says that today marks a month, six months, or a year of being clean!

What a moment of joy! “Clean!” The lips of a mother or father form a smile. A real smile. The first in many years. But how anxious is the soul. “And if he relapses? Where is he right now? God forbid he ran back to his dealer….”6

Sean, a 70-year-old Irish American, comes to mind. He tried to save his 32-year-old son, Frank.

Frank appeared in the clinic for the first time under pressure from his father. Sean noticed that something “wasn’t right” with his son. Indeed, Frank abused Xanax, buying pills from a neighbor. He and his girlfriend had split up and his job was in jeopardy.

I warned Frank that he was playing with fire, and that the pills would lead to nothing good and would only create new problems. However, Frank didn’t listen to me and argued that the “Xanax helps me relax a little.”