Category Archives: drugs

Band of Brothers

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When I began my job as a substance abuse counselor in an all-male residential program, the group of men were a pretty hardened bunch.  Their flesh peaked out from under tattooed murals on their arms, legs, chests and backs.  They were pumped up with six-pack abs and chiseled muscled arms that they teasingly showed off every once in a while, to each other and to staff.

The program is a revolving door of 30-men, some who make it through the 6-months and some who relapse within a week.  When I started here there were mini-reunions of friends who had shared needles on the streets and alleys, guys who had served time together, others who had detoxed and been in endless other amounts of programs together.  These are their trenches, drugs their landmines.

I love it when a guy comes through the door to discover old friends sitting in the kitchen or watching tv in the living room.  They greet each other in the way that men do, those quick hugs with double fist thumps on the back.  They begin to unravel their recent set-backs, catch up on mutual friends, and launch into the “did you hear about so-and-so?  He overdosed last week.”  Woven into these catch-ups are the “Fuck, I’m so pumped to see you, dude.”

My first few weeks in the house these seasoned bunch of guys were a bit skeptical of my presence.  They tested me in group, stopped talking when I was around and when I had to take three of their passes away for a particular incident, they ignored me for weeks.  Some other guys, the newer and still somewhat innocent ones told me that they were talking about me to the other guys.  Of those three, one is now dead and the other two have both relapsed and detoxed 5 times between them.

They have become numb to the frequent deaths of their friends and acquaintances.  Most of the time they learn about these deaths on Facebook, seeing in their feeds “RIP” with a familiar face and name.  They’ve told me endlessly that Facebook is their obituary.  They have also told me that they can tell when a friend is high by the times they are posting.  “What the fuck was he doing posting random shit at 3 in the morning?”

There are certain deaths that hit them harder than others.  You can tell by the length of their pauses, the moment of processing.  I attended my first funeral with a bunch of these core guys, the warriors on the front lines.  This one was a really hard death for them.  They hovered in the background vaping and smoking until the priest started speaking the generic, scripted words in front of him.  The guys inched forward, taking it all in, watching his mother and father weeping.  After this very brief, insultingly brief in my opinion, they shuffled back to the cars that they came in as they contemplated the dwindling of the friends that made up their shared history.

The stream of new guys coming into the house are often novices at this life.  They are younger and needier and look to me and to my other female co-worker as mother figures.  They aren’t tattooed or pumped up.  Their egos are more easily bruised when a girl isn’t interested in them.  Their focus tends to be spent on everything but their recovery.

One of the toughest of the original group lives in a sober house around the corner.  He comes around almost every day and the new guys follow him around, like the Pied Piper as he shows them how to get to certain places around the city.  He tells it like it is to them, never mincing words about how real the certainty of death is if they go out and inject the new poisonous strain of heroin.  They hang on his every word.

The numbers of the naive will continue to grow, while the tougher die off, one by one.  These newer guys may or not form a new core group, going through programs and jail together, maybe relapsing together.  Maybe they’ll get the joys of sobriety sooner, find the girls who won’t break their hearts and start living a “normal” life.  It’s a stretch but I’d love to believe that it’s possible for them and for those hardened ones who remain standing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Share

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In my job as a substance abuse counselor in an all-male sober living program, one of the first things I do when I sit down with a new resident on my caseload is ask for their “story.”    On a slow afternoon I have the opportunity to ask the guys who aren’t on my caseload, the same thing.  They never hesitate to launch right in:

“Well, my father beat the shit out of me from the age of 7 and I started using pills at 10 to numb the pain.”

“Well, when I found my mother murdered….”

“Up until last year I was living under a bridge…”

“My wife overdosed and died while I was sleeping next to her.”

This is their narrative, one they’ve undoubtedly told many times, in AA and NA meetings, intakes at every detox they’ve been to and every time they’ve gone to a new therapist.  The telling is an integral part of their healing, their recovery.

Last week it occurred to me that it didn’t seem fair that they didn’t know MY story.  Many professionals might be outraged by the boundaries this seemingly crosses.  When I worked with inmates I understood why I told very little about myself.  Most therapists would say that if a client asks a question like “Where do you live?” you should deflect it by saying something like, “What would it mean to you if you knew that?” or “We’re here to focus on you not me.”

At another job it was mandatory that we shared our stories through a collage and narrative with the participants of the program.  Yes, we didn’t have to tell EVERYTHING, but to me, and I feel very strongly about this, when you are working so closely with people who lay themselves bare to you, it’s only fair that the playing field is leveled.

I asked permission from my manager first.  He has been in recovery for 15 years and is one of the most dynamic men I have ever met.  When his son was murdered just three years ago, he managed not to relapse, but you can see the pain in his eyes.  The men here, some as young as 24, listen to him with rapt attention when he tells his story.  They’ve heard him share at meetings in the community.  His story is not one to keep inside.

In front of the group of 30 guys, I set the tone of what I wanted to say by letting them know that despite the fact that I am not a recovering addict, that I have experienced pain of my own.  Some in recovery firmly believe that unless you are in recovery you don’t have the tools or experience to be a substance abuse counselor.  I wanted to try to soften that opinion.

I began with, “On New Year’s Eve, 1985, my mother and a man she was involved with committed suicide and were found dead in her bedroom.”

Nothing silences a group of restless men than an opening sentence like that.  I told my “story” for about 25 minutes while the guys just watched me and listened with compassionate writ large on their faces.  Many of them came up to me after and hugged me, others shook my hand and thanked me.  The one who I have had the most prickly relationship with, came into my office and confessed that he was one of those people who thought that unless you were in recovery you shouldn’t be counselor.

When I finished sharing my coworker reiterated his true belief that all of us, despite being addicts or not, have pain that stays with us. As he so simply stated, “You never know where help is going to come from.”

P.S.  I wish I could put my hair in a bun like the woman in the illustration.

 

Resisting the Numb

heroin

Last week one of the residents of the all-male sober residence where I work came into the main office, shut the door behind him and began to weep.  Still a few years from thirty, he grew up in one of the toughest, whitest projects in Boston, using drugs and committing crimes since the age of 14, so, seeing him in this vulnerable moment was a bit jarring.

At moments like these my coworkers and I are generally waiting for a confession of relapse.  Instead, he told us that he had just found out that his father, diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer, had three weeks to live.

This resident was not used to having these sorts of feelings.  His impulse, and the impulse of almost all of the men in the residence, was to inject, drink, snort, smoke and swallow their feelings away.  That lure is always there, everywhere.  The immediate goal for their lives, is to resist that desire to be numb.  They have to learn what it’s like to “sit with their feelings.”

The first thing we made sure was that he wouldn’t use.

“I can’t do that to my father.  He has watched me my whole life as an addict.  Out of respect for him, I won’t.”

His vulnerability was so innocent, so childlike in a way.  He is well-loved in the house but doesn’t want the other guys to know what’s going on.  I’ve urged him to talk to a select few, but he hasn’t.  We as staff, though, continue to check-in on him, see how he’s doing and know that the worst is yet to come.

The past few weeks have been heartbreaking at the house.  One of the young men I got very close to, relapsed a day after graduating the program, after 180 days clean.  Another, only weeks from graduating was found with a needle in his arm, fresh blood drops on the floor of the bathroom, so fucked up he couldn’t stand up straight.  And then, the worst of them all, one of the guys on my caseload who got discharged for using less than a month ago, was found dead at his girlfriend’s house.

Coming into work the day after this young man’s death I talked to a lot of the guys to see how they were processing the information.  Each one, many who had known him and liked him, said that they had gotten so used to this, yeah, it sucks, but it’s the nature of the beast.  One went through the contacts on his phone and ticked off at least 15 names of people he knew who had overdosed in the last six months.  Many said that their Facebook feeds has become their version of an obituary, being their source of information like this.  The overarching theme was “Better him than me.”

Death shouldn’t be the norm for twenty and 30 year-olds.  People in their seventies and eighties are the ones who should be scanning obituaries, sighing and feeling a pang of sadness when they learn that someone they know has died.

I knew this job would be tough, but I couldn’t have possibly imagined how tough.  Death and relapse will be a part of my life.  I look at the thirty names of the guys left in the house and wonder how many will make it the 180 days.  I fear for them, for those who can’t resist the numb, the ones who need to escape the pain of feelings, feelings that most of us know how to process, sober, or with one glass of wine, with people who will listen and help to take that pain away.

 

 

“Here Son, Try This.”

cocaine

Part of my job as a case manager in a residential program for recovering addicts is conducting an intake within hours of them walking through the front door.  I always apologize for the litany of questions I’m required to go through because I know, as they’ve been shuffled from detox to other residential programs, they’ve been asked the same hundred or so questions upwards of ten, twenty times before.

The first page or two of the intake form consists of fairly standard demographic questions from “What ethnicity are you?,” to “What is your primary language?” to  “Do you have any sources of income?”  Without much of the equivalent of a “transitional” sentence, the questions abruptly move onto a checklist of substance of choice, everything from pot to alcohol, to opiates to crack to “club drugs.”  I record if they’ve ever tried a particular substance on the list, their age at first use, and the frequency of use.   I’ve become so used to hearing that these men have often begun their road to a serious opiate addiction at around the age of 14 or 15, that when they tell me that they first injected heroin at 19 I’m surprised at how late that seems.

Oftentimes the men will be eager to share their back story, the origins of their drug dependence.  Many are somewhat “standard—“ a prescription for pain meds due to a legitimate injury that snowballs into heroin addiction, raiding their parent’s liquor cabinet, flipping a dormant switch into full-on alcohol abuse.  Other stories go something like this:

“In 10th grade I was having a hard time staying awake studying for a history test.  My father came in, saw that I was struggling, left the room for a minute, and came back with a few lines of coke on a mirror and said, “Here son, try this.” He showed me what to do, and the rest is history.”

The first time I heard something equally as appalling was as a volunteer at a local women’s correctional facility.  A woman, clearly beaten down and defeated shared with the class I lead that her mother injected her with heroin when she was 10-years old.  At that time, my daughter was ten.  I felt heartsick for this woman and intense rage against her mother.

The majority of the men I counsel have been surrounded and immersed in a nuclear and extended family of addicts.  There have been their fathers who have murdered their mothers, drunk driving deaths and life sentences for one thing or another.  90% of the time their siblings and parents are all addicts, some with long-term sobriety under their belts, others enduring the same agonizing cycle of detox and relapse.

When I see or hear people who deride and judge those struggling with the enormous monster of addiction, I often feel the need to remind them that no one says, “I want to be a drug addict when I grow up.”  I am surrounded and reminded every day of the anguish and helplessness it creates.  It doesn’t come from nowhere.

The Crumble of My Life

lifemap

The above is a summary of my life, all 50 years of it,  on a 22 x 27 piece of poster board.  It’s not one of those “inspiration boards,” used in team-building or ice breaker exercises.  In many ways, it’s the opposite–the sort of “anti-inspiration” board not seen and replicated on sites like Pinterest.

I work as part of a team that leads a 14-week employment program for homeless adults, most with serious addiction issues and criminal pasts.  The goal is that by the time the students graduate, they will be employed and ready to start rebuilding their lives with pride and a great sense of accomplishment.

Each class starts with 14 students, 7 men and 7 women, as young as 21 and as old as 65. The first couple of weeks are spent on self-reflection and group interaction, and culminates in the creation and presentation of something called a “Life Map.”

I had heard a lot about this project during my first week of work and had the opportunity to see some completed ones on the walls of the classrooms where the students had moved on to the next phase of the curriculum.  The images and words, clipped from magazines or written out in pen or marker, were very similar– syringes, bottles of alcohol, prison bars, and words like “loser,” “sex,” “hope,” and “God.”  As soon as I learned that all staff have to create their own, and then present them to a class, I was compiling my own, isolating themes and images that I would share.

Without question, my life is interesting and I wanted the students to know that.  I wanted them to know that I too have experienced trauma and tragedy but that I have managed to succeed and maintain a wonderful and incredibly happy, full and fun life.

Without going image by image and word by word here, my map has four pivotal dates, highlighted in yellow;  my date of birth, the day my mother was found dead, my daughter’s birthday and the day I married for the second time.   I presented a pretty happy childhood, the luxury of growing up so close to Manhattan where my father gave me access to wonderful cultural experiences.  I moved on through boarding school, college and landing in Boston, sprinkling the hard truths about my mother’s serious mental illness (and eventual suicide) and my parent’s divorce into the narrative and moved onto the present day.  The students were pretty stunned and surprised and incredibly gracious in their comments.  But, this isn’t really about me.  It’s about them, and their lives.

One by one, the students presented their maps, required to speak for at least 1/2 hour and not to go longer than one.  Many things struck me as each one bared their souls, flayed open to their deepest nerve. Most of them had lovely childhoods, much like mine, going on family vacations, eating together as a family each night, learning the value of an education and hard work.  A couple of them grew up vacationing in rented summer cottages in the mountains or on a lake, camping and fishing with their fathers, and laughing with their mothers.  And then, again, in most of these cases, a sudden switch in their narrative, in at least 4 out 5, the death of a parent while the students were still teenagers  lead to a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse.

I’m blessed not to have an addictive bone in my body.  I certainly would be hard-pressed not to fall to pieces if I had my coffee taken away, but drugs have always scared me.  I’ve smoked plenty of pot in my life, tried coke once, and as much as people say I would love it, would never dream of taking hallucinogens.  I tend to STOP drinking the second I feel a little tipsy and was able to quit smoking cold turkey.  So, when my mother died when I was only 21, I turned to other things like music, writing and friends without ever feeling the urge to numb the pain that I never seemed to experience.

The drug of choice in almost all of the students is heroin.  In some cases they started with other opiates like pain killers, but when they became too expensive switched over to the widely available and cheaper heroin.  Most swore they would never shoot-up.  Most ended up doing so, multiple times a day.  When the youngest in the class, a 21-yr old walked us through his timeline, he described this transition by pointing to a picture of a syringe and said, “This is where the crumble of my life began.”

In what will seem like an utterly selfish reaction to these presentations is my wondering and fear of what my 13-year old daughter would do if I died.   She has the addiction gene in her bloodline and it terrifies me to think of how missing me, how tragedy of any sort could trigger the similar reaction as these people have had.   She has shown me absolutely no reason whatsoever to have this fear, but she’s at the age where I tried pot for the first time and where a lot of my friends had started sneaking sips of booze from their parents liquor cabinets.  I naively believe that this isn’t happening in her middle school or that she is nowhere exposed to those temptations.  All I can do is pray that she’ll turn out okay, that she’ll make the right choices, and that her life will never crumble.

“Good night—you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England!”

For about a year, I have been working with a range of offenders from juveniles not yet aged-out of the system, to “hard core” felons with very long bids under their belts (“bid” = time served).

I’ve grown to love the five disparate and distinct groups I work with in very different ways.  They all make me laugh and have all made me cry.  It continues to be the best experience I have ever had.

About two weeks ago a lack of funding has resulted in the imminent closing of our juvenile residence.  According to my very rough calculation, I have had about 400 young men of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds pass through my group in less than a year.  Of those, about half came and went frequently, often gone for a couple of months to less than a week,  and then re-offended to find themselves right back where they started.  Most of the offenses are pretty minor in comparison to adult crimes–stealing cars, being out past their imposed curfews–but, they still get hauled in, often shuffled around to other programs or thrown right back into their communities.

When I heard the program was closing my thoughts went immediately to some of the AMAZING and incredibly loyal staff who will suddenly be without jobs at the end of this month.  Some of them will be folded into other existing programs but the others have a scary uncertainty looming ahead.  I’ve watched them, with tough love and compassion, make those boys relax into their very temporary home.  They lay down the law when they have to, and will sit and play cards with them during the hours of free time between dinner and lights out.  It’s during those times that I see the staff bring out the boy in those hardened young men.

These kids have dreams like everyone else.  They want to be rappers and record producers, athletes and small business owners.  They want to work with horses and become pilots.   They want the ability to apologize to their parents or grandparents or whoever they feel they’ve let down.  Others, in their own words say “I don’t give a fuck.”  But, they do.

The youngest ones, the 15 and 16-yr olds with dimples and smiles a mile wide are the most hopeful.  They haven’t yet been beaten down by those never ending loops of bad choices and circumstances and I’d like them to believe that they don’t have to be.  Others are so calloused and at this point rather indifferent towards there own lives, that you know they’ll never get out of the system that they feel has been unjust.

I don’t know why I’ve been surprised, since many peers of mine from an early age have certainly been abusers of one sort or another, but some of these kids, mostly white from upper middle class backgrounds, are, without question, alcoholics.  (Again, why the hell should this surprise me since my best friend, a quintessential WASP from Maine is a crystal meth addict.)  It’s my perspective that has changed–I’m a 48-yr old woman who is supposed to be TEACHING them something.  What in the world do I know about being a 16 year old alcoholic that they haven’t figured out for themselves?

The bottom line is that in 3 weeks I will most-likely never see any of these boys again.  I will miss the ones who are often combative and the ones who take the confidence-boosting exercises I give them and put them in their pockets to look at later.  I will miss the one who volunteered to read Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” and came up with his own rather astounding analysis.  The thing I’ll miss the most however, is watching the woefully underpaid staff and the way they wear their hearts on their sleeves so that the boys can feel that love, love that most likely will feel elusive to them along their uncertain paths.

“Good night You Princes of Maine,
You Kings Of New England”–John Irving, The Cider House Rules

My High Flying Bird


My best friend is a junkie. Crystal meth has tossed his brain into unrelenting chaos. It has jumbled his lobes and pathways into amorphous masses in need of a fix. It has made him think that a young mother and her child recently sitting next to him on a plane were secret agents and that a pig stuffed animal was a recording device. He sees people in his bushes and leads the four or so people he insists are following him on high-speed chases through suburban neighborhoods. He gets angry with all of us for not believing him.

My best friend is a junkie. I winced the first time he referred to himself as such, but once he actually started shooting crystal meth instead of just smoking it, he said the label was the honest one. He got some strange thrill out of using the term, adding this to his other descriptors: “homo,” “alcoholic,” “unlovable.” His endless number of friends knows his flair for the dramatic, the relish he takes in all of these terms, so adding “junkie” to the list just feeds into the self-loathing that he thinks is being deflected by such sweeping terms. Trust me, he knows how transparent this is.

After two rather glamorous rehab stints for alcoholism many years ago and about 10 or so years of sobriety, he doesn’t think he has anything left to learn from rehab. In reality, he doesn’t think he has anything to learn from anybody. He plays us all by pretending to listen to us, agreeing and commenting in all the right places, manipulates us into thinking that he really HAS done that last hit. Several of his best friends have dropped out along the way, exhausted by him and his energy suck, and others, like me, have been deluded into thinking that this time will be different. Have. Past tense.

The handful of friends and family still willing to listen and spin their wheels have just come off yet another week of the madness that ensues when he’s gone missing. The cast of characters is different this time, the friend pool having shrunk and different core members of his family getting involved. It’s new phone numbers to put into my phone, new e-mails, and new phone lists jotted down on a random piece of paper. It’s hours of recap, bringing each other up-to-speed, venting. It’s putting spouses and partners on hold for days at a time putting them through the same scene they’ve witnessed many times before. When my amazing husband and I had a bit of an argument, I realized that this was now seeping into my marriage.

The last conversation I had with him he was on his way to a sober living program, all bright and sunny and optimistic. He was meeting a friend who would take him there for his 2:00 check-in time. Unlike the last program he blew out of, I wouldn’t have to wait a week to speak to him. He could come and go as he pleased (I learned that this place was in the middle of the worst drug-using part of town so I had my doubts about why he should even bother) so he could talk to me that night to find out what it was like. When I learned the next day that he called his friend saying first that he had a flat tire, and then that the axle fell off his car, that he later called her back and said he was an asshole and a liar, and that he never actually made it to rehab, I knew, that yet again, we had all been played.

None of us heard from him for three days. I said to everyone that he wasn’t such an asshole as to not call at least ONE of us to let us know he was alive. His brother started calling the coroner, morgue, prisons and filed a missing persons report. He provided his license plate number and the necessary information to ping his cell phone and see where and when he last used his debit card. A friend of his went over to his apartment to check to make sure that he wasn’t lying dead on the floor. For the second time, I started thinking about the eulogy I would give, how I would edit “A Day in the Life” to make sure that that last iconic chord was loud enough to have the impact that he hopes it will. I thought of the call distribution list that I would dole out to the many strands of friends he has.

When he finally surfaced, he told his cousin that he couldn’t believe that we were all so worried and that he thought we would all just assume that he had made it to rehab. He somehow had “lost” his car in one of the worst neighborhoods in LA with everything in it including his cell phone and wallet, slept on the street for a night and walked 15 miles to get home. He said he just wanted one last high and he would go to rehab the next morning. This set me off into my first rage. This made me resolute in my statement that “I’m done. I’m out.” And I meant it. I swore I wouldn’t call even though I feel like there are so many things he needs to hear, my anger being one. So, I didn’t. I didn’t until his cousin asked me, as a favor, to call him with some phone numbers that were in his lost phone.

I had to think about it for a while. I didn’t have any numbers that would do him any good. His closest friends had already refused him rides to find his car and later refused to drive him to rehab. He could get on a bus if he needed to. I finally steeled myself, armed with the vitriol I planned on unleashing the second he picked up the phone. His machine picked up on the first ring so I sort of stammered my way through my discomfort and anger. The last thing I said was “I have absolutely nothing to say to you.” I hung up and instantly felt guilty.

I pride myself on being that ONE person who would never turn my back on him, the one who wouldn’t judge, the one who would always forgive. After he wasn’t heard from for almost 24 hours, I thought that for sure I had sent him over the edge, that all hope was gone for him and that he had killed himself in the most dramatic way possible. I know better than to think I hold that much power over anyone, so dropped that thought pretty quickly. Despite that, I called him the next morning and said that he knew I wasn’t the kind of person who could abandon him, and that I would try him again later. (His long distance service was shut off so he couldn’t call me.)

It was another full day of people trying to make contact, but a bit less frantically. When his brother called me last night and told me that my best friend, the junkie, had started selling whatever he has of value, I knew there was nothing anyone could do.

My best friend is a junkie. The lyrics below are from an Elton John song that he wants played at his funeral (I think a long time ago he wanted “Levon” but that seems to have changed along the way.):

My high-flying bird has flown from out my arms
I thought myself her keeper
She thought I meant her harm
She thought I was the archer
A weather man of words
But I could never shoot down
My high-flying bird

The white walls of your dressing room are stained in scarlet red
You bled upon the cold stone like a young man
In the foreign field of death
Wouldn’t it be wonderful is all I heard you say
You never closed your eyes at night and learned to love daylight
Instead you moved away

How Would YOU Answer This Question?

“Give me 10 reasons why I should live?”

This is my BEST friend of over 25 years, in a crystal meth haze, over the phone, from Los Angeles. This is my BEST friend who after 10 years of sobriety has kept the secret from his closest friends that he’s been snorting and shooting meth for ONE YEAR. People he sits next to at work every day and the multitude of incredible friends he has met over the years through AA had absolutely NO CLUE that this was happening right in front of their eyes. He told them in June and asked them not to tell me because my life was “too happy right now.”
So what do you say when you’re asked that question and you feel like the answers will either make him live, or push him further over the edge? There are so many cliches, of course like “A million people love you,” etc., and I found myself getting stuck after #3. It was like a game show (and NOONE loves a game show more than he does) and the clock was ticking. I was a total failure.
Of course he knows that my mother killed herself and after 25 years without her, I could easily come up with a much bigger list than just 10. But, the question left me stammering, and it was like the needle of the record had just been screeched across the vinyl.
He’s always had a flair for the dramatic. I know what song he wants played at his funeral. I really pushed back hard on him, not coddling him, even making him laugh at himself a little bit. However, in some moments of what seemed like complete lucidity, and I swear that he seemed like his normal self, he would start talking about the people who were following him, the ones who were tapping his phone and controlling his life.
I found this out late in the game and when I reached out to his good friend in LA voicing concern that I hadn’t heard from him, he had the very rough job of filling me in on the total downward spiral that occurred within the year. The words were coming out but I just couldn’t make the connection that this was happening to my BEST FRIEND. He was sleeping in CRACK HOUSES? He was SHOOTING UP? When I saw him at my wedding in January and again on Memorial Day he was HIGH ON METH?
It’s now been 48 hours of constant texts and phone calls between a group of about 10 or so of us who are making up his “village.” The time difference is a bit frustrating for me, being one of the only ones on the East Coast, and everyone keeps forgetting who told what to who. It’s fucking exhausting. We’re all professionals, some of us are parents, who have now put aside everything to get him into rehab. Loyalty is a remarkable thing. I’m in awe of what has become nothing short of heroism in his friends who are sitting with him, dealing with insurance companies, leaving work to check up on him, talking to doctors, all in the name of saving the life of someone who is loved by everyone he meets.