Separately, Katie and I viewed the release of the documentary “Coming Clean” that was recently finished. It was being filmed in 2018-19 during the period of time that I was active in the legislature. I didn’t think any of that had made the cut, because 1. I dropped out of these activities at the end of 2018 2. the excerpt described a different direction than my conversations with them would have gone. But, there was a sleepless night where I tossed and turned about what would be in the movie. It would dredge up all the things that I so want to forget.
My first reaction was relief, I was not in it. Whew! Next reactions were that I was angry, uncomfortable, flatout disagreed with some things and was also hopeful, and encouraged that more qualified people than I are still blazing forward trying to solve this problem.
First the anger. I was angry that Charlie was not here to see the movie. I was angry that he is just gone. Why couldn’t he be one of their success stories? Then I was incredibly, horrendously sad that he is not here.
I was uncomfortable and disagreed with some of the things that were being said in reference to Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong | Johann Hari. His premise is that when given the choice between doing heroin or connecting with other people and with stimulating activities, addicts would choose the connections and activities. It sounds simple and easy. Just say no to alcohol and heroin and walk into the loving arms of friends that are having fun doing cool stuff.
First, it is my experience with Charlie and I do believe that physical activities were key to helping him withdraw from alcohol or heroin. I think it was critical for him when he was trying to maintain his sobriety. His favorite activity was frolfing(frisbee golf) and so during both withdrawal and afterwards, we would go play a game or 3 or 5, sometimes in the same day. It helped.
And Charlie was surrounded by a great group of friends that love him still. I had his close friends on speed dial and they would drop everything to come and sidetrack him when he needed sidetracking, day or night. He was connected to many friends through music. I remember that several of his friends took him into the studio to encourage him to go back to playing and singing. His dearest girl friend would come often to visit him from her home in Seattle. And when she couldn’t be present, they were on the phone. I hope she had unlimited talk, text and data, because they talked every day for hours. And he was self employed, worked with his Dad. It was not all fun and games, especially when Charlie was dope sick or in the middle of withdrawal and couldn’t go to work. But for the most part, he was engaged, excited about what the day would bring, challenged by the new job tasks and planning for the future. He didn’t sit in an empty cage only drinking from the heroin bottle. He had a playground of lots of activity with people who loved him and that he loved.
Until the drugs and alcohol started to take over his brain. Then, this pushed away many of his friends. No matter how much they tried to help and to stand by him, they could not cross the line on their own values and they could not solve his problems. Several of them, true, loving friends, were forced away until the day he died. We invited them back into his life to say goodbye, I was hoping that he would be able to hear their voices and realize that they loved him still. I want that to be true.
There was a point in time when Char’s brain couldn’t separate anything out anymore and just ran on animal instinct. In the last year, whenever I talked with Charlie, I talked to who he used to be, fighing to return and at the same time to his “monkey brain”, or that part of him that just wanted the next drink or fix. I replied to both. I love you son, no you can not manipulate me into more money etc. And I knew that Charlie Monkey Brain would find someone who could or would. I said “just say no” a million times a day. I said “I love you, please let’s go find some help” a million times a day. As did his dad, sister, girl friend and friends.
I think that what Mr. Hari says is true, only if this connection/fun activity is accompanied by professionals who can solve the problems that family and friends can’t solve. In Charlie’s case, he was in an environment that made it impossible for him to escape the drug/alcohol life completely and it always drug him back – his dealer lived next door for God’s sake. That is why we looked for in patient treatment. He quit many times, but couldn’t stay quitting. He couldn’t do this part on his own. I couldn’t do this part on my own, neither could Kate or Chuck. We didn’t know how. He needed professionals that were beyond our ability to pay for, not cute tidy propositions about just say no and get a great rat playground.
I will say that I continue to be hopeful about the many people who are still pushing ahead trying to create solutions and make changes. I think that Senator Pettersen, Dr. Rob Valuck, Lisa Raville and all of the others that are pouring their expertise into this problem are doing an extraordinarily great job. I salute them and will continue to support their efforts .