It was a shock, of course, to walk in on someone shooting up, and the human mind is a weird thing. “Diabetes” my mind said but the number of diabetics who inject insulin into their arms are quite small, and they almost never have a kitchen spoon sitting in front of them at the time and a lit candle. At that time I was not emotionally connected to the person enough to get involved, but then she began dating a friend of mine, and I had to tell him his new girlfriend had an interesting habit, or he would find out the hard way. We all drank too much, far too much, and we all smoked too much pot, and some of us, not me in this case, did cocaine, but this was not the Sunday morning book reading club. We habitually drove drunk. It wasn’t as illegal then and you may find this difficult to believe but at least twice in my life I wrecked a car, was drunk, and the cops let me drive the wreck away from the scene. True that, I hit the right person at the right time in both cases, and there was the first wreck I was in where I hit someone and then walked back to the scene, and discovered I had been in a wreck. There was a phenomenal amount of alcohol involved in my life during the 1980’s. But I never shot up. This doesn’t make me a better person just one with fewer holes in my arm.
I never sold pot to kids, but that doesn’t mean the pot that I sold didn’t wind up with kids. Once you get into the drug selling business you’re more or less committed to the idea that you won’t ever really give a damn what happens to customers or users or abusers. I sold speed for a while and as someone who used the drug I knew, really knew, how dangerous it was. Most of the people I sold to were truck drivers and it never occurred to me this was dangerous. Some of the people I sold to were buying enough to sell so they could cover their habit, and it never dawned on me to worry where my speed was heading. I believed, and I still do believe, illegal drugs are illegal not because of the harm they do but because drugs that are illegal are also big business. There is an incredible amount of money in selling drugs at any level. At some point, unless you’re just selling pot, you have to understand what you are selling is going to wind up somewhere it ought not to, and you are in some way still connected to your product.
The legality of selling drugs is in no way associated the morality of providing a dangerous substance to other humans. This is an idea totally lost on our medical profession as a whole. It was lost on me as well, but I didn’t have a degree in medicine either. That’s a bit of a cop out, by the way, and I know it. I never sold hard drugs except for speed and once I quit doing speed I quit selling the stuff, and that’s a cop out too. You sell a gun to someone you know isn’t stable and you own that gun still. You sell speed to someone you know is going to take far too much of the stuff and even years later to still own that damage, even if it’s just karma. I sold to people I knew were heading down fast and what I sold them greased the skids. I sold to people I knew didn’t have the money they needed for other things, important things and I sold to people with kids. If I hadn’t someone else would have, but that is also a cop out. Among those here that is the worst yet, and the last, I hope.
The legality of what I was doing, and what the people around me were doing, never bothered me and it still doesn’t. The law isn’t here to teach us what is moral. Religion pretty much fails too, but no one ever really notices that. Sooner or later, however, if you realize something is wrong you have to stop doing it, and you have to make things right if you can. You also have to know when you can’t make things right and you settle for making things different.
There was no moment of epiphany for me. There was no flash bulb moment. There was a gradual evolution away from people who drank too much, people who used hard drugs, and people who would buy drugs before they would buy food for their kids. A friend of mine who still smoked a pack a day, still drank heavily, and who still smoked pot eased out of my life. I didn’t see her for a while, and I heard she married a guy with similar habits, and this is what this is all about when it gets right down to it, and it does. She pulled a double shift at the convenience store where she worked and was murdered for less money than it took to buy a quarter ounce of marijuana, if you bought the good stuff. She left two kids behind and a legacy of a future unfulfilled. For quite some time she and I passed jointed, popped pills, drank beer and we were close. Somewhere down the line as I pulled out of the dive I didn’t put as much effort to get the people I cared about to come with me as I did when I was headed down. We never sat down and talked about where we were going and how we were going to get there and for the price of a quarter of an ounce of pot she was killed and the guy who killed her went to jail for the rest of his life.
The legality of what I have done in my life has never cost me a moment of sleep nor a day of my life. The karma that I have created, even in my distant past, still haunts me, and I suspect it will forever. Yet looking back I can honestly say I have never harmed a child, or through some inaction, allowed harm to befall a child, not knowingly.
When a former substance abuser can claim a higher moral ground than Joe Paterno, we need to reexamine who our heroes are, and why.