For as long as I can remember, drugs have mystified me. It started with the movie “Mask” starring Eric Stoltz as a 16-year old boy with a major facial deformity and Cher as his cokehead, biker chic mother. In my 7-year-old mind I attributed Eric Stoltz’s facial deformity to Cher’s use of cocaine during her pregnancy. Don’t ask how I arrived at this conclusion. Well, I was after all a child of the D.A.R.E. generation after all. I would lay awake at night scared about all of the people out there using cocaine. Worrying that they would have a generation of babies with deformed faces. By the time I reached high school (I knew that cocaine didn’t cause facial deformities anymore), I was soo spun out on the anti-drug message that I had no interest in thinking about let alone trying drugs save the occasional marijuana cigarette. It was once I was out of the danger zone of my teenage years and into my young adulthood that I started hearing more and more about a new kind of drug use; pill popping. This wasn’t your pot, coke, E, acid, meth, or heroin – this pill-popping thing was a different game; a habit practiced initially without worry or paranoia, even somehow condoned. It was not a problem for one of my close friends to use her younger brother’s Ritalin (prescribed for ADD) to help her stay focused while she worked two jobs or for a dude I dated to take that left over Percocet from his recent knee replacement surgery and then get some more prescribed, or for another girlfriend of mine to pop an extra, Xanax or sleeping pill prescribed for her depression and anxiety. That was before all of them started taking a few too many. Pill abuse confused me even more than cocaine – it was somehow less taboo and the effects and reasons for use far more of a conundrum to me. That’s why I was really moved to read Lisa Carver’s recent Salon article “My Life in Xanax.” Perhaps the sentence that demystified pill abuse for me was how she described her reason for using, “I could understand, for the first time, the appeal of finding a nice, warm hole and lying down in it.” Even though I’ve never used pills – as a person who has experienced depression, I understand that feeling all to well. That’s why I’ll be looking forward to reading former Jane Magazine editor, Joshua Lyon’s recently published memoir about his pill addiction called, “Pill Head.”
I’m hoping that these stories are indicative of a trend in our society to start talking about drug abuse (and other problems – hey we all have them) more openly. Stories like those shared on A&E’s “Intervention” (I’ve seen every single episode) or VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” as well as candid accounts by Lisa Carver, Joshua Lyons, and others make it more acceptable for others to open up – even if it’s to a therapist or a close friend and not the whole world. Keeping secrets keep us lonely, keep us in hiding. And I believe the only way to heal is to share. While the idea of a generation of babies with deformed faces no longer keeps me awake at night, the thought of a generation of lost and lonely souls, looking for a nice, warm place to hide does.