This version of the Director’s Column features a guest essay. Prompted by a random conversation, I reached out to a friend going through a rough patch to remind them that they are loved and supported. What I got back really moved me, and I hope it will move you as well. We can all use a little help from our friends and sometimes it’s as easy as asking “how are you?” and really listening to their response.
Wow, that’s truly tragic…I know all too well how difficult coping can be and how drug use can put your problems in the back of your mind for at least a little while. It's a comfortable place but eventually, you can't exist anywhere else. In my personal experience, it leads to wondering "well, this one thing isn't getting the job done so what else can I do to get me back to that place?". I think that's where the misconception of "gateway drugs" really comes from. It's not exactly one drug to blame, but the act of escapism that the user is always reaching for; they want a means to get away from themselves and they are going to get it. Addicts are very driven people, they just focus that drive towards self-destructive behaviors. Because of the very real social stigma that exists surrounding addiction, it can be difficult to get help even if some part of you wants it. Relapsing, for instance, is a normal and almost expected hurdle in every addict's path to heal themselves. However, if an addict does relapse, the people around them will view them as a "lost cause" or "beyond help". When that's all you hear after making one slip-up, of course you're going to believe it. You're already feeling incredibly vulnerable and most likely pretty ashamed of yourself so when someone calls you a lost cause you say to yourself "f*** it, they're right". That's when using gets more excessive; not only do you need to get out of your own life more than ever, but you start thinking everyone in your life would be better off without you. I feel things like the rampant overdoses in this country won't get better until we start changing our attitude toward addiction and mental illness.
For instance, there's this really bizarre double-standard that society seems to have towards suicidal people vs people who have died by suicide. Suicidal people are still viewed as "attention-seekers", they're avoided for being "a bummer to be around" and that they'll "never really do it". That said, if someone does die by suicide, everyone wishes they saw the signs, did something to help, wish they hadn't done it, etc. and it's total lunacy. I think addiction and suicidal ideation go hand-in-hand because these social stigmas make the mental illnesses a potent cocktail of self-loathing. These people don't need to be shunned, they need to be talked to. Even constant users can recover if even a tiny shred of them truly wants to, but it may take an unimaginable amount of time and work. That may be the issue with short-term rehab clinics that claim to turn someone's entire life around in two weeks. Recovery isn't a sprint, it's a marathon with a boulder strapped to your back. Addiction and recovery are both intense burdens for people to carry, and there are always days where the weight feels like too much to bear anymore.
I wish I knew why these issues seem to affect creatives the hardest. Perhaps because our souls were built too warm and soft for the cold, sharp world the powers-that-be have created for us to try and find a way to live in. I could go on about the evils of "work to live '' culture and the general notion that trying to be a professional creative isn't " a real job" unless monumental popularity or huge sums of money are involved. It all just adds up to more undue pressure and stress, leading to the root of these problems: needing to escape. Rather than being able to simply create and exist, we're forced to live in a world that feels like a prison.
I am sorry for the family's loss, I hope they allow themselves to feel what they're going through and come out stronger from this traumatic event. It seems like the world was robbed of a multi-talented, strong-willed woman; something the world will always need more of.