Getting high…on life

Put a couple of hundred miles on my motorcycle recently, cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway, a bunch of winding mountain roads and a few towns along the way. Arrived back in Floyd shortly after the sun went down, enjoying the breeze of a Spring evening.

Amy says I always arrive back from a ride with a smile on my face. She's right. Riding my bike is one of the ways I enjoy every day of whatever time I have left on this Earth, living life one day at a time and always to the fullest.

When enjoyed, life itself is the most powerful -- and addictive -- intoxicant of all: Looking through the viewfinder of my camera and capturing the exact second when a talented high school athlete scores the winning point; piecing together bits of video that turn into a film that captures the music of Floyd County; uncovering that last piece of evidence to catch a public official violating his or her trust with the public or simply cruising a country road while the wind whips my face.

Wasn't always that way. Like too many others I faced life through a chemical-induced haze. My drug of choice was booze. For others, it can be marijuana, cocaine, meth, heroin and even the prescription drugs that doctors hand out like candy.

I was 46 when I stood up at a meeting in the basement of a church in Arlington, Virginia, and told a room full of strangers that "my name is Doug and I'm an alcoholic."  In 27 days, I will stand up in another room and tell fellow travelers that "it has been exactly 15 years since my last drink."

The last 15 years have shown me just how much life I missed while under the influence. As an alcoholic, I'm an addict and addicts must be addicted to something. I chose an addiction to life.

A rambunctious youth has left me with pain from too many broken bones and too many surgical procedures to repair damage to bone and muscle. As an addict, I cannot take pain medication. It's too easy to become addicted so I let the endorphins that my body produces naturally overcome the pain. Once you learn to trust your body the need for drugs often goes away.

I've thought about life a lot more over the past couple of days because of a contentious debate with some members of Floyd County's stoner community. They are upset because I had the gall to suggest that someone who raises and distributes illegal drugs should be punished for the crime.

In some ways, it has been amusing to see how some who argue for unrestricted use of grass have displayed all the classic symptoms of frequent marijuana use: particularly paranoia and angry talk of government conspiracies. But their comedic behavior is overshadowed by the knowledge that their drug use is destructive -- not only to themselves but to those around them.

Those who choose to smoke grass made a choice, just as those who drank, snorted or shot up their drug of choice made theirs. As an addict, I know that no one who is addicted to any drug can turn their life around until they themselves make the choice to do so. But those who choose to make drugs part of their lifestyle must also accept responsibility for their decision. A drunk who crawls behind the wheel of a car becomes a deadly weapon. A person who raises and distributes illegal drugs becomes a criminal. As Sammy Davis Jr. sang in the opening theme of the television show Baretta: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."

Fifteen years ago, I faced a choice: Choose to keep drinking and die or choose life and live.

I chose life...and I've been high on it ever since.

Put a couple of hundred miles on my motorcycle recently, cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway, a bunch of winding mountain roads and a few towns along the way. Arrived back in Floyd shortly after the sun went down, enjoying the breeze of a Spring evening.

Amy says I always arrive back from a ride with a smile on my face. She’s right. Riding my bike is one of the ways I enjoy every day of whatever time I have left on this Earth, living life one day at a time and always to the fullest.

When enjoyed, life itself is the most powerful — and addictive — intoxicant of all: Looking through the viewfinder of my camera and capturing the exact second when a talented high school athlete scores the winning point; piecing together bits of video that turn into a film that captures the music of Floyd County; uncovering that last piece of evidence to catch a public official violating his or her trust with the public or simply cruising a country road while the wind whips my face.

Wasn’t always that way. Like too many others I faced life through a chemical-induced haze. My drug of choice was booze. For others, it can be marijuana, cocaine, meth, heroin and even the prescription drugs that doctors hand out like candy.

I was 46 when I stood up at a meeting in the basement of a church in Arlington, Virginia, and told a room full of strangers that "my name is Doug and I’m an alcoholic."  In 27 days, I will stand up in another room and tell fellow travelers that "it has been exactly 15 years since my last drink."

The last 15 years have shown me just how much life I missed while under the influence. As an alcoholic, I’m an addict and addicts must be addicted to something. I chose an addiction to life.

A rambunctious youth has left me with pain from too many broken bones and too many surgical procedures to repair damage to bone and muscle. As an addict, I cannot take pain medication. It’s too easy to become addicted so I let the endorphins that my body produces naturally overcome the pain. Once you learn to trust your body the need for drugs often goes away.

I’ve thought about life a lot more over the past couple of days because of a contentious debate with some members of Floyd County’s stoner community. They are upset because I had the gall to suggest that someone who raises and distributes illegal drugs should be punished for the crime.

In some ways, it has been amusing to see how some who argue for unrestricted use of grass have displayed all the classic symptoms of frequent marijuana use: particularly paranoia and angry talk of government conspiracies. But their comedic behavior is overshadowed by the knowledge that their drug use is destructive — not only to themselves but to those around them.

Those who choose to smoke grass made a choice, just as those who drank, snorted or shot up their drug of choice made theirs. As an addict, I know that no one who is addicted to any drug can turn their life around until they themselves make the choice to do so. But those who choose to make drugs part of their lifestyle must also accept responsibility for their decision. A drunk who crawls behind the wheel of a car becomes a deadly weapon. A person who raises and distributes illegal drugs becomes a criminal. As Sammy Davis Jr. sang in the opening theme of the television show Baretta: "Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time."

Fifteen years ago, I faced a choice: Choose to keep drinking and die or choose life and live.

I chose life…and I’ve been high on it ever since.

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23 Responses

  1. Hi Doug,

    Just wanted to make sure you weren’t calling me a stoner. I don’t use marijuana or any other illegal drug, and like you, even avoid pain medication.

    If anything, most people would probably put me in the gun-totin’, short-haired, home-schooling, Republican hillbilly crowd.

    I only came to Patrick’s defense because I am trying to cure people of their addiction to violence.

    Glad you got out to enjoy the nice weather. I’ve been away from Floyd for a few weeks, and just came back to find everything bright green. It’s a beautiful part of the world!

  2. How fitting is it that Sammy Davis Jr. was a drug user? (Look it up.)

    Not everyone abuses their “drug of choice” like you did. Just because some people are addicts shouldn’t mean that everyone else can’t enjoy what they want to enjoy.

    How do you feel about people who drank alcohol during prohibition? (As many many people did, the law was unreasonable so many reasonable people broke it.) I suppose you would have been saying throw ’em all in jail back then too. Right?

    How insane is it that each of our last three Presidents have used drugs during their lives that would have made them criminals if they were caught. The only difference is they were not caught in the act.

    The way you act like growing and smoking marijuana is the same thing as a real crime is just ridiculous. This is something that reasonable people do. And it doesn’t necessarily ruin people’s lives.

    Some people smoke marijuana and end up being President of the United States (Barack Obama.) You can smoke marijuana and become the richest person in the world (Bill Gates not only smoked marijuana, he used LSD.) You can become the greatest Olympic champion in history (Michael Phelps.)

    These old tales about how marijuana destroys people’s lives are nothing but hogwash. People know this stuff isn’t true anymore. Why do people insist on continuing with the easily disproved Reagan era “Just Say No” BS in 2009? It’s pathetic.

    Your arguments are exceedingly weak. That’s why you don’t actually respond with anything other than insults and circular logic (“it’s the law because it’s the law.”) There is no logical rational argument to be made for marijuana to be illegal in the same society where alcohol is legal. It just doesn’t make sense.

    I won’t waste my time here anymore it’s obvious that you get some kind of joy out of provoking people with your heartless nonsense.

    I just hope people who may be reading this blog know that you do not represent the future of America. Those of us who believe in civil liberties will win out. Progress always wins in the end. The only question is how long will it take? If you want to get it done sooner rather than later I hope you do your part and donate to the ACLU & NORML and any other organization that supports civil liberties.

  3. Hi Jonny,

    It seems that you are also only in this debate as a matter of principle. I’m always glad to meet someone else who is willing to defend Liberty.

    If you (or anyone else) wants to contact me directly, my email address is ‘markt’ at the same domain name as every other customer of Citizens.

  4. …just said I had been having a contentious debate with some who are (and the ones I was speaking about have told me they do smoke grass on a regular basis). From my side, yours and my exchange of opinions has not been contentious and has, in my opinion, been productive.

    Out of curiousity, how is defending a marijuana grower curing someone of "their addiction to violence?"  I don’t really see the connection.

  5. I don’t know many who would be so open and honest about their battles with addiction. Doug should be congratulated for his candor and not castigated by a vocal minority who obviously have trouble dealing with someone brave enough to expose the dangers in our society.

    How many here who talk so boldly about freedom and liberty volunteer their time to serve on the Alcohol Safety Action Program advisory board? How many here who claim to be speaking for the downtrodden spend hours every week counseling others with drug and alcohol abuse problems?

    Just one. Our host. Bravo Doug. Keep it up.

  6. What does serving for the Alcohol Safety Action Program have to do with freedom and liberty?

    Nothing.

    That’s fine that he tries to help people deal with addiction who want to be helped. That’s commendable in fact.

    But that doesn’t make it OK to take away people’s civil liberties because of some ill defined notion of “justice” or “public safety.”

    “vocal minority who obviously have trouble dealing with someone brave enough to expose the dangers in our society.”

    What?! The danger in our society is people’s personal property and freedom being taken away senselessly.

    The danger in our society is that so many non violent people fill our prisons. So much of our law enforcement’s time and money is wasted on “vice crime” instead of making sure there are no real violent crimes.

    Do you know how many billions of dollars are wasted in the ridiculous “War on Drugs” every year? Drug prohibition is a failure. Just like alcohol prohibition was a failure in the 1920s. It’s time to accept that and move on.

    Do you know how dangerous 1000 pot heads in Floyd are? Obviously they aren’t dangerous at all. They’ve been living here for years without causing any problems.

    And finally, if you aren’t going to stand up for the rights of others, you won’t be able to expect them to stand up for your rights either.

  7. I’m not even sure you represent the human race. If you, as you claim, feel you are wasting your time here then go away and stop wasting ours. Every time you post, you prove yourself not only to be an idiot but a liar.

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