Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Substance Abuse: An Antidote to Depression

I am prone to painful boredom, and to woeful episodes of dissatisfaction. For years — sometimes with pharmaceutical help, but more often without — I tried to beat it alone, but it would not be beaten, and I have now reconciled myself to being the diseeases’ patsy. This reconciliation proved sort of liberating, as I suddenly felt empowered to pursue a course of substance abuse without a significant increase in self-disgust.

I was lucky enough to have come to it at a time when the great state of California provides professional counselors — SACS (for substance abuse counselors) — to guide the prospective addict through a confusing maze of difficult choices. On registering as a prospective substance abuser, I was assigned to a Ms. Sheila Horowitz, who looked around 55, and said she’d formerly been a middle school instructor, but had been unable face another year of petulant, impertinent little so-and-so’s imagining themselves to be the first to notice that the first syllable of Horowitz is pronounced whore

For many years I found distasteful the juxtaposition of hypergoyish first names, like Sheila, and unmistakably Jewish surnames, like Sheila’s. Then someone pointed out that my own first name is pretty goyish, rather moreso than Jonathan. 

In any event, I was able to rule out alcoholism at the outset. It feels like your dad’s addiction. There’s occasional vomiting. Under the influence of vodka, for instance, one’s mouth writes checks that one’s fists won’t cash. It’s relatively expensive. For the price of one posh cocktail, one could get enough crystal meth to get him high thrice. One who drinks is prone to sogginess. There’s occasional vomiting. 

Tobacco? Been there. Done that. Got no T-shirt, but did get the daggers-in-the-lungs feeling, and the stained teeth and fingertips and diminished sense of taste. (Though of course I looked fantastically…cool.)

Gambling? No, I’m far too much a tightwad for that. Sex? Been there, briefly. Didn’t really enjoy it. What they say about waking up the morning after, not recognizing whom you’re in bed with, and not finding her very attractive, and feeling lonelier, rather than less lonely, for the whole experience? Been there. 

Crack? I so don’t think so! I’ll leave that to the prolifically tattooed sort who’s intent on demonstrating how, uh, street he or she is. And I’m old enough to remember Richard Pryor having set himself on fire. Clumsy as I am, I might burn down the entire Fairfax district, in the process decimating LA’s population of Horowitzes. 

Sheila sighed and said it looked as though my best bet might be either heroin or methamphetamine. I had early in our consultation made clear that I am painfully vain, so she felt duty-bound to point out that both substances were likely to compromise my scant vestigial physical attractiveness. With heroin, I’d get lots of injection scars, and would become lackadaisical about grooming and personal hygiene, whereas meth was likely to make my teeth rot and ugly blemishes to appear all over my face, and to make me lackadaisical about grooming and personal hygiene. Long sleeves seemed the easier option than a balaclava, and heroin jumped into the lead. But then Sheila pointed out that meth dealers tended to be considerably more personable than heroin “pushers,” and the two were neck and neck again. “Maybe the best thing,” Sheila mused, looking longingly at her wall clock, seemingly trying to will the hands to move more quickly, “is for you to meet with a couple of dealers, to see for yourself.” 

I thought that a very good idea, and met C— at Applebee’s for lunch. He was around 35, tanned, stylishly dressed, and an obvious fitness enthusiast. He had a Porsche key on his keychain. He related that he’d earlier been a corporate attorney, but that it had made him feel slimy. I found him surprisingly charming, at least until the moment when his “squeeze” (I hadn’t thought anyone said that anymore) phoned him, and he excused himself to talk to her at such length on his iPhone that I was able not only to finish my lunch, but to check my own email, do some online banking, and play half a dozen games of Word Maze. Eventually I despaired of his returning, and left.

Sergei, whom I met for Happy Hour at TGIF, hadn’t a tenth of C—‘s charm. I reralized after a couple of moments of his being unable to sustain eye contact that he was actually very shy, though he seemed anything but shy when I noted that his lovely complexion was the last thing I would have expected from a meth dealer. “What,” he fumed, “you think I don’t just deal, but use too? You think I’m that stupid, ese?” My trying to apologize only made him more furious. Other revelers were turning to gape at him. “I ought to fucking cut you,” he speculated, albeit under his breath now. I told him we could review the situation further when I returned from the men’s room. As you can well imagine, I got nowhere the room of men, instead making a beeline for my little car.

I have decided, in the short term, to postpone becoming a substance abuser.


  1. One of your best ever. This deserves to be made into a film--I can see every one of these characters.

    1. Very generous of you, madam, and much appreciated.

  2. You might be eligible for a complimentary Apple iPhone 7.

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