By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
As a longtime non-drinker or -druggie, I've always felt like a eunuch at an orgy, but I actually have no trouble shunning all the cocktails and pharmaceuticals that could easily be mine.
I was never that into them in the firstplace, and I treasure being the most clearheaded one in the room, not to mention the only one who doesn't have to tip anybody. The real problem is keeping my distance from all the people who do the cocktails and drugs, the ones who tail me every night like rats following a windswept hamburger wrapper.
I'm not talking about desperate cases like Amy Winehouse, the type that would horrify you into immediate action in an attempt to spare them their doom. I'm referring to the annoying lifetime users, the ones who are never going to die—or admit they have a problem—and who tawdrily draw you toward them while repelling your goodwill with their endlessly messy behavior.
Unlike so many other illnesses, addiction is one that you can do something about by saying "Yes, yes, yes." But the folks who won't attempt to get better because they're convinced their daily drugging is "manageable" while fucking you over time and time again are to be avoided, partly out of tough love and largely out of "Tough shit!" Why waste your time with these people unless you're married to them and have joint bank accounts?
Thanks to years of traumatizing experiences, I've learned just how to spot the abusers, because they usually don't barrel into a room and announce themselves as such. First of all, they're the ones who came 40 minutes late to meet you, all sweaty and out of breath, seeing as how they operate exclusively on druggie time. (Last time, they were only 25 minutes late, but that was just to throw you off.) They always come with an entourage of enablers (i.e., people who are so enamored with the druggie that they'll forgive them of every lapse as long as the druggie throws them an occasional crumb of attention. Besides, they're fuckups themselves.)
Also, the druggies repeat every trivial thing they say at least eight times, talking over even your most urgent utterances. You can screech the fact that a world-famous religious figure has just been shot down the hallway, but they'll simply reiterate what they just said about the horseradish dip being too spicy, gleefully oblivious to any larger picture outside that stupid bowl.
Paranoia generally enters the equation, too, as with the stewed clubbie who always asks people, "Does what I'm saying make any sense to you?" (Absolutely; the stuff he says is generally so simple that a Bachmann campaign manager would get it.)
Worse, the drugs often bring out a lurking arrogance, unleashing a torrent of dissy instructions that ignore the fact that "You need to . . ." should never be how a falling-down mess starts a sentence.
Last year, I met a restaurant worker who had me in his oily palm as he told me how sober he is, how he cries over the fate of those less fortunate, and how he relishes criticism so he can improve himself even more. "Watch out, Captain America," I thought as I fell under the spell of this hero, a nouveau gym-bunny messiah who was prone to yelps of "I love myself!" as I shrieked, "I love yourself, too!"
But whenever I ran into the guy after that, his eyes were always rolling in their sockets like pinballs, and he looked one pharmaceutical shy of totally unconscious. His whole spiel had clearly been a line of bravado that he spews in order to convince his victims that he's in control and positively soaring. (Or maybe he actually means it at the time. Who can guess the thought processes of someone so aggressively brain-buzzed?) In any case, I promptly crossed him off my calendar (something druggies never seem to have, by the way). There's no one to be avoided more than someone who is rocked out of his mind as he robotically screeches, "I'm sober!"
Another thing to look for is the split-personality effect. Some abusers are your flamboyantly demonstrative best friend one minute, and the next, they're silent, sullen, and unable to even pick at the various scabs on their faces. You never know which to expect, so you learn to brace yourself for constant disappointment and surprise. The really sad thing is that a lot of these people are way more fun when they're smashed, the drugs making them sparkle with fun stories and great spirits. "Get wasted more often," you want to urge them, but you refrain, knowing they're probably better off standing upright and alert, even if boringly so.
They usually are wasted anyway. Another guy I hung out with last year insisted he'd cleaned up and gone organic, but every time we went out, he'd disappear halfway through the night and come back 10 minutes later with white powder on his face, his whole body shaking as if he'd just been electrified. He looked like a doughnut with epilepsy. Sure, it's an addiction, and you have to be understanding, blah, blah, blah, but if someone bolted in the middle of a date for some shopping, eating, or gambling, wouldn't you have a right to know about it?
I'm not trivializing substance abuse. People should feel free to befriend these lifetime druggies and help, support, or even enable them, if that's your dark desire. But I hope it doesn't dampen anyone's high if my approach is to pack up my compassion and run far, far away, toward the nearest Jamba Juice. Does what I'm saying make any sense to you?
and then there are the druggies and drunks who have forever been on welfare/social security---one of them who once lived near me just died recently, thankfully; he burnt down his place when he got evicted, almost killed a driver when a bullet he fired went through an open car window, was arrested numerous times, and finally got hit by a car at age 60 before he could return and make my life hell again.
"donut with epilepsy"!! I love it. Especially love thoughtful pieces like this one, and yes - why is it I'm more fun when I'm wasted?
Love you, Musto, but without those druggie drinkers you would barely have a column. Michael Alig and company, anyone?
some of my best creation was done by a fierce night of bar-hopping,followed by the morning/after, now 8+yrs. of Total abstaining from the stuff, my life story will be in a mov-umentary; partly, The Starck Club,dallas cant wait to see it," i love yourself ,too."M.M.,your just too witty for me-luv ya,p.s. the "managability" was spot-on.
I find some addicts repulsive. I was getting into my car once and a hood rat ran over to ask for money to help feed her baby. She looked like she weighed 95 pounds. I kept saying, "I got nothing to help you." She thought I didn't believe her story. So she lifted up her sweaty t-shirt, aimed her tit at me, and fired. I watched as an arc of crackmama milk shot by me and splooged on my car window. Major gross-out. People shouldn't put themselves, or their children, in that desperate a situation before seeking help. I have empathy for some, but not after the age of 40, unless some terrible thing has caused them to become unhinged. Burned one too many times by friends with hidden habits.
Working the door at a bar is a great way to see that split personality effect. Usually the muscle bottoms, new twinks on the scene or hipster run-off queer boys who sneer at you when you check I.D. or contents of their purse, happen to be the same sloppy asses who throw their sweaty shirtless selves all over you after a few drink specials and bump in the bathroom stall. I'm not gonna say the quick shift in dynamic isn't fun to watch or write about though, it is.
I'm lucky enough myself to engage multiple personalities over a bowl of cereal, but a night of too much drinking is a sure-fire way to let the hot mess personalities out to do a little damage to my good name.
I'm curious Musto, was there ever a time when you did indulge in a little not-so-clear-headed-ness?
I must admit I like people who can have a little fun drinking (light) drugging, but only if they can step outside themselves and have this kind of fun and then come back to "normalcy." I like to be able to get a little tipsy with somebody, but it seems like most people I meet never drink a drop, either they had gone way off the deep end before or they just think it's no fun.
great insight Michael- since i quit doing stuff a few years ago, people ask me when i'm out if it's difficult not drinking or doing coke in bars. I usually tell them it can be a little difficult at the beginning of the evening, but by 2am i just look around me and see the behavior which makes me feel way better about my choice.
The best part of mingling with druggies and alkies at a bar is scooping up the dropped cash. We call it taxi money.
Yes, what you say makes sense. Because I never did any drug other than pot, I can rarely spot drugged behavior. 5AM at the Black Party, I'd be stepping over the bodies while drinking the coffee and eating the bananas. Here's another reason to keep your head on straight. Recently, I was slipped a mickey at a social event. Not pretty. Now I have an outsized fear of accepting a drink from anyone except the bartender or my husband.
I don't find addicts repulsive. I explained that it's an illness. I simply find those who don't accept that they have an illness or a problem annoying because they continue to screw people over (as well as screwing over themselves) without attempting help. This is not an aesthetic judgement, it's a matter of what's best for me and for them.
No one can be mad about what you wrote since no one admits to having a problem! And those that DO admit it are Ok with you, so they'll be fine.
"Does what I'm saying make any sense to you?" oh sure. You make it clear that you find addicts repulsive. Makes sense. What's not totally clear is why, beyond a set of individual preferences, you feel this way. Do you find fat people repulsive? You make this sound like an aesthetic judgement; and that just isn't very interesting.
Occasionally someone misreads the Musto, and it turns out they're wrong, probably not very smart or (coincidentally) high on something. Best policy, for those who get offended: read again first. Slowly and carefully. Better yet, read up first on humor, sarcasm, self-depreciation, camp, and absurdity. (A long list, but not that hard to absorb, really.)