Untitled speech on drug addiction (2017)

This is a short speech I gave on drug addiction for a college class back in 2017. I just came across it in my Google Drive, and thought it was worth posting.

I originally planned to write this speech to be sort of a sequel to the one I did last time, on drug addiction. This time, I was going to focus on the solutions to it that I didn’t think the mainstream doctors and psychiatrists would accept. It was really quite simple: drug users are looking for escape and refuge from the bitterness of their alienation from other people. They only need the holes in their lives to be filled with real love, real fulfillment and happiness, to be freed of their addiction. I do believe that, and I know that the establishment solutions offered right now that are fueled by the War on Drugs and pharmaceutical companies aren’t going away anytime soon. Drug overdoses cost 64,000 lives last year, fighting the Drug War cost millions. It takes a lot more time to build lives and communities than it does to shove someone in rehab and give them Suboxone (which has a 60% relapse rate).

But this topic became a lot more complicated, because the truth is that the drug addict’s problem is really everyone’s problem, only to different degrees. What is the point of swallowing painkillers or shooting heroin? Yes, it is to escape from suffering, to enter a dream-land where you are the perfect version of yourself. But the slinking away from reality over time, when the addiction really sets in and they start looking and behaving like junkies — are they neurotics, or just more honest about themselves than we are? Does anyone embrace suffering? Does anyone endure it easily? Are some people just better at hiding pain?

Most people have the ability to put on a façade for other people, to wear a mask to protect themselves from humiliation. Drug users seem to lack such an ability, and they suffer for it. They build a wall around themselves so fortified that it consumes them, and their frame of mind becomes enslaved to it; in their heads they are always defeated, and the worst voices always prevail until they get their kicks. This is why you can find drug addicts even among people who have loving and supporting families. Freedom from suffering is the fantasy of every living being, but it can’t be avoided. For all the attempts a drug addict makes to stay high, they will come down and run out of drugs. And maybe some of you know what I mean when I say you can try to relate to people, to be their closest friend, to make yourself as stylish and palatable to them as possible, and still feel alone, flawed, and imperfect at the end of the day. What is the solution for that feeling? Can an addiction to pain killers really be cured when the nonaddicted face the same metaphysical problem?

The solution can’t be to ending pain and suffering for someone, because life itself is a constant struggle to survive. The tallest tree in the forest can survive a storm, but it can’t shoo one away. Life can be lived as painlessly as possible, interrupted by brief episodes of joy and happiness, or as painfully as possible so as to experience new heights, new peaks of existence that expand life itself. If you only live to limit your suffering, then you only live to limit your capacity for happiness.

It is as difficult to escape society’s chains of superficiality as it is for the drug addict to kick their junk habit. Often people end up being their own worst enemies, letting their own self-doubt and desire to avoid pain or humiliation ruin chances at something new. I experience that a lot. But the fight against addiction is one against surrender to a banal life of constant flight from the things that, in the end, make us better. The best lesson we can learn from drug addicts is that their lives are the result of a constant flight from suffering.

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Writer, journalist, and filmmaker from Eastern KY.

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