Lost Souls (Drug Abuse, Alcoholism, and Creativity)

While I was watching the Diva of daytime talk shows, Oprah Winfrey, I was moved to tears as she dynamically confessed her past addiction to drugs. During the interview, a former drug addict shared with Oprah his struggle and ultimate conquest over drugs. Oprah wept openly on national television as she suddenly confided to the public her secret past. For the first time this creative, sensitive soul invited the viewers inside her closet.

By Victoria F. Lee

Oprah's disclosure impelled me to take a closer look at the other side of drug and alcohol addiction with the attempt to locate what's behind it. Who are these people? What makes them become addicts? Is it an inherited genetic flaw, or simply a product of the environment, or a combination of both? Listening to Oprah, I remembered several close friends whom I have lost to drugs and alcoholism in Russia, where I was raised.

They were distinguished and intellectual, deliberately driving themselves to their demise. More often their days began with a shot of vodka or spirit mixed with water, and they went on drinking throughout the day. Surprisingly, I never saw them drunk. Not having enough money to buy bottled liquor, some of them would use their creativity as a kind of alchemy to make cocktails from hair sprays, powder, shoe polish, lotions and acetone. Despite their medical histories, which demanded continued screening for the deadly diseases linked with alcoholism such as liver and kidney failure, nothing could stop their habit.

At that time I didn't understand a lot of things: in my late teens, honored to be accepted, I took pleasure in their company and must admit I enjoyed sampling certain habits of theirs, not realizing how hazardous that experimentation could be. Of course, I learned not only from their extreme creativity but from their unique wisdom as well. They lavishly showered all that surrounded them with flows of vast knowledge, sharing lore of a lifetime. I still treasure it dearly, even though years have passed.

All of them were painfully sensitive. They chose drugs and alcohol as the only aid for communication, since they couldn't connect with the majority of people. By using these crutches, they moved themselves further and further away from their circle of friends. All would take chemicals to bridge the gap in their communication with the group that their insecurities and fears made them suffer. However, that bridge was ephemeral and was soon replaced by hatred and rage. Despite the chemical consequences of these experiences, they held an old toxic excuse, indulging their urge of staying foggy. Meanwhile, their nervous systems would continue to be ravished by their multiple chemical interactions. Vexation, followed by deep depression, would be the first symptoms of these vulnerable souls. They would never admit their loneliness, which would continually affect them, irrespective of the presence of company. Their search for love and caresses kept them falling in and out of love. They would only be with individuals who shared their interests. But it's easier to create a fire with two stones rather than a love of two lonely souls. Nevertheless they would stick together like newborn puppies trying to achieve warmth by hiding their inner fears in the security of each others bodies. However, once estranged, there were no signs of pain or longing for the previous company. There were no involuntary displays of emotions as you would find in a dog having lost something beloved.

 I often wondered whether these souls were hopelessly lost. Was there the possibility for them to lead a normal life?

Here, we reached the heart of the issue. Everything we might call normal, they, in fact, despised. They opposed everything considered normal. In their childhood, many of them moped around, snickering at their peers' games. Instead they were thrilled to read adult books, forbidden to them at that time. No matter how brilliant and wise their folks could be, they couldn't control their children's distance. Some of them grew to be sharper than adults. The parents refused to accept that, instead punishing and suppressing their already suffering offspring. They continued treating and talking to them as juveniles, refusing to see the difference, between them and other peers.

I must mention the other type of adults with the well-known irrational behavior, who project their own frustrated ambitions onto children, while fighting their own demons.

If, at that period of time, they had paid more attention to their children's ambitions, helping them to develop and explore their interests, as well as caring for their physical health, then there might have been fewer addicts in the world.

Most addicts I knew were highly creative people, who never found the path to success. The lack of a method of self-expression directed them to drugs and alcohol. Use of these substances was the way they avoided facing the emptiness of their lives.

The question is, can anything stop these obsessions? Can they possibly relinquish alcohol or drug abuse? Certainly, and it partly depends on their friends. If someone that you know faces these kinds of problems, and you care enough to get involved, try to find out their ambitions and discuss them sincerely. Show your support and faith in their creativity. Help them to bring to life something special that they have been concealing. You may, indeed, be able to see immediate changes in their lives.

While I was scribing these notes, a girl I knew died from a heroin overdose in Miami. She was a 25-year-old model who came to the United States two years ago. I met her at a birthday party: a beautiful girl, full of life and energy. I detected no signs of drug use when I met her. I find it hard to believe that she is now dead. Perhaps if she had allowed someone inside her own closet, if she had shared her struggles privately with someone as that former addict had done openly with Oprah, perhaps the intervention of a friend could have saved her young life.

Victoria F. Lee


Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey