Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: Lindsay Lohan

Is It OK to Make Fun of Lindsay Lohan’s Addiction?

In a meeting the other day a woman who hardly ever speaks piped up:

“Why is it OK to make fun of Lindsay Lohan’s addiction?”

The television show Glee had Gwyneth Paltrow playing a substitute Spanish teacher trying to “make it fun” for the students by including pop-culture references: “Lindsay Lohan is really crazy, right? repeat! … How many times has Lindsay Lohan been to rehab? Five times!”

Lohan is currently doing a court-ordered stint at the Betty Ford Center after having failed a drug-test on probation.

But my friend at the meeting had a larger point.

“We’re the last group of people in society that it’s OK to make fun of in public,” she said. “Everyone knows it’s wrong to call a gay person a ‘fag,’ but anyone can still call an addict a ‘junkie,’ and nobody cares.”

Lindsay LohanI thought about it. I have no particular affinity for or aversion to Lindsay Lohan as an actor or a person. I’ve never seen her in a film so I don’t know her work—all I know is that she’s a rich famous young woman living very publicly with addiction.

People no longer hop on television and make fun of, say, gays or minorities or women. Listen to old comedy stuff—Steve Martin’s Let’s Get Small, for example (and Steve Martin was pretty tame for his time), or practically anything from the 1970s—and you’ll hear all kinds of references to these groups that would never fly in a routine today because of the awareness that gay-ness is not a choice but a state of being, that minorities don’t like to hear themselves denigrated in public, much less pay to do it.

But there’s still a great deal of ignorance that addiction is an illness. People continue to believe it’s a moral weakness, as evidenced by the lack of social prohibition against calling addicts “junkies” and “crackheads” and “drunks” in common conversation. A non-addict calling an addict a “junkie” is like a straight person calling a gay person a “fag” or a “dyke.” (It’s even more similar to a mentally healthy person calling a mentally ill person “crazy” or a “nut”—which people do quite often.)

The Glee bit doesn’t make sense in another way, either. Society requires Lohan to get help, and then rips her to shreds for getting it.

The deep prejudice it reveals is this: society does not believe addicts are people who need help. The belief is that “junkies” are people who need to be segregated away from the rest of society. In other words, locked up. In jails or institutions.

Which is where we wind up if we keep using.

But to stop using—when we try to stop—we need help, not ridicule or contempt.

Help was the miracle for me. I asked, and I got it. Miracle.

The stigma of addiction: Do addicts in recovery get better?

The stats and comments show that you guys like it when I write about current events. So I spent a couple hours trawling my Gmail news alerts this morning… Because I have an alert set for “Vicodin,” I’ve got lots of news about the new season of “House” (House apparently kicked his Vicodin habit, though at the end of last season in a moment of crisis he ran to his bathroom for a secret stash he’d hidden? and Cuddy walked in and they got it on?—I dunno).

Also big news: Lindsay Lohan has failed a random drug test (cocaine) and may be sent back to jail. This after it was “determined” a few weeks back that she didn’t actually have a problem with drugs, her problem was “just” with her erratic upbringing. So much for court-appointed psychiatric evaluations.

Also: many, many car-stops all over the country, with troopers pulling down stashes of up to 16 lbs. of brown heroin (Illinois), plus eight grand in cash and hundreds of Oxycontin pills (Ohio), and the usual odd numbers of Vicodin, Lorcet and subutex, and whatnot.

But the story I liked most was the one in the Kennebec Journal about the halfway house for recovering alcoholics they’re thinking about opening in Jefferson, Me.

Jefferson is a little town about 45 miles west of Camden, a seaside resort in what is known as “mid-coast”—north of the beaches at the southern tip of the state, and south of Acadia and Bar Harbor. Jefferson is in Lincoln County and it rang a bell because I’ve been to those parts—we’ve sometimes driven from our Appalachian-foothill town to Maine for vacations, and we usually stay near Belfast, a fishing town just north of Camden (and less touristy).

Maine pond ducks

My boy several years ago, watching the ducks on the mid-coast pond we sometimes visit.

When we go up there we fall into Maine habits, one of which: we leave the house without locking the doors.

Some of the good folks of Jefferson are afraid that having “addicts” as their neighbors will mean that they have to start using their keys. They’re afraid that if the residents get kicked out of their supervised-living situation, they’ll be dumped to roam the streets of Jefferson (which, apparently, they’ve been promised will not happen: residents who fail drug-tests will be taken to the hospital).

I was heartened to see how many comments were filed supporting the project.

Wake up—people that are addicts, alcoholics, etc. are your neighbors. You have been living a sheltered life if you think you’re any better than any of these people.

A rural facility is the best place for a bunch of drunks. I’m one so I feel safe to speak up on this. I’ve gone to AA for 13 years. Prefer to live at home, thank you. But there are many that don’t have a home in the first place. There must be a safe place to start the journey.

There were also those who had, shall we say, less sympathy:

Bring em on. My wrong answer stick is loaded and waiting.

(For godsake)

Success rates for these programs is at best about 15 percent. Addicts are not parasites, they are predators. … Trying to help an addict is a black hole that can easily suck good people in at their peril.

I’ve written something similar elsewhere: “it’s almost impossible to help an active addict who doesn’t want to be helped.”

I’ve sat across tables from people who have said to me, “I want to stop drinking, I need to stop drinking, but I can’t stop drinking—what can I do??”

When I was using and saying to myself, “I want to stop using, I need to stop using, but I can’t stop using,” I wasn’t ready to stop using, pure and simple. I hadn’t had enough. And yeah, my addiction made me into someone who sometimes manipulated, lied, and stole, but who more often was simply passive in her own life and who was by times quite emotionally unstable. A “predator”? No. A sick person.

But someone who is ready, who has put together sober time, and who wants help? Who has willingness?

These are two different people. Quite literally. The person I was when I was using bears little resemblance to the person I am now.

This is hard for me to live with sometimes. It makes me feel strange, as though I have dissociative-identity disorder—what they used to call “multiple-personality.” Is that person hiding inside me? Will she take over again? … Do I get to indulge in the loathing I have for her, because of the things she did?

I was talking to a young newcomer recently who said they had regrets. They were talking about how much they hated themselves for the things they’d done while using. … This is one of the ways I get not to hate myself. I get to tell a new person I did the same things—or the same kinds of things. They look at me: 45, articulate, put-together, married with a kid, and hear me talk about the shit I pulled, the ways I fell down, and they get to have hope that they’ll be able to pick themselves back up and also let go of the self-hatred.

And the married with a kid… I don’t take this for granted.

“Babe,” I said last night as we were drifting off at 10:30.

“Huh?”

“Oh never mind,” I said.

“I wish I had a hot dinner for every time you’ve cut yourself off like that,” he said. “Why do you censor yourself?”

“Because it’s 10:30, and I know you’re gonna just tell me it’s too late to talk about it,” I said.

“Why?” he said. “Is it a philosophical question?”

“Kind of,” I said.

“Oh Christ.”

We lay there in silence and I thought maybe he was dozing off again when he said, “Out with it, then!”

“Well…” I said. “When I told you I was an addict and was in recovery and all that, and it turned out that I’d been addicted all that time and wasn’t able to understand it, and basically deluded you and myself and everything, why didn’t you just leave me?”

He didn’t pause even for a second. “Because you were IN RECOVERY,” he said. “And people in recovery get better.”

Lindsay Lohan’s doing Adderall, Ambien, and Dilaudid

So, I never imagined myself to be the kind of writer who documents the lives of celebrities, but this is an interesting case that illustrates a trend happening all over the country.

Lindsay Lohan’s probation report was released today and it says she’s taking five powerful prescription drugs: Adderall (for attention-deficit disorder); Ambien (for insomnia); Zoloft (for depression); Trazodone (for depression and insomnia); and—get this—Dilaudid, prescribed after she had her wisdom teeth out in early June.

Dilaudid is a Schedule II opioid painkiller that’s roughly four times more powerful than morphine. In other words, it’s some heavy shit, and dentists and oral surgeons don’t usually prescribe heavy shit for that kind of pain. Where I come from, they usually write for a few Tylenol #3 or Vicodin with no refills and tell you to give your gums the good old saltwater rinse. Prescribing Dilaudid for post-wisdom-tooth extraction pain is like sending in the A-bomb for the proverbial anthill.

Asking for Dilaudid for that kind of thing?

If you’re Lindsay Lohan, you can probably get what you want. You can be persuasive one way or another.

More and more people are taking drugs they’re getting from a variety of doctors, and mixing them with each other, and with alcohol. The belief is rampant that because a drug is prescribed by a doctor—because it is a prescription drug—it’s not dangerous.

The belief is that the Real Dangerous Drugs are the ones that Homeless Junkies shoot under the bridge.

Actually?—the Real Dangerous Drugs are the ones in your medicine cabinet. They’re pure and they’re quality-controlled to do their jobs.

One job of morphine, by the way, is to treat “dyspnea,” or the labored breathing that people experience when they’re dying. The “death rattle.” Because morphine—all opioids, actually—slow down your breathing.

And you take too much of any opioid, and/or mix it with other stuff like Ambien, Valium, or alcohol, and your breathing can stop (this is what, for example, Heath Ledger did).

The strength and reliability of these drugs is one reason prescription drug abuse is the most rapidly growing drug problem in this country. According to a statement by the International Narcotics Control Board earlier this year, 6.2 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs. Many of these people are doing things like taking painkillers such as Dilaudid for toothache, mixing them with Adderall (speed) and Ambien (major downer) and knocking those back with a cocktail at, say, the MTV Music Awards.

You mix too many chemicals like this and yes—you will wind up depressed and anxious, with insomnia, and some physical pain, plus maybe gastric reflux. This sends you to the doctor, who gives you more pills (Trazodone, Zoloft, Nexium… all of which Lindsay, according to her probation report, is taking).

Lindsay, Lindsay… who since 2004 has had how many cosmetic-surgery procedures?—and did each one come with its subsequent painkiller prescription? I’ve known addicts who would get teeth pulled unnecessarily so they could get pills; in L.A. it’s just as easy (maybe easier) to go to your plastic surgeon.

Unfortunately it looks as though Lindsay will be able to keep getting her drugs while she’s in jail, because they’re prescribed by a doctor. Hopefully, for her sake, once she reaches rehab, that’ll change.

Lindsay Lohan sentenced to 90 days in jail + rehab

California Superior Court Judge Marsha Revel is obviously trying to raise the bottom for Lindsay Lohan—whose latest, widely reported stunt was drinking while wearing an ankle alcohol monitor during the MTV Music Awards last month.

Revel today sentenced Lohan to 90 days in jail followed by another 90 in inpatient rehab, not for the MTV escapade but for skipping alcohol-education classes during her probation.

Prosecutors had sought a month of jail. Revel apparently thought Lohan was not taking her probation “seriously” enough, so she tripled that suggestion, which made Lohan cry before the court—raising her hands to her eyes, revealing a tiny “FUCK YOU” painted onto the middle finger of her left hand, caught by discerning television cameras the world over. Classic.

Is doing time in a suburban L.A. jail really gonna teach Lohan anything about her addiction? Chances are dodgy enough that rehab will, especially if (imo) it’s anything less than a six-month stint. Most active addicts and alcoholics will use and drink despite almost any external circumstance.

So what will make the difference for this lost girl? Because I really wonder.

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