Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Addiction and the Bolton Strid

I have noticed a trend recently. More and more obituaries including the cause of death of a young or middle-aged person, and that cause being a drug overdose ending a years-long hell of addiction. I read another story today about a beautiful young woman who in college tried heroin...tried it....tried it...and she was hooked.

The problem is that you don't know, when you try a drug, if you will get addicted. What sort of gamble is that?

In the north of England is a picturesque little creek called the Bolton Strid. It is, in this one area, only about 6 feet across. It looks innocent enough and people can be tempted to jump or wade across it. The problem is that nobody who has ever fallen in to the strid has survived. In fact, they don't even find the bodies. Apparently if you go about 100 yards upstream, the creek is about 30 feet wide. So, in effect, this quaint little creek is just the river turned on its side. Nobody knows how deep it goes or how many underground caverns there might be that hide the bodies that he waters gobble up. Nobody in their right mind would be fool enough to risk jumping across the strid, with so great a risk.

There isn't much of a difference, really, between hopping the Bolton Strid and trying heroin or meth or cocaine or opioids or, perhaps for those who are genetically predisposed, alcohol. It can be so tempting. The risk looks so small. It can promise so much.

I get it. I get the temptation of drugs. Maybe not of cocaine or meth. But there have been times in my life, quite recently in fact....ok.....to be honest...ongoing....I have times when I am so tempted to track down and gulp the leftover Percocet from some family member's surgery because I am in pain. Emotional pain. I just want to not hurt so bad. I want to not feel so intensely the despair or guilt or loneliness or hopelessness. It is just too much and I want it to stop, even just for a few hours. Yet I know that one pill could so very easily lead to another. And another. And those pills change your body and change your brain and before you know it you may never, ever be the same. That is truly terrifying to me.

I would imagine that on a hot day, a jump in the water would be nice. If you are worked up into a sweat, covered in mud, or perhaps dying of thirst, a babbling brook or a nearby river might seem like the answer to your prayers. You long to feel relief. The water calls.

When I look at pictures of the Bolton Strid I am appalled that there are no fences around that stretch of water. There are only signs warning people away. I noticed the same thing at the Niagara River, just above the falls. You can walk right down to the edge, jump in, and be gone. There is nobody there...nothing there...to protect you. You have to make the choice yourself. You have to make the decision to stay away from the edge. You have to keep yourself safe.

It makes me stop and wonder what can I do to keep myself safe? What about others? People I love? What sort of fences can I set up?

I am not an addict but I can see how I could easily be one. I've been known to flush the tempting substance down the toilet to prevent myself from covering my pain with pills. I read recently that the opposite of addiction isn't sobriety but connection. That is something to think about the next time the longing for immediate relief in the form of a substance rears its ugly head.