Not being a stranger to the allure of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, I’ve fought my darlings to a standstill and then to personal victories. But I’ve also seen friends fall and die because their wars seemed unwinnable when pitted against substance abuse.
But the strangest addiction I saw was the one Jason had. Never smoked, never drank, and never toked once. But he was as hooked as any of us. We couldn’t see the particular monkey that was always riding around on his shoulder. Jason didn’t need a connection, didn’t need a hookup or a dealer. He got his daily rev from the Boston Herald, the radio news, and the live “tape at ten” television news.
By the time he’d show up at the Harvard Gardens to join his friends, he was already tuned up and hopping mad. He’d sit there drinking a Coke while we sipped beer and report to us on the latest outrage. His face was beet red, fists clenched, and the cords in his neck stood out. We’d spend as much time talking him down off the wall as we might spend on a friend who was having a bad acid trip.
Then, after a while, we just gave up. It was a nightly affair, and if you’ve heard of compassion overload, that’s what happened to us. Then, finally, we couldn’t care anymore. We left Jason to his addiction to anger and rage because he needed more, and after a while, he started turning it against his friends.
I mention Jason because rage and anger addiction seems to be becoming the most popular form of cheap, addictive fix available to a growing section of the population. An entire media industry has grown up to provide the content needed to inflate blood pressure readings, stoke righteous indignation, and fuel binge hate sessions. Unlike the dealers and junkies of old, the purveyors of the new substances for abuse look neatly turned out, have impressive sets, and talk in level tones.
Eventually, just like the old-fashioned drugs, you become remade by your substances. John Dryden once said that: “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”