I didn’t read much news yesterday, so I didn’t learn of the death of Dolores O’Riordan, who was the lead singer of The Cranberries, one of my favorite bands of the mid-1990s, until today. My favorite song of theirs was always Salvation. It was a fast, almost punk song that seemed inspired by The Ramones in execution. Like most music in my life, I moved on and this was one song I kind of forgot about. Radio still plays Linger and Zombie, but much of the rest of The Cranberries catalog is ignored. A few years back, just as I was starting with recovery, I somehow rediscovered the song. Twenty years later it was amazing how it was more pertinent than ever. While heroin wasn’t my addiction, this was the most direct song about addiction I’ve heard and I still listen to it when I need a little boost of energy and affirmation.
Back when I was just starting as a reporter at a newspaper in 1994 or 1995, I fielded a telephone call from somebody who was claiming that their neighbor was doing all kinds of ridiculous stuff to their property. It was a great story, they told it well and I thought it would make for great copy in the next day’s newspaper.
My editor looked at me like I was wasting his time before 10 words got out of my mouth. He asked, “Have they filed a complaint with the police?” I didn’t know, so called the person back. They said they hadn’t. I asked if they were going to. He said that he hoped a story in the newspaper would be enough to shame the guy into behaving. He didn’t really want to get the police involved. I told my editor and he said we wouldn’t be pursuing it. Until the caller was going to document his claim through official channels, we wouldn’t be reporting about it.
Twenty-two years later, apparently Twitter is now an official channel.
I’m having a deep reaction to the ongoing news cycle of sexually inappropriate behavior in Hollywood, Washington and elsewhere, but I guess as someone who was very well-known in his little corner of the world when a similar thing happened to me – coupled with the pings of PTSD I get when talking about it – it would be more surprising if I wasn’t having a reaction.
First things first: Anybody who has criminally violated anybody else sexually should be held accountable in a court of law for their actions, as I was. It shouldn’t matter if it was 25 days or 25 years ago. Statutes of limitations are ridiculous in these cases. How is it that if a perpetrator does something wrong and then outlasts a clock, they get away with it?
I am grateful for the intervention of law enforcement officials which led to my intense introduction to recovery and the journey I continue on today, nearly four years later. I hope that the famous and powerful men who have committed these crimes are able to seriously devote themselves to understanding why they made the choices they did and how to refrain from making them in the future.
I did most of what I was accused of (which you can read about in plenty of other blog entries) and never denied it to police. While I did plead not guilty at first, it was a procedural move made at the advice of my lawyer that 99.9% of defendants make to hopefully end up with a more favorable outcome.
One of the things that I’m feeling watching these stories come out is the sense of helplessness for some of these men who perhaps did not break the law, but made horrible choices, not recognizing the consequences and who will now be paying for it for the rest of their lives. I feel even more helpless for the men who have been accused of either inappropriate or criminal behavior, but perhaps didn’t do it at all.
Take for instance, the case of Charlie Sheen. A friend of Corey Haim, who has been dead nearly a decade, claims that Haim told him that when Haim was a young teen on the set of the 1980s movie Lukas, a much-older Charlie Sheen had sex with Haim. Sheen denied these charges and even Haim’s mother said she knows it wasn’t true.
Ignoring Sheen’s reputation as a womanizer for the last two decades, there appears to be nothing to this case other than a friend of someone who has been dead for years making an unprovable claim. Even Corey Feldman, who is championing a movie to expose pedophiles in Hollywood and was Haim’s best friend, said that he had nothing to support the story.
But can you ignore Sheen’s reputation over the last 20 years? Isn’t that the part that makes the claim seems plausible? If this was a different actor with no womanizing reputation, would you have a harder time accepting it on its surface?
If the assumption is that any person can write anything on Twitter and it is 100% true, we no longer have a need for a criminal justice system. The same goes for any report in the media, whether it’s a liberal or conservative outlet. Reading Twitter reaction or comment sections on various websites shows that this wave of stories is little more than just another tool by which to bash the opposition.
Following my arrest, before I ever made a court appearance, before any evidence ever went to a grand jury or a judge, my case was tried in the court of public opinion. The public didn’t, and still doesn’t know what actually went down and what I did or didn’t do, but for a significant segment of people, those facts were insignificant details. If I had actually been wrongly accused, I don’t think things would have been all that different.
At some point in the near future, this cycle of news stories will slow down. Hopefully workplace culture will change for the better. People behaving criminally sexual need to be brought to justice more often. People like Louis CK – who seemingly didn’t do anything criminal – but based on his position of power made highly inappropriate choices, will hopefully get the message this kind of thing won’t be tolerated any more.
Whether it’s a fiercely conservative, older southern white guy running for office or it’s an openly gay, liberal Asian actor from the most famous science fiction show of all-time (Roy Moore and George Takai, respectively), when we are given a denial, it should then be up to the legal system to prove guilt. In the court of public opinion, I’ve seen people crucifying and vigorously defending both men. The “truth” has little to do with the facts (since all we really have is hearsay) and more to do with what each stands for philosophically.
What will last longer than this news cycle is what continues to happen: We keep moving in a direction where ideas like burden of proof and presumption of innocence being cornerstones of our society and system continue to erode. We are quickly becoming a world where all you have to do is point a finger to take somebody down, justifiably or not, and that’s not a good thing.
More than ever before, I cringe when I hear a politician talk about addiction. Sure, there are plenty serving who are probably hiding addictions to alcohol, gambling, sex or whatever, but these are often the same politicians who rally against help the loudest. I’m not going to get on my soapbox about this hypocrisy today, however.
I cringe because, as I wrote in the most recent blog, if you have not experienced addiction, there is no way to truly understand how it feels inside. At best, the non-addict can see the pain of it in the addicted and witness the fallout of addiction-related decision making. Addiction is a problem, but it’s unlike any other problem out there.
We are now facing an opioid epidemic like never before. Politicians think they can solve the problem, or at least want to tackle it, but they don’t understand the problem to begin with.
There is a logical solution any economist could give you. It’s been proven going after drug dealers doesn’t work. If you want to end the sale of opiates or any other illegal substance, you simply lock-up everyone who has been nabbed using them. The drug user is the customer. If there are no customers, the industry ceases to exist and the dealers have to look elsewhere to make their money. Every industry that has died has seen its customers go away. Why wouldn’t that work here?
The problem to this solution is that plenty of people won’t get arrested and of those who do, they’ll get released someday. If you have an addiction, even if it has strayed into illegal territory, as long as you haven’t harmed another, you shouldn’t be doing a second of jail time. I was not in this category. I deserved what I got because I hurt people with my crime.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert because while I’m an alcoholic, I have never had an issue with drugs beyond a lot of pot smoking in my early 20s, prior to be properly medicated for bipolar disorder. But, I spent a combined 5 months at inpatient rehabilitation facilities and 6 months in jail living side-by-side with drug addicts.
Addicts have a lot in common. Science suggests that regardless of the addiction, the same basic chemical process happens in the brain. Granted, certain addictions won’t cause the additional physical risk of using drugs, but that undying, incontrollable urge to use drugs is something that any addict can relate to and understand.
Addiction is a symptom of a bigger problem. I can’t remember what book I read it in at this point, but it said something like less than 10% of those suffering with addiction don’t have some kind of mental health issue and/or major trauma in their past. These may both go undiagnosed and unrecognized in the user for years, but they’re present. My understanding of my mental health issues came more than a decade before I was able to admit to and address the trauma that happened in my life as a child.
People without addiction seem to think that if you treat the symptom, the problem will go away. You’d think with almost 40 years of clearly failed drug policy in the United States, they’d go a different route, but the things that all addicts need are the not the things that get votes.
We can stereotype and guess at what our politicians’ stances on mental health and/or addressing trauma are, but do you actually know their positions? Do they know their positions? Does anybody know what’s really being done and how success is being measured? I’m among the 99.999% who can say no, I don’t.
You can deal with a sick tree by poking at its leaves. If the illness is in the roots, all you’re doing is landscaping. If all you’re doing to deal with an addict, drug or otherwise, is trying to get them to stop taking whatever substance or engaging in whatever behavior is your perceived issue with them, all you’re doing is putting a Band-Aid on a gaping, infected wound. It needs to be treated at the source.
I’m not going to get into a giant philosophical partisan political debate because it doesn’t actually solve anything. There are a couple of organizations in this world that have the resources — the money, the brain power, the infrastructure — to solve the great problems that face mankind, but they don’t. The United States government is one of them. A war on drugs, or any addiction, may get votes, but will never work. If we’re going to get to a new level of understanding and solutions with addiction, it needs to be viewed as a humanitarian effort.