Don’t Get Wasted — Get Busy!


It has been over ten years since my husband and I visited this often-quiet community in Nevada.  Gambling, resorts, a legal whorehouse not far out of town, pawn shops, bars; standard Nevada. Only the faintest echoes of the silver boom, people grasping for the romance, the all-night party feeling.  We are not big gamblers, but we did some shows, and the party feeling was good for a weekend.

That was ten years ago.  Now, there are a bunch of people looking for free beer, not caring about its quality.  People talking about getting “wasted” and nobody, but nobody, talking about having “fun” doing it. There is a pall over the gambling halls.  People are counting their pennies on 99cent specials.  There are certainly no echoes whatsoever of the silver boom, and no evidence of romance, and only two or three people sitting in a room full of slot machines.

Some of what I do is very analytical.  I actually figure out how many mg. of medication or supplement someone needs as a function of their weight.  I think of the chemical reactions in their body that are either not working at all, or are working overtime. Some of what I do–sometimes I am surprised to know just how much and how effective it is–is feeling; is intuitive.  Whether we are where the rich people go or where the poor people go, I feel fear.  I am sure that this fear comes from feeling that the economy is “bad.”

I feel from my patients what I see on the streets.

I was happy to see that at least one therapist, all the way across the country, had observed similar things in both his rich and poor patients. Fear feeds addiction with a mind-numbing efficiency.  Where once I saw only a couple from the frat-boy crowd going for getting “wasted,” now I think there is a mind-numbing amount of people of all ages and walks of life who are genuinely interested in numbing their consciousness to the point that they are using it almost as a suicide equivalent. Life is too mind-numbing so just numb the mind.  Why deal with challenges? It is so easy to blind oneself to oblivion, and buy some numb time.

Of course, I am convinced our friends in Nevada have “tightened up” their games, especially their slot machines.  A vicious circle.  Those who dive for some “magic” save from their fear, make their own situation worse.

All right, so the economy is rotten.  The individual does not appear to have a tremendous amount of control. Since I am strictly never give up and never surrender, I am not going to let anyone who actually speaks to me feel rotten.  I certainly will not let them make me feel rotten, and believe me, this kind of feeling is pretty damned contagious. There is one line I always like from the Christian televangelist, Dr. Robert Schuller. “Tough times never last but tough people do.” This is not a “Christian” sentiment by any means.  It says that people are more durable than circumstance.  The first prerequisite for this is simply living long enough to see that most social problems; and I mean enormous ones like war and recession; end up getting solved. Despite the apparent ineptitude of individual leaders. I think one of the other prerequisites for this being true is not being wasted. People have to be sentient. People have to be fighting.

I have seen many people who are coming out of their problems through individual ability to deal with circumstances. It does not have to be brilliant or require a genius IQ.  The first example that comes to mind is really quite humble.  I think of a single mother of two on antidepressants whom I saw at a clinic a while ago.  She ran an employment agency for a while.  She could not make it work because she did not have any jobs to send people to.  When I saw her she was neatly dressed, in clothes she told me she had bought at a discount at WalMart, where she was now working.  Make no mistake-she did not particularly like working at WalMart, and whatever profits she made were minimized by her child care costs but she persevered.  Her son was delivering newspapers.  Her daughter was selling crafts.  They were in a smaller apartment.  She told her kids this was not going to last forever, and she sounded like an endless fountain of hope.  She was advancing at WalMart.  She was pretty humble about it but I was convinced she would be managing things pretty soon.

Whatever she was, she was not wasted.

My usual way of solving problems has been intellectual.  Good God, look at any kind of history and the bad stuff ends. But who survives? Belief is the strongest thing anybody has to make it through.  I am not going to talk right now about beliefs that hurt other people.  I have seen people lean on traditional faith.  Religion works for many. I have seen people lean on faith in themselves.  It is hard to maintain in a world where outside forces are constantly bombarding each individual on earth to keep their self-esteem as low as possible, to keep them spending money and buying things and constantly doing things to serve others before themselves.

To serve oneself is the most noble of pursuits, especially if the world, financially or otherwise, is so in-stable that even personal identity is thrown into question. You have to know who you are before you can reinvent yourself. It is hard to reinvent yourself in the face of fear.  Another job, another profession, another skill set; all of these things can improve the status of the individual in the face of fear or instability. Quiet desperation is not much of a solution, but socially aberrant behavior is worse.  I think people are doing criminal things,  I think they are more angry, and more abusive, and in all the reports I see or hear or take care of; there is this way, this horrible aberrant way, of dealing with fear, especially with economic fear.

I feel this.  I hear it and see it but most of all I feel it, in the public area of a nice gambling area in Nevada where I should not feel or see these things.  In the clinics of California the patients seem more angry and more desperate.

So to the angry and desperate–maybe some of you can “suck it up” like the former director of an employment agency who is now rising in the WalMart hierarchy. For those who can’t, do not squander your remaining brain cells on addiction, or even on anger. Now is the time to take risks. There is a body of knowledge in the world.  Do the best you can to find it and to make it your own. Then,take a risk. Try to start a business or get some new skills or reinvent yourself. Find one of the needs around you and fill it.  It should be easier, in this strange nihilistic attitude of fear, to reinvent yourself, to take personal risk, to take charge of your life. The wanting to be “wasted” is the way of cowards, in a time when it is possible heroes can be made. Become one.

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