While many of us think the world of drugs is a foreign war, commentator Rawlins Gilliland says the heavy combat hits close to home.
As was the 1950s custom, my parents tossed cocktail parties. These clever occasions quickly became a freethinking cavalcade of glamorously clad moderns. But even as a guileless child, I could sense darker substance elements being added to the mix as the once witty regulars began losing their looks, seeing their fortunes decline; ruining their lives while taking those who loved them collateral hostage. It was scary to witness this window into the American future where the means to an end is one’s drug of choice.
Our parents were attractive, articulate, educated professionals. Yet compulsions to alter reality became their downfall. Mother developed full-blown addictions to prescribed painkillers while Dad’s drinking became anything but social. When she died in 1973, her second husband said Mother had more than fifteen hundred individual prescribed pills in her bathroom drawers. When Father died three years later, I found empty half-pint whisky bottles in his sport coat jackets.
The original battle many of us waged was combating alcohol-dependent self-destruction. But beginning in the 1980s, the war games changed when cocaine and its new-age derivatives began decimating America ’s urban underbelly. This century’s recreational drug culture gone stealth more nearly replicates those parties I watched as a child. Where the once giddy trajectory became a nosedive of beautiful people invisibly trapped.
Not long ago, a charming thirty-something upscale urbanite drove me past a small sweet house that was overgrown and plainly abandoned. He shared with me how lovely it was two years earlier when he lived and loved there. How the neighbors thanked them for passionately creating a verdant floral landscape haven. Describing how all was lost after alcohol and cocaine engulfed him, I achingly recalled a poignant classic ballad called ‘A Cottage For Sale’ whose lyrics sing:
“Our little dream castle with every dream gone is lonely and silent, the shades are all drawn”.
The man showing me this could not imagine me recalling the identical look as his on my father’s face as Dad reflected about my childhood home. A ‘band box’ he’d call it, before his and Mother’s decline into numbing retreat echoed further lyrics in that song:
The lawn we were proud of is waving in hay. Our beautiful garden has withered away.
The morning after that reflective drive-by, a CEO friend in Ohio killed herself with vodka and the over-prescribed hydrocodone painkiller Vicodin after countless bouts in costly rehab. Hearing her prisoner of the drug wars husband tell me their custom home is approaching foreclosure, I heard the final lyrics in that song that always broke my heart:
Where we planted roses the weeds seem to say, "A cottage for sale."
And I sighed thinking how many wounded people we have known and loved who know that tragic tune by heart.
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.