Better Life on the Edge in a Rehab Clinic

Cracked: Putting Together Broken Lives in a Rehab Clinic is Dr. Drew Pinsky’s open account of the personal experiences of addicted patients treated for addiction in Las Acquete, Mexico City. The book’s first half chronicles the author’s years of teaching and research, during which time he became addicted himself. Then the second half brings together his years as a recovering addict and a therapist who have seen the worst of addicts. His own life story is the interesting contrast to Pinksy’s, as the former is outwardly focused on his work while the latter is more inward, dealing with the emotional after effects of his destructive behavior.

A lot of the book is spent talking about the physical aspects of the disorder-its symptoms and its causes. Much of the first few chapters opens with Pinksy’s description of the isolation and loneliness that many addicts endure in their recoveries, which he terms a “desolation syndrome.” The author also points out how some patients withdraw completely from the outside world and become unwilling to participate in activities, while others are more willing to try out new experiences. One of the most powerful scenes Pinksy writes about, after he becomes depressed following the death of his wife, takes place in the recovery room of his clinic, where a number of patients are sharing their story of drug addiction and their subsequent failures and successes.

For me, however, what makes Cracked: Putting Together Broken Lives in a Rehab Clinic so well-written is its focus on the personal lives of the addicts and clients, instead of just generalizations on ‘drugs’ and ‘addicts.’ Some people get hooked on alcohol or drugs for totally different reasons; some people start off using drugs because they are desperately trying to quit smoking but don’t last. It’s understandable if you’ve experienced all these different kinds of addictions, but it can be difficult to write about them without being too descriptive. I found the book very inspiring and a good place to start thinking about my own experiences. In fact, I read part of the book while waiting for my daughter to detox at a drug treatment facility near us.

It was interesting to me how crack cocaine addicts were grouped together and described as a ‘cluster.’ The reason that the author chose to do this, I think, was so he could make a psychological point about the power of association – the power of the drug and the power of the addict. He wanted to demonstrate that people in recovery from crack addiction are unique and have their own needs and personalities. It shows a kind of socialization, but his point is still valid.

In his description of crack cocaine addicts, Pinksy draws a distinction between those who are ‘hated’ and those who are loved. Although some drug users do have a drug enthusiast attitude, the vast majority of crack cocaine addicts in recovery have a totally different attitude and are often quite happy to be drug free. I think it’s pretty clear from this description that Pinksy is saying that those who choose to use drugs, even if they are not suffering from an addiction, should not be pitied, or castigated. This may seem to be an attitude shared by many who read his book, but I disagree.

When I was in treatment for crack addiction, I was hounded by the staff. My therapist would ask me why I had been using drugs, constantly referring back to my social life and work, which I detested. He made me feel guilty for being a ‘writer,’ a ‘hypnotist,’ and a person ‘with a mind,’ even though I had been sober for over fifteen years. All this was done in an attempt to make me feel bad about myself and make me feel stupid for my decision to become addicted to crack. It was sickening.

The same thing happened to me when I was co-addicted to crack cocaine for twelve years. I was always told that being a ‘white trash’ or ‘recycle smoker’ was not a good thing. People were literally trying to ostracize me from society because of my addiction to crack cocaine. This went on for years, until I was able to detox from crack cocaine and enter into a truly drug-free existence.

If someone is saying that being drug free is better than having a cracked life on the edge in a rehab clinic, I can honestly say that I don’t agree. I think it’s crazy that people will spend millions of dollars trying to make people with severe addictions to cocaine or crack alcohol have better lives. They should spend that money instead sending junk food to kids in schools, wasting tax dollars on abstinence programs, and making it harder for addicts to find jobs. I’ve been through every last one of these programs, and they haven’t worked for me. It’s time that we as an entire society start to realize that there are better ways to handle drug addiction.