October 28, 2005 | Ronda Jambe

Junkies are the scum of the earth (2)

The good news is he’s been arrested again. The better news is this cycle hasn’t sent me into quite the same spiral as before. This time, I didn’t get sick. There were a few weeks of chasing around after him, meeting him to get him food, buy him groceries, encourage him and join him in a few drinks too many when I saw that he was using again.
But, hey, it’s been ok, compared to almost any time over the past ten years. And this time he actually did 3 months of rehab and conveniently got picked up before he reoffended.
The drug ‘experts’ talk about how junkies need to hit rock bottom…bla bla. Well, more like the parents (correction, that’s just me, his father hasn’t seen him in years, and doesn’t write or call) have to hit bottom and keep ratcheting down their hopes and expectations for their offspring. There is a sliding scale from believing your child is the centre of the universe, full of promise for humanity’s next step forward, to respecting their capabilities, to seeing their failings, to being disappointed with their activities, to wishing they would change, to becoming vague when asked about them, to outright shame. I’m one step below that, where all I have to cling to is that he is not a violent criminal. No armed robbery, no not my son, he’s got standards. And I am not my son. Guilt may haunt me, but he’s a jerk and I’m a boringly responsible (if somewhat wanky) intellectual type.
Of course, there is a humourous side to all this. To begin with, the Kafkaesque incompetence of our systems to deal with drug offenders can always be counted on to conflat the problem. The way he tells it, he showed up to his parole officer knowing his urine sample would be dirty. The next time he showed up, they said he couldn’t see his parole officer because he had a dirty urine sample. So why didn’t they arrest him then? Just showing up and asking to go into detox doesn’t work, there’s a waiting list. Not that I will moan about the lack of facilities for druggies, there is lots of help available, after all, it’s a serious industry.
Unfortunately, none of the interventions seem to work. But they do provide employment for a lot of unaccountable people. ‘They have to want to change’ is the standard line, because ‘it’s a disease’. But who gets over a disease by volition? Surely, that’s a contradiction. In the absense of a strongly enforced message that it is not ok to steal for your high, the only thing that brings an addict to change is an ageing body or death. The legal system is soft on junkies because it knows that the prison system just makes things worse.
Prison is the last resort for the stupid ones, like my son, who haven’t got an iota of self-respect or any other goals to pull them forward out of the mire. After ten years of trying to understand, I still conclude that junkies are basically infantile and colossally selfish. On some level, surely such selfishness equates with stupidity, regardless of IQ.
But even addicts can have a sense of self-preservation. My son doesn’t use while in prison. Why not, I asked once, since you have such a strong psychological desire to use? ‘Oh, they’d kill me’ he replied. Or, as his brother noted: you can’t run away from your dealer in prison. Thus, he is quite capable of making a rational decision not to use, when the risks are too high, even for him. Does that sound like a disease? Not by any definition I know.
My favoured approach is not politically correct: once a drug user starts committing crimes, they should be taken away to a facility in central Australia, where there is no hope of walking away. There they will learn a trade, cook, clean, study, whatever, for a long stretch. It would not be as harsh as a prison, but it wouldn’t be voluntary either.
And if, on release, with appropriate half-way measures and safeguards, they reoffend, it’s back to the cooler. For an even longer spell. Society deserves no less.
My reasoning is economic, social, medical, and humanitarian. Anyone who looked at my son’s legal, health, or police files, over ten years, would conclude that the cost has been enormous. He now has memory loss, induced epilepsy, Hep C. Not to mention the costs to those whose privacy and peace of mind he has violated. And who cares about the family, and any losses to their health or productivity?
How much better all around if he had been removed from society at the start. These views have been recently reinforced by reading an interview with one Theodore Dalrymple, http://www.cis.org.au/Policy/winter02/polwin02-5.htm, who it seems has seen more than his share of the dark side of human behaviour.
Does addiction really just amount to a pathological lack of civility?

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 11:52 am | Comments (6) |
Filed under: General


  1. Thank you for your article Rhonda. I was moved to tears by your frustration, your anger and your sadness.
    I have worked in the drug and alcohol field. I was brainwashed to believe that addiction is a disease. After some 25 years or so, I no longer buy the disease argument. Medicalising criminal sociopathic behaviour is a very poor excuse for downright egocentric and dishonest behaviour.
    I feel for you and I wish you well.

    Comment by Kay — October 29, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

  2. How can you people say that without having gone down that path yourselves. By way of backgound I haven’t use narcotics but have had various amphetamine. No matter how well manicured the lawns at home or luxury car or whatever there are many dysfunctional parents out there. There’s mine too and they’re just dysfunctional. Living near Burnside in Adelaide they run a business with an annual turnover of 7 figures, while I spend time at night in Kings X in Sydney. My brother was asked to join the business and has a sizeable stake, I was tossed out of the family as a transexual. No greater extreme contrast could be had then seeing the two of them years ago with wallets full of gold cards, hotel and auto rental cards and a QANTAS club pass while I had to think about what time I’d leave my tiny public housing apartment to go up to Kings Cross.

    Comment by Shaunna — October 31, 2005 @ 4:19 pm

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Rhonda. Now I know there are others out there. My heart goes out to all of you. I understand what it is like.

    Comment by Anne — October 31, 2005 @ 4:50 pm

  4. Shaunna, I was making the point that, in the end, we all have only one life, and if you decide to throw yours away, don’t let it be because you are jealous of your siblings, or mad at your parents, or upset over family lack of spirituality.
    It is your responsibility to find your own path, and I sincerely wish you well in finding it, just as I continue to support my son. But sometimes that means letting him know HE is contributing to the world’s problems, rather than an innocent victim.

    Comment by ronda — October 31, 2005 @ 6:11 pm

  5. Thanks Ronda your reply’s noted. Its been hard beyond anything in my imagination. Having to contemplate for 10 years that I will almost never be able to live in a lifestyle to which I was accustomed is something I still haven’t fully reconciled in my mind. It’s worse than starting poor and staying that way, it really is.
    Many people out there talk about family values especially conservatives, but only when it fits their mould. While to adopt a child or get a driving licence requires rigorous screening and testing, its a pity that to become a parent technically all you need to do is [well you know].
    I don’t doubt you care much and are deeply troubled by your son’s direction in life. Certainly a lot more than my folks would be about mine. And my brother doesn’t stand up for me, he’s absolutely useless he just wants their money and one day to be the sole owner of their Norwood, Adelaide based lifting equipment, materials handling and wire rope business. He wants it all on a silver tray and won’t let me stand in the way of his getting it.
    You speak of “junkies” being liars and manipulative individuals, well wake up lots of people with apparently respectable lives are also liars and manipulative individuals too, with their own agendas to pursue. The morality of some of the middle and upper classes isn’t much better and the only things separating them are money, location and perhaps types of drug use.
    Plenty of people with money also using illegal drugs, particularly pills eg ecstasy, cocaine and pot. Recently a cocaine using neurosurgeon in NSW confirmed allowed to continue to practise–he was arrested in QLD for cocaine possession. Plenty [though not most] of narcotic addicted doctors and nurses raiding the narcotic safe of fixing scripts for themselves, or diverting narcotics for their own consumption.
    My folks spent more money to put on appearances than actually to do with us. Like when us two kids went to good private schools but they didn’t pay for the big extras like ski trips and diving tours.

    Comment by Shaunna — November 2, 2005 @ 5:17 pm

  6. Rhonda, well I’ve went on down that path. I’m not blowing my trumpet here, but saying that I’ve escalated in my using. Its surprising to all except me that I find myself addicted to heroin. I don’t think much of my folks anymore, they’re just a distant memory. And as the cloud of narcotic-induced fog wafts over me in the early hours of every morning, nothing could be further from my mind. Well, I have no regrets, yet anyway. I have played with fire and its got me. As a side note, my folks are unaware of my latest situation.

    Comment by ShÄunna — January 16, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

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