One thing I always knew when I published my memoir was that there would be people who did not like it. It’s not exactly a Lifetime Movie of the Week thing. It is filled with despicable acts on my part, gross abuses of trust, and I live with the fact that I did irreparable damage to those closest to me. It is written in a style that will make English teachers cringe. Sometimes it is disjointed, and hard to follow. The mind of an addict is not exactly easily defined. What I was not expecting was a personal attack by a stranger, a pharmacy professor at that.
“I am so upset I sent money in for this book, as I know I just contributed to his drug habit.”
Excuse me? How does someone in Rhode Island I have never met or spoken to make such a statement? Worse, this is someone who has direct contact with future pharmacists, and while my reality may differ in the fact that I ended up moving beyond pharmaceutical opiates and into heroin, being in professional monitoring programs while I still had a license, I met plenty of pharmacists that shared the disease of addiction. A friend from my graduating class intentionally overdosed. This is reality.
Since releasing the book, I have spoken with numerous deans and pharmacists and been given a lot of support. It’s not about these people, the ones willing to admit the dirty little secret needs some exposure. It’s the schools that remain silent that scares me more. This notion, one I told myself long ago, that an educated pharmacist is above addiction, is foolhardy at best. Speaking with the foremost expert on the topic, the numbers do not lie. 85% will go through life without a problem. Maybe 15% is not a big enough number to care. In 2008, there were 269,900 registered pharmacists in the US. What’s 40,485 casualties? Apply the same number (it is pretty constant) to other fields with easy access, like nurses and doctors, and maybe the number grows to a level that garners some attention.
There is a host of issues that comes along with addiction, one of which is painfully obvious from comments like the one I received, is the leper-like stigma that comes by admitting one has a problem. I seem to remember a certain group that were thought of as infallible, and their downfall from hiding all those sins. Since most addicts already suffer from a lack of self-esteem, assumptions and judgments only serve to undermine the recovery process.
Maybe it is my disgust for ignorance that has me pissed off. I really don’t know. A friend of mine asked me how I could deal with such a negative review. Basically I told her I just remember the hundred strangers who have written me or spoken with me directly, to thank me for sharing my story. Much like my life, it is certainly possible to turn a negative into a positive, and the irony of such a close minded attack coming from a pharmacy professor makes it that much sweeter in the end.
I wrote a reply to her, and tried to not let emotions get in the way. For the most part I succeeded, but still had to take a jab at her for poor math skills. The basis of her issue was I released the book with “not even 5 months clean.” Actually, it was 7 months, you’d think a college professor could count. Today, I have 9 and a half months clean. More importantly, I have equal time in recovery. The idea of clean time equating to recovery demonstrates a basic lack of knowledge when it comes to understanding addiction. Not to mention, someone with 10 years clean, started the same way I did, with a single day. A friend of mine wrote this reply to her, but since she did not buy the book through Amazon, couldn’t leave a reply.
“I would just like to ask this “Pharmacy Professor” what kind of book did you think you were ordering? This is a NON-FICTION book which means it tells the whole true, gritty story of drug addiction. This is not a subject you can tie up into a pretty little box and have a fairy tale ending…this is not Hollywood. Drug addiction is a disease that ruins lives not only for the addict but all who love them. Most don’t ever make it to sobriety and it is a minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day struggle to stay that way. As a nurse and mother of 3 children and wife to a narcotics police officer, I found this story to be compelling and heartbreaking, through all that Michael has experienced and lost. Drug addiction knows no financial, cultural or racial barriers! I suggest that this “Professor” take some more classes on drug addiction and ethics!”~ Kim T.
It is nice to have this kind of support. And to be reminded not everyone is going to be willing to accept that reality is many shades of gray. It is unsettling to know there is a possibility that a person who is serving the public good may just may have a problem. Ignore it all you want, reality is, as Kim says, not a Hollywood movie. Do you try to catch cancer at the earliest point possible, or do you allow it to spread throughout the body until it is too late?
“Action and faith enslave thought, both of them in order not be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism, and doubt.” ~ Henri Amiel