The New Age Addict


Once upon a time there were “drug addicts.” Drug addicts were sleazy, desperate characters we only saw in film noirdouble features – black-and-white sub-creatures who skulked around in dark alleys waiting for a “fix.” Men with golden arms, mainliners, intravenous heroin slammers; they had monkeys on their backs.

But today’s New Age Addict is no longer a member of this subset of criminal types, living outside the realm of society. Today’s addict is your mother, or your sister’s kid, the guy in the next cubicle, the neighborhood postman or the checkout girl at Wal-Mart. They don’t score their drugs on the street. They procure them from New Age Drug Pushers. This pusher isn’t a pimp or the creep that hangs out in schoolyards. The New Age Addict gets his fix from the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture his medication, from the pharmacies that distribute these drugs, the doctors that prescribe the painkillers, and the Internet that delivers it conveniently to your doorstep. The Culture of Addiction has been transformed. The paradigm has shifted from use by a marginal societal sub-culture of old-school drug addicts to an uber-culture of mainstream American Soccer Moms and high-functioning professionals.

The medicine cabinet in the master bath comes up empty. She pushes aside prescription bottles for sleep, acid reflux, anxiety and an assortment of minor aches and pains. The cap on her husband’s Rogaine is loose. As she dislodges bromides and Benzos from their rightful place on the shelf, several bottles tumble into the sink below, shattering.

Her eyes dart to the clock on the nightstand. Ten minutes. Her purse lays open on the bed as she crosses to it, her hand now digging deep into its abundant gathering of make-up accessories and miscellanea. But the object of the young woman’s inquiry still evades her as she dumps the full contents of the small sack across the comforter. Still nothing.

The steady tattoo of the clock’s digital pulse is dialed up. Time. Time.

“Where is it, dammit?”

A flicker of light in her tired eyes. She flies to the walk-in closet, a forest of plastic hangers. Her fingers dance frantically through the rack, patting down waistcoats and evening wear, knitwear and negligees – until yes – finally – in the breast pocket of a distressed denim jacket – bingo!

She removes the prescription bottle, cradling it in her hands. Nervously she unscrews the childproof cap, sliding two, no maybe this afternoon, yes three tablets from hand to mouth. No water necessary. No time.

As Courtney dashes from the bedroom she catches a glimpse of herself in the long closet mirror, hardly recognizing the harried face, shame obscuring the truth. She bolts down the winding stairs to the alcove below, snatching her car keys. As she flees through the front door, her hastily reassembled purse brushes against a bookshelf. The framed photograph of Bill and the kids wobbles precariously before falling to the floor, in shards.

The children, in clicks of two and three, pour out of Porter Middle School and into the adjacent parking lot, echoing squeals of joy and recess. Bobbi sees her mother’s mini-van at rest in its proper spot amid a long line of parent pick-up vehicles. She buffs the cheek of her best girlfriend and skips gleefully to her mother. She slides open the side door of the van, scooting into the seat behind Courtney.

Her mother turns, a broad smile plastered across her face. But the smile is frozen and empty, overshadowed by a glassy, distant stare in her eyes, a stare that seems to look right through her child, not seeing her at all.

— excerpted from The New Age Addict

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