When the Smell of Death Surrounds You
“Angel of darkness is upon you
Stuck a needle in your arm (you fool, you)
So take another toke, have a blow for your nose
One more drink, fool, would drown you. (Hell, yeah)”
--- Lynyrd Skynyrd: That Smell
Ever hit the bottom?
Ever been close?
Ever been to that place that surrounds you with total bleakness? Where even the concept of hope has been banished? Where you are hanging your head so low, you can’t even raise it high enough to see the murderous Indians charging over the hill toward you; bows raised, arrows poised, to put you out of your misery?
Sinking into a miasma of pain can take on many forms. Addiction. Medical problems. Death of a loved one. Failure of a marriage. Self loathing.
If all five hit you at one time, would you survive?
I wouldn’t answer that one too quickly. That’s a lot to absorb, for anyone. Even God might settle for overcoming just three out of five.
You ever give off that odor of decay, where your dying soul is screaming for a quick burial, and other people, in a glance, just KNOW?
Probably more than once. If you miss the glance, you probably think no one notices. You think you are skating by anonymously, dying a little more each day, assuming all people are rubes and oblivious to your pain.
You’re wrong. Only sociopaths can wear that type of mask. The rest of us may try to hide our cards, but there is almost always a telltale sign. Humans are atavistic animals. We sense fear, can smell failure, and impending death is as obvious to us as a hammer to the bridge of the nose.
“Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars
oak tree you're in my way
There's too much coke, and too much smoke
Look what's going on inside you.
Ooh, ooh that smell
can't you smell that smell?
Ooh, ooh that smell
the smell of death surrounds you”
Addiction is a relative newcomer to the human condition, at least being officially recognized by modern medicine. It’s always been there. Nowadays, we have to label everything, pinning it down with terminology and identifying it. Back in the day, you simply stopped drinking, or smoking or playing with drugs.
It seemed easier to slay the dragon then. Today, of course, only after ‘chasing the dragon’.
“One little problem that confronts you
Got a monkey on your back
Just one more fix, Lord, might do the trick
One hell of a price for you to get your kicks (hell, yeah)”
Depression is difficult to understand. There are words for it till the cows come home. I like ‘melancholia’. Used to be seen as sadness, a common and re-occurring human malady that you learned to live with. Especially back in the day when people only lived into their 30s and 40s, and one half the babies born died almost immediately. There was no ‘counseling’ in those days. You sucked it up.
Nowadays, you can’t fire off a round in any direction and avoid hitting a human crutch. The old standbys are still there; drugs and alcohol and cigarettes. But the invidious term “syndrome” has wound its way into our vernacular like a dripping-fanged Cotton Mouth, forked tongue coiling in and out, on an almost metronomic search for its next victim.
Saw a T-shirt that I liked, even while acknowledging its insensitivity: “Rehab is for Quitters”. It just felt right. I know rehab and programs like AA have saved many people. I am not denying them their due diligence. But they are in existence, at least in part, in my opinion, because many people are broken and cannot fix themselves.
I don’t advocate leaving the weak, inept or just plain helpless behind. If we don’t give a big u-turn to the Love Boat and swing back to scoop these people up, we are reneging on our standards of human decency.
I am uncomfortable, however, with the fact we seem to be able to only treat the symptoms, not the cause. That approach will keep a lot of people employed in the “help” industry, but will not go very far in solving the real problem.
What’s the real problem?
Man’s instinct to escape from reality and then, to destroy himself.
“Now they call you prince charming
Can't speak a word when you're full of 'ludes.
Say you'll be alright come tomorrow, but
Tomorrow might not be here for you”