Our World: The first I learned of addiction affecting friends of the family, Cocaine, 1985
I’ve long remembered from my childhood in Philadelphia a story appearing in the paper about a family where the son was doing cocaine and the parents in denial.
I remember it because my mom knew the family. Also because it was a big story about cocaine, which was less common in the news, let alone about a well-to-do family.
I’ve thought about it recently because of the parallels with people’s denials and suppression of widespread addiction to what pollution brings—things like social media, fast fashion, flying, and such. I remembered in the story that the car and silver went missing, but the parents kept feeling like he was a good kid. We keep telling ourselves we’re good people even while the rain forests and aquifers go missing.
I finally found the story: A Youth Who Can Testify That Cocaine Is A Downer. I see it as a story of our times, only today it applies to a lot more behaviors and they’re legal, accepted, and promoted today.
Several months after his bar mitzvah, Seth stole his father`s sports car. Carl Witonsky was away on business, and his wife had gone for a walk. She was getting fed up with Seth`s behavior–his puzzling apathy, his volatile moods, his sudden dearth of interest in schoolboy sports–so she allowed the authorities to get tough with him. He spent three days in a juvenile detention center.
CARL WITONSKY returned from his trip but was not concerned. As he recalls, ”When Seth stole the car, I thought, `Why would anyone throw him in the clinker for that?` I almost thought it was okay, a macho thing. I didn`t believe he was using drugs. So to take your father`s car out for a spin, well, I`d rather have that than have him sitting up in his room doing nothing, which was what he was doing. You see, I wanted him to want something. I figured if he wanted something very badly, he might get off his butt and do something about it.”
Seth took note of his father`s reaction. ”I stole my dad`s car, and he still didn`t think there was a problem,” he said. ”He`d just think, `Seth`s a good kid. He cut the lawn last year.` ” But Seth needed cocaine to buoy his self-esteem. In his words, ”I had to use it to get the feeling of normal.”
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