Keidel: Cool Hand Lucas
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By Jason Keidel
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For those of you who see the addicted as fools who drool their way through life, sans success, please don’t read this.
Ray Lucas, who recently checked into rehab and is courageously chronicling his war with prescription painkillers, is not a role model. But he is a hybrid of hero and life lesson.
“Nervous about everything, my palms are sweating,” Lucas wrote. “This weather will be good for my body.”
His palms aren’t the only portions of his body to sweat, sports fans. You could shove Ray in a pizza oven, wrapped in hot towels, and he’d still freeze. It’s called withdrawal. Frank Sinatra depicted the wretched reaction during his famous role in “The Man With the Golden Arm.”
The cinematic (and mythical) cure is to hurl a guy in a room for 72 hours, lock the door from the outside, hide the knives, and he’ll emerge whole. Sadly, it’s not that simple. Ray Lucas, depending on the dosage and the length of his addiction, may be sick for a while. The hot Florida sun indeed helps.
Some are predisposed to alcoholism and addiction. If you disagree, then you presuppose you know better than the legion of doctors whom have listed such maladies as diseases in the American Medical Association. Then you may tell us where you’ve been trained in medicine.
This speaks to haters and poseurs who revel more in another’s suffering than their success. Ray Lucas isn’t a loser. He’s a winner. He may leave rehab, feeling like a new man, then revert to the old one. He may think since he’s clean he can nibble on a pill with no problem. It is the emblem of human struggle, no matter the form.
You confuse illness with weakness because you don’t understand why someone would take to a bottle of any ilk. Perhaps they don’t understand why you blow your check at the blackjack table, or eat yourself into heart disease, diabetes, and amputation.
Is Darryl Strawberry weak? Lawrence Taylor? F. Scott Fitzgerald? William Faulkner? Hemingway? Hendrix? Elvis? The list is infinite. They had talent or toughness few can fathom, yet a pill or powder reduced them to dust. Blessed with transcendent athletic, literary, or musical splendor, there’s often a hex or haunting that comes with their ability to make our lives a little better through their gifts.
We use sports, music, and literature as a kind of archeology, bookmarks in our lives. I know exactly where I was when I first heard “Billie Jean” – performed by another addict. Perhaps you remember Joe Namath (alcoholic) or Janis Joplin (addict).
If your reflexive response is, “To hell with Ray Lucas. I make 30 grand a year and I’ve never taken a drug in my life because life’s hard enough,” then that’s your right. But don’t call him weak with any conviction, because you don’t know what you’re talking about.
And then recall a book or a song or a Super Bowl. Chances are very strong that some strong people were addicted when they performed it, giving you eternal glee for free.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
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