This was one of my first pieces of writing. At the time, I was still in my first year of sobriety. I’ve had a couple of people ask me about the meaning of ‘Damages.’ They feel I’m placing addicts on a pedestal. I surely don’t set the average drug addict or anyone else on a pedestal. That said, I’d rather recover from drug addiction than a few other Coping Skills. Polished skills such as needing to lie, manipulate, and hurt others in order to feel better about myself. You know . . . The Classic Narcissist Personality Disorder. Odds are, we all know at least one Narcissist.


Avoiding pain is natural. In fact, that’s why it’s there. Pain is a signal to the brain, informing us that something is wrong. Through our efforts to avoid the uncomfortable, we protect ourselves, our hearts, minds, and sometimes our lives. It’s in this way that most people understand and cope with pain. Whether healthy or unhealthy, these are our coping skills, and everyone has at least one.

The list of options is endless and includes colorful choices such as Drugs, Alcohol, Sex, Gambling, Shopping, Lying, Exercise, Iver Eating, Under Eating, Music, Over Sleeping, Under Sleeping, Hurting Others and Letting Go of Reality.

Drugs and Alcohol are, by far, the most popular coping skill. Whether legal or illicit, both are easily acquired. Let’s be [very real] about the subject. The [War On Drugs] does not exist, and every time a substance is banned, it can be found in every neighborhood and on most street corners. Why is that? Money, of course. The money that comes from Drugs, Criminalization, and Incarceration. Out-of-control drug addiction and a growing population of drug addicts have been the result.

Most know at least one drug addict—possibly a family member, close friend, or maybe someone from the past. Somebody no longer associated with, taken off the chessboard due to boundary violations, infractions the addict found necessary and justified so they may continue numbing their pain. No matter what form, the pain comes in. The addict wants the pain to stop. Some become overachieving experts at staying numb—twenty-four-seven Around The Clock Machines with a never-ending drug inventory. Most addicts are not monsters and creepers. Some of the most amazing people I’ve known are drug users. I’m talking about artists, angels, and fantastic people who have a way of connecting with others. Many are practically superheroes, exhausted from empathy and self-sacrifice, always working to save everyone except themselves.

At times, it seems like such a waste of talent, but then I remember that great things tend to be hidden behind pain and tragedy, and our pain makes us who we are. It’s more than essential; pain is vital and necessary; who would we be without it? Everything we experience and suffer through prepares us for something. We are all damaged.

Joseph Shanklin

Spring 2019

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