ROLE OF ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN THE NOVEL?

Use this forum to discuss the May 2018 Book of the Month, "The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid" by Gary Robinson
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Jeyasivananth
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ROLE OF ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN THE NOVEL?

Post by Jeyasivananth » 07 May 2018, 09:22

In my observation addiction as a manifestation of a disturbed psyche is another important motif in the book.

Gary Robinson grows up as a helpless and powerless child unable to stop his mother’s drinking habits. Duke Reynold too extensively uses drugs to sustain himself.

An addictive action often creates a sense of being empowered, of regaining control against helplessness. Drugs are particularly good for this purpose because they alter one's emotional state, making them feel empowered and decisive. We see this in the protagonists. Both the protagonists hail from dysfunctional families and addiction helps them to cope up with this emotional scar and helplessness.

what are your observations on this?

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 08 May 2018, 12:06

I think addiction was a way for the protagonists to avoid dealing with their personal issues. Duke used alcohol to fill his desire for family. His methamphetamine addiction was caused by his “family,” but it was also a way for him to feel closer to his family.

Gary used alcohol and drugs to replace his own family, but also it was a symptom of a directionless life. This is so common in this generation because kids are told “you can be anything you want.” The only problem is that no one tells those kids that it takes hard work to get there. This generation tends to think that everything should be handed to them, or it should be easy to get there. Gary comments on this as well, when he talks about wanting to find love and to make a difference, but he doesn’t realize that it takes effort to do both.

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Post by teacherjh » 08 May 2018, 13:03

Addictions are usually a form of pain relief. The person is trying to self-medicate some emotional pain that they cannot consciously deal with. It's only when they turn from the addiction and face the pain that they will find true healing.

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Post by kfwilson6 » 08 May 2018, 13:20

Apparently the methamphetamine use was promoted by the circus as a way to stay awake. Shame on the circus for working people 20 hours a day so the only option they have is something like that.

There are so many moments in the book where Duke is drinking or drunk and then does something like the straight jacket escape. I COULD NOT believe he would be drunk doing that!!!! I was terrified already and then to know he wasn't even doing it sober. Not really shocking based on his personality I guess, I just can't imagine anyone not going into that clearheaded and focused. Alcohol really seemed to be an escape for him. It is so sad to think of someone who can't cope without drugs and alcohol.

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Post by kdstrack » 08 May 2018, 23:12

"An addictive action often creates a sense of being empowered", - this is true. It "creates" something that is not real. While the addicted person may feel empowered, he is still perpetuating his own self-destruction. Alcohol and drugs provide an escape, a way to not have to face the painful emotions and memories of the past. It actually makes the addict more helpless. This is the difficulty of dealing with addicts. Leaving their drugs and alcohol behind faces them to face up to the memories and pain that torment them. In the book we see how Duke conquered alcohol but not drugs. Gary's coma was a blessing in disguise to eliminate his addictions.

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Post by Jeyasivananth » 09 May 2018, 14:07

Kendra M Parker wrote:
08 May 2018, 12:06
I think addiction was a way for the protagonists to avoid dealing with their personal issues. Duke used alcohol to fill his desire for family. His methamphetamine addiction was caused by his “family,” but it was also a way for him to feel closer to his family.

Gary used alcohol and drugs to replace his own family, but also it was a symptom of a directionless life. This is so common in this generation because kids are told “you can be anything you want.” The only problem is that no one tells those kids that it takes hard work to get there. This generation tends to think that everything should be handed to them, or it should be easy to get there. Gary comments on this as well, when he talks about wanting to find love and to make a difference, but he doesn’t realize that it takes effort to do both.
I agree with your observations. Yes, you are right in saying this is so common with this generation.

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Post by Jeyasivananth » 09 May 2018, 14:10

teacherjh wrote:
08 May 2018, 13:03
Addictions are usually a form of pain relief. The person is trying to self-medicate some emotional pain that they cannot consciously deal with. It's only when they turn from the addiction and face the pain that they will find true healing.
Yes they may be a form of pain relief but the reality is they never solve the problem; if anything they may offer a temporary relief and in actuality add on to the already existing problems. It may ease the pain temporarily but can it help in healing?

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Post by Jeyasivananth » 09 May 2018, 14:12

kfwilson6 wrote:
08 May 2018, 13:20
Apparently the methamphetamine use was promoted by the circus as a way to stay awake. Shame on the circus for working people 20 hours a day so the only option they have is something like that.

There are so many moments in the book where Duke is drinking or drunk and then does something like the straight jacket escape. I COULD NOT believe he would be drunk doing that!!!! I was terrified already and then to know he wasn't even doing it sober. Not really shocking based on his personality I guess, I just can't imagine anyone not going into that clearheaded and focused. Alcohol really seemed to be an escape for him. It is so sad to think of someone who can't cope without drugs and alcohol.
Yes to know that it was promoted in the circus to stay awake is shocking and saddening too. I agree with your observation son Duke as well.

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Post by Jeyasivananth » 09 May 2018, 14:15

kdstrack wrote:
08 May 2018, 23:12
"An addictive action often creates a sense of being empowered", - this is true. It "creates" something that is not real. While the addicted person may feel empowered, he is still perpetuating his own self-destruction. Alcohol and drugs provide an escape, a way to not have to face the painful emotions and memories of the past. It actually makes the addict more helpless. This is the difficulty of dealing with addicts. Leaving their drugs and alcohol behind faces them to face up to the memories and pain that torment them. In the book we see how Duke conquered alcohol but not drugs. Gary's coma was a blessing in disguise to eliminate his addictions.
I too agree with your observations. Alcohol and drugs may provide a temporary escape but slowly turn the person more helpless.

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Post by Lolababs94 » 10 May 2018, 05:31

I do agree that substance abuse was a way of dealing with their emotional and family issues. It was definitely terrifying though to imagine that some of the stunts were done under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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Post by K Geisinger » 10 May 2018, 07:52

Jeyasivananth wrote:
07 May 2018, 09:22
In my observation addiction as a manifestation of a disturbed psyche is another important motif in the book.

Gary Robinson grows up as a helpless and powerless child unable to stop his mother’s drinking habits. Duke Reynold too extensively uses drugs to sustain himself.

An addictive action often creates a sense of being empowered, of regaining control against helplessness. Drugs are particularly good for this purpose because they alter one's emotional state, making them feel empowered and decisive. We see this in the protagonists. Both the protagonists hail from dysfunctional families and addiction helps them to cope up with this emotional scar and helplessness.

what are your observations on this?
I think addiction is a powerful crutch to avoid feeling certain ways. Both characters had outside influences that helped convince them that addiction or illicit drugs were not that big a deal. Gary was more shocked by Duke's atheism than a high and drunk friend trying to eat a mammoth. The addiction could be viewed as a disturbed psyche, but I think it is better viewed as one of the many failings of humanity. We like things that feel good and we try to avoid pain. Some of that is good, but it can turn self destructive as well.

What I thought the author did extremely well was Duke's later rationalization that snorting methamphetamine was perfectly ok because it was medicine, but alcoholism was not.
"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." (Victor Hugo)

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Post by K Geisinger » 10 May 2018, 08:02

Jeyasivananth wrote:
09 May 2018, 14:07
Kendra M Parker wrote:
08 May 2018, 12:06
I think addiction was a way for the protagonists to avoid dealing with their personal issues. Duke used alcohol to fill his desire for family. His methamphetamine addiction was caused by his “family,” but it was also a way for him to feel closer to his family.

Gary used alcohol and drugs to replace his own family, but also it was a symptom of a directionless life. This is so common in this generation because kids are told “you can be anything you want.” The only problem is that no one tells those kids that it takes hard work to get there. This generation tends to think that everything should be handed to them, or it should be easy to get there. Gary comments on this as well, when he talks about wanting to find love and to make a difference, but he doesn’t realize that it takes effort to do both.
I agree with your observations. Yes, you are right in saying this is so common with this generation.
I'm not convinced it's "this generation." I've often found that's said by older people convinced the pot they did wasn't as strong and today's youth is lazy. Gary gave good love advice, but keep in mind he was an elderly divorced man who never had a relationship work out. It's easy for people to give advice but harder for them to follow it. The book is set in the past and drug use been an issue for millennia thanks to the poppy and fermentation, I don't think we can blame one generation for its ills.

Both characters use drugs, but their motivations change through the book. By the end, Duke is taking meth out of laziness and dependence more than anything else. He's not working 20 hours and he likes the feeling. Gary is a hot mess making terrible decisions and he frequently shows his lack of self control.
"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." (Victor Hugo)

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Post by gen_g » 10 May 2018, 08:21

K Geisinger wrote:
10 May 2018, 08:02
Jeyasivananth wrote:
09 May 2018, 14:07
Kendra M Parker wrote:
08 May 2018, 12:06
I think addiction was a way for the protagonists to avoid dealing with their personal issues. Duke used alcohol to fill his desire for family. His methamphetamine addiction was caused by his “family,” but it was also a way for him to feel closer to his family.

Gary used alcohol and drugs to replace his own family, but also it was a symptom of a directionless life. This is so common in this generation because kids are told “you can be anything you want.” The only problem is that no one tells those kids that it takes hard work to get there. This generation tends to think that everything should be handed to them, or it should be easy to get there. Gary comments on this as well, when he talks about wanting to find love and to make a difference, but he doesn’t realize that it takes effort to do both.
I agree with your observations. Yes, you are right in saying this is so common with this generation.
I'm not convinced it's "this generation." I've often found that's said by older people convinced the pot they did wasn't as strong and today's youth is lazy. Gary gave good love advice, but keep in mind he was an elderly divorced man who never had a relationship work out. It's easy for people to give advice but harder for them to follow it. The book is set in the past and drug use been an issue for millennia thanks to the poppy and fermentation, I don't think we can blame one generation for its ills.

Both characters use drugs, but their motivations change through the book. By the end, Duke is taking meth out of laziness and dependence more than anything else. He's not working 20 hours and he likes the feeling. Gary is a hot mess making terrible decisions and he frequently shows his lack of self control.
I agree with your opinion. I am too of the view that each generation has its own unique troubles and issues, and therefore should not be held against the standards of the previous generation.

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Post by kdstrack » 10 May 2018, 21:59

Jeyasivananth wrote:
09 May 2018, 14:15
kdstrack wrote:
08 May 2018, 23:12
"An addictive action often creates a sense of being empowered", - this is true. It "creates" something that is not real. While the addicted person may feel empowered, he is still perpetuating his own self-destruction. Alcohol and drugs provide an escape, a way to not have to face the painful emotions and memories of the past. It actually makes the addict more helpless. This is the difficulty of dealing with addicts. Leaving their drugs and alcohol behind faces them to face up to the memories and pain that torment them. In the book we see how Duke conquered alcohol but not drugs. Gary's coma was a blessing in disguise to eliminate his addictions.
I too agree with your observations. Alcohol and drugs may provide a temporary escape but slowly turn the person more helpless.
Another common thread is the "I am a victim" syndrome. Many addicts feel they have a right to their addiction because of their family situation, background, tragedy, etc. etc. Both Duke and Gary manifest some of this - their difficult home situations seem to be the accepted reason for being addicts (or alcoholics). Then, it becomes harder to change the person's attitude than overcome the actual addiction.

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Post by holsam_87 » 11 May 2018, 17:38

Jeyasivananth wrote:
07 May 2018, 09:22
In my observation addiction as a manifestation of a disturbed psyche is another important motif in the book.

Gary Robinson grows up as a helpless and powerless child unable to stop his mother’s drinking habits. Duke Reynold too extensively uses drugs to sustain himself.

An addictive action often creates a sense of being empowered, of regaining control against helplessness. Drugs are particularly good for this purpose because they alter one's emotional state, making them feel empowered and decisive. We see this in the protagonists. Both the protagonists hail from dysfunctional families and addiction helps them to cope up with this emotional scar and helplessness.

what are your observations on this?
I have similar views to what you are suggesting. By both of them using substances, it definitely shows them both to have damaged psyches of some kind. Plus their other attempts at getting high through adrenaline based acts or debauchery shows other ways at attempting to empower themselves and distance from emotional turmoil.
Samantha Holtsclaw

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

—J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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