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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desantismt_17
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Re: ROLE OF ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN THE NOVEL?

Post by desantismt_17 » 12 May 2018, 12:30

I think both Gary and Duke used substances as a way to fill a void and escape from things they didn't want to deal with. I think that's how addiction starts a lot of the time. "I just need a drink to deal with this today...and tomorrow...and the next day..." Eventually, it's not a choice anymore. Once it becomes habit, it's not even about avoiding or dealing with the pain. It's about needing the substance. The thing causing the pain could disappear, but it wouldn't matter.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Post by gkgurley » 12 May 2018, 15:21

I love the line, "The circus and alcohol were his life. He couldn't imagine his life without either". (page 67).

It's perfect because the circus and addiction are perfect parallels. Life in the circus is full of manic excitement and depressing lows. His moments of performing, putting on a show and impressing the audience with danger, is a high, a rush, a fix. The next morning when they have to clean up, travel, and he's sore, is the depressing low, making him crave the fix even more. Of course an addict would seek out a career in the circus; of course someone in the circus would become addicted to something. What a marvelous parallel, and as the book goes on, it's clear that the two go hand in hand for Duke.

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Post by kfwilson6 » 12 May 2018, 22:25

kdstrack wrote:
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.
Very good point. As long as they feel like there is some justification for it, that seems to eliminate the potential for guilt. I wish we had more background about both characters. Not to provide justification, but to delve more into why they thought their addictions were justified.

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Post by bootsie0126+ » 13 May 2018, 12:52

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?
First, drug addiction is a chronic disease that affects not only your brain but your behavior. When you are addicted to drugs, you are unable to resist the urge to do drugs, even though you know what negative affect it causes. Being addicted to drugs changes a person thought process. Where something we would never do if not on drugs, would not even cause a second thought to do when on drugs is the thinking that most drug addicts have. Many people with addiction have addictive personalities which is why many compulsive personalities and often seek activities that produces that high effect they get from doing drugs.

Often it is extremely hard for a person to get off drugs. Sometimes it can take numerous attempts at rehab to get clean, if they do at all. People who are fortunate to have never been addicted to drugs, fully understand the rational behind the behavior of an addict. People think that all you have to do is simply stop doing drugs, only if it was that simple. You are unable to think rationally when you are on drugs, so the consequences of drug use is not a deterrent from doing drugs. Most people require professional help in getting clean and sometimes that does not work. There are also people who have quit on their own. Each individual is different, however only until the person is truly ready to get clean will any type of treatment work. It is only until a person is able to get to the root cause of their addiction, can healing begin. Knowing the triggers that will cause a person to pick up using will enable them to turn away from those triggers. It is a step process that must be followed in order to work.

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Post by Lolo Skyooz » 16 May 2018, 15:18

I think that, partly, addiction was a reason why these characters found each other, but then it also became a reminder that you cannot run away from your problems. Substance abuse haunted Gary's home life and now it haunts his friendships and career, even though the circus is a symbol of escape, being whisked away to another life, etc.

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Post by Bookmermaid » 19 May 2018, 13:05

The characters' addictions do not make them impotent towards making a living. This type of addiction in which the individual is reasonably functional mirrors man addicted persons in reality. The heavy use of alcohol is part of the joie de vivre nature of the characters. Their abuse of these substances often lands them in serious problems.

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Post by kfwilson6 » 19 May 2018, 19:37

gkgurley wrote:
12 May 2018, 15:21
I love the line, "The circus and alcohol were his life. He couldn't imagine his life without either". (page 67).

It's perfect because the circus and addiction are perfect parallels. Life in the circus is full of manic excitement and depressing lows. His moments of performing, putting on a show and impressing the audience with danger, is a high, a rush, a fix. The next morning when they have to clean up, travel, and he's sore, is the depressing low, making him crave the fix even more. Of course an addict would seek out a career in the circus; of course someone in the circus would become addicted to something. What a marvelous parallel, and as the book goes on, it's clear that the two go hand in hand for Duke.
Great perception. I never thought about it in that say but that is spot on. It's probably a huge part of why Duke missed the circus so much in the off season.

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Post by onixpam » 22 May 2018, 21:04

Substance abuse is very common, and an illness, people suffering from drug or alcohol abuse enters into a circle which they can not escape. The life issues are just some kind of excuse, and they always will find another excuse.

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 23 May 2018, 17:57

Bookmermaid wrote:
19 May 2018, 13:05
The characters' addictions do not make them impotent towards making a living. This type of addiction in which the individual is reasonably functional mirrors man addicted persons in reality. The heavy use of alcohol is part of the joie de vivre nature of the characters. Their abuse of these substances often lands them in serious problems.
Clearly both Duke and Gary were functioning addicts. They had trouble keeping jobs, but they were able to function reasonably well. Their biggest issue was the fact that they made questionable choices. Once they got the alcohol out of their lives, many of the choices improved, but the other drugs still remained. Addiction is tough to overcome.

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Post by bootsie0126+ » 24 May 2018, 22:45

onixpam wrote:
22 May 2018, 21:04
Substance abuse is very common, and an illness, people suffering from drug or alcohol abuse enters into a circle which they can not escape. The life issues are just some kind of excuse, and they always will find another excuse.
You are correct that substance abuse is an addiction, disease, and illness. However, there are many recovery addicts that have been able to escape that circle and go one to be productive memberss of society. In order for an addict to get well, tht person must find out the root cause of the addiction. This is often disccovered through the help of therapy. Once the cause of addiction is defined, that person is able to learn the triggers which causes them to use drugs, which they can learn to avoid. So, yes it is hard to overcome drugs and alcohol, it is not impossible.

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Post by ValBookReviews » 25 May 2018, 13:28

Having lived with alcoholism and drug addiction within my own family, I certainly agree with your point of view. I've come to learn, if not broken, alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease that can be past down from one generation to the next, known as "a generational curse". "But, God is able."
"And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life". (Revelation 20:12 (NKJV) :reading-7:

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Post by bootsie0126+ » 26 May 2018, 09:12

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.
While it is true that many people that are addictive to something, (whether it be drugs, alcohol, sex, eating, gambling or even video gaming) are seeking some type of coping mechanism to something in their life, there are many causes attributed to the addictive behavior. A person may develop an addiction due to a generic predisposition, biology, growing up in an environment where that type of situation occurs, or even some type of trauma that changes the brain's thought processing. I believe both Gary and Duke's addiction were a combination of multiple things in their lives.

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Post by Yolimari » 26 May 2018, 12:07

I agree. Duke started inhaling meth, which he called medicine, because the circus gave it to the performers to sustain their grueling itinerary. For that reason, he got hooked on it and could not stop using it. I think it also helped him perform the dangerous act of sword swallowing.

On the other hand, I think Gary was an addict because he grew up with an alcoholic mother. He became and alcoholic himself and a drug user. He did not have direction and purpose in life. I think he continued using to keep himself from facing his problems and deciding what to do with his life.
"What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it."

-Gabriel García Márquez

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 26 May 2018, 13:37

bootsie0126+ wrote:
26 May 2018, 09:12
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.
While it is true that many people that are addictive to something, (whether it be drugs, alcohol, sex, eating, gambling or even video gaming) are seeking some type of coping mechanism to something in their life, there are many causes attributed to the addictive behavior. A person may develop an addiction due to a generic predisposition, biology, growing up in an environment where that type of situation occurs, or even some type of trauma that changes the brain's thought processing. I believe both Gary and Duke's addiction were a combination of multiple things in their lives.
You’re right that addictions can be caused by a wide variety of things for different people. I think in the case of this story, Duke and Gary both started on their paths to addiction due to problems in the home and poor examples at home. Duke got involved with the circus, which took him further down that path. Gary went to college and got involved with his fraternity. There seems to be a sense of them using these drugs and alcohol to fill a void left by their birth families and to avoid facing the issues and trauma they experienced at the hands of their families.

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Post by KRay93 » 26 May 2018, 18:49

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is present in the history of both main characters of the book, and both had bad examples in their homes and in the environments they inhabited. This is one of the main parallels between their stories. The description of the addictions in this book doesn't depart from the traditional concept that they provide an escape for their consumers, who resort to them when they can't deal with the circumstances that life throws at them.

However, when it comes to addiction to substances (cocaine, methamphetamine, acid, etc.), there are far greater risks due to their effects and the additives that are usually placed in their processing. Here, genetic predispositions and other factors become secondary. Although it is already difficult enough to leave a more traditional addiction (alcohol, cigarettes, sex), it is even more complicated in cases like these.

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