Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies, and Alcoholism

This post was inspired, as sometimes happens, by Jon Carroll's column in today's San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Carroll wrote an extended fantasy on what might have been the process by which Marion Jones chose to take performance-enhancing drugs, and the mental processes by which she supported and justified not only the drug-taking but the fact that she had to hide it (because it was illegal). I recommend the column, the analysis is brilliant. But it startled me, because on the same day it was published, I read and commented on my husband's extended (29 page) analysis of his life, and his experiences with compulsive/addictive behaviors (first bulimia and then alcoholism), how he got into them, and how he has gotten out of them.

The scary thing about the fantasized thinking of the person lying about sports drug abuse and the real thinking of the bulimic or alcoholic,
documented in my husband's account, is how close they are.

It isn't really that bad. People make too much of this. Besides,
I'm in control; I don't really have a problem.

I seem to recall from Mr. Carroll's much earlier columns that he himself had an issue with alcoholism, which he has overcome; I wonder if he consciously remembered any of that when he wrote this piece.

The question, of course, is: to what was Ms. Jones addicted? She seems to be displaying addictive behavior, but the substances she took aren't addictive in the normal sense. I've never heard that you get withdrawal symptoms from quitting taking steroids, or whatever. I have to conclude that she was addicted to: fame. She liked being Numbah One. She convinced herself that she would have been Numbah One anyway, and the drugs didn't really make that much difference. Except that they did.


  1. "29 page analysis"? Where?

    I didn't catch the Carroll column, I was in Seattle over the weekend, but I think I get the drift.

    The problem is that medical technology is moving a little bit ahead of society's ability to respond to the opportunities and pitfalls that accompany that technology. And the drug companies (both legal and ill-) are quick to hop into the breach and make some cash before the regulations catch up. Hell, we may NEVER catch up to the nuclear age! They weren't kidding when they said the atom bomb set civilization back two thousand years. We had about 35 years of "cold war" before we forgot (once again) how horrible organized, efficient, killing can be.

    I also don't like the trend towards selling medicine to the patient instead of the doctor. At least with the physicians, you had a 50-50 chance that the hypocratic oath might cause a crisis of conscience. With these new advertisements, people are persuaded they want medicines for imaginary conditions they never even suspected they might have (and probably don't), much less required treatment for.

    So some poor fool decides he has "nervous leg syndrome"--Ha! How many people bounce their knee at table? "Hey, there, Doctor Jones, can you prescribe that new nervous leg medicine for me?" "Gosh, Mr. Jones, what did you say you have...?"

    Professional athletes who take performance enhancing drugs know exactly what they're doing. It's been going on for decades. Weight lifters were using steroids way back in the 1960's, and earlier. Lots of Olympic gold medal winners in gymnastics and "strength" events used the stuff. Barry Bonds probably juiced up for 175 extra homers on "the Clear", but how do we measure it? At best, we legislate and regulate it and try to prevent abuse. We're always in transition with these chemicals.

  2. I linked the Carroll column in my post, the one on Marion Jones - the word "column" is the hyperlink, if you want to read it. It's sometimes hard to tell in this template. The one in which he announced his recovery from alcohol was at least 10 years ago.

    On the subject of selling medicine to the patient instead of the doctor - that just brings us back to the whole health care mess, and the fact that we'll never have a decent health care system as long as profit is allowed to be a motive in it. It should be universal and subsidized by everybody - the current proposals aren't perfect but they'll do to start with. And here we are back at the Down in Flames post again, arguing about whether the best should be the enemy of the good...