Substance abuse’s journey to nowhere


Individuals struggling with an addiction to drugs often travel a difficult path. Sometimes it starts out so harmless and simple – a drink with friends or smoking a joint just to socialize. Other times it is medications on a doctor’s advice. For most, it is a moment. For some, it becomes a lifestyle. Addiction is a baffling disease.

Need and desire are a part of life. They can lead to moments of ecstasy and wonder. However, out of balance, they can also overwhelm. When need comes in the form of addiction, it means that one’s body now has to have a drug to function. When desire means that a person’s brain chemistry has been altered to the point where drugs become paramount, troubles ensue.

Presently, we tend to over criminalize or medically treat those who suffer from drug addiction. In doing so, we promote punishment and medication over skills building, spirituality and community. Medical advances have done wonders in many instances. However, drug addiction is so much more than the physical. This story, of Need and Desire, seeks to explore substance abuse’s journey to nowhere. While troubles are plenty, hope is always nearby.


Need and Desire


If you do inquire

there was much to admire

of those about to embark


on a journey bereft

of a spiritual lift

due to the love of a spark.


The how’s and why’s,

covered by lies,

a prescription creating confusion


for these fine friends,

all the way to the end,

leading to tragic illusion.


Need and Desire

sat by a fire

discussing a number of things.


Meaning and love,

the heavens above

and what makes mockingbirds sing.


Said Need to Desire,

the inveterate liar,

“Bogus to all, I say


only you and I

till the day we die

are worthy of this glorious day.”


Two powerful forces,

like Kentucky’s horses,

running with beauty and speed.


But, one tiny trip,

might lead to a slip,

and a Carroll-like journey indeed.


Before evening’s roast

they offered a toast,

followed by a beer.


The iced cold brew

helped make these two

ignore all upcoming fear.


As they cooked up a feast,

sating the beast,

one tightened the other’s lace.


Then swallowing hard

each started to nod

before heading off into space.


A kind passerby

heard a faint cry

then sought doing good.


But our friends on the spot

said “Worry not,

your ears they misunderstood.”


Into the night

both enjoyed the delight

of jabbering over a bowl


of stuff they said

which kept them well fed,

yet, leaving a hungered soul.


The activities of ‘morn’

began at the dawn,

work and children to school.


“Just look at those folks,

it’s some kind of joke”

Desire stated inhaling his Kool.


On thru the day,

each wasted away,

rhythms of life ignored.


Asleep while awake,

honest yet fake,

not aware to even be bored.


Till once again

these very sad men

hovered over a flame.


Committing the crime

of throwing away time.

Need and Desire were their names.


If you head for the trees

go on your knees

and be careful of the hour.


Each step ‘long’ the way

can brighten the day

when walking with higher power.


Reader, so kind,

I pray that you find

this a meaningful tale.


When meeting these two

make sure that you

tread lightly on their trail.


Heroin, speed, marijuana, alcohol, prescription medications are all but tools for addiction’s pleasure. Insidiously, these tools fool far too many into believing that they are essential for life. Tell someone in the midst of addiction that this is a bad partnership and the warning finds deaf ears. Recovery comes in odd packages and at the lowest moments. Continued recovery means work, support, humility, purpose and embracing life. A baffling disease indeed.

Robert Houghtaling runs the East Greenwich substance abuse program.


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