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“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
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Friends?

Anthony - Jazz for JusticeSix years ago this month, my friend Anthony marched on Wall Street with Iraq Veterans Against the War, who came out to support Occupy Wall Street; later that night, Anthony died of an overdose. He’d been open with me about his use of allegedly illicit substances to deal with the PTSD that haunted him after the horrors he witnessed and was ordered to participate in while in Iraq.

The first time he showed me how fucked he had to get, and told me that he was going for treatment on and off, I was deeply worried for him. I stayed the night, watching movies and talking, and in the morning I rode with him over to the VA hospital when he went to get his treatment. I was definitely worried about him, and I spoke privately with a few of our mutual friend to see if there was some way we could help him, as he said he wanted to stop using.

I don’t condone, accept, and I certainly don’t want to participate in promoting the “Reefer Madness” level propaganda that any drug use is automatically “drug abuse.” Many cultures throughout history have used mind-altering substances, which are now promoted as being “illicit” and “criminal” by most current Western countries and imposed internationally to ensure continual “aid” from the US, further deepening its imperialist hegemony, domestically and abroad. What substances people decide to ingest, smoke, sniff, huff, inject, and/or eat should be a personal matter over which each individual has autonomy to decide.

If it becomes problematic for the individual, they should be offered compassionate assistance to stop, if that is what they want – temporarily or permanently, without propaganda-induced misconceptions, judgements, or haughty moralism. Furthermore, each person should be able to decide for themselves if the pain and suffering they are living with is more than they can bear, and if they choose to end their life it can and should be their right to make that decision.

We never really came to any great ideas on what we might be able to do to help Anthony, so I continued to just be there as a friend for him whenever he needed and I could be, because I also isolate myself a lot, dealing with the PTSD and after-effects of solitary confinement & prison generally, and childhood abuse. Whether Anthony’s overdose was intentional or accidental, I don’t know with any level of certainty. He no longer had to deal with the pain he suffered, that was one main point his partner conveyed to me, intimating that it was probably intentional – or at least that was what I understood her to be saying. He lived and died on his own terms.

That’s not to say it wasn’t difficult to deal with after I got the message that he was dead. And as weird as it might sound, his memorial and funeral were beautiful. There were a whole lot of tears, but his family just kept it real, about him and his life, his struggles with PTSD, all of it.

I never mistrusted him or looked down on him or condemned him for doing what he felt he had to do to survive. I didn’t jump up and run away, I didn’t go gossiping about his struggles to other people at art exhibits or cocktail parties. I didn’t tell anyone they shouldn’t trust him or talk shit about him behind his back.

Who would possibly do some shit like that to someone who is a friend?

Real friends are hard to find. Treasure them when you can. Much love to you, Anthony…


 

I’ve written a fair amount about the struggles I have, coming out of solitary confinement and prison period. Never been a secret. Just a couple weeks ago I spoke, along with several of my friends and fellow survivors, to prison doctors from across the nation. We all made it clear that we felt they were on the wrong side of history and were very reluctant to even be there, but we felt we should make the attempt to talk about how solitary affects us every day, especially since almost no one is doing any research on solitary’s effects and how to treat survivors.

That is why Brian Nelson and myself, survivors of many years in solitary  (we both grew up in prison…), along with Dr. Antonio Martinez, who has treated torture survivors around the world, are attempting to get funding for a 3 year pilot program group treatment for solitary confinement survivors. We don’t have the answers, but we are surviving and trying to find a way out, and struggling for those still being tortured behind those walls.

We’re killing ourselves doing this, reliving this shit every time, with next to zero help or concern from so-called “friends.” Time and time again, too many fake motherfuckers have used us, completely indifferent to the fact that the work we are doing is retraumatizing, don’t even check on us after talks, smiled in our faces when its cool but when shit gets hard to deal with disappear in the wind, refuse to tell us what they really think but then go gossiping to other mofos about shit behind our backs. Seriously, I’ve encountered more straight-up opportunists, unprincipled liars, “comrades” and so-called “friends” who are snaking us behind our backs among “the Left” than in prison.

Anyhow, just a word of advice for phoney “friends” who talk shit behind people’s back: The Streets have ears and eyes, and convicts move in all kinds of circles. And even if we have our differences, they won’t let people slander other people’s names and reputations when they know the real deal.

Just gotta keep tightening that circle up. I have had to cut a lot of phoney’s out over the last few years… And I’ve survived this far, definitely not a given. Shit, before I was even 18 years old the State wanted me out of the picture. Still here. Still fighting. 

-G

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