This essay appears in my book Welcome to Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia.
The electrician found the body that morning but I guess it took a little while for the news to spread. It had been waiting there for three days but we didn’t know that yet we just knew all of a sudden that a person was a body now and that was that. It would have been early evening when I found out about it. April. My football coach broke the news to me in a football coach voice because that was how you found out about things back then. You’d walk around not knowing some shit until someone would tell you and then you had to wait to bump into someone else and go ahead and tell them. I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like ay your boyfriend Kurt Cobain killed himself. Football coaches don’t like it when you care about anything other than football such as music for example which is for homosexuals. Kurt was twenty-seven years old which everyone remembers as the famous age to be dead at. I remember my coach mispronounced his name as Co-burn which is something a football coach would do on purpose to fuck with you and then we had to go and lift weights. I don’t remember if we listened to Nirvana while we lifted the weights but I hope we did not.
Like fifteen years later a friend of mine was at the state fair in New Hampshire and he took a video of an Army guy at a recruiting tent doing pushups while “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was blasting out of his truck speakers and I sometimes wish he hadn’t shown me that shit.
My football coach would have been around thirty-three back then which is insane to me because that is how old a little tiny baby is. I’m gonna picture him in my mind right now. He’s got a blue shirt on and it’s really tight and he’s got really big arms and they’re folded across his chest and he’s yelling about some football business that isn’t my problem anymore except for sometimes when I dream about it and I never can find my helmet in the dream and everyone is pissed off at me vis-à-vis the helmet’s whereabouts. The only reason I know how old he was by the way is I just saw his name in a police report. He’s a teacher at a different school now and the police charged him with indecently touching a child under fourteen and then touching her again when she was over fourteen and that is very surprising to me because he was a hard ass but I wouldn’t have thought he would go and do something like that. I asked a lot of my friends from high school and some who worked with him as teachers later on and they said they weren’t that surprised about it to be honest and they would know better than me because I am awful at remembering things.
They found Mac Miller’s body on a Friday in September and pronounced him dead at 3:51. He was twenty-six years old. At 4:25 I saw it on TMZ and I tweeted about it and Twitter says 67,000 people saw the tweet so that was how a lot of people found out about Mac Miller being dead I guess. Someone said he was out watching football the night before he died. He was from Pittsburgh and he liked the Steelers a lot. I liked his music a lot too. The first song of his I ever heard was called “Donald Trump” and it was really good and it was from 2011 which might as well be 5,000 years ago if I try to think about what was going on in 2011 right now. I was thirty-three then which is how old a tiny baby is.
Miller struggled with addiction and depression throughout much of his young life and it was something he talked about openly. When you hear about someone who struggles with depression and addiction and talks about it openly it’s surprising when they die young but not that surprising. When you struggle with depression and addiction you think about being dead a lot which is something I can attest to because I’m addicted to everything. Also my best friend is an addict and depressed and tells me he wants to be dead a lot and I have tried a lot of different things to get him to stop thinking that but sometimes I think I’m maybe not the best person to present the case because I tell him things like Yes, bitch, I want to be dead too but you can’t do it. You have eternity to be dead so just wait like everyone else there is no point in rushing to be dead.
I wonder what the little girl who my football coach allegedly touched like they said in the newspaper is going to be addicted to.
Some of the things they think lead to a propensity for addiction in life are sustained stress in childhood like physical or sexual abuse or chronic pain like Kurt had in his stomach and I have also in my back and stomach. Some people think brain trauma from playing football at a young age can lead to depression and subsequently addiction later in life and I wrote about that one time.
All of that is depressing but here’s something more depressing: Richard Sackler, whose family owns the multibillion-dollar Purdue Pharma, was granted a patent for a new form of buprenorphine, an opioid that can be used to ease withdrawal symptoms for people addicted to painkillers. That sounds like a good thing except for the fact that Purdue Pharma is also the company that is responsible for getting everyone in America addicted to OxyContin in the first place. The New Yorker called the Sacklers “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain” in a stunning piece last year, which would be a great song title if I felt like making a joke about it right now which I don’t really feel like doing. The company has been sued thousands of times and now numerous states are suing them as well: New York, Massachusetts, even the bad ones, like Texas and Florida whose politicians you might think don’t mind so much what happens to their citizens. Colorado is the latest to sue, as the Washington Post reports:
The lawsuit states that Purdue Pharma “downplayed the risk of addiction associated with opioids,” “exaggerated the benefits” and “advised health care professionals that they were violating their Hippocratic Oath and failing their patients unless they treated pain symptoms with opioids,” according to the statement from the Colorado attorney general’s office.
Sometimes people ask me what Hell World is and I guess a massive pharmaceutical corporation getting everyone addicted to fancy heroin then patenting a medication that will help everyone stop being addicted to the fancy heroin is a pretty succinct definition.
It’s weird to me that people who do shit like that never seem to want to kill themselves.
Here are some of the things I have been addicted to in my life or at least abused pretty significantly for a while: cigarettes, cocaine, alcohol, exercise, food, laxatives, gambling, sex and love, sleeping pills, social media, and I forget what else but that’s a pretty decent catalog of shit I think. You would not be laughed out of a meeting with that resume I don’t think. Sometimes I just stopped wanting to do one of them or sometimes one of them replaced the other and I didn’t need it anymore because now I had the new thing to focus on. A new addiction is like a new relationship in that it’s thrilling at first but then you both start to get sick of each other and so something has to change.
My therapist printed out a quote for me once that was something like “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change,” and I always liked that but I just looked it up right now to double check what the quote was and I guess it was Tony Robbins that said that shit and he’s a big fucking phony so now I don’t know who to trust.
One thing I have never been addicted to is heroin or opioids of any kind. I tried heroin once at a gross heroin house in my twenties because I was in a band and that is what gross band guys do in their twenties and also there was a woman there at that particular party who used to date Kurt Cobain now that I’m thinking of it and she wrote some songs about him which were good and sad. I think maybe she also dated Elliott Smith and I have to be honest both of those things are exceptionally cool to me. I don’t think the gross heroin house heroin worked on me that time due to I only snorted a little but the point is I never wanted to get addicted to that sort of thing or even fuck around with it just in case. We had a lot of Oxy in our house for a couple years after Michelle had surgery and I never even opened the bottle once to look at them because you just know once you do it’s going to be a whole fucking thing. We don’t have them here anymore don’t come and rob my house please they’re in the toilet somewhere wherever the toilet brings things.
Someone did some weird sexual shit to me when I was a teenager. It was at Disney World which is pretty funny but I’m not going to talk about it right now because I have to ask my friends who were there with me and who were also on the football team what I said about it back then as they would know better than me because I am awful at remembering things which I may have mentioned earlier.
I guess the only things I am addicted to right now are cigarettes and alcohol and social media which is pretty good all things considered. Weirdly I was never anything even remotely approaching an alcoholic until about three years ago now I guess when some bad things happened and some other bad things I did came back to haunt me and I wanted to die most days off of all of that. Drinking is a really good way of making yourself not want to die in the moment but also sort of a bad coping strategy I’m told by people who would know about that sort of thing. People who wanted to die for a long time then didn’t anymore.
There’s a Morrissey lyric I think about a lot but not as much lately because I had to stop thinking about Morrissey as much as I normally might have due to all of the racism he was doing. But here’s how it goes: “When I’m lying in my bed, I think about life and I think about death. And neither one particularly appeals to me.”
I don’t want to die anymore just to be clear. I don’t want my best friend to die. I don’t want anyone to die really except for people like the Sacklers. I don’t particularly care what happens to them.