Archive for May, 2016

Looks Like Love, Smells Like Hell

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2016 by michaelcogdill

Hemingway said, “I drink to make other people more interesting.”

I find the world plenty interesting, and perhaps that’s why I drink like a cartoon character. One gin and tonic and I want to take a nap, or take my top off.  I know addiction only through the eyes of an enabler.  I am one.  I’ve been one since I was a boy.  I don’t know exactly why my father drank so much, but I do know it made him, and life, far too interesting.  Overstimulated.  Chaotic.


An addict will lie to you, knowing it’s a lie, knowing you know it’s a lie, but knowing you’ll believe false hope and, thus, believe the lie.   My father told me often he would quit drinking.  He told me while drunk.  I — sober as a church — believed him for far too long.  I was drunk on the wrong  kind of hope.  I had to quit the stuff.  Sober up on the real thing.

Enablers act like Gods.  We believe we can accomplish what only Higher Power can.  We can love them, cajole them, ease them, comfort them enough that the addicts in our lives will stop being addicts and become fully human again.  We think we can make life so interesting for them they won’t have to drink anymore.  That’s our folly — spending money, time, prayer, more money, more prayer, tears, tears again, pleading, begging, raging.  We do so much heavy lifting trying to make a drunk sober.  And the drunk keeps hoisting a pint — or needle, or pill or whatever elixir leads to death.  It’s not just the drunk’s death.  The enabler somehow dies first.  Stone sober and living out a living death of trying to work a miracle.

Only God works miracles.  We who enable only work that rock back up the hill, bracing to feel it roll over us again.  Sisyphus surely had an addict in the family.

The takeaway here is — stop.  Stop giving money to a drunk.  Stop giving ear to an addict. Cease to become the silo for their harvest of lies.  Stop suppressing your instincts and callusing your feet on their eggshells.  If they yell, “You don’t love me, your never loved me, I’ll never forgive you for this” as you walk away, keep walking.  You are not God.  Nor a superhero.  Trying to save another human being from himself/herself is like trying to walk on water.  Not even Peter lasted long at that.

Ask yourself how many times you tried to surround an addict with love, only to have that love of your life come staggering through the door smelling like hell.

Real love doesn’t stink to high heaven.  Enabling looks like love, and smells like hell.

My friend, Rich Jones, is a recovering addict.  He works now in addiction recovery. That means he learned enabling from the school of hard liquor.  Rich is licensed therapist and MBA, an expert in co-dependency and the specious toxin of trying to fix an addict.  He knows why you shouldn’t try to talk your daughter out of shooting up again.  Why giving your boyfriend money or your car again is anti-love.

Rich admits he doesn’t know why the following approach works, but it does:  Go take care of yourself.  Go, and be a better, healthier you.  Stop begging an addict.  Stop being with one.  Don’t pray the same old prayer with her ever again.  Take care of  you, and things with the addict will work out as they should, according to the natural law of addictive behavior, not the law of you and the world you think you can create.  Not all addicts survive, but in the absence of enabling, they tend to rise.  They tend to roll to their knees and off their sticking bottoms — high or low — and begin to live again.  Life becomes interesting without gin or heroin or Hydrocodone.  My father lived as proof.  This happened to him.  It happened only after I walked away.

And that made me a living example of this:  Life will begin to carry the perfume of real love, not the stench of hell on earth, only when you walk away.

Another dear friend of mine likes to send me the occasional text with the letters YNG/BGI.  Those letters remind me to cease the idolatry of trying to fix someone addicted to something. The letters stand for You’re Not God, But God Is.

Enablers, we carry a sickness of our own, summed up in those simple letters.  It’s the illness of the folly of playing God.  We think we can do what only God can. We believe we can stand against anything.  Tolerate anything.  Love our way through anything.

We are wrong.

Enabling is no pathway to heaven.  It is cliff we tumble down into an ass-busting hell on earth.  Lord, it smells like hell down in there.  But what’s that?  A rope, hanging just within reach.  A rope, able to hold only one.  Grab it.  Climb out.  Climb out of hell, pull up the rope behind you, and dust yourself off at the top.  We don’t want that phony love stench up in here where we belong.

YNG.  BGI.  Peace.




A Grandaddy of a Death

Posted in Uncategorized on May 24, 2016 by michaelcogdill


Ernest Keyes lies in what’s left of a plywood coffin. They buried him without flourishes or even a vault, only a piece of tin lain across the flimsy box top. I suppose they did that because they had no money to do more. Or maybe their patience had just run dry.

Ernest Keyes was my grandfather. Paregoric took him early, my mother just a dewy teenage girl.  To ease some rock-hard hurt, self-doubt, or maybe just to feel heavenly in his private hell for a while, my granddaddy turned to opium.  All over the mountains of Western North Carolina in the early 20th Century, opiates ran on stout legs, legal and easy to get.   Opium turned my mother’s father into an addict, then turned on him, hard. He let opium cheat him out of living even before he died. He cheated me out of knowing the man people loved.

I was a small boy when my Granny told me how he died. He had come home “full of that stuff” again, worse than ever. Dressed in sobriety, she said he was kind and beautiful. That opiate made him a devil of hell on earth. She told of him nearly turned the supper table over staggering back to the bed, where he flopped, face-down. She left the house, pulling the door to latch and muttering out loud to herself, “How much longer do I have to put up with this?”

Over her right shoulder came a clear, tender male voice. “Not long,” it said. She turned her head. No one there.  The hollow where they lived near Marshal, North Carolina, lonesome as ever.

By the time she came from work, the house stood dark as a well. She got a light on, made way back to the bed. “The flies had gotten to him,” my Granny told me. “I believe he was dead before is face hit that pillow.”

That day my Granny had a metaphysical experience with a real-world ending of a man.

Drowning in that addiction, he had ended himself well before he flopped down and died.

My granddaddy, as my mother saw it in her childhood, would pump his veins full of paregoric and any other opiate he could get, any way he could take it. She told of seeing an old glass medicine dropper whose tip he shattered off to make a poor-man’s syringe. At the spring behind the house, blood would tumble down his arm and off his finger. The track marks must have looked more like the work of gun shot than needle tip.

A trip to a sanitarium in Kentucky didn’t save him. All the loving and praying and enabling of his wife and two children didn’t either. But my mother remembers seeing her daddy sitting in the sanctuary of the little Baptist Church up the road from the house. Alone in there. I have to believe he came into that church a beggar. A traveler off his way, praying down mercy. Perhaps God found that early death the only true mercy the man could have. The only gift fitting his occasion.

My granddaddy proves it can get too late for an addict, far sooner than the addict thinks. And that a man or woman can die of addiction well before lying down.

I share all this to remind us all the opiate crisis of today amounts to a spray of gasoline on an old mortal fire. Opiates are nothing new under the sun. Heroin is old and new again. It’s new companion, Fentanyl, just a reincarnation of feel-good death serum.

Thursday night on Chronicle, Chasing the High, WYFF4 will train a 21st Century lens on living death as old as my granddaddy’s. Opiates, and the chorus of lesser drugs around them, are piling up young bodies and shattering families and human hearts. The folly of enabling will make an appearance. Human love of an addict too often only ushers Death through the door. And the way opiates take form now, Death can show up well before Addiction gets its shoes on. One pill of heroin and Fentanyl can kill with equal force of a gun.  No addiction required.

You’ll see, and feel, the effect. Please don’t turn from it. Lean into it. Watch this work with the children in your life. Rest on no comforts about Christian schools and good boys and girls. They get no immunity from this. Death can slip through such doors on quiet little shoes. It has. It will again.

My granddaddy let opium swindle me out of feeling his hand to my back. I came into the world far after he died and never knew him. I wanted to, I still do, for I have heard of his beauty. The big gems of his tears he cried as he carried my mother back to the farm where an aunt and uncle were raising her. She refused to live at home.  She was a child afraid of the father who loved her.  But somehow he loved that opiate more. Needed it more. Not long after, Death became the only companion who could stand him.

My granddaddy died humbly. Quietly. His mortal being now only a strip of dirt and lingering bone under a cheap hunk of granite in a little mountain cemetery. But if one soul hears of this and turns on heroin, turns to life instead of living death, then the death of Ernest Keyes is one Grandaddy of a departing. It will matter. The prayers he prayed alone somehow answered, after all.

Chronicle, Thursday night, 7:00, only on WYFF4