how do the crackheads feel?

I think most would agree it is a fortunate thing to have never used crack. Personally, I don’t know how being “on crack” feels. I imagine there is some sort of temporary satisfaction followed by severe regret, perhaps shame or frustration, and other disturbing consequences (kinda like eating a box of yellow Peeps during Easter, or watching a movie with Robert Pattinson). I don’t want to speculate too much, but as I was walking around downtown Spokane today, I found myself curiously empathetic toward those who I assume to be “crackheads”. I’m not talking about people who specifically use crack (although they are included), but more so those who are socially awkward. These are the folks who have an easy time making everyone within a certain radius uncomfortable by way of body odor, loud outbursts, or general creepiness. I was not empathizing with their body odor (although my wife would argue this point) or the loud crazy outbursts, but I did indeed wonder why and how people come across as weirdos or creeps. A little back story on my empathy…

I’ve had some moderately serious health concerns recently. Without being too specific, I needed to drop some weight. My weight was not the primary issue, but losing weight was definitely a good way to address the problems. However, my circumstances didn’t allow for physical exercise, and I couldn’t simply bang out P90X in a few months and get down to my fighting weight. So, with physical exercise not being an option, my doctor suggested an appetite suppressing drug. It would be only temporary and I could slowly work my way into some light exercise and eventually switch completely from medication to exercise. For the record: I trust my doctor. So, I got the pills and started losing weight. It was pretty shocking how easy it was. I originally thought “look at all these suckers paying the monthly “fat tax” at the gym…I’m doing nothing, I’ve lost 20 pounds in 3 weeks, and it only cost $6 at the pharmacy”. The problem with drugs, and I would have known this had I not been on drugs, is that they tend cloud one’s thinking. There is a reason that most rational thinking people would rather exercise and diet over taking medication. This informational video pretty much sums it up….

Over the past few months, I have had so many awkward exchanges with people that I’m absolutely sure I’ve been accused of being a crackhead (probably by my own family). It’s not that I’ve been oblivious either. When you are on medication, you can attempt simple social transactions and watch them go very wrong right before eyes. Here’s an exact transcript of a recent exchange I had with a bank teller:

bank teller – How is your day going?
me – I’m really nice now…I..uh…it’s nice…I meant to say it’s outside…I mean…it’s nice outside…for everybody…not just me.
bank teller (slightly nervous) – Ok.
me – I’m sorry, I’m on drugs. (jokingly)
bank teller – (stares at me)
me – I’m not really on drugs…well sort of…it’s just medication to help me lose some weight. It’s actually way cheaper than going to a gym….so….yeah…
bank teller – (interrupts) Here is your $5 in quarters.
me – thanks, it’s for the parking meters…not drugs…haha…
bank teller – (doesn’t smile) …
me – sorry…bad joke….well, I’ll just go…(sliding the quarters off the counter into my hand, half of them dropped on the floor)….oh shit…..sorry.

I picked up the quarters off the floor and quickly shuffled out. I looked back as I was leaving through the door and the two other tellers were now standing alongside the teller that helped me, and they were all staring at me intently. I’m certain they thought I was a crackhead. This certainty led me into a state of deep insecurity. Here’s a few recent examples of how that insecurity affected my inner monologue – “What should I say to this person to seem normal? – What does that look mean? – Does everybody here hate me? – Should I explain that last sentence…no that would be weird…but if I just say nothing, that’s weird too…ugh”. I had been riding the snake into the downward spiral of social awkwardness.

The good news is that I’m actually getting healthy. I’ve lost some weight, started exercising a bit, and I’m pretty close to being done with my medication. I can again speak in full sentences, and now, I only make people feel semi-uncomfortable. If you’re a friend of mine, and I’ve been a total jerk or weirdo to you….I’m sorry, I am coming out of my funk and I’ll call you soon.

I feel for the “crackheads” because a lot of them won’t have an easy time coming out of their funk. Some of them never will. I walked through the downtown streets today and my eyes met with the eyes of several unfortunate fellow human beings. I smiled and said “hello” to each one, and every time, they just looked back at me with no reply. I thought about my recent “inner monologues”, and I wondered if they were thinking the same things. I thought about the frustrated & hopeless feeling of not being able to say the things you want to say. I thought about that spiral with every social interaction taking you a bit further, deeper. I wondered if these people felt better or worse after I said a simple hello. I don’t know how they felt….but for once, I cared.

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