Paradise or not
The following article is in response to a piece published in Rhode Island Monthly’s July issue. The magazine’s article, titled “Dark Side of the Sun,” discussed drug and alcohol problems on the island. Many felt it painted a skewed, bleak picture. The author of this piece, Joel Taylor, is a recovering drug addict who wrote a series for The Times about his addiction.
Sometime in the middle of last summer, I walked home to the west side with a friend of mine late at night. When she joined me on my hammock, she said something I’ll never forget. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know, it’s really nice to hang out with somebody who doesn’t have to drink and smoke weed to have a good time.” My heart left my body and floated around in the stars for the next five minutes. With those words, the work I had done to turn my life around had been instantly validated. At the same time, it said something substantial about the culture we are in.
Fast forward 12 months, and I find myself reading a poorly photocopied article fromRhode Island Monthly magazine about how dark Block Island is in the winter. There was some truth in it, which can be painful in and of itself. More painful, though, was the fact that certain names were used to make an inconsequential point that may have been totally irrelevant to their deaths. Over the past week or so, I’ve witnessed first hand the pain that resurfaced as a result of that article
Unfortunately, there was a point to be made, and the blinders were strapped on in order to make it. I was interviewed in March by the author and specifically remember having very positive things to say about the island’s winter life.
When asked how I felt about a drug and alcohol problem on Block Island, my response was that it’s certainly not the defining characteristic of the island. Perception can be skewed depending on the people one surrounds themself with and, personally, my winter was spiritually vitalizing and productive.
It is true that there is a self-perpetuating culture here that welcomes destructive behavior and attracts like-minded people. However, when anyone says alcohol is pervasive in every part of the culture here, I have to thoroughly disagree. Coming from a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, I wouldn’t expect that to be taken lightly. When I read the article in Rhode Island Monthly that was published early this month, I was disappointed to find that my sentiments were left out.
That’s all the attention I’m going to pay to the recent article. The conversation about drug and alcohol abuse still has a head of steam, and that’s enough. I was asked by some to write a full response to the article, but I won’t. The conversation has become too personal and too negative for me to participate.
No act of government and no newspaper articles will ever change anything on their own. Change needs incentive and an incredible amount of motivation in order to take place. I didn’t write the series for The Block Island Times last winter with the naivety that it would change anything in any large-scale fashion.
Drug addiction, alcoholism and mental health are individual problems that ultimately can only be helped by the sufferers themselves and by those in contact with them. It’s an issue that’s dealt with one person at a time. Any time I was contacted by someone about the series I wrote for the Times and they told me how much it helped them or taught them, I was more than grateful. That’s why I wrote the series. Knowledge only needs to be spread by reaching one person, who in turn gives it to another.
I will mention one thing, though: if Block Island ever wants to throw a seriously wet blanket on drug trafficking, it may want to wake up and smell the roses on the Block Island Ferry and New England Airlines. There’s absolutely nothing to deter me from carrying a quarter pound of marijuana or a few kilograms of heroin to the island using either of those routes. Still, I know that won’t change unless there’s a problem large enough to make bag checks and police dogs economically worthwhile options.
Some people say Block Island is a paradise, and some say there is no such thing. Some people say there is a drug problem on Block Island, and some say there isn’t. Regardless, I love Block Island for what it is. Like a woman I’ve been in love with for twenty years, I love her beauty and her ugliness. I love her when she laughs and I love her when she cries. I love when she dances and I love when she picks her nose. However, Block Island never ages, and I can leave anytime I want without worrying about her sleeping with my friends. Paradise or not, this island is home to many extraordinary people.