God Don’t Like Ugly by Fiona Helmsley

I worked at a women’s halfway house for five years. I started working there within a year of getting clean from a ten year addiction cycle to heroin. I consider myself lucky; when the house manager heard that I was doing well, she offered me a job and I became a member of the house support staff. Several times a week, in 8 hour shifts, I lived with the women in their home, ate meals with them, watched TV with them, dispensed their medications, drug tested them and listened to them when they wanted to talk. Though I’m well-schooled in the programs of A.A and N.A, I’ve never been big on meetings and I credit my work at the house with helping me to stay clean so early on.

When I left the job two years ago to work in the public sector, a part of me felt like I was breaking up with my identity as a drug addict, it had been such a big part of the face that I showed the world for so long. I soon found myself missing my old job for reasons I hadn’t anticipated. A friend once told me that he didn’t date women he met ‘in the program’ because by default their bond would be one of pain. This was the aspect of my relationship with the women of the halfway house that I missed the most: I never felt like I had to hide a thing from them, we could share our pain and struggles with one another so freely. For the most part, the standard the women used as criteria to judge one another were of a frivolous nature: cheap shoes or a bad weave – not prostitution histories, felony records or rates of relapse.

While I was working at the house, there was an expression that was popular with the women there: God don’t like ugly. The women would use it to mean that you think you’re getting away with something, but you’re not. “Who does that bitch think she’s fooling? God knows, and God don’t like ugly.”

I am conflicted when it comes to my feelings about God. I pray for people I care about at night. I turn to God when I’m fearful and in need of a favor. I consider myself a Cafeteria Catholic, but I’m not 100% convinced that the cafeteria has a manager. Regardless, this was the phrase that kept coming into my head, as I page-clicked and scrolled through my various social networking feeds, reading the public reaction to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death: God don’t like ugly.

I love his work, but in the end he’s just a dead junkie.

He was a scum bag that cared about no one else but himself.

Another drug user off the streets. Good riddance.

Really, it was a Deja vu news cycle, with a Deja vu public response. The ugliness I was seeing everywhere, I’d seen before. Before Philip Seymour Hoffman, I’d seen it directed towards Whitney Houston. Before Whitney Houston, I’d seen it directed towards Amy Winehouse. I believe that most people are empathetic and compassionate to the plight of the addict. That’s why this type of commentary still has the power to unnerve me – because it’s such an extreme break from what I think about the human character. Or maybe it’s more personal. Maybe I continue to get so upset because each time I see it, it’s like reading my own epitaph. What I keep seeing and reading with each drug-related death could have been written about me or still could, if I ever give into the temptation to use.

just another junkie…I could care less if he was an actor or a street junkie- they are the same.

So lets feel sorry for another Junkie! Why because he was a actor and had fame and money. Poor guy right! WELL I THINK POOR KIDS. PUTTING HIS CHILDREN IN DANGER AROUND DRUG DEALING IDIOTS IS PATHETIC! Rot in hell you worthless punk.

I’ve come to think of them as “The Shadow People,” these mostly anonymous posters who sit down at their keyboards and register their disgust, disdain and joy when something tragic happens in our community. Whenever a life is lost and people are pained, that’s when they creep out of the shadows. They’re a lot like the members of Westboro Baptist Church – only their words aren’t as zingy and their spelling and grammar is often questionable. Their feelings are clear: us drug addicts deserve any and all misfortune that falls upon us.

This guy is nothing but a low life doper. The world should celebrate that there is one less doper.

I have no respect for drug users, as they have no respect for themselves or their families.

If you are that gutless that you can’t handle everyday life, then get off my planet.

With each celebrity drug-related death and the accompanying chorus of disdain for the addict that follows, it’s becoming hard for me not to lapse into an us vs. them mentality. I find myself wondering if the ‘straight’ world will ever truly understand and empathize with us that are ‘bent’ or if they even want to.

It becomes hard for me to not see the places where we hold our meetings, candle-lit basements and darkened church centers, as more than just locations utilized for their convenience and cheap rent, but as the locations we’ve chosen purposely because of the extra measure of protection they offer us from the outside world. We say we stick so closely with one another because we can relate and understand each other’s struggles but the other side is this: there are people in the world who don’t understand our struggles at all and some of them wish us harm.

take drugs..die…who cares??

And then there’s this: the backbone of A.A and N.A, our eponymous anonymity. Is it our anonymity that’s allowing our marginalization to fester? How can we defend ourselves to the people who say “we should rot in hell” and “who cares” without first outing ourselves as addicts and opening ourselves up to the associated consequences?

One of the often-repeated slogans of A.A and N.A is you’re only as sick as your secrets. For many of us the very real fear of the consequences of this disclosure force us to have to hide that we are addicts. We have left it to the medical community, our families and those addicts with the luxury, usually borne of financial means, to speak out for us, to defend us, to clear up the misconceptions about our disease. Three weeks ago, we lost a member of our community willing to speak up for us in Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Since 1956, alcoholism has been recognized as a disease. The American Medical Association, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), The National Institutes of Health, The World Health Organization, The American Psychiatric Association and numerous other organizations in the scientific and medical fields now recognize drug addiction as an illness, comparable to diabetes and cancer: treatable, arrestable and chronic. The Shadow People aren’t living under a rock. They are getting the news that Philip Seymour Hoffman has passed, that Amy Winehouse is gone – they are up on current events, they know how to use computers. I find it hard to believe they don’t have any idea about the findings of the medical community. Still, I doubt they would celebrate and welcome the death of a man or woman, someone’s mother, father, lover, sister, brother or friend, from cancer the way they celebrate ours should we succumb to our disease.

While I’m blessed to love my current job, I still miss my work at the halfway house. I miss the freedom of being ‘out’ as an addict in all of my interactions and being able to allow what could have killed me to exist out in the open as part of my identity. I miss not having to hide anything.

Congrads to Mr Hoffman… He’s finally cured his drug problem…

To the Shadow People I’d like to say two very pertinent things: God don’t like ugly and spellcheck is your friend.