The unacceptable — jails, psych wards, homeless shelters — became normal

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The unacceptable — jails, psych wards, homeless shelters — became normal

In his book Permanent Midnight, Jerry Stahl writes about his heroin addiction: With drugs, the unthinkable becomes routine, and the routine is something you never have to think about, because of the drugs.

One fine July morning, I broke into a relative’s home, stole a valuable heirloom, and sold it at a pawnshop. Now there was enough money for about a day’s worth of meth. The next afternoon, I went to the same relative’s home to try the same thing. When the police came, I demanded to speak to an FBI agent because I had been secretly recruited via subliminal messaging to act as a clandestine agent at the heart of a sweeping anti-espionage operation. I spent the next 24 hours in a safety cell, naked, surrounded by padded walls and with a straitjacket for a blanket. From there came transfer to a psych ward and eventually to county jail.

In a four-year period, I had at least 16 face-to-face interactions with law enforcement. We’re not talking traffic tickets here. Sometimes others called the authorities on me. Sometimes I went to the police, the FBI, and, once, the Secret Service, told them who I was, and presented them with “evidence” that someone was “after me,” asking for their help. The police came to my home five times. I was put in handcuffs four times and arrested three. These types of experiences were as routine as business trips. Something one had to engage in, if not enjoy; a necessary evil within one’s chosen profession.

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