It’s not about the “crowd” you hang out with, it’s not about other people. Everything hinges on what is in you, what emotions and feelings motivate you. People often reject those who are suffering, forcing them to band together in common pain, forcing society to feel that they, “Just started hanging out with the wrong crowd.” In fact the “crowd” is often just a group that accepts the emotional or physical shortcomings of its members.
Recently several young men from Northern Maine have been in the news for drug arrests. I can hear the community saying, “Wow, did they get in with the wrong crowd.” That’s not what happened at all. If you search most all of these men’s past you will find some kind of emotional or physical trauma. You will find they turned to drugs as a way to mask the pain of that trauma, as a way to console themselves when no one listened to their painful stories anymore or they were incapable of dealing with the pain of their trauma. They didn’t wake up one day and decide to “get into” drugs. I can look and see at least three of these young men from my community and know what their trauma is. I can remember when they experienced it. I saw when their world went wrong. They eventually lost friends they were close to all of their lives because of trauma and their reaction to it.
“Cannibus isn’t a gateway drug. Alcohol isn’t a gateway drug. Nicotine isn’t a gateway drug. Caffeine isn’t a gateway drug. Trauma is a gateway drug.“Russel Brand
The worst part of this to me is that our country is beyond rich but lacks the commitment to provide needed resources for these people. We spend billions on prisons and throw people in active addiction into enforced recovery to suffer through without supports, often being incredibly ill while in withdrawal without medical interventions. We have the mentality that we should lock them up and throw away the key. But what would happen if we listened to them, if we tried to reach behind the drug use and find the core of what they are masking. We spend more than $100 per day to house an inmate whether that be county, state or federal jails. What would happen if we spent a fraction of that on mental health care, on educating our young people on the importance of taking care of your mental health, encouraged them to share their hurts, angers and trauma. We could likely decrease prison populations by more than 50%.
In Aroostook County, you find it is generally young men who are arrested for drug use. Why? Our young men are taught from an early age that they need to be tough, that it is unacceptable to express emotions if you are a male. Men don’t discuss their problems. I’m sure it is much the same in other parts of the country as well. What happens when that facade of toughness disintegrates, men are rejected by others, thought of as weak and unable to keep their lives in order. They lose friends, they lose jobs, they lose the ability to participate in a society that shuns their vulnerability and turn to whatever helps them make it through life. Often that’s alcohol or drugs.
None of these people are in the “wrong crowd.” They are part of the crowd that accepts their coping mechanisms and likely uses those same mechanisms to cope themselves. Stop using the term “wrong crowd.”