Meth in the heartland: One town’s story

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I have written about how methamphetamine transits the globe and how it ultimately finds it way to users in the San Francisco Bay Area. The methamphetamine story is varied and complex. It will take a great deal of elucidation to get a handle on it. Nick Reding’s book, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, goes a long way toward doing this for the heartland. Redding does a great job of going back to his roots in the mid-West to describe how methamphetamine has become such a popular and, in many ways, essential drug in rural and small town America. The book is well-researched and contains many personal anecdotes regarding how this drug is affecting the people using the drug, their families and the communities to which they belong.

The book is difficult to put down. I highly recommend reading it. If you are not so inclined or need more reason to invest your time, Kevin Nenstiel, an author and English professor living in Nebraska, has done an excellent synopsis and review of the book. You can find it here.

Practicing nostalgia: Looking back to look forward

Albany, NY nostalgia

Nostalgia is an interesting phenomenon. It is a force for going back into our past and pulling out evocative remnants of our memories. In life, we forget as much as we remember, however it’s what we remember that forms us and helps us to make sense of the world.

At a certain age nostalgia takes over. This usually happens when we are less active in the world and are turning inward. Circumstances often dictate this. We are taking time off from life to look backward instead of into the future. We are looking for clues to who and what we have become.

If you have had a long illness, a long vacation, an extended unemployment, a retirement, the death of someone close to you or anything that has taken you out of what you believe to be the normal imperceptible progression of life, then nostalgia can be your enemy or your friend.

Most dramatic life changes happen suddenly and involve a loss of some kind. The past comes rushing in to fill the gap and this experience can be very overwhelming. It is as though we are alone in a foreign land with no direction. To find our way back to ourselves and to the familiar streets of our psyche seems impossible.

This is reason enough to make forays into the foreign territory of nostalgia every once in a while especially when we are most comfortable with our lives: go back to the old neighborhood; sit in front of our childhood home; look at photographs of those who have passed; listen to music that helped form us; reread a book that changed our thinking forever; look up a friend that we haven’t seen in decades; get re-involved in a hobby or activity that we once enjoyed; or revisit places that inspired us at one time.

Nostalgia becomes the powerful force we turn to in order to redefine ourselves in light of our past. The light is bright and constant and there to help us make meaning out of the seeming chaos of those things we often have no control over. With a steady dose of nostalgia we become less fearful of the sudden curveballs that life inevitably throws us.

When we know how we survived, and even thrived, in the past we are more confident that we can do this now and in the future. We meet life on our own terms.

We simply look back to look forward.