The historical record bears witness to the fact that there have been people with significant addictions who have functioned at very high levels and accomplished brilliant things. This week’s exploration of cocaine reminds us that that Sigmund Freud, the creator of the “talking cure – psychoanalysis – was a cocaine user. Freud is reputed to have remarked that cocaine made him feel the way he thought he ought to feel. He recommended cocaine use to his friends. The fictional character Sherlock Holmes is portrayed as a cocaine user. The makers of the film “The Seven Per Cent Solution” put these two coincidences to good use and created a fictional encounter between Freud and Holmes, who seeks Freud out to save him from his overwhelming addiction. It makes for good fun and adventure and a happy intersection of historical fact and creative imagination.
The question this raises is, to what degree is drug dependence inherently disabling? Often, reading the biography of a famous person, surprising details emerge. We know of the drinking behaviours of Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, and Britain’s war-time PM, Winston Churchill. But substance use and related problems are part of the biographies of people such as Jean Paul Sartre and Jean Cocteau. In the fiction of John Irving we encounter an ether-using doctor in The Cider House Rules. William Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, was a heroin user and a methadone patient. Recently, I learned of a baseball player who pitched a perfect game while under the influence of LSD. His name was Doc Ellis. A documentary on his life played at the Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival at the TIFF Light Box in 2014. Have a look at this short film to get Doc’s version of events. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vUhSYLRw14&t=1s
YOUR JOB IS to add to the list of successful people who have had substance use problems. Draw from historical figures, contemporary figures, and even from fictional characters. Come up with at least 4-6 people!!