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Back in the mid-seventies a drug rehab facility in the DC area aired a TV commercial that featured the jingle, “I’m feeling good about me now that I’m drug free.” My teen years began in 1974 and I used to sing that jingle when it came on, usually late at night when I was babysitting at neighbors’ homes. In 1982, the year I turned twenty-one, Nancy Reagan began her well-intentioned but ineffective, “Just say, ‘No!'” campaign. While, “Just say, ‘No!'” like DARE, had no statistical effect on drug abuse, I managed to get the message and remain a hard core drug abstainer. (Yes, I do drink moderately. Yes, alcohol is the most abused drug in the world. Move on, there’s nothing to see here.)

When I describe myself as a hard core drug abstainer I mean just that. I have a prescription for Levothyroxine and another for a lowest dose statin;  those two, once daily pills, along with my ounce or two of weekly alcohol, are it. (Says the man with a pot of coffee at his elbow!) I turn 58 in April, two prescriptions is a pretty low number for and old geezer. Lifestyle choices are my first, second an third lines of defense, drugs are an option I avoid until all others avenues prove ineffectual.

Pain, both physical and psychic, are no strangers to me. Arthritis in hands, knees and feet is severe enough at times to be disabling and there is always some pain. Similarly, I fight depression. My monkey, as I refer to my psychic traumatizer, is likewise controlled through environment and lifestyle. (Like that little homodoesslayus could ever truly be “controlled!”) I don’t do drugs unless drugs are the only answer.

Having just finished a run of William Shakespeare’s “Timon Of Athens,” a Bare Theatre adaptation that featured exorbitance including kilos of cocaine, thoughts on drug use and abuse percolated to the top of my brain. We were snorting coke, popping pills and drowning in alcohol (Some of which was wine stomped by the feet of virgins!) and I had a ton of dark, dark fun portraying the excesses of the mid-eighties club scene. We made a lot of coke jokes!

Chatting with a cast-mate, I referred to coke as snow and she didn’t catch the slang. (Nineties babies! Geez!) After I explained she replied, “Oh, I’ve never done cocaine.”

My reply of, “Neither have I. All my drug usage knowledge is theoretical,” received a heartbreakingly libertarian answer.

“Well, it’s cool. Each to their own,” she said with a smile.

Blank stare.

No. Not each to our own.

My hardheaded disinclination regarding drug use may be over the top but this laissez faire attitude towards things that kill us in the name of a good time is the knife point of self-care and self-love. My wish for everyone is to care for self, care for others, do good works and to be happy. There are billions of ways to walk that path but nowhere along the way is there a rest-stop for gratuitous behaviors that damage our bodies, minds and spirits. Taking chances makes us feel alive. Life is all about new experiences but activities that destroy us fail the first of my four edicts, care for self.

I often refer to myself as a physical puritan, (I’m not, of course!) because I emphasize behaviors in my life that build me up. I get outside, I eat food that builds me up, I exercise, I’m monogamous, I have fun in ways that don’t destroy me. Boring? Probably, but I know the toll the years heap upon us and I know the pain early death brings to surviving loved ones lives and I know that while life is never certain we can, should and must do what we can to make our own luck, and lifestyle choices are our single most controllable vector in a sea that will eventually wash over and drown us.

Hey! Go swimming but watch the signs and the riptides and remember that we while we can’t make our own luck we can at least try to stack the deck in our favor.

Take care of yourselves and do what Nancy told us, “Just say, ‘No!'”