I Got Arrested. Know Your Football? The Guy Who Retaliates Gets the Flag
As a longtime football fan, I have always been bemused by how the refs always dun the player who strikes back after being fouled, kicked, poked in the eye or cleated in the criminally- sensitive zone. Almost never does the instigator get caught. Fifteen yards, thrown out of the game, whatever. Those of us watching the game aren’t happy (if it’s our guy, at least; we love it when the OTHER guy gets caught) with this, as we love to shriek it’s not fair.
Well, nobody cares about fair. It’s about who gets caught.
If you show up as an asshole, and get caught, it costs your team yards, possibly the game or at least field position. Or a guy on the ice stuck in a penalty box.
Or, as in my case, I got arrested.
Let me back up here and explain.
At 65, and a disabled veteran who has a habit of dropping off big bags of smoked almonds at my local police station, the only time I’ve ever been on the wrong side of the law in my long life is with the occasional speeding or parking ticket. I don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t get into trouble. I pay my tickets on time and keep my nose clean. I don’t break the law.
I just don’t.
Until this past week.
There’s a saying that every man has his price. I disagree, for the simple fact that there are plenty of examples of deeply principled people who refused to sell out. Men and women. Some paid with everything they owned, their family relations. Or with their lives. Being principled can be expensive, especially in these times.
However, and this is particularly true in our current society, I believe we all have a breaking point. Some of us never find ours, and live our entire lives in blissful ignorance of what it might take to get us to blow our tops. These people, just like I did, function under the mistaken belief that nothing is going to ruffle their feathers enough to make them do something monumentally stupid. Or illegal.
A yellow flag, as it were, especially when the behavior is in reaction to someone else’s flagrantly illegal behavior.
Now here’s the thing. The facts of this case notwithstanding (I’m right in the middle of sorting it all out) the bottom line is that I did something wrong. It doesn’t matter that it was reaction to a highly illegal act by someone else. I didn’t walk away. It doesn’t matter what my reasons are. It doesn’t matter that a great many folks might have done the same thing in my position. It simply doesn’t. The fact stands that I chose to behave in a manner that first, I despise in others, and second, shamed me horribly. It’s a minor offense ( I yelled in someone’s face for nearly killing me with his car) but still- I didn’t walk away.
In such situations people get shot. They die. I’m probably very fortunate.
Now I have to answer to my city’s legal system for behaving in a way that I never, ever dreamed I ever could. Because I hit a breaking point.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
Since this is most definitely not my M.O. I had some hard thinking to do. What on earth? Then this morning I found my answer. Earlier last week my surgeon had put me on prednisone for shoulder pain, which had been extreme for weeks. An MRI showed significant swelling and inflammation (as a hemophiliac I can’t take Ibuprofen or aspirin products). He prescribed a dose pack, which you begin with a very big dose and then taper off.
The biggest side effect? Aggression.
Well no kidding.
The day after that big fat dosage I am screaming into the window of some kid’s car. Not in a million million years would I ever willingly do such a thing. Not sober at least. Not unmedicated.
While by now I am at the tag end of that dosage and, as a result, both the pain and the aggression (along with the entire ugly, evil laundry list of side effects including depression, crying, anxiety, YES to all, my hand is up) have dissipated. This doesn’t change the facts of my behavior any more than telling a judge well, “I was high, your honor,” would get anyone else off the hook.
A Pacifist into a Prick
It does, however, help explain how a pacifist turns into a prick.
As someone who rarely takes any kind of medication- except for pain, and there’s been a lot of that lately- meds hit me harder than those of a Certain Age. Any age for that matter, who gorm prescription pills like candy. I’m very small and thin, and most meds have been tested for full-sized white men. This is our medical system. Dosages that work fine for my 200-lb boyfriend have far greater reaching implications for someone half his size.
However, here’s the piece: If a pill can turn me — who wrote a triple-prize-winning book on graciousness- into a danger to society (at least verbally) to the extent that I get arrested, then I have to ask a simple question. How many million others of us are experiencing precisely the same kinds of behavior- and mind-altering effects from the very meds that are supposed to make us well, feel better and operate at a normal, calm, reasonable level?
The average person my age fills some fifteen scripts year. This is called polypharmacy. Not only is this hugely dangerous for our bodies and brains, but if just one pill can make me a menace, then perhaps part of what we are seeing our society isn’t just the anger algorhythm of social media. It’s social experimentation on a massive scale. What happens when an entire nation is so medicated that it gets vicious, aggressive, dangerous- all symptoms we are seeing everywhere all the time- as well as diseased, depressed, and desperate? Certainly it’s not all of us. But it is too many of us, and I was just one myself.
The medical community’s knee-jerk reaction to my behavior would be to prescribe psychotropics. Rather than question the first (prednisone), the response is to further medicate. I have sixty five years and a perfect record, but a typical doctor would recommend more meds. When I was on those very meds, all of which I dumped last year, I had terrible symptoms. They’re very dangerous when taken long term. Yet, driven by pharma lobbyists and sales, too many docs assume a pill will fix the problem when a pill WAS the problem in the first place. This is how we die.
We LOVE to Fight
Some fascinating research has shown that the brain experiences aggression as a reward in the same way as exercise, or other pleasurable sensations. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080114103723.htm Given this intriguing sidebar, then another question arises. If we are overly- medicated, then is our ability to manage our aggression, which the mind/body experiences as pleasurable, reduced, leading us to seek it out even more confrontation because our ability to manage that compulsion is compromised? I have no idea. I’m just asking here. I think they’re valid questions. As someone who has just had this direct experience, with all the attendant and costly consequences, I have to wonder.
The morning after my arrest I went for a twelve-hour drive in the high country. The BF emailed me to come home. I wrote back that I would come home when I was able to be grateful for the incident. This is what hard personal work looks like. You are served a meal of your own toxicity, and you can choose to eat it humbly. Or, as many do, you can be self-righteous, indignant, and deny the whole thing. A whole host of Yahbuts. Yahbut well, good luck with that. I suspect there’s a video which shows precisely what I did. It is very, very hard to argue with hard evidence. It’s highly unlikely that anyone caught the kid nearly killing me.
Is this fair? Probably not. But that’s not relevant. What I did was illegal. You can argue this six ways from Sunday but the facts remain.
It’s not society’s problem that medication likely caused my behavior. I still have to own what I’ve sown. And I will. However there is vast relief in finding the source, just as it brings up a whole other set of societal questions about what we’re doing to ourselves with medicines and polypharmacy. Then we have the everyday stresses and problems that are quite enough on their own, thankyouverymuch. It’s no wonder that people pop. I did. At least I know why and what to do about it.
Truth is that I am indeed grateful for this incident. In the odd way that such events are great teachers, it’s a gift. Hard to take but a gift nonetheless.
It’s always great when the other guy gets caught for speeding. It’s ever so much easier to have a laugh when someone else gets busted. When it’s our turn, and as a friendly cop said to me the other day (and we both laughed about it) everyone has the right to be an asshole once.
It’s good for the soul, if not the pocketbook, and it most definitely wreaks havoc on the ego. The ego is our prime source for righteous anger, the kind of anger that can leave someone dead.
Truth? I am grateful. As with everything else I have brought into my life I now have a very direct understanding of how easy it is to pass a tipping point even in a long, law-abiding life. It can happen to anyone. My guess is that it’s even more likely to happen to someone on just the right medical cocktail, the right set of life stresses. That opens the door to understanding and compassion. And that is priceless.