Wealthy And Addicted: She Could Go Anywhere, Have Anything—Why Does It Happen?
Charlotte has been summoned by her father. She must leave Paris at once and head back to New York or he’ll probably do something drastic—like take away her monthly allowance. It will be two more years before she’s eligible to access her trust accounts, and so she is dependent on that money for everything she needs—vacations, parties, dresses. There’s something she’s been spending more and more of her money on lately, however; and of course her father couldn’t know anything about it. He never pays attention to her life except when he needs her to make an appearance and pretend to be the “respectable daughter” of his family’s massive fortune.
She scrambles around first in her Lanvin tote and then in the Louis Vuitton at her feet—there it is. She comes up with a small baggie of white powder and dumps a mound of it onto a compact mirror. Her father’s jet hasn’t left the tarmac, but Charlotte is already flying.
The entire winter has been as buzzy and unfocused as she is now. Night after night after night—turning into stretches of days—the young socialite smokes heady French cigarettes, drinks bottles and bottles of champagne and snorts the white powder with growing regularity. Interspersed are the nights spent on “molly”—or MDMA—and once or twice trying a drug she didn’t know until afterward was angel dust, or PCP.
It’s snowing all the time, whether it’s snowing or not. The heiress has a dull headache in the front of her skull that won’t go away and her normally waspy body is down several pounds. The Stella McCartney pantsuit she’s wearing fit her so much better only two weeks ago when she bought it in London. She’s waifish in the way her class and gender are expected to be, but far more so; she is deadly thin. Still, as Charlotte puffs on the cigarette, her teeth gleam in a grin as she exhales; she feels gorgeous, brilliant as a diamond.
But her father’s assistant sits stricken. Charlotte’s nose is dripping blood onto that winter white suit. This is the first time the woman has seen her employer’s daughter look so ungodly ill—there are dark circles under her eyes; her face is gaunt and dull despite the bright coral Dior lipstick. When did the girl take up smoking? As she reaches for a bottle of tonic water to daub the stain, she notices the baggie. The two women meet eyes; both know this will be a very long flight.
Crack Cocaine – An Equal Opportunity Destroyer
When you think about crack cocaine addiction, young women and men lost to the illusions painted by the dangerous highs of angel dust, stuttering speech and the smear of mascara, you probably think of the inner city. Young people with hopeless futures and no way out; little money and nowhere to go with whatever potential they might possess. But this tableau is just as common among the prep school lot of the Upper East Side. Wealth and power know the pain of addiction as well as any other class. Picture the celebrity heiress, falling from grace on the cover of Page Six. She could go anywhere, have anything—why does it happen?
Sigrid Rausing, Swedish philanthropist, anthropologist and publisher put it aptly: “The pros of inheriting great wealth, I believe, are largely illusory and can become pathological. An illusory sense of being special and different, the assumption that one is interesting to other people only, or mainly, because of the money, and subsequent feelings of isolation.”
Isolation. For those outside the 1 percent, it can be hard to imagine how the proverbial keys to the kingdom might lead one to a sense of alienation, but imagine: you have everything in the world, everything many others would take from you in a heartbeat; you can never be entirely certain whether those who remain close to you do so for the privilege your prestige brings or whether you truly matter to them; and a great portion of the world is hoping you will fail. You have no need to work, no need of avocation except as hobby. A 20,000 square foot beach house in the Hamptons, a penthouse apartment in Manhattan, and half the island of Barbados may be yours, but what of meaning? Purpose? Those things must be created by each of us; they are never inherited.
According to William F. Messinger, “More than just a distraction, addiction fosters complex dysfunction that affects families on multiple levels: from the rampant financial drain to support the addict’s habit to the exhausting tension and family conflicts to the public relations nightmares of outbursts and arrests. It’s a problem that can threaten the very underpinnings of the family’s wealth and security.” While no one elects at the outset to become riddled with the problem of chronic addiction in order to advance the demise of his or her life or that of the family name, families would do well to consider the problem of addiction as serious as diabetes or cancer, and as likely to advance if not taken seriously.
Recovery Is No Easier, No Matter Who You Are
And therein lies the rub. While the very wealthy may be able to afford the finest recovery centers, the best doctors and the most up-to-date, ongoing care for their addicted loved ones, the problem of addiction reaches into the very depths of who we are as people, and is a battle which must be fought daily. No outside help can do the fighting for you. A middle-class individual may feel more able to walk into an AA or NA meeting and trust the anonymity inherent in the group’s mission. She can largely trust that others will be in the meeting with lives and problems much the same as hers, but when you come from the very highest echelon along the social class structure, you may fear showing up at all for fear of making too vulnerable your family’s name or security. This is not stated as a reason to feel sorry for the wealthy; it is simply a fact. No matter who we are, or what we have, if we deal with the problem of addiction, we must suffer its consequences.
Money and status can buy many things. Unfortunately, they cannot secure a life free from the stranglehold of addiction, or entirely clear the devastation wrought after addiction has taken its hold. They can, however, if a person is willing to invest the time and interest, provide a life where making oneself well is at least financially possible, and where creating purpose and meaning can be carved out should one choose. It is the purpose and meaning part, after all, which will carry us through into recovery, no matter who we are.