Danny Cardwell's picture

    Life Goes On, So Should We

    How many brothers fell victim to the streets?

    In May of 2001 I had a nervous breakdown. I completely came apart at the seams. When I look back on that day- and the events that led up to it- I can't believe it didn't come sooner.

    Our Virginia family was traveling to Delaware for my oldest nephews' high school graduation. Me and my father were leading the convoy. Being alone afforded us some time to catch up. We talked sports most of the morning: the Philadelphia 76ers were set to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. As the minutes turned into hours, our casual conversations turned into silence. Somewhere around Northern Virginia I started thinking; then I started overthinking. For the first time in several weeks I was in a situation where I couldn't avoid facing the hell my life had become. I physically started to feel sick. I was drowning in a sea of uncertainty. Without warning, I burst into to tears. I cried for 20 straight minutes without saying a word. When my dad stopped at a rest area I got out of the jeep and ran to my mom (who was traveling in another vehicle) I felt myself collapse. 

    My breakdown was the result of a combination of factors: many were my own fault. I wasn't properly dealing with the death of a close friend, the woman I thought I loved was incarcerated in a Montgomery county jail, I was arrested a few weeks before the trip for possession of schedule 1 with intent to distribute, and I had been indicted in another jurisdiction on similar charges. I thought my life was over. 

    That was 2001. I didn't see a path to the future. On Friday March 18, 2002, I was convicted of my crimes and wouldn't leave the Virginia Department of Corrections until November 16, 2011. 

    Writing this is surreal. Life can seem impossible at times. I made a million mistakes- some of which I'm still paying for. I never wanted to go to prison. I missed a lot of time with my family and friends. I lost loved ones. I suffered a lot for my mistakes, but I wouldn't change one step along this journey. Life Goes On whether we are prepared for it or not. We make our mistakes worse by not learning from them. There is nothing we can't overcome once we dedicate ourselves to addressing our hidden weaknesses and insecurities. 

    A few years ago, I sent my wife a text she still laughs at. It read: I love you isn't a radical enough notion for how I truly feel about you. You are the physical manifestation of my metaphysical conception of love. I meant every word of that message. Love is powerful. Love is beautiful and tender. I'm slowly growing into the man she knew I could be when we were kids. The pain in this life is real, but I promise you Life Goes On. Keep grinding. This was the most painful chapter in my life and feel better right now than I did when I started typing. We can survive and overcome any of our mistakes.



    Nine years, man?

    Seems... excessive. Like, really excessive.

    Danny, I feel privileged to read this post and I appreciate how hard it must have been for you to write it.  Just last night on the local news, there was a segment about a group helping previously incarcerated men get jobs, become a part of the community, and get back on their feet.  It featured two young men that I had personally met at the Jiffy Lube here in Charlottesville.  I was more than a month ago that I was there, and I remember that I was impressed by their professionalism at the time.  When I saw them on the news clip I just felt wonderful.  They clearly are making the most of help that is there for them.

    Yes, it is true that there are times that it seems that there is no answer, and all negative thoughts are on an endless loop.  From what you wrote it seems that you learned to accept love, which is really the greatest gift.  I am so happy for you, and so glad you shared this here.

    Powerful. The system is designed to kill us. Make a mistake and you are swept up. You survived. Thanks for sharing your story. I am reminded that drug companies can legally send 21 million Schedule 1 into a community of 3000.


    Marijuana, MDMA, Psilocybin... it's stunning that these things are even illegal any more.

    The war on drugs was/is racist at its core. Corporate profits, political expediency, and destroying the lives of African Americans (and lots of others) all rolled into one hideous ball.

    I have a family member dead from drugs - somehow they got him thinking that anything from robbing gas stations or apartments to whatever other outlandish behavior would fly - and he wasn't alone, it was the whole culture at the time.

    So I wonder if while you're speaking up about this awful "corporate" war of "political expediency", do you have any thoughts or statements to the damage that drugs harder than marijuana do to people who take them and those who live around them?

    (and yes, probably including XTC, though I'm not sure how certain of effects the studies are. Shrooms, well, fun is fun... )

    You don't rob people when you're rolling on X. You might grab Al Franken's butt during a photo op, but that's the worst of it.

    Yes, I was referring to the self-damage, which I think is still cause for concern with public policy (and at some point we get back to the image from Slouching Towards Bethlehem of kindergartners in the Summer of Love tripping - there's always a line that needs to be drawn, whether 12 or 15 or 18 or....). What's the proper age to get your first glo-wand and tab of extasy?


    And where does it go from that somewhat innnocent-in-the-headlights fantasy?

    Well, from rave parties, not necessarily much further - imagine half the current employees in SF's internet startups have been to them, or Coachella and Burning Man, and then they go to work and do their job - again, as long as not too much damage over time.

    What's the proper age to get your first glo-wand and tab of extasy?

    Well before you can join the Army.

    Shades of Apocalypse Now - who's in charge here?

    Sure. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from alcoholism and cigarettes kill more people than any other drug. Casino gamaholics are likely suicide candidates. We certainly must offer much more and better treatment to all addicts and consumers of dangerous substances. We should ban all advertising for alcohol and cigarettes except time, place, and cost. No colors, no cartoon characters, no celebrities, no sexy actors or models. I would also make casino gambling illegal since I don't think it's likely a dangerous black market would spring up if we did so.

    Regarding drugs, alcohol and cigarettes are deadlier than heroin or cocaine. Yet we wisely allow the former to be regulated and bought and sold legally. We should do the same with hard drugs and of course marijuana.

    Regarding drugs, alcohol and cigarettes are deadlier than heroin or cocaine. Yet we wisely allow the former to be regulated and bought and sold legally. We should do the same with hard drugs and of course marijuana.

    I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your intent, but it's a bit gangly to submit that regulated, legal "drugs" are deadlier than those that aren't if you're suggesting that the latter group join the former.

    Prince didn't smoke, drink or do drugs, but it took him only a short time on prescribed opioids to kill him (and thousands of others every month), whereas a friend is complaining her long-smoking father's had emphysema for 20 years but still kicking at 91. Heroin/opioids are much deadlier than cigarettes and alcohol, even though the *very long-term* morbidity rate for cigarettes is very high.. Same with coke, same with speed. And that's ignoring social effects, since part of the background is how destructively coke/crack addicts behave towards the rest of their community (and how to respond). I got a chuckle over the "no advertising" bit - maybe if we just ban advertising for crack and guns, our problem will go away. Worked so well in the 80's.

    When people have a choice, they tend to choose less intoxicating drugs. But when drugs are illegal, black marketeers have an incentive to peddle the most potent strains they can. Thus, during prohibition, bootleggers sold and people drank "bathtub" gin. Since then, Americans have moved towards less alcoholic beer and wine. The same is true for tobacco. B/c opioids are mostly illegal, dealers have an interest in selling the most powerful variant they can. If we made them legal, there would be a move away from the most addictive and destructive forms.

    Regarding your chuckle, apparently you are ignorant of the inverse correlation between ad bans and  tobacco consumption. 

    From the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids:

    While it is essential to continually educate the public about the real impact of tobacco use, these efforts are severely diminished by the billions of dollars the tobacco companies spend advertising and promoting their products. Tobacco companies are among the most sophisticated marketers in the world, and they constantly develop new and innovative campaigns to create a positive image for their products. By infiltrating virtually every facet of the culture, their aim is to make tobacco use not only acceptable but fashionable, glamorous, and sexy. An effective approach to tobacco control must therefore include restrictions on tobacco company marketing efforts.

    "When people have a choice, they tend to choose less intoxicating drugs." - Hal, nobody believes you when you pipe in with stuff like this. I had a friend who given the chance would shoot up coke rather than snort it - thought snorting it wasted its potential. There are a lot of different kinds of drug users. Given the choice, a lot would choose acid over a pot buzz. Some chose cupboard solvents over beer and alcohol. A number thought heroin just the right touch, others liked tweaking on speed half the time. Yuppie hip-trend America may be low-carb Yolait, but there are plenty still into their opioid buzz and bathtub meth and coke/crack options. Until you want to start point to some pertinent stats, it's all very wideeyed-boy-from-Freecloud stuff. Is this the "less intoxicating" sign you were speaking of? somehow doesn't seem like Lite Beer and wine spritzers are winning. (note: temporary decrease due to crashed economy & unable to afford, rather than any lack of demand)

    I'm well aware of tobacco advertisements, thanks - some of us even remember the 60's when news anchors would smoke during the nightly news.

    You are well aware of cigarette advertising but are you ignorant of the studies showing that banning it leads to reduced consumption?

    Regarding your claim that people don't choose less potent alternatives when they are available, are you familiar with the "iron law of prohibition" also known as the "cardinal rule of prohibition"? The iron law of prohibition, based again on scholarship, posits that as "law enforcement becomes more intense, the potency of prohibited substances increases. [Rachel] Cowan put it this way: "the harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs."

    My personally studied law has to do with "high school kids in garages will develop more and more turbocharged bongs and stronger weed until roughly the time they graduate and move on to other things". another PP-observed law is that "types of drugs brought to a kegger/bonfire will differ from the types of drugs brought to an inner city club or event. Etc. Anyway, already bored, time to move on.

    I'm getting a good chuckle out of this since your anecdotal evidence like your recent reliance on the Asian Tigers to support your neoliberal ideology undermines your claims. The reason PP that you find this boring is because you refuse to be educated. Learning is never boring but you have decided to stop learning altogether.

    Ah yes, which is why I worked on 4 languages + Machine Learning today (while having a beer - all work, no play...), & now off to do some business analysis. You've got me so pegged.

    You have chosen not to learn from facts and evidence that contradict your preconceived notions. Becoming conversant in new languages only enables you to be wrong in more countries.

    Hal, amazing you still see yourself as a teacher, but any way I can say nyet to you in a new way: nein, mei you, hayir, iie, laa, etc., is simply reinforcing the obvious.

    [PS - when you directly lie to me about what I profess and write, what part of "learning" is that supposed to be? I will never forgive that, you SoB]

    I'm sorry PP for holding up a mirror.

    You fucking lied, Hal - quit being an idiot. This isn't a "mirror".

    So you're saying I "fucking" lied as opposed to I just lied. Um okay. I will say this for you PP. Your sophistry skills haven't declined any. You're just as persuasive as you've always been.

    Hal, at least I'm not a fucking idiot. Whether I have "sophistry", well, pearls before swine. Just DO NOT FUCKING LIE DIRECTLY TO ME AGAIN.

    Thank you Danny for sharing. Your life is one of triumph over terrible injustice.

    Although some comments have been more about drugs (their schedule and legal status) and the subsequent effect that they had on your life, I read your essay as more about personal enlightenment and where we can all hope to grow out of adversity.  It doesn't seem to me that you are trying to excuse or downplay your mistakes, but rather to accept and hopefully learn from them - as we all should upon reflection.

    I have a close family member who has been spiraling for so long that I'm not sure he sees reality as anything more than pictures that are faded around the edges.  My fervent hope is that he can one day, like you, accept the responsibility for his actions and find a way to overcome them ... I find myself almost constantly reminding him that life goes on ... but it takes change.

    It doesn't seem to me that you are trying to excuse or downplay your mistakes, but rather to accept and hopefully learn from them - as we all should upon reflection.

    Definitely.  Though, is it really a mistake if you've been punished for breaking laws that never should have existed in the first place?

    Yes, it is.  We live in a society that is made up of laws; many of which we may disagree with but must obey nonetheless until such time as they're changed.  We need to work to change the laws with which we disagree, not expect that our behavior is exempt simply because we do. 

    Marijuana laws changed because people kept breaking the law.

    Good point. I might cynically add, "white people kept breaking the law..."

    You make it sound like a done deal.  Lots of people in prison or on their way might disagree.

    You are correct


    ​Arrests in NYC went up under Bloomberg and are 10x higher under DeBlasio than under Giuliani 

    So much for the "liberal coasts" theory. It's still America, we're still conflicted by all basic questions.

    I suspect that as far as NYC policing and arresting is concerned, a lot ot that is "broken windows" theory where you are able to harass people in "bad neighborhoods" not to use on the street, including alcohol, we have long had laws against drinking alcohol on the street, no open bottles/cans, leaving it up to the police to enforce.

    And yeah nobody taking a sip from their can of beer on the Upper East Side has to worry. But if you're downtown in a big rowdy crowd outside a nightclub that often gets noise complaints from the neighbors? You better keep that can hidden!

    "Broken windows" started during Guiliani. The Dinkins era was the time of laissez faire, with things like extortionist squeegee men harassing motorists....

    (Side note: as far as I am concerned, they have never adequately used the laws against public urination. But then the city has to date still not adequately addressed availability of public restrooms,either. And I do understand how most cops are probably loathe to confront someone who has their peepee out.)

    The problem with marijuana as opposed to some other things is: the level of punishment once arrested.

    Edit to add: if Bloomberg had had his way, all smokers ot tobacco on public streets would have been arrested. (As far as the west coast, I think you can already be arrested for smoking tobacco in your own apartment in the People's Republic of Santa Monica, while marijuana smokers get special treatment....)

    Damn, aren't you the West Coast hippie punching voice of East Coast disgruntlement....
    Yeah, my surprise is that "Broken Windows" produced more pot busts after Giuliani than during.
    And I'm not surprised police were reluctant to have their top 3 or 4 crimes in the rap sheet read a) rape, b) burglary, c) murder, d) taking a whiz in an alley or landing - doesn't exactly encourage those serious levels of respect they might be after. At least pot you can file under "drugs" or "illicit substances".

    Obviously need more details here but I've an inkling a grave injustice was committed and Danny was the victim, not the perpetrator.

    Since this is his story, perhaps we obviously should leave the sharing of details to him.  My observation is simply that he doesn't portray himself as a victim of laws or errant societal values.

    To its credit, California is busy wiping the records of pot offenders who don't have the wherewithal to file to clear their own names. And I would have hoped pot would have been decriminalized or legal 40-50 years ago. But coke, heroin/opioids, amphetamines, acid - all good fun for a party, all with various degrees of destructiveness. In a society that drives a lot, even worse. But hey, in Portugal heroin's legal. (while the Germans now have speed limits on 50% of the autobahn - how times change). so which laws okay to disobey?

    You might be careful about getting some of that legal heroine in Portugal where small amount posession and individual use have been decrimanlized but still require treatment when discovered. Buying, selling and smuggling heroin is common and very illegal in Portugal, not much different from how the US handles low level use seperate from the drug business.

    Thanks, agreed.

    Thank you for this post, Danny.

    I don't tell you often enough how much I appreciate you, or how proud I am to have you on the masthead here. I am always grateful that you joined us.

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