They said that, back when, Caleb* had skills. He had some education, and had worked at a respectable job. But somewhere along the line, he must have given up. Some kind of injury (lawnmower? car wreck? both?) had legitimately put him on disability for awhile, and the doctor put him on some painkillers, apparently, to help with the ongoing pain. Caleb discovered a new lifestyle. I'm not saying that his pain wasn't or isn't real. But he hasn't held a regular job since. When the short-term disability ran out, he was fired, and he did small jobs while awaiting his federal disability status checks. And taking completely-legally-prescribed drugs.
During this time, his depression kicked in. It wasn't just the way his body atrophied during his inactivity-- it was a continued manifestation of the way he was brought up. His father was an absentee, with drug and alcohol problems, yet Caleb to this day refers to him with reverence. His mother was an alcoholic with an unhealthy relationship with her children. Drinking of course had become a way of life for him, and I'm not sure I actually ever saw him completely sober. He was, I suppose, kind of destined to have emotional problems. And boy, did he ever have them. Prescriptions for antidepressants of all kinds were obtained, and the pharmacology of antidepressants, painkillers, and alcohol were not doing good things for his perceptions. His sleeping patterns were erratic; he got prescriptions for sleeping pills. His little-used muscles began to tie up-- he got muscle relaxants. The drug stew kept brewing.
Caleb started having anxiety attacks. I don't know what all they gave him besides Zanex, but he sure started using a lot of that. Strange thing about anti-anxiety medications, in my observations: they may very well help the patient with his anxiety, but for many, when they run out, they're more anxious than they've ever been before. Like Dumbo and the magic feather, they seem to forget that they ever lived without the drug. I've been on multiple calls with our fire department/EMS when Caleb called 911 because of anxiety attacks-- he was out of his pill. He begs them to help him, and they roll their eyes and tell him that all they can do is to give him a ride in the box to the ER. Usually an ER doc gives him a few pills just to get him out of there.
He's become kind of a fixture around town these days, and in my duties I find myself running into Caleb pretty regularly. He'll be arguing incoherently with someone on the center stripe of the highway, or he'll be compulsivly throwing trash off his porch out to the street. (His house, where he lives with his mother, is filthy.) I approach Caleb gently, as a rule-- I'm not going to take him on to raise, and Caleb's problems are now his way of life. Some of the townsfolk and my colleagues want to try to take more drastic action with him, but it just wouldn't, I don't think, do much good. Caleb's mind has now lost a lot of what questionable amount it used to have. When I talk to him, we often start congenially, but it inevitibly devolves into his paranoid accusations. I'm out to get him. I'm a jerk. I'm not showing him the respect he deserves. If he only knew how I've argued against his going to jail to other officers. While I'm worn out by my Caleb encounters, I just don't see what good we're going to do by taking the hard approach-- we pretty much never have him on anything beyond little Class C charges, and when we return him to his mother, we don't see him for a few hours or even days. Most people are fed up with him. I suspect that the times I find him out staggering around are often when even his mother kicked him out of the house out of frustration.
Given his background, did Caleb even have a chance? He had managed to get out of the house, get a job, and get an education-- what happened? Given his background, and his injury (whatever it was), could he ever have been expected to deal with the pain, without becoming what is obvious --even to a layperson-- to be a prescription drug addict? And now, what do we (society) do with him? What does his mother do with him? (Compared to Caleb, she's full-functional.) Caleb may well live for another 40 years. Or he may die next week.
What a waste.
Caleb is just now entering middle age.