The Horror of Addiction, With Compassion for the Addict

Guest Post

by Mark Matthews, editor and contributing author to “Garden of Fiends”


Horror is at its best when it reveals a larger truth about the world we live in. In putting out the submission call for Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, there were a couple of specific guidelines I was looking for. I wanted an unflinching and unapologetic look at the devastation of addiction, but with some compassion for the plight of the addict.

But how do we have compassion for someone who is willingly putting substances into their body, but then claim they are suffering? It’s self-inflicted, dammit. You can’t bang your head against a brick wall then complain of a headache.

Most folks realize it is not that simple. If it were, more addicts would just ‘stop’ once the devastation of addiction took over and they’d say no to the compulsion to get high. It is also possible to swallow a box of laxatives and then not try not to take a shit. If you are strong enough, you can do it, but chances are you’ll fail, and it’s going to get messy.

Mind altering chemicals are used due to a myriad of factors. In some sense, it is a yearning for wholeness. To fill the empty space inside. It is also social lubricant (see Kealan Patrick Burkes’ story, A Wicked Thirst). It reduces inhibitions and makes us feel who we want to be, if but for a while. You want to feel a certain way, you want to cover up a certain deficit, there is a specific substance out there that will help, often times manufactured by a pharmaceutical company.  And the glorious thing is: drugs are reliable. To quote drugstore cowboy, “It’s this fucking life. Most people don’t know how they are going to feel from one moment to the next, but the dope fiend does. He just has to read the labels on the bottles.”

Whatever reason one first starts using substances, soon enough, if you keep using you’ll become dependent on the drug. (I’m counting alcohol as a drug). A chemical and physical compulsion takes over. The craving for a substance is equivalent to a drowning man craving for oxygen.

All of these factors exist in the addicts who live inside the world of Garden of Fiends.  Alcoholics who have a Wicked Thirst. Poverty-stricken heroin addicts who sell body parts to get high. A man who uses the demon of addiction to fight the true demons who plague him. A true ‘Garden Variety’ of ‘Fiends’ are inside the pages.

When coming up with the title for this anthology, I hesitated to use the word ‘fiend’ since I feared it lacked the compassion I was looking for. I decided to go with it because, for one, it’s an ‘in-group’ thing, for I myself am a FIEND, and will always be one. I’ve been in recovery from addiction for over 20 years. I’ve experienced these cravings first hand, and still do. Despite all this time, my body is forever changed. If I think of beer my mouth still waters. When I see cocaine on TV, an electric jolt goes through my spine. It’s still fresh in my heart despite over 20 years, and now its fresh on the page, with some writing heroes of mine inside.

Check out Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror

with stories by; Kealan Patrick Burke, Jessica McHugh, Max Booth III, Glen Krisch, John FD Taff, Johann Thorsson, Mark Matthews, Jack Ketchum

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