Am I My Brothers Keeper?
The Phuket Gazette.
For expats, life in Phuket is sometimes not as ideal as we once imagined. One particluar problem – addiction – seems to be left unspoken by those who are in a position to help. For that reason, my column will stray away from property this week, and talk about a responsibility that I think all expats in Phuket share.
Many people think that moving to a tropical island like Phuket will give them a blissful taste of heaven. Unfortunately, reality all too often takes a turn towards the exact opposite, and for some, this place becomes a personalized vision of hell.
While many of us enjoy the easy-going lifestyle that comes along with the business and social opportunities in Phuket, temptation often comes along with them. For many friends and family members, that temptation usually comes in the form of addiction, alcohol being the most common culprit. It proves a fleeting novelty for most, but for others it becomes a one-way ticket to hard times and despair.
As sunny days fill the island's tropical landscape and we all catch up with friends and family, it's usually hard not to take a left turn in conversation to talk about some mutual Phuket acquaintance who's hit the skids. Sometimes the acquaintance is simply someone you see walking by on the street, clearly troubled and far too inebriated to be ignored. Of course you never make eye contact, but the image burns long and hard some nights; into the dark.
I'm reminded of a telling exchange between the two lead characters in the classic film Leaving Las Vegas: "Is drinking a way of killing yourself?” and the response, “or is killing myself a way of drinking?"
Robert Louis Stevenson might have envisioned one of paradise's lost souls when he wrote, "he passed in retreat among the islands."
Somerset Maugham's novel "The Moon and Sixpence" was a loose interpretation of artist Paul Gauguin's intrepid self-destruction in Tahiti.
To cut a long story short, history has more then it's share of both the triumphs and tribulations of those who moved to foreign lands to create new beginnings or equally desperate ends. Perhaps we've gone a bit too far down the hole and need to come up for air.
Living in Thailand, where the art of sabai and sanook go hand in hand, the fact remains that cheap booze, pills, and all manners of magic dust and powder are easily found and affordable.
It would be almost unimaginable to get into a casual chat with anyone here who hasn't seen ten or more walking disasters. People don't fall from the graces of Phuket overnight, but as the days, weeks, and even years pass, you sometimes see someone unwind.
The question I find myself asking these days is: When you see someone who you know is headed in the wrong direction, at what point do you step in? Will you be invading a person's privacy, or perhaps become a bit naive to think you could make a difference?
I grew up in wild times – exposed to booze, drugs and more dawns then most people who work the nightshift. Looking back, it's hard to imagine how I even made it through my teens and twenties.
It may seem odd, but perhaps one of my divine saving graces is that ATM machines where not common then. Access to fast cash in the midst of a binge can only bring a bad kind of craziness. There are more of those cash dispensing monsters here then I even care to think about.
There's a saying in the Bible from the rivalry between Cain and Able. When asked if he murdered his brother, Able answered, "I know not, am I my brothers keeper?" In a nutshell, that phrase has come to symbolize a growing unwillingness for people to take responsibility for their fellow citizens.
That is a callous attempt at vindication. When I take a long hard look in the mirror I've come to the conclusion that certain words need to be spoken; and acting with courage is what counts. Silence has no friends.
So next time you come to the crossroad, and think if you should offer help, take the next step, as it may make all the difference in the world. If someone needs help, I hope I can be my brother's keeper, and that someone would do the same for me.
If you or someone you know needs help, Phuket has numerous local groups and people that can help. Alcoholics Anonymous T: 081-891-2895 E: [email protected] and Narcotics Anonymous T: 081-737-2246 E: [email protected].