Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Discharge and Becoming Just Like Keith Richards - Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 9

The previous installment of this series is here: Meetings, Matsuri Festivals and the Future - Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 8 )

The day of my discharge was just like any other day. I woke up at 6 and then made my bed and went to breakfast. Everyone knew I was getting discharged and they all treated me like the "Birthday Boy" which, in a sense, I guess I was.

After breakfast I met with Doctor Watanabe and the kindly old nurse. Doctor Watanabe had helped me to to arrange for weekly counseling once I was out of the hospital, which I went to for two years religiously, and he was there to give me some final words of encouragement.

He shook my hand and said to me, "I never want to see you back here again. Now you have a wonderful wife and a wonderful family and a good job. Make sure you keep them." I thanked the doctor for all his good help and then thanked the nurses.

For my friend Rusulan, who had no family to visit (and, I'm sure the hospital would not allow any more visits by his girlfriend) I gave my drinking cup. This might seem a strange present, but all ones possessions were provided by family. I had asked my wife to give me a good drinking cup that had a lid on it. Rusulan had nothing so I gave him mine.

I said to the nurse, "Tell Rusulan to leave this place as soon as he can and good luck."

With that I said my final "Goodbyes" and I was out the door. It was good to be alive.

The first place I had to visit was the shoes shop across the street from the hospital. It was an old mom and pop store. When the owner of the store greeted me at the entrance he looked down at my shoes and saw that I had no shoelaces. He knew exactly what that meant. I was, at first, embarrassed, but he smiled broadly at me and said, "Congratulations! I know exactly what you need!"

I reckoned he did know exactly. He must have seen a thousand people before me who walked in just like me without shoe laces too. He knew they had just been released from an ordeal at the hospital across the street. After I paid for my shoe laces he sat down with me and while I laced one shoe, he laced the other for me. As I walked out I thanked him and he wished me "Good luck."

My next stop was a few shops down and it was a corner sushi shop. I was dreaming of sushi! Funnily enough, for some reason, I had cravings for natto sushi. I ordered three rolls of that and off I went to the train station.

Everything seemed fresh and new. I was able to see things just like when I first came to Japan. The surroundings were an interesting view in every direction and the air smelled fresh. Finally, I walked to a cheap haircut barber shop and got my hair cut for ¥1,000 (about $10). Then I was on the train, eating natto rolls and heading home.

It was nice to get back home and I can honestly say that I have never been back to Matsuzawa hospital nor have I done any speed again. The weird thing is that I haven't had the desire. I was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder and then given drugs to control it. Strange, it was. As soon as I began the counseling and the therapy, I was a very happy person!

Matsuzawa Hospital

There was one last thing, though, about this entire episode that I would like to relate about what a twisted world we live in. I have worked in the music business since 1978. In that time I can honestly say that I personally have known several people who have died from drug over-doses or committed suicide. I also cannot count how many people I've know who were arrested and spent time in jail for drugs or drug possession related offenses; that includes Japan and the United States. I even know a few people who, at one time were on top of the world, their show business career's a smash success, only to have a drug arrest or similar episode ruin their career overnight.

It is always a big story whenever a TV star or a famous musician is busted for some drug offense. 

But like the old story about cockroaches; If you find one in the kitchen, it's a sure bet that there are hundreds, if not thousands, more around it. 

There is never just one

When I returned back to the radio station, I had my head low and was ready to apologize for inconveniencing my staff and the station Program Director (PD). I opened the door to the office and the looked up at me. Normally he would scowl and treat me poorly, but on this day, no! On this day, he smiled broadly and ran to shake my hand.

"Wow! Mike! You are so cool! You are just like Keith Richards, man! Wow! I so envy you!" He was serious! He was beaming from side to side and I almost thought he was going to ask me for my autograph!

Just then, several others saw me too and they joined into slapping me on the back and adding the "Wow! Cool! I wish I could do that!" type of comments.

I thought they were nuts. But I know well what they are doing and I know very well what goes on in the "dark side" of show business. I know that they, too, have thought many times, "Do I need help?"

There's a reason why they say, "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll."

But I thanked them all and I was relieved that they didn't think poorly of me because of it. To this day I am astounded how they think going through something like the troubles Keith Richards did with drugs, arrests, rehab, etc. is "cool!" 

There are many people around you and me who have trouble with some sort of sickness or addiction. And they need help and understanding. First off, people need to understand exactly what an addiction is. 

Please refer to What is an Addiction? This is a post I wrote a while back so I'd like to quote it at length: 

I "graduated" from Matsuzawa Hospital. Matsuzawa is the oldest and most famous drug and alcohol rehabilitation hospital in all of Asia. It is said that if you can graduate from Matsuzawa that is equal to the level of graduating from Japan's number one university: Tokyo University.

I did that. And I had some of the best and most famous doctors as teachers in all of Japan. Let me tell you what Dr. Watanabe taught me when I was at Matsuzawa Hospital.

Of course, there are many kinds of addictions and I believe they all stem from different reasons that have to do with different personality types of people and psychological causes... But there is one thing about all addictions that is common: Addictions are not the problem of alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex or whatever. Addiction is not a problem of the substance abuse in and of itself... Addiction is a problem of human communication.

For example, drug addiction is not a problem of drugs. Drug addiction, like all addictions is a problem of human relations. This is the part about addictions that people fail to recognize for what it is. Drug addiction, like all addictions become a problem when they start to interfere with your human relations and communications with the people around you.

There will be many people who will scoff at this, but ask any professional doctor who deals with addictions and they will say what I am about to partake to you is true: In the case of, say, drugs consider; You could go live on a desert island, all by yourself, and do speed and heroin or LSD everyday from morning until night, everyday of the year, for years on end and you would not be called a drug addict. 

That's true. You could do, say, heavy psychedelic drugs everyday 24/7 and yet you would not be considered a drug addict. You would, most surely, be a heavy drug abuser and have many problems, but you wouldn't be considered a drug addict. 

The term "drug addict" would not be applied to you until your drug abuse became a problem with your relations and communication with the people around you... No people around you? Then it's no problem.

You know, there are drug abusers and alcohol abusers all around us. Many people are abusing illicit drugs but the biggest problem in our society today is the massive abuse of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines. 

Different chemicals affect different people differently (I include alcohol in the term "chemicals"). In the case of alcohol, consider: There are many people who can have a drink of scotch and go to work, no problem! I even know people who have a bottle in their desk and they seem to function normally. I've always admired and envied those kinds of people. I can't do that. I am the personality type that is either sober or drunk. So I do not drink at all before work is over... Even one glass of beer until work is over? No way!

You see people like that in the movies. Ever seen "The Great Lebowski"? He would grab a Black Russian and head out the door for whatever adventure he was on at the moment... People like that are cool, I think. Me? If I had the one drink, I'd lose all desire to do anything but sit down and vegetate and drink more. The one drink would make me useless. I'd stop working and could probably only have fun and function with other people who are drinking.

Anyway, like I said, different chemicals affect different people in different ways. Upon drinking some people get happy (that's me) and start singing (that's me too!)... Others get melancholy; some get aggressive and want to start fighting; others start to cry; some fall asleep! There are many types of people and many types of chemicals so it is obvious that there are many different ways these chemical react in each person's brain.

This is the great misunderstanding about "Drug addict" or "Alcoholic." Some people can do drugs or drink everyday and function normally in a normal society (if you can call our modern society "normal" but that is a different subject).

Just because your spouse or co-worker drinks everyday, doesn't mean that they are a alcohol-addict. The moment their drinking starts to affect their home life or work or relations with other people, that's the moment then they can be labelled to have a "problem". 

There are people around us right now who are doing drugs (legally or illegally) and, not to make judgements on morality as that is not my issue here, but if they can function normally, then they haven't a problem.

Then there are others. Most of us, like me, either abstain or we have a problem. When you look at it like this, it is pretty "Black and White". 

Now that I understand and recognize drug and alcohol addiction for what it is, I can cope and control myself. I never do drugs, no longer wish to yet I drink often...But since I understand what I am dealing with, my drinking never conflicts with work nor does it make it a problem at my home.

Trust that I, like many others, have had problems at home with drinking too much... It hasn't happened recently... Understanding these problems for what they are cannot allow me to say that they will never happen again. No one knows the future, but.... Hopefully, as we get older, we get wiser.

Understanding what addiction is and what it really means can help people to control their behavior better... It can also help those who live with such a person to know how best to handle the situation and where to seek help.

There are many people around you and me who have trouble with some sort of sickness or addiction. And they need help and understanding. 


Anonymous said...


Closer to home, Matsuzawa hospital
has a slightly different reputation.


On the afternoon of June 13, 1981, a Japanese man named Issei Sagawa walked to the Bois de Boulogne, a park on the outskirts of Paris, carrying two suitcases. The contents of those suitcases, to the lament of a nearby jogger, was the dismembered body of a fellow student – a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt, whom Sagawa had shot three days prior and had spent the days since eating various parts of her body.

He was soon arrested. According to reports, Issei uttered, “I killed her to eat her flesh,” when they raided his home, whereupon they found bits of Renne still in his fridge.

Sagawa was declared insane and unfit for trial and was institutionalized in Paris. His incarceration was to be short, however, as the French public soon grew weary of their hard-earned francs going to support this evil woman-eater, and Issei was promptly deported. Herein followed a bizarre and seemingly too convenient set of legal loopholes and psychiatric reports that led doctors in Japan declaring him “sane, but evil.”

On August 12, 1986, Sagawa checked himself out of Tokyo’s Matsuzawa Psychiatric hospital, and has been a free man ever since.

This is where the real story begins. VBS met up with him to find out what he’s been up to in the 30 years since.

Andrew Joseph said...

Bi-polar? So... when I told you about my friend, you never even batted an eye - and now I know why. Cripes... maybe I should chat with your wife for advice.
I like how you acknowledge your past. I do, too... and wish more people would too. Maybe one needs 20 years or more to pass first...
I enjoyed reading this Mike, very much.

Haru-rin said...

Thankyou for a wonderfully entertaining and insightful read. I will mail you personally with my full comment.