bette davis eyes


It’s funny how beautiful a storm can look on the way in…

Remember the Kim Carnes song Bette Davis Eyes from 1981? Lots of artists have covered it since then, including Taylor Swift.

I had it pop up on a Spotify 80s play list recently and now it’s an earworm.  It’s in part an earworm because it reminds me of someone I knew and lost track of a long time ago.

Long ago and far away I knew a woman who had a bright future.  A rising star in pharmaceutical sales she reminded you of Bette Davis when you looked at her.  (My age is showing indeed because half of the people who read this will  be in the camp of “Who was Betty Davis?”)

This girl also reminded me of the William Blake poem with the line “tyger, tyger burning bright.”

She was a lot of fun, often exhausting and she loved to dress up, dance, and party.  It was the 1980s, so a lot of us did. Girls just wanted to have fun…quite literally.

Then one night she showed up someplace after another party.  She was just too, too. I think you get the drift, right? We had her keys taken away at a place and someone was either supposed to drive her home or pour her into a cab. I left that place early, and for days I did not know what had happened.  It was the days of BEFORE as in way before social media and really even cell phones (there were pagers entering our world somewhere around that time but I do NOT remember when. I never had a pager.).

I realized after a few days I had not heard from her. And she wasn’t picking up answering machine messages. I remember calling around and finding out she had wrapped herself around a tree and was in the hospital. In ICU.  Her accident occurred  on a twisty road where within a short amount of time someone else I knew had a late night after-partying accident  and for a while was even in the same hospital as this woman I knew. The sad difference was the second person was given the gift of a real second chance at life and recovered, got married, and had a family.

This woman I knew? She ceased to exist as any of us knew her that one fateful night.  I don’t know if she became a quadriplegic or a paraplegic, but she was in a wheelchair and she also had brain damage. A lot of it as I remember.

And what was the most awful thing about the brain damage? Her memory seemed to stop at a certain point.  I remember trying to visit her after it happened, and even up to a couple of years after it happened.  She had absolutely no clue who I was because those memories were instantly erased on impact the night of the accident. That was crushingly hard. You remembered her, had some really great memories of going to the beach and to black tie parties and so on, but she had absolutely no clue who most of us were. It did make you cry.

Eventually a lot of us stopped trying to visit her.  I was one of them.   She was in a wheelchair and she lived with her parents. And her parents were obviously very protective of her and well if you didn’t grow up with her, go to church with any of them…. you just felt uncomfortable.  So I let her go. I still have a photo of her  somewhere sitting on a fireplace bench at my parents’ house. Bright red lipstick and a smile that not only lit up her face but every room she was in.

Soon as time fades and life goes on, you meet other people. But every once in a while, like when I hear a certain song, there she is all shiny and bright and we are in our early 20s.

Suffice it to say, I learned at an early age why you didn’t drink and drive. So I had not thought of her in years at this point until I heard that Kim Carnes song.

But I think why I am writing this is it’s time, and also because we also have this total addiction crisis in this country.  Addicts and alcoholics…who doesn’t know people with these issues…. and for all of the rehabs and programs the numbers keep growing. And growing.

I have one friend who was made a widow by heroin a few years ago now.  Her husband decided to be a teenager, and one dose, one fatal dose was all it took to overdose. I have another friend who more recently lost her son to an overdose in another state. These life circumstances have had a profound effect on their lives.  One friend has persevered and become stronger and the other worries me because emotionally she is a fragile shell.

I had another childhood friend whom a lot of us lost to an overdose  in 1998.  It was long before people were talking about it as much.  He had struggled with addiction and alcoholism from the time he was a teenager.  He was often so bad he was terrifying.  I remember about a year or so before he died ending up in a car with him on the Schuylkill Expressway and literally being afraid I would not get home alive he was driving so fast.  He was back from a stint in rehab and I thought he was sober – we were just going to dinner in Philadelphia. He loved speed. And the speed at which he fell off the wagon and died of an overdose at 35 in 1998 was another terrifying flash.  And a wasted life. I still remember where I was when I was told he had died.

The faces of addiction have changed. Or maybe they haven’t but we are talking about them more? I don’t know.  But addictions are a disease. Some people are strong enough to get clean and get sober. Others aren’t.  I know someone from my high school era I have completely shut the door on.  I know when I can’t handle things, and their life will just drag down whomever is left and they have sadly, completely tanked their life. Right or wrong, I choose not to be around them.

I had a maternal uncle and a paternal grandfather who were drinkers.  I knew it from a very early age.  I did not love them any less, but it made me sad.  And I have to be honest as a child it often made me uncomfortable.  Adults didn’t think you knew…but you knew.

One of my earliest memories of my paternal grandfather was the shortwave radio on the enclosed front porch and the smell of  Schlitz beer.   He was never outright blotto but you could always sense the hum of alcohol.

As a result of these relatives and friends’ issues, maybe I notice things too much or worry about them too much.  All I know is there are way too many people with substance abuse issues from every walk of life. I feel incredibly lucky that I have not had to struggle with these demons personally.  But for the grace of God go any of us, right?

This Friday, August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day.

As per the Daily Local, Chester County is participating.

None of us today are immune to these sad events. We have to commit to being part of positive change.  I don’t have the answers.  But I have watched too many experience the loss. I have experienced loss on a certain level because of the alcoholism and addiction of others.

If you think you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, reach out to friends and family and ask for help.  That is the first step.  I know from people I have known  in various programs over the years that sobriety and staying clean is a process and often a tough road. But living is such a gift.

Also educate yourselves (and your children and loved ones) on the dangers of herbal opiods like Kratom and vaping. Sorry not sorry no good comes out of being addicted to nicotine without the cigarette, either.

Here is another article on the events for Overdose Awareness Day this coming Friday:

Chester County Press: County to participate in Overdose Awareness Day
08/28/2018 08:28AM ● Published by J. Chambless

The county’s Department of Drug & Alcohol Services has announced the county’s participation in International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

To mark the occasion, 144 pinwheels will be displayed in front of the Chester County Justice Center on Market Street in West Chester and the Chester County Government Services Center on Westtown Road, representing the 144 lives lost to accidental overdose in Chester County in 2017. Citizens are invited to participate in a moment of silence on Aug. 31 at 9:30 a.m. to remember those lost to overdose and the loved ones left behind.

“Sadly, Chester County lost more loved ones to accidental drug overdose last year than in previous years,” said Vince Brown, executive director of the Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services. “Our community, as well as our country, continues to face an opioid and heroin epidemic and the disease of addiction knows no bounds. Addiction does not discriminate against age, race, socioeconomic status or education level.”

Several organizations will be holding events on Aug. 31, including:

  • A candlelight vigil hosted by Kacie’s Cause at First Baptist Church (415 W. State St., Kennett Square) from 7 to 8 p.m. This event will include featured speakers, a lighting of candles and an open mic sharing for the attendees.
  • A candlelight vigil hosted by Kacie’s Cause at The Green of Oxford Presbyterian Church (3rd Street, Oxford) from 7 to 9 p.m. This event will include featured speakers, a lighting of candles, ABE the pony, the Kacie’s Cause Mascot, and an open mic sharing for the attendees.
  • “Building Community, Sharing Hope,” hosted by Pennsylvania Recovery Organization-Achieving Community Together (PRO-ACT), at Charles A. Melton Center (501 E. Miner St., West Chester) from 6 to 8 p.m. This event will include a free buffet dinner, free Narcan, several keynote speakers, recovery resources, and a moment of silence with a luminary ceremony to remember the victims of the disease of addiction.





Addiction is an ugly word.  How many of us reach a certain age without knowing someone with drugs or alcohol issues?  To many this post might seem harsh, and in advance, I am sorry for that.  But I feel very strongly about this and decided to write a little bit about it.

If you lived in or around  Lower Merion Township at all over the past few decades you were used to it being home to many sports “celebrities”.  O.k., while nice, they still have to get up every day like the rest of us.  A lot of the sporting celebrities who have lived on the Main Line did it with quiet dignity and not much fanfare.  They were part of the community.  Some were irritating.

Alan Iverson for example.   His drama caused upheaval every time it occurred.  Quiet cul-de-sac roads in Gladwyne became thoroughfares for the curiosity seekers. He left such a bad taste in people’s mouths that when another basketball player went to move in, people sent around anonymous flyers. That was Aaron McKie.  As a matter of fact every time some top name sports anything moves to the Main Line, it is absolutely nauseating the way real estate agents and personal injury lawyers talk it up. (19035 is just a zip code, yo.)

USA Today did an outline of the Andy Reid family drama dating back to 2007.  It periodically made where Reid lives in Villanova off Conshohocken State Road a zoo.  I know that for a fact because for a decade I drove past Reid’s street . (It’s no secret where he lives.) Here is part of what USA Today outlined (and it is just 2007 and a sampling of all that occurred):

Jan. 30, 2007: Any Reid’s two oldest sons, Garrett, 23 at the time, and Britt, 21, are involved in separate incidents. Garrett tells police he used heroin before running a red light in a Philadelphia suburb and striking a car driven by a 55-year-old woman, police say. Britt, meanwhile, in a road-rage incident, points a handgun at another driver, according to police. Investigators recover a shotgun, ammunition, and possible drug residue from the vehicle Britt had been driving, and a handgun from the Villanova, Pa., home where he lives with his parents. Andy Reid and his wife are on vacation.

Feb. 8: Police say Garrett tested positive for heroin after the Jan. 30 accident.

Feb. 15: Garrett is charged with more than a dozen offenses, including assault, drug possession and driving under the influence of a controlled substance. He is released on $25,000 bail, but must complete a drug-treatment program.

July 26:Garrett pleads guilty to recklessly endangering another motorist, driving while under the influence and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is released on bail.

He tells a judge: “I liked being a drug dealer. (But) I don’t want to die doing drugs. I don’t want to be that kid who was the son of the head coach of the Eagles, who was spoiled and on drugs and OD’d and just faded into oblivion.”

Andy Reid took a six-week leave of absence in 2007 to (I guess) deal with this. In 2008 he and his wife Tammy did an interview with Philadelphia Magazine.  Full on Mormons, and they had a child who was an addict dating back to 2002.  I won’t comment further on the article, but suffice it to say I alway felt it had more to do with the parents and their image then troubled kids.

When the news broke Sunday that Garrett Reid was dead, I felt sorry for his parents.  Figured it had something to do with his addictions and that was pretty much what Andy Reid said in his statement the other day.

And yesterday, they buried him out of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Broomall.

The funeral was a who’s who of sports and the NFL.  Emotional by all accounts, yet one day after burying his first-born, the Washington Post reports Andy Reid was back with his football team.  I don’t mean to be rude or disrespectful or tell someone how to grieve, but I am somewhat shocked he did not take a little more time to be with his wife and family. Or to give his own head a chance to decompress.

And maybe that is where I wonder about how this all played out over the years.  What if Andy Reid had been dad first and NFL coach second? You see, I have known parents who have dealt with teen and adult addict children and some won the battle and others lost the battle.  But in all cases, I remember darn well the time they took and it was family first. I get that his team is an extension of his family, and call me old-fashioned, but I think he should be at home.

Substance abuse is a wicked thing.  Well over a decade ago I lost a childhood friend to an overdose.  I was sad but not surprised when my friend died.  I remember seeing him with another friend the week before he died and after we got a good look at him we knew he was using again.  I can tell you exactly what I said to him and so can my other friend – I told him I was afraid given his condition he would be dead the next time I saw him, and he was. I remember when another mutual friend told me our friend was gone a couple of days later.  It was so sad, it was so hard, yet at the same time in a weird way it was a relief.  I mean this kid had had issues dating back to junior high.   And his parents and siblings put in the time year, after year.  I have no idea all of what they put on hold over the years to deal with this guy’s addiction.

You also reach a point in life where you know a lot of alcoholics.  I know a lot of people “in the program” so to speak.  Some sober long amounts of time, some lesser amounts of time.  I know what they went through, what they put their families through, and I know how much work they have done to stay sober.  Mind you, I know a couple of people who also have degrees of issues that they have not come to terms with yet.  I have found it interesting that a lot of these people in the end are also diagnosed some of the time with depression, bi-polar disorders and other issues – the alcohol in part was self-medication.

The people I know in the program work at staying sober every hour of every day.  You want to talk about inner strength? These people have it.  Yet they will tell you every now and again there is an itch they have to fight tooth and nail not to scratch.  So I can’t help but wonder if Garrett Reid had been kept out of the world of professional football, even as the coach’s son, would this outcome have been different?  The reason I say that is everyone I know who has had drug or alcohol issues over the years has had to change their lives fairly substantially.  They had to do it to eradicate triggers.

Now there is also the question of treatment.  Garrett had some of the finest money could buy.  His parents could afford it.  But a lot can’t afford Rolls Royce treatments.  I know a lot of people over the years have had very negative things to say about Malvern Institute on King in Malvern, for example.  Yikes, just read some of the reviews and your skin crawls.

This death of Garrett Reid has provoked a discussion on addictions again, which isn’t a bad thing.   And at the end of the day, what happened to Andy and Tammy Reid is every parents’ nightmare.  And it can happen to anyone.  Addiction doesn’t discriminate.

Here are a few articles to read:

The Garrett Reid tragedy: A parent’s perspective

Garrett Reid’s death sparks renewed look at substance abuse/Metro Philadelphia City Desk by SOLOMON D. LEACH          

Published: August 06, 2012 4:08 p.m.
Last modified: August 07, 2012 12:35 p.m.