My former colleague, the former crackhead
I once worked weekends at a newsroom with a fellow named Jeremy Hainsworth. He worked mornings and I worked nights. We were the only two people in the office from Saturday to Sunday and our shifts overlapped a few hours. As a result, we got to know one another pretty well. At first, I did not like Jeremy at all. He was erratic, manic, arrogant, and often unprofessional. He would constantly doze off at work, and snap for no reason. Other colleagues started to speculate that Jeremy was an addict but I dismissed this theory. How can you hold a job as a journalist and be an addict? Turns out I was very naïve. Several months after his boyfriend overdosed, Jeremy came forward and admitted he was struggling with crack, heroin, and alcohol addiction. He went into rehab for five months and has been sober for two and a half years.
When he came back from his recovery program, Jeremy gave me a "thanks for putting up with my s**t" gift. It was a clear baseball-sized, egg-shaped paperweight with a jellyfish thingy inside. I didn’t know what to think of it, what to do with it or what its purpose was. But when I brought it home, I noticed guests were immediately drawn to it, picking it up in awe. It was a standout piece. I soon discovered it also glowed in the dark. I think the paperweight is a great metaphor to describe Jeremy: bizarre, surprising, misunderstood, and one of a kind.
We met up recently to catch up.
Me: Two and a half years sober? How does that feel?
Jeremy Hainsworth: It’s an incredible feeling but it comes with a lot of work. It comes with fights to tell the truth. A strict need to be who I am and have integrity to be who I am, all the time, to all people.
Me: When we worked together, you were very different then.
JH: I was a chronic liar, chronically late, chronically looking for ways to get out of there so I could use some more. I was sloppy in my work, I was disrespectful to people, including you, and I was miserably unhappy. The only way I dealt with that was by using more.
Me: You fell asleep a lot.
JH: (Laughs) I was thinking!
Me: I was naïve to how bad it was.
JH: (My late boyfriend) called me the most dangerous kind of addict: high functioning with money. I could maintain the façade, I could for the most part get the job done and I could earn the money I needed and then juggle that money to keep the flow of the substance flowing.
Me: The overdose of your boyfriend was completely insane too.
JH: You were the first person to see me after I got that news. That was probably the most devastating day of my life. Everything was pulled out from underneath me. Because I couldn’t talk about the grief I was in, my primary response was to get loaded and stay loaded for the next five months.
Me: When did that stop?
JH: That came to a crashing halt on September the 9th, 2007 when my family came in and said enough is enough.
Me: I think throughout all this drama what got lost was the fact that you’re a good writer.
JH: Thanks. And I have to keep telling myself that at times. I’m good at what I do. Unfortunately I completely blew my integrity. No one could take my word for anything because I was a chronic liar. You can have all the skills in the world but if you’re lying constantly and are completely unreliable, then all those skills mean nothing.
Me: Are you trying to prove yourself again?
JH: I just do the best job that I can. I think that speaks for itself. If people are not going to forgive me for all the crap I’ve done, then so be it. I have to live with that. I have to be responsible for my behaviour.
Me: Do you think addiction is more common in newsrooms than people might think?
JH: Have there been addicts in newsrooms? Oh yeah. But I don’t know if the newsrooms know that. One of the things one of the councillors in treatment said to me is that addicts love chaos. I love chaos more than most addicts. Daily journalism is chaos. Did I choose journalism or did my addiction choose journalism for me? I was in a perfect business to become a drug addict.
Me: It’s chasing a rush. And you’re good at chasing. How are things now?
JH: I’m healthy and happy and broke but I’m clean, sober, healthy, and happy and that’s what comes first. Everything that comes after that is a gift.
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