As the eastern seaboard faces Hurricane Sandy's 85-mph winds and a predicted 11-foot storm surge, many addicts in recovery face an equally scary threat: isolation. For alcoholics who have put down the bottle, staying occupied and socializing with other people can be an essential tool for warding off the temptation to drink. But in the event of a severe weather event like a hurricane, many addicts find themselves left to their own devices—which, combined with the anxiety provoked by a media barrage of ominous weather warnings, can increase the desire to drink or use drugs. "I'm honestly more scared of being alone with my mind than of the storm," Alex, a sober alcoholic from NYC, tells The Fix. "As they say in 'the rooms' [of AA] it's a dangerous neighborhood in there." Recovery meetings like AA are closing down all over the New York area and well beyond as winds increase, leading many recovering addicts to seek out alternate ways to stay connected. Most 12-step programs offer meetings by phone, and the internet provides a host of resources for coping with addiction, with websites like intherooms.com providing social support online for alcoholics and addicts in recovery or getting sober.
Others find networking sites like Facebook helpful for warding off loneliness. But these sites can also be triggering, by serving as a reminder that many are turning to alcohol and drugs to counteract the boredom and isolation brought on by the storm. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel jealous of all the people posting about how they're stocking up on tons of booze to get through the next couple of days," says Heidi, who lives in Brooklyn and has one year sober. "Me, I've just got a lot of cookies and tea and movies to watch. And that's cool." Other people in recovery say the hurricane has increased their urge to drink or use, and it can be especially hard on those who are newly clean or sober. "I just want to get drunk and stoned and wake up when it's over," says John, an addict from Brooklyn who has two months clean, "but I know that won't help anything." Others rely heavily on the reminder of "what it was like" while they were drinking or using, to help them stay sober and weather out the storm. "For me, one drink leads to god-knows-what, and that could mean anything from prison to death," says Georgia, who has eight years clean. "No storm is worth throwing away my life for."
One person in the US is arrested for pot every 42 seconds, according to a report released today by the FBI—and 82% of these arrests are for possession only. A total of 1.5 million drug arrests were recorded in 2011, of which about 50% were for marijuana, according to the new report. These staggering numbers surface just a week before residents of three states—Oregon, Washington and Colorado—vote on whether or not to legalize and regulate small amounts of marijuana for adult use. According to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the statistics provide the latest evidence of the continuing failure of the 40-year War on Drugs, which has cost the country $545 million without substantially cutting drug use. "Even excluding the costs involved for later trying and then imprisoning these people, taxpayers are spending between one and a half to three billion dollars a year just on the police and court time involved in making these arrests," says Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who heads LEAP, and who gave an extensive interview to The Fix last year. "That’s a lot of money to spend for a practice that four decades of unsuccessful policies have proved does nothing to reduce the consumption of drugs." Franklin claims the three state ballot measures could be the "first step" in ending the country's failing efforts to tackle drugs: "I hope [voters] take this opportunity to guide the nation to a more sensible approach to drug use.”
As Hurricane Sandy rages, New Yorkers have stocked up on all the essentials: water, batteries and of course, lots and lots of beer. "There were long lines at my local supermarket yesterday," one Brooklyn resident tells The Fix, typically. "The four areas of shelves that were severely depleted were bread, water, potato chips and beer." With public transportation shut down and many people stuck at home for a few days, some have decided to start drinking right away; a quick Instagram search for "#hurricanesupplies" almost exclusively turns up pictures of booze. If the storm turns out to be as bad as feared, beer may also become valuable for more than just personal intoxication. As Forbes contributor Seth Porges writes: “I remember an interview in which a survivor of Hurricane Ike told us that, with stores closed and money useless, beer became the best available currency for supplies or enticing folks to help clean up debris.”
For more foolhardy drinkers, some bars are staying open for the duration. In New Jersey, a group of six retirees—calling themselves “The Breakfast Club”—meets almost every morning for a few drinks at Scooters Bar and Grill. They were determined not to let Hurricane Sandy break their tradition this morning. The small bar is just a few blocks away from the Delaware River, and often fills up with about two feet of water during major storms, but that doesn't stop its thirsty patrons. Lynn Hofacker, the bartender for about 15 years, opened at 7 am this morning and says she’ll stay open as long as there's power—even if customers have to wade through water to get their drink on. "They are a rare breed here," she says. "I expect business to pick up today."
Kate Moss doesn't want to be thought of as “heroin chic” any more. The supermodel, who epitomized the waif-like look that was popularized in the mid-'90s, writes in her new autobiography that she never used drugs, despite a reputation to the contrary. She claims people only thought she was on heroin, because of her appearance. "If I was anorexic or if I was on heroin, maybe I would have been a bit more 'Oh dear!'" she says. “But I wasn't any of those things that they were painting me to be.” Moss says she didn't speak out about the rumors before now simply because she didn't care what people thought of her. "It didn't have anything to do with who I was at all, so I never really thought about it,” she says. “I just thought, the people who know me know the truth.” Moss hasn't avoided drugs entirely throughout her career: British tabloids ran photos of her snorting cocaine back in 2005.
Not long ago, the Mexican city of Torreon was on track to become a shining example of economic and cultural prosperity. But when the Zetas cartel arrived in the area in 2007, it turned the city instead into one of Mexico's most dangerous. Greater Torreon has seen 830 killings in the first nine months in 2012—compared with 62 throughout 2006—and its murder rate is second in the country only to Acapulco. In addition well-documented massacres at drug rehabs and gunfights at soccer stadiums, gangs also took control of the local police and invaded city hall in March 2010—demanding that Mayor Eduardo Olmos sack the army general he had hired to clean up the force. Now, several of the city's leaders are so desperate that they're considering reaching an agreement with the rival Sinaloa cartel to push the Zetas out of the area. "[The Zetas] act without any kind of principles," says Torreon's police chief Adelaido Flores. "The ones from Sinaloa don't mess...with the population." Local politicians have admitted that unspoken deals with cartels helped keep the peace at one point, but President Felipe Calderon's began a military-led crackdown against organized crime in 2006 that has seen over 60,000 deaths in the country since then. Still, Flores believes that the Zetas' power is declining even without the Sinaloa cartel's help: according to city estimates, over 90% of the hundreds of suspected gang members killed or arrested in Torreon this year have been Zetas.
British pop star Robbie Williams makes no secret of his sobriety and how he sought help for his drug and alcohol addictions—but bizarrely, he wishes he didn't do it so early in life. The former Take That singer says he realized his life was spiraling downhill in his late teens and ended up getting sober for most of his 20s. But he now feels a few more years of a partying before seeking help might not have been a bad thing. ''I regret that it was all over so fast. I regret the fact I was 19 when I realized I was out of control," says Williams. ''I regret the fact I wasn't 29 or 30 when it happened and I'd splodged my way around the world in some sort of alcoholic drug stupor. I spent most of my 20s sober.'' But despite the resources available to him, Williams admits he relapsed several times in his 20s and early 30s before finally getting clean, shortly before meeting his wife Ayda Field in 2006. "In my 20s I was like, 'This is fucking horrendous' but I didn't think I was going to die. The short period in my 30s I thought, 'I'm just about to die and I don't care.' In fact, it would have been a relief," he says. "But that's where your fucking head goes when you're taking loads of things you shouldn't be taking. The only person I knew who understood anything about it was Elton John. After a big bender it'd be [calling] 'Elton'. How weird is that, when the only person you know can help you is Elton John?'' There are added benefits to his sobriety too: the notorious ladies man says being sober keeps him from cheating on his wife. "You know like on anniversaries women expect you to get them flowers and things? I think every fucking night you haven't stuck your cock in someone else, you should be given a gold ring."