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Quarantine Chronicles: Alexander Henderson

ALEXANDER HENDERSON is a native of Biloxi, Miss., and has lived through Hurricane Katrina. He's also worked as a director of rehab and has experienced addiction, which can often relapse during times like these.

This is Alexander's Quarantine Chronicle.

How are you doing?

I’m the best that I can be. It’s a strange and new territory that I don’t think most people have actually dealt with, especially here because we don’t get very many pandemics. It’s not something they teach in school.

For me, I’ve lived through this before. This does not even touch what it was like to be in Katrina.

Having lived through Katrina, how does our situation measure up?

The only difference is that you can go to Walmart. [In Katrina] you were waiting for people to bring in food or wait in a long line to eat. What people have to understand is we are extremely lucky right now because you weren’t able to go to Walmart and pick up your 20 rolls of toilet paper that you absolutely have no need for. People were actually using rags to wipe and then using them again.

They actually locked out parts of the Gulf Coast so no one could get in or out. Then there were places that had large oak trees, and if they fall in the middle of the road, you can’t move or leave. People were killing themselves over ice and water. They price gouged gas so high that a can of gas was $40.

It was the Wild Wild West, and it was extremely scary because people were looting, not because they wanted stuff but because they had no food, no nothing.

My parents taught me, when you start looking at people, you look at personalities and you can judge someone and what they’re going to do based upon the actions they do on a normal basis. So when an abnormal basis happens, you won’t be surprised about what they do. If you know a person is an asshole, get ready when shit hits the fan. In these times, you see where integrity lies. You don’t want to think people are bad in this world, but the reality is, they inherently are.

Let’s also talk about your experience with addiction.

I was also a director of rehab, so that’s a whole other story. I’ll tell you this: drugs and alcohol make normal people extremely petty. The things you would normally think wouldn’t be relevant in life, they die over it and call it principle.

That was one of the most stressful jobs I’ve ever had in my life. I did it for almost nine months. It kept me sober and made me realize and prioritize what was important and what was not important.

Why is relapse so easy right now?

Because you have circumstances like this that happen. Life doesn’t stop because you’re in treatment. You’re just sheltered into it.

Considering liquor stores are an essential business because those are still active can die in the middle of this. It’s not like those places are closed, so right now it’s super easy to do this and not get caught. Now I can drink how I choose without anybody judging me.

I’m pretty sure alcoholism and drug use is going to be rampant pretty soon because of the isolation and because people who do drink and use are isolated users, so they’re going to go back into their houses and use. If you’re on unemployment and get something a week, it depends on how your bills are looking, but if you’re drinking and using by yourself, you don’t really care about anything other than your drugs and alcohol.

Alcohol withdrawals cause seizures, and it’s a bad thing and a scary thing to watch someone go through an alcoholic seizure. It’s terrifying because you’re like, what?

I think the biggest thing for us as a nation is that we need to be really more aware. We know the cause and effect of what happens when someone’s on drugs. We know it causes crime. We know it causes people to do anything to get their fix. But the question is, why? Why haven’t we sat down and looked at these things?

We know they’re bad, and everybody is always like, “Well, don’t do it.” Well, it doesn’t really work that way. Or it’s, “Just stop. Why can’t you stop?” It’s like, I’m not talking about your $3,000 shopping bill you have this month. We all have acceptable vices that we use, and we know it’s wrong and we know there’s a problem with it.

What else would you want people to know?

I really think people should be patient with one another and be conscious of one another. People on both sides of this have valid points, but the thing that’s going to get us through this is if we really start respecting each other as well as ourselves.

We tend to fall back into, what’s good for me and my family and I need to worry about them because those are my responsibilities. Ultimately, if you look at other countries and other societies, they learned a long time ago that if the community thrives, everybody thrives.