The call came in the morning, an out-of-state in-law who has never made a personal call to our home. The conversation began as light chit-chat. My husband held his breath, sensing something more was coming. And, it did, in the form of a confession, a desperate act of saving one’s self.
“I’m a compulsive gambler,” the longtime in-law shared. “I just cannot stop.” Then he listed some of his gambling problems, of the squeezes he’d wiggled out of, the programs he’s tried in search of a cure. And, then, the admission; he’s really in trouble now. He’s borrowed on his work truck to pay a gambling debt, a loan with a staggering 300 percent interest. The note is due. “They” want their money.
Unable to hold a job for long, this fellow never did ask us for money, but hid his purpose behind a request for advice. “What should I do now? And, “Please don’t tell my wife.”
Oh that we could make a difference. Not enable, but help. And, the great truth of the thing: Living on the edge has consequences. And, taking personal responsibility requires much more courage than living on the edge.
This isn’t a new century problem, but pushing boundaries, in our society with every convenience and abundance is new enough. With the Internet our window to the world, offering instant exposure, offering the proverbial “15 minutes of fame” to any and all, many are wallowing in the instant gratification of the edge.
The Associated Press shares Miley Cyrus’ view of her “wild-child behavior.” The latest child star to teeter on the edge ignorantly proclaims: “That’s what you’re supposed to do; you are 20, you are supposed to be a mess because you haven’t figured it out yet, and 10 years from now I am supposed to have it all together.”
And, how my dear Miley will you do that? Where will you learn the rules for pulling away from the edge? When we tamper with destructive extremes, we change; physically, psychologically and spiritually. Where will you get the wisdom, then the strength to pull back?
Greater and wiser than you have fallen from the edge. How many Cory Monteith’s (“Glee” star), Michael Jacksons and Elvis Presley must we bury? How many Lindsay Lohans must we watch turn old overnight? Will Britney Spears ever fully recover that marketable freshness she sacrificed for a few wild years on the edge? And, as we look closer to home, we can ask the same.
Living on the edge can clearly become an addiction; add chemicals to the equation, only Goliath forces can help a person reclaim sanity. And always, the cost to the human soul is unfathomable.
Many say the “edge” is a national addiction. Find it in our politics; we’re on the financial and moral brink. We break our own rules concerning foreign aid and our borders; when we habitually re-elect politicians who have taken us to the edge, politicians whose private lives reek of amoral acts, with basic rules of the land constantly ignored, we have a true picture of ourselves.
As with everything, our best bet for helping ourselves and our children through the attraction of the edge is to teach early the difference between being the best and embracing the thrills in life as opposed to the siren call of the precipice. Common sense locked in values is a valuable anchoring device.
As for that phone call from our family member, one can only guess the outcome of his latest dance on the edge. The tragedy is the hearts he is breaking as his family lives through his consequences.
• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.