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An Interview with James Gordon on Family, the Young and Gifted, Community, Cautionary Notes, and Recovery (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/05/01


James Gordon was born in 1987 in Denver, CO. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Adelphi University (NY), and a BA in English from Western Washington University (WA). He has worked a handful of different jobs, including in education and mental health. His hobbies include music, writing, fitness, video games, movies, skiing, and reading. He is also an experimental musician who improvises on the piano and guitar. You can visit his YouTube channel here, where he has an online video journal of some of his music. He lives with his wife in Washington State, where he plans to soon start a family. He discusses: family life; adolescence; camaraderie and community; childhood heroes; great teachers; feeling ahead of peers; introversion; early testing; young gifted going wrong; reliable societies for the high-IQ in Mensa International, Intertel, Triple Nine Society, Prometheus Society, and the Mega Society; social skills’ guidance to health instincts and behaviours; identification, isolation, and reduction of the negative impacts of individuals with delusions of grandeur; dealing with individuals harbouring said delusions in the past and into the future; the importance of recovery and getting help; and life outside of rehabilitation.

Keywords: community, gifted, intelligence, IQ, James Gordon, youth.

An Interview with James Gordon on Family, the Young and Gifted, Community, Cautionary Notes, and Recovery (Part One)[1],[2]*

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When you reflect on family life and being a young child, what were some important sensibilities and points of life experience in those moments for you? I am thinking between the ages of 4 and 10. 

James Gordon: I remember being very imaginative as a kid, and fascinated by reading, writing, and numbers from a young age. I loved fantasy, science fiction, video games, music, magic cards, drawing, anime…I tended to obsess a bit. I looked forward to growing up and being able to live in the adult world, but the mental world I had going was also pretty cool to me. I didn’t like being made to feel I was just a kid, I had a fairly mature mind from early on and would fantasize a lot about alternate lives and realities.  That was my go-to activity when I was alone or wanted to get away.  I kept that secret and it was my private world to enjoy.  My parents would notice me kind of gesturing and mouthing to myself, my mom said I was “conducting” but it was more than just that, I was playing out various roles in some mixture of movie, book, game, alternate life, I think for me it was some escapism.  Eventually it went away, but I can remember myself even fantasizing this way in college; but the weird thing is that sometimes the fantasies did become reality, so I think it was also a form of planning.  I think in some ways I have always been a visionary.  It was sometimes a challenge for me to be treated like a kid, to have to follow rules and do as I was told in the real world. I used to ask “why” about many things, I was a questioner, and I was curious about everything. I wanted to do all of the things kids couldn’t do and I was impatient about having to wait. I could also be pretty rebellious during certain times and identified with counterculture.

2. Jacobsen: Moving into adolescence, how was the educational experience? Was there support for giftedness? Was this identified at that time or much later in life?

Gordon: I think that giftedness was recognized pre-adolescence but less so during adolescence. I feel that I hit a rough patch during my adolescence. My performance in school was sometimes very poor. In fact, I was close to failing the seventh grade. If you fail two classes, you can’t move onto the next grade, and I had two Fs pretty close to the end of the year. My dad had to talk to my teacher about it – she wasn’t going to let me pass at first, but he negotiated with her. The deal was for me to come in early for a while and make up unfinished work. I don’t remember the work being that hard, but I had missed a bunch of assignments. I was really addicted to the internet, TV, and video games, to the exclusion of school work. I wasn’t very excited by school at all. I had three big moves in succession (across the country and then the world) during adolescence, and it was hard to adapt to each new place. I feel there was more support for my giftedness later on and in specific environments.

3. Jacobsen: We’ve been doing a group discussion for a bit. I have been praised, in private, for the efforts in bringing everyone together in the high-IQ communities at the highest levels with IQs upwards of 168 to 192 on a standard deviation of 15. People who can test well, where the tests appear to measure something generalized in mentation.  The psychological evidence appears clear on this up to 4-sigma with much wider margins of error above 4-sigma and on alternative tests with smaller sample sizes produced by independent test creators. Have you, or when have you, felt a sense of camaraderie and community with individuals within the high-IQ communities?

Gordon: I have formed quite a few online friendships in these communities. I have never taken part in any in-person IQ societies. There can certainly be a sense of camaraderie, even online. There have also been some bad seeds here and there. You get the bad with the good; people who don’t belong there, e.g. have cheated or conned others, sometimes due to mental illness or whatever, and sometimes individuals who are there legitimately, but are arrogant due to their intelligence, and don’t respect others, or who are very close-minded due to their beliefs about their and others’ intelligence. For the most part, you do find nice and brilliant people who you can connect with on some level.

4. Jacobsen: Who were childhood heroes for you or inspiration, at least? Were there any books or movies that really intrigued you? Why those, do you think?

Gordon: I tended to idolize famous musical stars, so whatever music I was into at the time, that was who I wanted to be like. The first favorite I had was actually Michael Jackson; my stepmom had a Thriller cassette that she would let me listen to on our “Brick Boy”, which was basically a handheld Tetris game hat allowed you to listen to music while playing. My first CD was Soundgarden – Superunknown. I was guided by my older brothers’ musical tastes, and for a while it was grunge, then hip-hop, electronic, I collected a lot of CDs; then I moved away from my brothers and became more independent in my tastes. I got very into downloading music through online file sharing, and explored many genres; metal, punk rock, indie, classical, it went on and on. There is now almost no genre of music I haven’t given at least some attention to.

I always loved movies from a young age. I’ve now seen more than like anyone I’ve met, really. I think I would’ve made a great director, screenwriter, or actor in another life. Even from when I was about 4, the first R-rated movie we owned (and I watched quite often) was Total Recall, also The Terminator. We all thought Arnold Schwarzenegger was cool. I was interested in almost any movie if it was rated R. I wasn’t your average innocent kid, I think that having older brothers led to me growing up a bit fast. The same was true with books; I was really into Stephen King because the swearing, sex, violence, etc was attractive to me probably due to it being seen as forbidden or mature or whatever. Before I could read one of his books cover to cover, I would collect them anyway and kind of browse through them. You could say I was the biggest Stephen King fan who never read one of his books (I owned several). My brothers accused me of collecting books, because again I acquired them but didn’t read them. I wanted to but never could get through them, until about third grade when I started to devour them.

5. Jacobsen: How can a great teacher really change the course of a young gifted person’s life?

Gordon: A great teacher can really inspire and motivate a student, but the student has to want to do the work as well. A teacher/student relationship is almost like a partnership. So it has to be a good fit in both cases; teacher has to fit student, student has to fit teacher. I’m sure there are teachers who I worked horribly with but who other students worked fantastically with. The personalities have to come together harmoniously for the relationship to be a good one. Otherwise, it can be a kind of educational disaster. That being said, some teachers are good with everyone. I remember a high school psychology class teacher I had, who everyone liked. He was a really nice guy, and the class was fun. In fact, I can remember several teachers like that. Yet in college, my favourite professor was not liked by everyone, he was very polarizing in his approach. So it isn’t always fair. There may only be a few students who are really getting the most out of a potentially excellent teacher, and others are unfortunately not getting optimal education, because their personalities conflict…but that’s life.

6. Jacobsen: Can you recall any moments in adolescence or young adulthood where you clearly felt far ahead of same-age peers?

Gordon: I remember that during adolescence, I became kind of legendary in some online chat rooms and virtual spaces, as being a very clever and likeable kid. In school, I was pretty checked out, and my teachers at school didn’t think all that much of me, but people over the internet were really impressed with me. I remember one online friend saying I was “a mountain of knowledge”. So I think this helped my self-esteem, it did feel good, but it didn’t exactly correspond with how I was doing in my daily life. According to the school system, I was not an exceptional intellect. Even by the time high school came around, I was in “easy” classes – I was a year behind the norm in math (based on a placement test), I wasn’t in any honours classes, and I wasn’t doing especially well in terms of grades. I think on the one hand I knew I was smart, but the system just didn’t seem to be working for me, and I was a slacker. I think I was distracted by other things and was having a hard time getting motivated. I didn’t want to put in the time, I wanted to play video games, watch TV, and go online and hang out with mainly one or two friends. Starting a little before adolescence, I was not into school at all until the second half of high school. So I actually felt that I was behind my peers. That went for physical development as well, since I didn’t seem to hit puberty until at least a year or two after my peers. I wasn’t athletic and I was on the short side (now I’m about 5’11). Also, I was overweight until I was 15. So I felt pretty down about that.

7. Jacobsen: Something struck me in the midst of conducting interviews, even forming friendships and working relationships (e.g., Rick Rosner for over half of a decade), with members of the strange, in a good way, world of the high range: the solitude, the isolationism. Many, if they go out, exist behind a screen. Why, why is this the case? Is there an inherent fear of being seen for one’s true self, making a recorded mistake on camera, or some other sensitivity coming with the territory?

Gordon: I’ve definitely always been more or less an introvert, but I tend to be pretty sociable if I’m in a place I feel comfortable and like I fit in. As a little kid I was extremely shy and then gradually got more and more close with other people. I tend to have a few very close friendships rather than a wide circle of peripheral friends. I don’t talk about IQ tests with people in daily life, generally speaking. Unless it were to come up, I wouldn’t mention it. I’m a little embarrassed about it, I think. It just doesn’t seem to have much relevance, I see it as a niche hobby. I think everyone would like to have some fame and recognition, part of me wishes I’d be known widely for my intellect or creativity, but I accept it’s not likely to happen, and I’m not one to push my agenda on others.

8. Jacobsen: Can you recall any moments of early testing in life to see if you had any really, really high cognitive abilities? Or was this a later-life discovery? Somewhat of a departure from one of the previous questions focusing on the high-range.

Gordon: I seem to remember I always did well on standardized tests and so on. I also remember that I was picked out by a teacher as being the strongest reader in the class, when I was reading an adult novel in third grade. Also, I vaguely remember being ahead of the other kids in math when I was really young. Up until adolescence, my report cards were always great, but because I never saw the other kids’ report cards, I didn’t really know if I was different or not. I think that I did not fully realize I was on the very gifted side for many years, it might have been a kind of denial due to low self-esteem. I remember hearing about kids who had skipped a grade or two, and to me that just seemed above and beyond anything I could ever do. It seemed I was in the appropriate age group, and therefore I really couldn’t be all that smart in the grand scheme.

9. Jacobsen: How do young gifted people go wrong? How do young gifted people go right? What can help societies turn the ledger more towards positive outcomes in intellectual and moral development rather than negative ones indicated in criminality, mental health disorders, anti-sociality, etc.?

Gordon: I think it’s worth going into my life a bit for reference. I can see how I struggled for some years, basically from pre-adolescence until late high school. I was under-achieving in school, and didn’t have much social confidence; I was quite overweight and wasn’t able to successfully lose it until I was 15 (which felt amazing and marked a huge transition for me). I also got into some issues in college later on, mainly due to abusing substances (which started late in my first year and accelerated quickly), which I didn’t resolve until my late 20s. Also late in college, I developed anorexia, and several years later gained more weight, and then lost it, and gained it, etc; I yo-yo’d quite a bit over the years. To this day I’m still trying to get myself into my best shape. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in my mid-20s and suffered bipolar depression and psychosis for a few years. By my late 20s, I was ready to put it all behind me, and begin to quit using substances, and seemingly got over my mental illness.

It’s hard to generalize my issues as being particular to gifted people, though. I think with me it was a confluence of factors that led to my difficulties. My parents divorced when I was three, and there was thus some instability and inconsistency in my life from the start. Also, I was out of shape right during that period when kids start to look for girlfriends/boyfriends, and I didn’t get one until after high school. I really longed for that kind of connection but couldn’t seem to find it. I didn’t attend prom or any of the school dances. I did go to a lot of rock, punk rock, metal, etc concerts, I was “straight edge” and didn’t use any substances, but this was mainly because I and a handful of friends were into that kind of music, and we were in the vast minority. So I was always kind of a rebel and lone wolf, even when I did have friends.

Granted, I think that there were always things I was doing right, despite these issues. Not having many friends or girlfriends led to emotional independence, I got used to doing things on my own and enjoyed my own company. Struggling academically and then redeeming myself made me realize that I had the ability to do it all along, I just wasn’t making the best of it. Also, I was very into reading, games, movies, and the like – generally solitary activities; I was self-sufficient. This led to a great deal of self-discipline as well, once I got my act together. Missing out on some social joy in life during those years led me to appreciate it a lot more later on.

In college, I got out of my shell somewhat and made a lot of friends. I also started to do better and better academically, and became a standout student all the way through graduate school. I received a lot of respect from my peers and teachers with regard to my abilities, especially in English and music. I won a short story contest my junior year in high school, and was getting As in a lot of classes. I also tied for first in a local piano competition in high school. In college I remember I worked hard on an in-class essay on Paradise Lost (for a Renaissance Literature class) and received a 97; the teacher told me it was the highest score he had given out on the in-class essay. I think once I came back around academically, I basically stayed on the good side.

I think that with me, my gifts tend to allow me to focus on something to an intense degree. Sometimes that can become a problem. For example, when I wanted to lose weight and be thin, I became anorexic. When I wanted to muscle up and gain weight to combat the anorexia, I actually became very overweight in the process of also getting stronger. But once I got my mental health, substance use and physical health under control, and was able to really strike a balance, I was mostly able to stay on top of my game.

I think some common issues I have with other gifted are probably feelings of being different, some problems fitting in, maybe social confidence issues as result, being under-appreciated or unrecognized for their talents, and also maybe boredom and discontent with the norm, and broader social environment. However, I think it’s also possible for gifted to not suffer from these problems and to generally be more like I was at my best (higher-achieving, creative, original, socially competent). I feel I’ve had to carve out my own path due to being unusual, and this can be both a blessing and a curse for someone who is highly intelligent.

10. Jacobsen: Who really stands out as a highly balanced great intellect to you? Why them?

Gordon: Among people I know, my wife springs to mind. She is an extremely bright individual, with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering; she works for a major tech company and is outstanding in her field. She is fluent in Mandarin and English, and came all the way from China to eventually start a life with me (though we hadn’t met yet). If you were to interview her, you would hear very little about any imbalances or problems in her life. She has always done well academically and professionally. She has had very few emotional problems. Furthermore, she is an exceptionally kind and compassionate person. To me, she is the complete package, as they say.

Among people I know in IQ world, Dr. Kenneth Ferrell has been a long-time email friend of mine, and we have stayed lightly in touch over the years. In addition to being a high scorer and medical doctor, he always has a wise and humble outlook. I just get the sense he understands a great deal more than most others, but is not an overly complex or difficult person as result, as some brilliant minds are.

Among famous people (past and present), many of my personal heroes have not necessarily been of the balanced variety. I’d say the majority of them have had their quirks, e.g. Marcel Proust, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, James Joyce, Arthur Schopenhauer, Sergei Rachmaninov. I think this is because I’m more on the artistic/creative side, and such individuals often are very eccentric and sometimes erratic. One intellect who to me seems great and balanced is Leonardo Da Vinci, known for a brilliant mind as well as rational and equanimous temperament. Also, Vladimir Nabokov, I’ve read was a kind and admirable personality alongside his gifts. Furthermore, I’d mention Carl Jung who was able to understand and help people of all different kinds due to his genius.

11. Jacobsen: After extensive vetting via the Wikipedia editorial staff, the main high-IQ groups considered the most legitimate appear to be Mensa International, Intertel, the Triple Nine Society, the Prometheus Society, and the Mega Society. Thus, for those with an interest in becoming part of a community with healthy records, more democratic standards, less likelihood of personality cults, and the like, please look into those, what are other good resources for the highly gifted and the profoundly gifted based on the personal story and views expressed today?

Gordon: I have lately shied away from using Facebook as a platform for IQ Societies. I think with email-based groups, you may find people behaving in less unhinged ways. These days I feel that Facebook, in general, is not a good place for me, too chaotic. I personally found the OATHS (Ron Hoeflin’s) and Tetra (Mislav Predavec’s) societies to be really good when I first signed up several years ago. I no longer participate in those groups, so I am not totally sure what they’re like now, but there were quite a few really good people on there in those days. In Tetra (which is a 160+ group), regardless of whether the group was well-vetted enough or not, the people who came forward to engage with me and others in the discussion were clearly qualified to be in the group. It was just obvious in corresponding with them that they were extremely bright individuals, regardless of the tests they may have used for admission. Otherwise, I’m not really that interested in IQ societies per se, today. I think I just don’t take IQ seriously enough as an actual, measurable thing, and find people who do take it too seriously difficult to tolerate. As Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to belong to any group that would have me as a member”.

What I recommend for high IQ individuals is to find a common interest group that has no admissions criteria, but is self-selected based on something you like; a hobby, for example. Check out the local film, chess, drawing, jazz, philosophy, or you-name-it clubs, and skip the IQ clubs (or rather, look into the IQ groups, but don’t necessarily expect much, or feel that’s the only place people will get you). There will be smart people in hobby-based groups, and they’ll be interested not in what everyone’s IQ is, but rather what matters to you all: your shared interest. One of my hopes in several years is to upgrade to a top-notch piano, and then host meetups at my house, where people can play music and get to know each other. Anyone can do this kind of thing in their area, either hosting or finding such a group; is a great resource.

12. Jacobsen: How can the young and highly intelligent work on social skills to prevent the dissolution of important social and emotional bonds with age cohort peers?

Gordon: I think it has a lot to do with self-esteem, and this affects the quality of friendships. During the times in my youth when I was relatively better socially (versus the lonelier or more alienated times), I was able to reach out to others more, and make friends with people I liked. I enjoyed approaching people and getting to know them, and I was respectful and genuinely cared about them. This included girls I found attractive or just found it easier to relate to once I had more confidence, or guys who seemed friendly or interesting. During the more socially uncomfortable times, I didn’t have very good quality friendships and had a hard time seeking them out, sometimes my social connections were merely acquaintances, or somewhere in between, and I spent more time alone. Confidence is really important, and I think that has to happen as result of physical, emotional, and intellectual health. With a balanced sense of self-esteem comes the ability to relate to others in a healthy way.

13. Jacobsen: How can the highly intelligent person be guided and mentored towards healthy instincts and behaviours rather than socially and interpersonally deleterious ones as expressed in some of the above responses?

Gordon: I think it’s all about how good they feel about themselves while also being compassionate and respectful towards others. Thus it will depend upon the specific barrier for a given person. For me, it was a rather tough issue of needing to lose weight. That was like the missing piece, and once I had done it, my social world improved a great deal (my worldview and self-perception changed). Suddenly I could talk to people much more easily and my self-consciousness diminished. I ended up losing weight of my own volition, it seemed that no degree of coaching or mentorship was of much help until that point. Sometimes trying too hard to get someone to do something only makes the person struggle with it or resist even more. Even kids need to be mainly self-motivated, in order for lasting, productive, and significant changes to be made in their lives. I think one thing to do is give them the resources, the information, and the options, and they’ll put them together for themselves. Don’t push too hard, let the intelligent child help themselves.  Also don’t make it easy for them to do badly, try to create circumstances that are optimized to them benefiting themselves, and as result, they’ll socialize more effectively as well.

14. Jacobsen: When you find people who rest their identity on IQ tests, and can have delusions of grandeur, I have two questions there. One, what can help identify, isolate, and reduce the negative impacts of such individuals within the communities of the high-IQ?

Gordon: I think such narcissistic delusions may follow very much from narrow and rigid perceptions of IQ itself. It’s really a wild card, in that there is a very wide range of attitudes that individuals have towards it. You can see how delusions of grandeur follow from people taking IQ too literally or with too much importance. I’m definitely on the other side; I tend to see IQ tests (in particular, the untimed variety I have focused on as a hobby and pastime) to be mainly intellectual contests and problem-solving collections, which are an opportunity for intelligence and creativity, in test designer and testee.  They can also be an effective educational tool.  The IQ score (deviation score that follows from such tests) as I see it, is only a very rough estimate of what that particular performance might suggest in terms of statistical rarity. I feel that the notion of having a set IQ and being able to measure it with a simple test is inherently wrong.

Thus, holding incorrect notions about the nature of IQ, can lead to people who have taken IQ tests and received a score to illogically believe they’re of a certain status (which is immutable), because of a score. It’s like a cult or caste system in a way, to believe this. Mainly it is the official, proctored tests that have successfully convinced people they hold the key to IQ, but also you find some of this mentality with unsupervised tests. Therefore the solution is to promote more balanced and realistic philosophies, like the ones I and many others hold.

15. Jacobsen: Two, what has been done in the past if anything? Alternative two, if nothing, what can be done, especially for those reading this in the future or now?

Gordon: I see two things that have been done, one positive and one negative. One thing that many high range tests do right is to state that the IQ score given shouldn’t be taken as hard fact. One thing they often do wrong is to say that what can be taken as a hard fact is a supervised test score. This perpetuates the authoritativeness of proctored scores (which I tend to see as commercial products trying to sell you something) and the ethos of unsupervised tests being cheap, take-at-home imitations of the official tests, that can’t hold a candle to the official exams. IQ scores should not be about self-worth or status, that’s both morally and logically wrong.

I don’t feel there is necessarily that much we can do or should have to do, to reshape others’ fallacious conclusions about IQ. It’s really a matter of belief, and you will likely waste a lot of your energy arguing with people about it. I’ve spent considerable time trying to play devil’s advocate to others’ ideas that I feel are overly assumptive and naive about the nature of intelligence, in particular with regards to its quantification and appraisal. Because the basic notion of IQ and its measurement is so incredibly flawed from the start, I think you’re walking into a minefield in the IQ groups if you don’t believe in it already, or aren’t open to it.

16. Jacobsen: What is the impact on love in life? Noam Chomsky notes; he can’t tell you what it is, but that life is empty without it. I have never said this in public. However, with the loves in my life, I can attest to this. Everyone I’ve ever loved retains a special place in my heart, my memories – never forgotten.

Gordon: I agree with you about love, it is possibly the meaning of life itself. However, it doesn’t need to be limited to romantic and erotic love, but extends naturally also to love of family, of community, society, of some other purpose, even of ourselves. I say this because I know not everyone falls in love romantically, or succeeds to thrive in such arrangements. Love, in general, is the passion behind our actions that drives us, and it exists in unhealthy and disturbed forms as well as healthy ones. The darker manifestations of love border on hate, and thus therefrom can be found a conceivable spectrum of human motivation and behaviour. Love is the irrational fire in us, the devotion and attachment which makes us human. It is the lack of love, in receiving and giving, that brings about sadness, loneliness, anger, and many other dark emotions.

17. Jacobsen: What is the importance of men getting help with alcoholism or other substance abuse? How can we shift the conversation in the public of one on the individual alcoholic or drug addict as someone sick and requiring medical and psychological health attention rather than someone failing morally or in some manner spiritually or mentally crippled, and incapable of managing life?

Gordon: I think that many people these days are well-informed about alcoholism as a condition rather than simply a lifestyle choice or a moral transgression (they understand people get addicted and it’s very hard to quit, something they almost cannot control), yet there may be too much of an emphasis on it as some specific individual condition, when it is, in fact, symptomatic of a larger social condition shared by more than just the alcoholics, of which individual alcoholic cases are just the extreme occurrences. It still has a way to go towards becoming recognized as a social problem rather than an individual one. The simple fact is that alcoholism is the result of alcoholic drink being made available (produced) and marketed (sold), in conjunction with the psychological reasons existing which will turn people to drink for escape.  It’s like any other drug. Once it is brought to the level of any other drug in terms of stigma, people will see more clearly that, although we aren’t legalizing cocaine, meth, heroin, or any other “street drug”, we are legalizing something essentially as bad, which if not used in a safe way, will be used to self-medicate depression, anxiety, etc. and will result in abuse, and harm. Legalizing it makes it more widespread and encourages its use.

The addiction itself is an often unavoidable chemical and biological result; if people take in a substance of this chemical composition, especially in large doses, they risk becoming addicted. It’s a “use at your own risk” situation. It’s a kind of poison that feels good, and which isn’t dangerous in lower doses, but is nevertheless poisonous in general. Many can and do use it safely, but this is also true of the other drugs I mentioned, and many cannot use it safely or are somewhere on the borderline between usage that’s okay and not okay. This has largely to do with the psychological and circumstantial particulars of the person using it.

Am I saying alcohol should be illegal or other drugs legal? Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is, I think it’s a complicated question, it depends who you are trying to please (and you can’t please everyone). I’ve messed with it enough times to know it’s not wise for me to use it in any capacity. I wonder if it would be best for all of society to take this attitude, but at the same time, I can’t decide that for others.

As for getting help to the addict; when I was in rehab, I was talking to some people who had been there seven times (this was a month-long program). Without the tools to succeed on the outside, relapse is really common (it happened to me shortly after I got out). This is when it becomes clear that the broader social environment is not always conducive to recovery. With alcohol, and marijuana ads in some states, on every other billboard, and liquor and pot stores every mile or so, and marketing often targeted at those with lower income, it’s no wonder people have a hard time being clean and sober. AA is also not right for everyone, due to some cult-like and religious aspects that will be counter-productive for many. Addicts are ultimately filling a hole in their lives by using, and unless they can fill that with something healthy, they’re going to have trouble not reaching for those substances again and again. Substances release those endorphins that are associated with positive feelings. This is often one of the only ways they can get pleasure in their lives, so there is always a situational reason why they’re using in the first place.

18. Jacobsen: How is life outside of rehab now? (Thank you for sharing, by the way.)

Gordon: Sure, no problem. Life is good now. Sometimes social occasions can be a little awkward or uncomfortable because others will, of course, be drinking and enjoying themselves that way, it’s unavoidable. I feel a bit like I have to be an adult and everyone else gets to be a kid. I guess I just have to remind myself that it’s necessary, and remember why I’m sober in the first place.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] M.F.A., Creative Writing, Adelphi University (NY); B.A., English, Western Washington University (WA).

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 1, 2020:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2020:

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.


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