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Author Topic: That's a Lot of Drugs! Charlie's trip down the rabbit hole  (Read 1395 times)

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October 09, 2012, 08:40:21 AM

paint it Black

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Charlie starts his first year at high school as a mostly inexperienced boy who has recently lost his only friend to suicide.  By the time two months have gone by, he is at a party with friends who are seniors and he's eating a ... brownie.  ::) "Since you are older, I think you know what kind of brownie it was."(p.35)  (Granted, he did not seem to know that it was not an ordinary brownie when he ate it.)  At the winter holiday party, everyone drinks brandy, and on New Year's Eve Charlie tries LSD, with distressing results.  ??? A few weeks later, he starts smoking cigarettes.  Beer and wine are the norm at parties after that, and when Charlie makes a huge mistake that alienates him from his friends, he starts buying and smoking marijuana regularly.  He also dabbles in ephedrine tablets and inhalants.  Were you surprised to see Charlie drinking and using so many drugs?  Do you think that he would have been just as likely to do so if he had friends his own age and not three years older than him?  Do you think the fact that some of his family members are drinkers influenced Charlie's attitude toward it at all?  Do you think that the average teen does this much drugs and alcohol?  What purpose did the drugs and alcohol serve for each of the characters?

Does Charlie ever use things other than drugs to help him cope with stressful times?  Why do you think he comes to choose drugs and alcohol over these things?

Charlie's Aunt Helen drank and did drugs before she moved in with his family.  Do you think there is a connection (due to their common childhood trauma) with Charlie's relationship with drugs and alcohol?  Do you imagine that Charlie stopped doing drugs and alcohol before his second year of high school?

Feel free to share any thoughts you have about Charlie's long strange trip right here.



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January 14, 2013, 10:43:14 AM
Reply #1

RiverSpirit

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I was really surprised by the amount of drug use. Given Charlie's age and apparent lack of maturity and social skills I was also shocked that his parents and siblings did nothing to prevent his downward spiral.

Even though his breakdown related back to his childhood experiences surely the drugs did their bit as well.

I think that his older friends were definitely a bad influence on him. If he had been able to make friends his own age things may have been different, but he still had to deal with the past.

Returning to school for the next year would have probably been incredibly challenging. His classmates would all be aware of his exploits and his hospitalisation, as would be their parents. Many parents would have "warned their children off" Charlie. Making new friends, now that his old friends had moved on, would have been really difficult. His only options might be to fall into the wrong crowd.
  
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January 23, 2013, 08:36:55 AM
Reply #2

Kickassnoodle

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I must confess that the drug use didn't shock me too much, I mean, other than that first drug-laced brownie and the drugs during that New Year's Eve party, I couldn't even recall any of it before I read this thread. I guess, I was more upset over Charlie being isolated and shunned by his new friends, I really don't think he'd have been better or worse off mentally without the marijuana.

As for his parents and siblings's lack of involvement, well, I wasn't really surprised. I mean, I don't think they knew what was going on. It's not like Charlie would've told them and they don't seem to be involved much in his life. I guess they were just relieved that Charlie finally had friends. Charlie's family didn't strike me as the sort of family who, you know, talk. Like, really talk, not just everyday chit-chat about school and weekend plans. Also, I think, Charlie didn't want to admit to them that he was getting worse again, I mean, who would? He only wrote those letters to the mysterious friend, so we have insight into his mind, but he probably appeared pretty much normal to people around him, and he didn't seem to have regular visits to the doctor or a therapist or some place where he could talk to people about his problems, so he talked about it with nobody, except in his letters. So, it all finally transpired only when he had a total breakdown.

Perhaps, I'm being naive or overly optimistic, but I don't think coming back to school to Charlie would be so bad. I mean, I'm only getting this feeling from his last letter which was all optimistic, but also, I think, if it would've been bad, the book wouldn't have ended there - Charlie would've written to the mystery friend again. And I actually don't think that his classmates would be too aware of what happened the previous year. I mean, he only pretty much hung out with the seniors and that was mostly outside school. I mean, I don't know about other people in other high schools but when I was a freshman I wasn't aware of the seniors, except that they, you know, existed. The classmates might know about the hospitalisation, but they also knew about the first one (I think - unless I'm misremembering), so that was nothing new. And I actually think that if they found out about Charlie's exploits, they might even think him cooler for all that. I mean, these are teenagers, after all - who doesn't want to be accepted by an older crowd and try dangerous stuff? I'm not saying it's good, but I think, that's how it would be.
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January 23, 2013, 09:30:07 AM
Reply #3

RiverSpirit

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I read your post with great interest Kickassnoodle. I think that the reason that you and I have differing opinions might be a generational thing. As a parent of a teenager I am probably looking at the book in a completely different way to you. I was at high school in an era where drugs were rarely seen or discussed. That is probably why I was rather shocked.

I totally agree with you when you say that the family really talked. It is a sad indictment on family life today. Dinner eaten in front of the tv is not conducive to discussion.

  
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January 24, 2013, 09:30:55 AM
Reply #4

Kickassnoodle

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I guess that might be it, RiverSpirit. Though, I come from a different country, and when I was in high-school (only several years ago), I didn't know or hear or see much about drugs. I mean, once a year a student organisation or something would bring people to school and show us scary presentations about drugs and addiction, but other than that I didn't really encounter it among my peers. There were (and are) a lot of drugs on TV, though, mainly in films and TV shows from the US, so I guess they dulled my sense of shock a bit, or something. Also, I think, if I was a parent, I'd probably think differently when seeing or reading about teenagers using drugs - I mean, in that case, it might be my kid, and it would be terrifying, I imagine. Right now, it all just doesn't seem that real to me, so it reduces the shock factor, if that makes sense.
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February 02, 2013, 07:35:44 PM
Reply #5

paint it Black

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I think that I'm looking at the issue from a background more similar to RiverSpirit's.  And while I have seen some drugs in my day, I did find it a bit shocking that a boy as young as Charlie (he's 15, right?) is dropping acid.  That's kind of hard core.  I'd expect that possibly a freshman in high school could be experimenting with pot and alcohol, but by the end of his first school year, Charlie has found a supplier and comes to have a pot smoking habit.  :-\  I agree with RiverSpirit that Charlie's friends were a "bad influence".  Hopefully Sam and Patrick and the rest of the older kids at least had a few years where they tested the waters with drugs so they had some minimal knowledge about their own limits and how not to do anything that was too unsafe.  Whereas Charlie was thrust head-on into the full-blown drug den of his senior-year friends.  While Sam and Patrick were (mostly) good friends to Charlie, they were developmentally and socially way ahead of him.   It definitely would have been better if he had been able to make friends with some kind kids his own age.

I know that Charlie's family wasn't terribly close, but I think his parents would have to be pretty dense not to notice the odor and appearance of a child with a pot-smoking habit.  And they have two older kids as well (and his sister apparently isn't an angel), so you'd think they'd know a thing or two about what teenagers can get into.  I was also surprised that when Charlie was found in a snowbank and taken to the hospital that the staff there just took his parents' explanation about Charlie's past mental troubles for granted and didn't check him out for drugs/alcohol to make sure he hadn't overdosed on anything (especially since this was New Year's Eve -- am I remembering that right? -- and people were likely to be partying).  Do you think that his parents could have been in denial that such a problem could exist with Charlie?  Like Kickassnoodle said, they were just so happy that Charlie had made some friends (plus, he did well in school), so maybe they didn't want to believe it.  Or do you think that maybe they just got used to walking on eggshells around him because of his past troubles?

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February 02, 2013, 10:04:29 PM
Reply #6

RiverSpirit

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I know that Charlie's family wasn't terribly close, but I think his parents would have to be pretty dense not to notice the odor and appearance of a child with a pot-smoking habit.  And they have two older kids as well (and his sister apparently isn't an angel), so you'd think they'd know a thing or two about what teenagers can get into.  I was also surprised that when Charlie was found in a snowbank and taken to the hospital that the staff there just took his parents' explanation about Charlie's past mental troubles for granted and didn't check him out for drugs/alcohol to make sure he hadn't overdosed on anything (especially since this was New Year's Eve -- am I remembering that right? -- and people were likely to be partying).  Do you think that his parents could have been in denial that such a problem could exist with Charlie?  Like Kickassnoodle said, they were just so happy that Charlie had made some friends (plus, he did well in school), so maybe they didn't want to believe it.  Or do you think that maybe they just got used to walking on eggshells around him because of his past troubles?

I do think that Charlie's parents were in denial about the things that he was involved in. I have suspicions that they were well aware of what had happened to him in his childhood but hoped that it had all been forgotten. Maybe they were very blinkered by the fact that Charlie seems to finally be fitting in somewhere and has friends.  Teenage boys are difficult by nature and I guess they did not want too much friction. Also, as the youngest he could have been flying under the radar while the parents were distracted with the lives (and antics) of his siblings.
  
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January 27, 2014, 04:48:42 PM
Reply #7

HealerOne

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So sorry I am so late to this discussion but I finally got around to reading 'Perks'. I would say that Charlie's parents were in total denial! I mean they didn't even get it that the initial abuse had been happening, so why would they be alert to the fact that Charlie was falling into the drug scene with his new friends? With him being so young and then going around with so much older kids? That seems like a red flag to me for parents, but like Noodle said they were just glad he had some friends.

It seems to be the downfall of parents when they think their kids can raise themselves. They should have been even more attentive than usual because they had a sensitive child that had already suffered one breakdown. (Why Charlie wasn't in ongoing therapy is another question I have for his parents.) The only way you can explain why they were not alerted to the drug use and downward spiral of this child is - Denial with a capital 'D'. You hope that it was just their ignorance and not the fact that they were so absorbed in their own lives that Charlie's problems were not important to them.

I also wonder about the Charlie's sister. She should have been aware of what was happening with Charlie's friends! It really does seem like this family didn't communicate well and because the lines of communication were poor - Charlie's friends and what they were up to all the time didn't get talked about. In fact they were actually ignored, even though the signs were there.

Considering the depth of the problems presented in the story, the outcome seems optimistic and a best case scenario for it all.
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