Books by John E. Smethers, Ph.D
In the united States drug offenders represent 60% of federal prisoners and over one-third of state and county prisoners. This doesn’t include those who committed crimes while under the influence, or those who were committing crimes for money to buy drugs or alcohol (alcohol is a drug too). Are these drug offenders nothing but Scumbag Sewer Rats? Our drug abusing/addicted family, friends and co-workers consistently lie, cheat, and steal, and their chances of finding lasting and intrinsic change is not likely--recovery rates are low. Medical doctors, mental health professionals, the criminal justice system, social scientists, and the clergy offer plenty of advice about how to deal with drug addicts, but even the best advice seldom changes the emotional truth. Most family members of drug addicts live with strong feelings of resentment, hate, and frustration--yet love and hope persist. They are pulled in two opposing directions—bitter resentment and love. Over time this ambivalence is exhausting. Since we can't fix them, should we simply give up and ban them from our lives?
The answer is no, because there is a third way, one that can provide solace and meaning for the millions of individuals whose lives have been affected by criminalized drug addicts--a marginalized population of tricksters who I refer to as jointsters. This third way is a depth psychological understanding, which offers readers the contention that Jointsters are not sick, and they don’t have to be given up on in despair. Scumbag Sewer Rats argues that once substance abuse has passed the experimental stage and becomes a lifestyle, jointsters are predisposed to personifying two archetypes, the puer aeternus and the trickster. Seeing this population through these lens fosters the capacity to imagine, empathize, and relate to their stories, thereby rendering a raw, chilling and psychologically acute understanding of them.
In this book, I disclose some of my personal experiences. Many of these experiences will be juxtaposed with mythological figures and myths, and quotes by other authors to elucidate the sometimes sad, sometimes funny, and sometimes desperate predicaments jointsters find themselves in. Many of these experiences demonstrate a creative intelligence that will impress upon the reader of their potential. The experiences of jointsters, articulating their expertise in criminal activity, will also be explored, as well as excerpts written by inmates who offer their experiences in and out of the prison environment.
If our educational, rehabilitational, and judicial systems knew about puer and trickster mechanisms, would they be able to better serve the jointster community? What if they were aware of their own prejudicial inclinations toward viewing jointsters as scumbag sewer rats? Could an archetypal understanding encourage understanding instead of disgust, hope instead of despair, or at least the patience to allow them to possibly find their way to a more productive lifestyle.
In chapter eight, I argue that (1) criminalized drug addicts are not sick--criminal behavior is not an illness, nor is drug addiction; (2) chemical dependency can be viewed as a misdirected path to spirituality, and (3) recovery can be achieved through multiple therapeutic approaches. In this chapter I also offer an approach to recovery called The Alchemical Process of Recovery, in addition to a process I used when I went into recovery called thought-stopping. Whereas there is no shortage of books and Internet sites about drug addicts and criminals, they don't accomplish what Scumbag Sewer Rats does, and that is an understanding of a marginalized sector of our society that I was a part of for more than 30 years. Here is a unique approach to the topic, and the sooner the reading public get a better understanding of this population, the sooner they can find some consolation in dealing with them as they really are.
By reading Scumbag Sewer Rats, a not-yet criminalized substance abuser probably won’t be scared straight, but it could certainly give him food for thought. Father Martin once commented on the old adage: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it. "However," he said, "it is true, you can’t make him drink it, but you can take him to the water and make him thirsty."