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John E Smethers, PhD

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Scumbag Sewer Rats
by John E Smethers, PhD   

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Publisher:  CheckPoint Press ISBN-10:  0955150353 Type: 


Copyright:  2008 ISBN-13:  9780955150357

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Scumbag Sewer Rats

An archetyypal understanding of criminalized drug addicts which includes the developmental process that this population goes through.

      The orientation of this book is depth psychological. Depth psychology is a tradition initiated by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and elaborated on by others, including James Hillman with his archetypal re-visioning of psychology, as well as the phenomenological schools of thought. The spirit of depth psychology is nourished by an understanding of and a participation with literature, mythology, spirituality, alchemy, as well as Eastern traditions and quantum physics.

I interviewed several drug addicts as a research method in an effort to understand how they viewed their addiction. Not using their real names, I will refer to them as Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Comet, and Vixon.

These addicts discussed with me what it was like when they started using drugs and alcohol, and in a way they seemed to relive some of the pleasure of those times in their lives. All of them talked about how innocent their drug use was at first, saying that it was fun and exciting. This is the beginning fun phase of the developmental process.

Before we addicts built legacies of disgust, suspicion, mistrust, pity, and fear from society, we were just out to have a good time. A recurrent theme with the addicts who I interviewed, which were all male, initially responded by explaining what it was like when they started drinking or using.

They described their first years of using as fun. They elaborated on this extensively before they began talking about their descent into the netherworld of addiction. Most of them began by talking about their early experiences. There was one exception--Dasher, but he still kept within the fun theme.

Dasher commented, "Well, it's been my experience that males have a tendency to elaborate extensively on the good times, and not so much on the bad times."

Dancer said: "I'd describe it as starting out as a lot of fun. It started out as a big party, and I started out right away getting high every day, every chance I got, and that was when I was about 13 years old."

Prancer followed: "Well, my addiction started off real innocent, just smoking pot, stealing beers from dad out of his refrigerator and that was, like, in junior high and it wasn't really a problem. It was just, you know, it was fun."

The same goes for Vixen: "Well, they were good experiences. I mean, when I first started off using, you know, it was not a big deal. I mean, we're partying, we're drinking, we're using, we're whatever. Early on it was exciting."

Comet said: "I loved my addiction. I loved the use of drugs. It started off as very pleasant. I enjoyed it." These guys talked about those initial years of experimentation as though they thought at the time that they could go on like that for the rest of their lives, and they probably did think that. I know I did.

Normal human development allows for sowing wild oats, so by the time one enters their twenties, maturation usually starts taking place, and one starts developing a sense of responsibility and accountability. We're supposed to pursue education, career, and/or get married and start a family. Or, many of us stay trapped in an adolescent stage. Teenagers usually live in the now. Practicing addicts also live in the now. Emotionally, addicts behave like teenagers and are often described as adolescent in behavior and attitude. After all, many of the issues that they grapple with are the same as with teenagers. The difference is that addicts stay trapped in an adolescent stage for as long as they live with the addictive mind-set and attitude. This describes the addict, but it also describes the puer aeternus.

Archetypally, this syndrome is referred to by von Franz (2000) as The Problem of the Puer Aeternus. In her book, she says that "the man who is identified with the archetype of the puer aeternus remains too long in adolescent psychology; that is, all those characteristics that are normal in a youth of seventeen or eighteen are continued into later life" (p. 7).

The puer (the female counterpart is puella) archetype has been around ab ovo and will live on ad infinitum, as with all archetypes. This one has a dual nature, however. The dual archetype of the puer aeternus is in conuinctio (conjunction) with the senex (old man in Latin) and has a bipolar complicatio--positive and negative puer and positive and negative senex. The negative sides can be thought of as the dark or shadow side of our personality.

Professional Reviews

Written by S.T. Manning, PhD
An interesting and socially-important psychological review of the criminal archetype, that view the phenomenon of criminalized drug addiction both from the inside, as well as from the academic perspective. Dr. John Smethers takes us on a deeply personal journey, looking at the root causes and effects of a sub-culture populated by society's social outcasts.

Drug addicts, alcoholics and petty criminals are studied from the unique perspective of someone who has not only been there, but one who has also successfully struggled against the social and psychological forces that have lead so many of our young men into hopelessness and despair.

This is a keen and insightful look into a little-known underworld which we all, in one way or another, have helped to create.

Written by Mike Denney, MD, PhD
Depth psychologist John Smethers' Scumbag Sewer Rats offers a unique, fascinating and heartfelt glimpse into the world of criminalized drug addicts, revealing both the self-indulgence and the outgoing humanity of the puer and trickster images that is so prevalent in the social order of this shadowed underworld.

Written by Barbar Sinor, PhD
What can I say after reading Scumbag Sewer Rats? I can say wow! what a potent adventure. John Smethers brings to us a world of the unspoken, the underworld of those in prison and those in their own prison of addiction. The stories are real, they are gut-wrenching, they are the truth that society does not acknowledge. Smethers' own personal tales of addiction, imprisonment, probation, and recovery trickle down throughout the book bringing the reader closer to his truth and his determination to guide us to awaken to a new idea of recovery. He presents a new plan of recovery which utilizes both "steps" and "archetypes" which interplay to form a basis in spirituality and transformation for the questing addict. Sobriety may or may not culminate with this new plan of attack, however, in view of the models currently adhered to by society, Smethers' bold look at addiction recovery is certainly worth our time and investigation.

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