2013-08-27

The Tailspin

At a certain point, it becomes obvious that someone is going into a tailspin.

We have a lot of experience with this by now. We've seen Lindsay Lohan's slow descent from the top of the silver screen to the New York party scene, to the emotional wreckage left in the wake of a dysfunctional family. It was heart-wrenching to see the brightest child star in years become so completely self-destructive. But this was just one recent example. We also watched Chris Brown convert himself from the modern Usher to the modern Mike Tyson with alarming speed. We watched Britney Spears go from being perhaps the world's most famous person to being the subject of a legal conservatorship.

Going back a little further, we've seen this story play out in perhaps even more heart-breaking ways. One really sad example is that of the great Edward Van Halen, one of the most talented and ground-breaking musicians in recent history, whose demons chased him from the top of the 1984 charts all the way down into the rat-hole of crystal meth.

My first significant experience with Miley Cyrus was when my young niece asked me to sing a Hannah Montana song at her birthday part. I believe it was her sixth birthday. Cyrus' fame was entirely thanks to the likes of my little niece, who looked up to Cyrus because she seemed to be a cool, talented, smart teenager who had everything going for her. At least, that's the character she played on TV.

It's hard for everyone to transition from adolescence into adulthood. It's a process that is frequently marred by moral failings, bad mistakes, lapses of judgement, victimhood of circumstance, and emotional upheaval. In hindsight, it's fairly safe to say that growing into one's adulthood is an almost violent process. Fortunately for most of us, that process ends in an outstanding triumph when we ultimately reach a point in our late-20s or 30s at which we realize we are exactly the person we were supposed to become.

But it's easy to get lost along the way. One look at the recent batch of Miley Cyrus pictures from the MTV VMAs reveals telltale signs of extensive drug abuse. The signs of physical wastage and atrophy are readily apparent to those of us who have previously encountered them. Setting that aside, there are certain behaviors that I typically associate with what I'd call "being lost inside one's own mind," the sort of secret, private world that drug abusers enter for a while, when the drugs are easy to come by and their friends still think it's funny.

Who's to say how far Cyrus still has to fall before she realizes she took a wrong step somewhere back there? For her sake, I hope it's not too far. The risk of these chemicals is that their ill effects can be severe and permanent.

For the rest of us, the tailspin serves as an important reminder about the emotional instability of young adulthood, which can sometimes extend well into middle age. It's also further evidence, were any really needed, that no one should ever touch these horrible substances.