He has since gotten a haircut and a shave. He has been set up in temporary housing and been offered an account with donations that have hit $35,000. He has been been awarded a full scholarship to finish his college degree. And he has been reunited with his son.
“I was thinking I could just put my hat on the piano and make a couple dollars and get tips,” he told WWSB-TV. “I didn’t expect it to jump out to this.”
There are many missing links in Gould’s story. It’s unclear when and how he became homeless. He acknowledges having a drug and alcohol problem but it’s uncertain when that started. There seems little doubt, however, that he’s got some musical talent.
Gould picked up the clarinet as a child and played for years. He said he played while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. “My music took me around the world before I was 21,” he told WOOD-TV.
Soon after his service, he went home to Michigan to study music at Spring Arbor University. “I took music theory and ear training, and I had to learn how to play every instrument from the piccolo down to the tuba,” he toldWWSB-TV. “I can write parts like a handbook.” He said his dream was to teach but, three years later, he ran out of tuition money.
His drug and alcohol addiction took hold. His wife died. His then 3-year-old son, Donny, was taken away. But in the days after Gould became an Internet celebrity, he told WFLA-TV he hoped all the attention would help him find his boy.
“Every day it’s painful,” he told the news station early last week. “There’s not a day that goes by that they took him that I ain’t thought about him.”
On Tuesday, WFLA-TV in Florida and WOOD-TV in Michigan coordinated a call between Gould and his now 18-year-old son, who lives in Michigan.
“Donny, is that you?” Gould said.
“That’s me,” Donny replied.
“I’ve waited for this moment for a lot of years,” Gould said. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be there for you, son.” Gould still struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, WOOD-TV reported.
“I just hoped you’d get your act cleaned up so we could see each other still,” Donny said.
“I hope to make that happen one of these days soon,” Gould replied. Gould said he plans to check into a rehab facility on Wednesday…
I think just about anybody could develop a drug addiction, just like anyone can catch a cold. Some people recover from a cold to breathe normally again. And for some people, the cold develops into seasonal then year-round allergies. Cold patients take over-the-counter cold medicine so they don’t suffer through the worst of the illness, and then stop taking it when they begin to breathe normally again. Allergy sufferers take combinations of decongestants and antihistamines, first through allergy season and then year round. Believe me, allergy sufferers like me are addicted to their Claritin-D. (Hey, that rhymes.) You know, because we’re addicted to breathing without sneezing. (Intentional rhyme.)
You don’t have to be musically talented like Piano Man to deserve a second chance. It seems to me that people have a better chance at recovering from cancer than from addiction. And to me, that indicates not only the severity of addiction as an illness, but also, if there was as much funding in addiction as there is in cancer, there might be a better success rate for treating it.
Loving those who suffer from addiction is hard and usually comes with second, third, maybe even a hundred, chances. Unfortunately, the recovery rate for addiction is pretty low, especially through abstinence. But if you think about it, life in general is the same way. We give people lots of chances, usually because we know humans make mistakes. We make mistakes. Addiction is an illness that comes with making a lot of mistakes. Bad mistakes. Sometimes, illegal mistakes. And just like a lot of people I’ve known, drug addicts don’t always learn from their mistakes. Drug addicts are like your average person on steroids, making steroid-level mistakes.
Some drug addicts really are on steroids. Some are on Claritin-D. Some are addicted to surgery, some to caffeine. (Unintentional rhyme.) Some are addicted to power and some to showers. Some don’t want to live without coffee, and some can’t live without love. I’ve known women addicted to alcohol and some to make-up and men.
Is addiction about the things we can’t live without?
I had a shopping addiction once or twice in my life, but I think I’ve finally recovered from that. And I think most people recover from their addictions in their own time. After all, for a lot of people, life just sucks — and that can always be a gateway to an addiction. Who doesn’t understand the need to feel better? Becoming addicted to feeling better is something we’ve all faced at one time or another, whether we need a drug, food, person, or thing.
But drug addiction is about more than just feeling better — it’s really about feeling normal. Think about how it would feel to give up your current “normal.” Does it feel normal to walk on two legs? What if that normal feeling was going to be taken away from you? How hard would you fight for your legs? As hard as an addict fights for his drug?
Does it feel normal to own a car? If that car was taken away from you, what would you do? Walk everywhere? Take away a drug addict’s drug of choice, and it’s like she has to walk everywhere — through mud and against the wind. Oh, it can be done, but no one ever talks about the amount of effort it takes to live without drugs if you’ve really been addicted to them. Like walking in the snow while it’s raining.
Living without drugs you’ve been dependent on is not the same as living without drugs you’ve been addicted to. When you suffer from a dependency on a drug, you may miss it when it’s gone, but you don’t go to steroid-like lengths to obtain the drug again. How do you know if you’re addicted to a drug? When you choose it over the basic necessities.
Since becoming disabled, I’ve chosen Claritin-D over chocolate. I’ve chosen cigarettes over food. But I knew I would have both chocolate and food again — these are necessities. I wasn’t giving them up forever. I don’t know how it would feel to give up chocolate forever, but I know I’m not interested in even contemplating the possibility. However, I also know that I wouldn’t lie or steal to buy chocolate if I didn’t have any. That’s how I can define chocolate as a necessity — at times, more of a luxury — and not as one of my addictions.
Thinking about what will happen to Piano Man started me on this post. And I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we’re all the same. We all have addictions. But because Piano Man is addicted to drugs and alcohol, many people look down on him. When they’re really just looking down on themselves.