After watching the first season of Fear the Walking Dead (FTWD) again, it occurred to me that we rarely see any type of substantial fictional exploration of addiction and the apocalypse. As you may or may not know, depending on whether you watch the show, one of the main characters is a heroin addict. He is one of the first characters that we meet on the show and is also one of the first to encounter zombies if indeed the outbreak started in California.
Regardless of how you might feel about FTWD, the writers deserve some credit for making a legitimate effort to humanize addiction through Nick. Whether or not you agree with his reaction/behavior, it is an interesting fictional story line worthy of further exploration. Nick’s character offers some insight into the implications of addiction during and after the apocalypse.
The most fascinating idea that comes up through Nick’s character is that his life before and after the zombie apocalypse isn’t that much different. Death was always his constant companion. He was already living moment to moment, never seeing beyond his next fix.
An addict’s life isn’t that much different from the life of a post apocalyptic survivor. Instead of finding more drugs, almost all of a survivor’s energy is spent obtaining the necessary food and supplies and protecting those resources. Death is never far away in either case. Indeed, it is a constant companion.
Now, consider the life of an average, modern day person. Most people have become so dependent on modern conveniences that a drastic change in lifestyle would be a major shock to say the least. Many people simply wouldn’t be able to let go of their former life and do what is necessary to survive. It is in this light that we can begin to understand Nick’s relative ease in adjusting to his new environment. Compared to everyone else, his new life isn’t much different from his old life.
This is not to say that I necessarily agree with FTWD’s particular interpretation. I don’t know if that’s the way a typical addict might respond to the zombie apocalypse, however, I applaud their valid attempt to address the issue. Actually, FTWD is the first major end of the world type fiction that I have encountered that tries to examine the topic of addiction on more than a superficial level. Many might argue that a drug addict would be less concerned with the well being of their family and more concerned with raiding homes, pharmacies or hospitals for leftover opioids. This is usually how the issue is dealt with in apocalyptic fiction – “those degenerate addicts need to be contained” type of attitude prevails, in most cases, always implying that “these people” are the first stage of the human transformation into raiding cannibal clans.
As with most issues, its not quite as simple as “forget about those degenerates”, especially when someone that you love is an addict or alcoholic. Ultimately, I think most people would be surprised to find out that addiction is running rampant right in their cozy little neighborhoods.
I having been sober and drug free now for 16 years. But also I can attest to the notion that some portion of alcoholics and addicts can recover and that they might be people that you would want around should things go bad.
If anyone knows of any other works of fiction that explores addiction and the apocalypse please forward it to me.
On a side note, I have been really pleased with the response to our first few guest posts and I really appreciate everyone that has given positive feedback. I’m still looking for people to write guest posts and would like to make it a regular occurrence on this site. If you are a writer, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form below to express your interest in doing a guest post. For a guest post, rather than discussing your book or fictional work directly, I would prefer if you could discuss some of your inspiration for creating it and possibly share some life experience that has influenced you and drawn you towards the apocalyptic genre. I look forward to hearing from and meeting as many of you as possible!