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Having recently spent a lot of time in a new and relatively unfamiliar cultural environment, I have been blessed with numerous opportunities for spiritual, emotional and mental growth. Much of this growth, such as greater tolerance of others and increased awareness and acceptance of God’s will in my life, has come beneath the surface, not readily apparent to the naked eye. A more noticeable change has come, however, in the form of a new vocabulary. Two to be precise. There is the formal, slogan-based rhetoric of recovery, replete with arguably vapid phrases such as Let Go and Let God, Easy Does It, and One Day at a Time. Then there is the language of those individuals with whom I am actually in recovery, a largely street-based dialect comprised of more interesting and gritty, if slightly less lofty, phrases such as babymomma, high as gas, tore up from the floor up, check day and off the chain. Most of these phrases, while certainly descriptive, nonetheless require some independent explanation for a complete understanding of their meaning. There is one phrase, however –- my personal favorite, by the way –- that is so wonderfully expressive as to require little further discussion.

Dope fiend move.

Now, I know that I just said that this phrase probably needs little direct explanation. And it really doesn’t. I mean, the phrase dope fiend is pretty self-explanatory, and a dope fiend move is obviously an action typically taken by someone who is a dope fiend. But the phrase, despite its reference to drug culture, nonetheless crosses over socio-economic and cultural lines, and is certainly fun to discuss. The Web-based Urban Dictionary, for example, defines the phrase dope fiend move as:

an act or effort by a drug addict to trick or mislead another person to gain advantage.

The definition lists two examples of dope fiend moves.

Example 1: The dope fiend says "Give me the money and wait here and I'll go get change." (and the fiend never returns).

Example 2. A group of friends are out to eat and when it comes time to pay the bill, the fiend pulls a $100 bill from his wallet and says, "anyone have change?" (Of course no one does, and everyone has to pool money to pay for the fiend's meal.)

But the phrase is broader than the rather narrow definition provided, and examples of dope fiend moves extend well beyond the drug and street culture that spawned the phrase. Indeed, in its broadest sense a dope fiend move is simply any attempt to obtain, directly or indirectly, an unfair or undeserved advantage by means of artifice, misdirection, or deception, and as such is nearly universal in its application.

If this broader definition sounds vaguely legal in nature it’s because, as a former lawyer, I built a successful legal career on the basis of devising, selling, and carrying out very expensive dope fiend moves on behalf of my clients. Every artfully crafted complaint, every carefully drafted interrogatory response, every well-coached witness added up in the end to little more than an elaborate dope fiend move. I would even go so far as to say that dope fiend moves are the lawyer’s true stock in trade. After all, what client is willing to pay $500 an hour for a deserved advantage easily obtained?

Politicians and used car salesmen represent two other obvious masters of the dope fiend move, and would merit no further discussion were it not for the fact that an American politician is famously responsible for what I consider to be the most spectacular, and most disastrous, dope fiend move in modern recollection. I am speaking, of course, of America’s illustrious former president, Bill Clinton, and his ill-fated, finger-wagging denial of adultery, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” It seems that Slick Willie, as he was known to his friends back in Arkansas, was asked to use during his deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case an overly narrow definition of the term “sexual relations,” one that inexplicably did not include oral sex. Even though he knew that this definition only applied during the seven hours or so that his deposition lasted, and even though he knew that using it for a nationally televised press conference would be misleading, at best, he used it anyway, hoping to escape the consequences of his actions. But like any good dope fiend, Clinton’s actions caught up with him, and he eventually got what he deserved. National humiliation and an angry wife who may well be president herself someday. You see, you can get by, but you can’t get away.

Here are a few additional examples of dope fiend moves I’ve come up with to illustrate the broad range of this phenomenon. I’m sure there are many others, so feel free to think of –- or even use -– your own. I’ve used teenagers to illustrate each of these examples because I believe, based on my personal experience, that teenagers are quite possibly the most naturally gifted and accomplished dope fiends of all.

  • Negative Contracting: An agreement with another that permits inappropriate conduct by both parties. Say Bobby and Suzie’s parents are going out for the evening, and tell their teenage kids to stay at home and do their homework. Suzie wants to go out with her friends, though, and has arranged for a ride to pick her up after the parents leave. To keep her younger brother Bobby quiet, Suzie lets him play with his XBox until she gets back, promising not to tell their parents if Bobby keeps quiet about Suzy going out. This is a dope fiend move of the passive variety. < /li>

  • Triangulation: A tactic well known to any parent of a teenager, triangulation is accomplished by playing one authority figure against another. Say that Bobby wants to go to a friend’s house for the evening, but his mother won’t let him because they are having company for dinner. Bobby waits patiently for his father to arrive, and asks if he can go out for the evening. If the father is not on his toes, the conversation will go something like this. Bobby: “Dad, can I go to Tommy’s house tonight?” Dad: “Have you checked with your mother?” Bobby: “Yeah.” Dad: “Then sure.” This tactic has the added advantage of setting the authority figures against each other, possibly allowing the dope fiend/teenager to escape attention later on. See Flying Under the Radar, below. < /li>
  • Toes to the Line: Engaging in behavior just short of a literal violation of the rule set down. Say that Suzie wants to go shopping with her friends this afternoon, but the family has a party to go to at 5:30 that night. Suzy’s mother tells her to be back in time, so, of course, Suzy walks in the door at 5:29. Adding in the time it takes for her to shower and get ready, the family doesn’t leave until 6:15. A blend of passive and active dope fiend moves. < /li>
  • Flying Under the Radar: Here, the dope fiend/teenager tries to take advantage of an existing diversion, or to create one of his own, in order to divert attention away from his own inappropriate conduct. Say Bobby asked if he could spend the night at Tommy’s house, but got a “We’ll see” in response before leaving for school. When Bobby gets back from school, his mother is yelling at Suzie about a note Suzy brought home from school for being caught making out with her boyfriend under the football bleachers. In the midst of the confusion, Bobby sneaks out the door undetected and heads for Tommy’s house. < /li>
  • ”Who, me?”: Here, the dope fiend/teenager obtains an advantage by conveniently forgetting some obligation or commitment to which he had previously agreed. Say that Bobby is standing in line at the school cafeteria waiting for lunch when the person in front of him, a passing acquaintance, asks Bobby to save his spot while he runs to the bathroom. As the other kid walks back up. Bobby notices that there is only one piece of pizza left. If the other kid returns to his spot, Bobby won’t get the pizza, so he acts as though he never agreed to save the other kid’s place in line. Note that this tactic can only be used on people with whom one is not totally familiar, such as a new kid in school, or a brand new crack customer.
  • ”What bike?”: A variation on “Who, me?” Here, the dope fiend/teenager obtains possession of property under false pretenses, so as to use that property for his own advantage. Say that Bobby’s friend Tommy lends Bobby his bike. Bobby, hard up for cash, rides the bike to the nearest pawn shop and sells it, telling Tommy that the bike was stolen. A dope fiend move of the active variety.
  • As you can see, the variety of dope fiend moves can be quite broad, ranging from very passive, sneaky activity to active conduct amounting to outright theft. But differences in complexity and severity notwithstanding, every dope fiend move is characterized by an attempt to get away with something, a trait shared by literal and figurative dope fiends and teenagers everywhere.

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