After reading Robert Greene’s The 50th Law, which I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to learn more about the life of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson from the man himself. So I ordered his autobiography, Pieces to Weight, which focuses mainly on his days as a drug dealer and gangster in Southside Queens, New York.
One of the funniest stories in the book was how Fifty got out of rehab.
He was in rehab, not because he was doing drugs (most crack dealers won’t touch their own product), but because, according to him, he’d ingested it by accident. In his own words, he’d be so busy cutting up and preparing crack that he wouldn’t have time to wash his hands when he grabbed lunch. When Fifty and his partners were arrested, the partners were imprisoned, but Fifty got 18 months in rehab thanks to the cocaine in his bloodstream.
Fifty didn’t enjoy being in rehab, mainly because, as a non-drug-user, he felt the staff were patronising him. Protestations that he didn’t have a drug problem were seen as a failure to leave the “denial” stage. More patronising feel-good “support” from the genuine addicts didn’t help. But Fifty eventually learned he’d have to play the game if he wanted to get out.
So he pretended to be an addict with a real desire to recover. He learned to speak the jargon of the programme, and he learned low-level conversation hacks that made him appear trustworthy and honest (like sheepishly looking at his shoes, then directly into the other person’s eyes). Soon he was seen as a model patient, enlisted to support and mentor the other addicts.
His tricks worked because Fifty understood the motivations of the people with power over him. To the staff at the rehab centre, he looked like a good patient, and that was good enough. The centre’s boss was more concerned with looking good to visiting politicians than whether the programme was truly effective.
That changed when the centre got a new boss. Suddenly, there was someone at the top who realised that the programme wasn’t working. Sure, it looked like it was working, but it wasn’t getting results. She began paying more attention to the addicts’ progress, and she saw through Fifty’s tricks. He was close to the end of his 18 months in rehab, but she suggested that his time there be extended.
The case was taken in front of a judge. Fifty brought his “model patient” A-game. She brought detailed evidence that the programme wasn’t doing what it was supposed to, that the programme pumped addicts full of buzzwords and bullshit, but produced no results, and that this young man was an example. The judge didn’t buy it. He didn’t want to buy it. It was too inconvenient to be true.
He told the centre leader that she’d only been on the job for six weeks, and how, in that time, could she have found flaws in a programme that had been running “successfully” for years? He praised Fifty as a model patient, and ruled that he be released on schedule.
Within a day Fifty was back on the corner hustling.