INTERVIEW WITH LEONARD BUSCHEL
SEPTEMBER 4, 2017
Q: Tell me about yourself and what you do and how you got involved in the frontlines of the heroin epidemic.
BUSCHEL: My name is Leonard Buschel. I am the founder of the REEL Recovery Film Festival & Symposium, which is a film festival that travels around the country. It’s the longest recovery event in the country. Seven days in New York City. Seven days in Los Angeles. We also have a three-day festival in Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Denver, Richmond, Virginia, and we are expanding across the country. This’ll be our ninth year in Los Angeles and our sixth year in New York. And I have nothing to do with the heroin epidemic.
Q: What are your thoughts on the heroin epidemic?
BUSCHEL: I don’t know if it’s an epidemic. According to the dictionary, it’s not. The definition of “epidemic” is not something that people do to themselves. It’s a disease that spreads from one person to another through contact. So I wouldn’t call it an epidemic. That’s a misnomer. It is a crisis. It is a national disgrace. It is a profound sickness in America that so many people are in so much pain that they’d rather die than face reality on a daily basis. That’s a tragedy. I mean I think it goes hand-in-hand with the downfall of … the American Dream is now finally over. It’s, for so many families, it’s a nightmare. For many, many funeral directors, it is a bonanza. So there’s many ways of looking at it. And, certainly, as a form of governmental population control, it’s very effective.
Q: What do you think that’s about?
BUSCHEL: I think that there are forces in America that value human life not one iota. So the official policies are not about healing or love or health. Notice how healthcare issues are not about health. They’re all about sickness. There is money in sickness. There is no money in health. So people who solely concern themselves, which is everyone who have money invested in any pharmaceutical company, in any insurance company, in any hospital chain, they get great value from this opiate crisis. When the corporation has no heart, only an accountant that’s looking at the bottom line, only the bottom line is important.
And when the stockholders’ dividends go up a little every year, they’re not asking how many people had to die for them to make more money. But I believe that is the situation, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, especially in the privately owned prison-industrial complex. It’s like the police are out there to get clients, to get customers for prisons. And, of course, the prisoner doesn’t pay for prison. Taxpayers pay for the person to go to prison. So we all know there’s more prisons being built than schools. And we also know that the whole educational system is grooming people to end up behind bars if you’re not wealthy, if you’re not educated, the ones who go from schools to cells, because people make more money on jailing you than they do on healing you or educating you.
So the situation is very interesting. I think America has one of the few healthcare systems that is a for-profit healthcare system. People in Canada, when they get a little sick, they don’t wait until it gets worse, they go to the doctor or they go to a hospital because it’s socialized medicine. So they don’t have to worry about it costing them a fortune. Therefore, they detect illnesses more quickly before they become dire. And no one in Canada is worried that, oh, my God, if a family member gets a really bad injury or really bad sickness, we could lose our house because of the medical bills.
So people are walking around, not insecure like people are in America. It’s a very insecure country, and I think the media, it’s their job to keep people frightened so that the more stress there is, the more medication people have to take. It’s brilliant, and I admire the viciousness and the cold-bloodedness of those leaders who manage those corporations. I envy ’em like I envy the devil. Clever.
Q: What do you think needs to be done about this crisis?
BUSCHEL: Better schools. Better teachers. More focus on the intrinsic value of life. It’s not about all what you can get. It’s about what you can give. I mean if we believe anything that Jesus said, certainly, when he said it’s better to give than to receive, they don’t teach that in school. You know, it’s all about me, me, me, take, get, take, get. Who is more famous than Jesus right now? The Kardashians. Nobody gives a hoot about the apostles Paul, John. They care about what the Kardashians are wearing and who they’re having sex with later tonight. So that’s the way we roll here in the USA, USA, USA. It’s amazing.
So thank God they haven’t started closing libraries yet or burning books like I’m sure a lot of people would like to. So we’re not burning books, and we’re not closing all the libraries. I know some municipalities don’t have enough money to run libraries, and everyone’s going online anyway. So I understand how libraries might be obsolete. But it was a very good idea that Benjamin Franklin had over 200 years ago. To create a free library where anybody who could read could go and educate themselves on a thousand different topics. So hopefully teachers and schools today give assignments that require children to go to the library just so they can get to see one in person and not Google every answer they need.
And the more computers in school, the dumbing down this has all started when children were taught not to think, not to investigate, not to learn. Just to answer questions, you know? Critical thinking is a thing of the past. And so I think the technical revolution is brilliant. I’m an addict myself, you know? I haven’t been out of my house for more than an hour without a cell phone in 15 years at least. And, of course, now it’s not about a phone. It’s a camera. It’s Facebook. Any time I’m walking down the street, I’m thinking, “Who starred in that movie?” Boom! Like, 15 seconds, I know the — I usually wait. I have a two-minute rule. I think about it for two minutes before I go into Google to get the question, just to keep my brain a little bit flexible.
So we have to completely revamp the whole educational system — get iPads out of schools. Get computers out of schools. They keep children from learning. You don’t rely on your brain when you have the answer on your phone. We need to be able to rely on our brains the same way people who rely on medication might not rely on their higher power quite as much, which can be very non-effective. Many people have prayed in the morning and overdosed in the evening. And many people have taken anti-drug medication in the morning and OD’ed in the evening.
There’s no rhyme or reason, and the whole recovery industry is fascinating because it’s the least exact science there is. What works for one individual won’t work for another. It’s fascinating. If it were truly a disease, there would truly be a medicine. Instead, the medicine is to go sit around other people who used to use and drink a lot and listen to them talk, and maybe you’ll catch it. You’ll catch sobriety. Or maybe you’ll actually be struck sober. And maybe you’ll have to work really hard to figure out why you want to kill yourself and why you want to get high all the time. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of self-investigation to find out why you’re addicted to something. And, hopefully, everybody takes the time and has the wherewithal, and if you can’t afford a therapist, there are a lot of clinics, and hopefully, you get a good one, and hopefully you’ll talk to people who have beat this crisis.
And there can be some inspiration. And you’ll find other things that turn you on. It’s just about being turned on. As my son often reminds me, he says, “Remember what Timothy Leary said.” He said, “It’s not about getting high. It’s about being high.” And there’s no greater high than reality as it is. And any time I think of putting a filter between you and me, I say, no, I don’t want a filter between — I had plenty of filters for a long time. You know, I never had an emotion that I didn’t try to adjust by enhancing or rejecting it without a substance. And so now, it’s a very courageous thing, I think, to live on the natch. I mean who lives without drugs and drinking? Monks. And even monks, you know, drink. So if you have another question, I’d be happy to give you a long-winded answer.
Q: Any words of encouragement for people out there struggling?
BUSCHEL: Stop struggling. Surrender. It’s not about getting it. It’s about letting it. And it’s about — don’t struggle. Just work hard. Work hard at recovery. Pray, meditate, counseling. 12 steps can’t hurt. As they say, it doesn’t work for anybody. It only works for the people who do them. Keep hope. Stay alive. Find out why you want to kill yourself, and decide that change is inevitable, and it’s either changes for the better or changes for the worse. And I don’t think anybody that overdoses — I don’t think God judges people who come to Him or Her as 23-year-old opiate addicts more than he judges someone who comes in at 95 a healthy, old person.
So I don’t think the evil is death. Although I do think people — and I’ve been told this by many people — it’s the selfishness that gets people to use so much drugs that they could die, leaving their entire family grief-stricken forever. And they say, “I want to get high. I’m more important than my family.” So how do you get rid of the selfishness that is instilled into so many American youth? I’m not saying youth are meant to be altruistic, but they are meant to make love and have fun and listen to music and make music and, you know, walk on the grass barefoot.
Walk on the grass barefoot for a day and tell me you still want to kill yourself. And then put on shoes and go to a meeting or to a temple of any kind, as long as it’s not organized religion. Organize your own. Be your own best friend. Be your own best friend, and think about what you put into your system. Would you put that into your child’s system? And I include Diet Coke. Would you pour Diet coke into your 12-year-old’s stomach directly? Would you put Diet Coke into your own stomach if you didn’t have it going through your mouth to be able to taste it? Why would you put a toxic, poisonous chemical into your body that God gave you as the greatest temple of all, the human body? And people poison themselves on a daily basis. Hence, the “healthcare crisis.”
Q: What about high-fructose corn syrup?
BUSCHEL: High-fructose corn syrup. Does it make you high? Also, a conspiracy. Let’s not talk about all the artificial sweeteners, okay?
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
BUSCHEL: Let’s talk about aspartame. Aspartame was completely illegal until Donald Rumsfeld who worked for President Nixon, he worked for the company that manufactured Aspartame. It was only when he became Secretary of Defense that the United States ok’d the use of Aspartame which is known to cause cancer, 100%. So there are no conspiracy theories. There are only conspiracies. Please watch the movie JFK by Oliver Stone. Watch the movie All the Presidents’ Men with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. These are movies that can educate. Watch Will Smith’s, The Enemy of the State. Watch the Will Smith movie, Enemy of the State. This will explain. And, of course, watch Three Days of the Condor with Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway. It will explain everything about what’s going on in the Middle East.
You know, the first time I bought gasoline after 9/11, I saw blood dripping off my 20 dollar bill because I knew I was responsible for 2011 by being addicted to gasoline and at that time, that was an excuse to go invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was going to stop using dollars as the international currency for petroleum and start using the Euro. And that’s when they said, “We got to get rid of this guy ’cause it’ll devalue our dollar.” So the first time I bought gasoline after 9/11, I thought, oh, shit, there’s blood dripping off my 20, but I’m giving it to ’em because I need gas to go to work. So it’s a really interesting world we live in. So four movies: JFK, All the Presidents’ Men, Three Days of the Condor, Enemy of the State. Fantastic films. They’ll explain everything about the USA, USA, USA.
Q: What do you think needs to be done about all these conspiracies?
BUSCHEL: Love your family. Love yourself. Love your family. Love yourself. Make art. Make music. Make love. Chant, meditate, dance, swim in the ocean, swim in the pool, climb trees, you know? Don’t shoot anything, especially other people. What can you do? Don’t become Sisyphus. I don’t know what happened to Sisyphus in the end, but I have a feeling it wasn’t good. Be like the Phoenix, rise from the ashes, get your life together, work at something you don’t hate, and dance. That is the solution.
Q: But someone told me we need to secure our borders.
BUSCHEL: You ignore people like that. You ignore them. You take ’em out of your life, okay? Get ’em out of your life. I don’t care who they are. Or keep them in your life. Just don’t talk to ’em. Okay, if they’re hot, you can have sex with them, but don’t discuss things. Words are toxic. Words are toxic, okay?
Q: What else can we do to change lives?
BUSCHEL: You don’t know. You don’t know how. You don’t know if your helping can hurt. You don’t know if your helping can hurt. Years ago, there was something called Care packages. I don’t know if they — they probably don’t do ’em anymore. Every night, there were commercials. Donate money. We’re going to send Care packages to the countries and villages in Africa. You know what that was about? That was about providing food to villagers and people in places who would stop growing crops because they got the food without tilling their own soil. So then, industrial companies could come in and buy up that land very cheap. So, eventually, I think Africa will be feeding the whole world ’cause we’re going to run out of good land because of all the pesticides.
So those Care packages we thought were helping people were actually destroying communities. So whatever people think they’re doing to help people, you know, it’s like they say. No good turn goes unpunished. What’s wrong with just living the greatest life you can live and not hurting anybody? How about that? Just don’t hurt anybody, okay? Just don’t — try and make money where someone isn’t suffering from your efforts. So I think I’ve gotten myself into enough trouble. But I believe everything I say, and I would have to say 90% is based on well-researched facts. So that’s it. Welcome to 1984. I mean 2017. It’s a glorious time to be alive.
Q: Anything else?
BUSCHEL: God bless.