Drugs play a big role in my life these days.
There’s a cabinet in my bathroom that is choked with a slew of those kind-of-orange bottles with white caps. Most of them have my wife’s name on it, as well as words I can’t quite pronounce. Not without sounding like an American abroad trying to order a sandwich in the regional dialect, because that Rosetta package wasn’t cheap, goddam it, and you’re going to make use of your Mandarin. Wait. It’s either Mandarin or Cantonese or something.
She slams back pills like a drug mule paying for college, or so it seems. Some of those pills fight something. Some of them help her sleep, and some of them stop migraines from becoming worse. There’s a stool softener, and there’s something for diarrhea. There’s enough color where you could cobble together a mosaic.
There’s a section of the cabinet that I’ve staked out for my own modest needs. Between the anxiety, the acid reflux, and the rampant lack of sleep, those pills have gone a long way to keeping me level. Sure, the whole thing looks like Dr. Mario went a little overboard, and I wouldn’t be offended if you were to mistake my bathroom for that of a middle-aged married couple.
Let’s keep things honest and bring up the two pots of coffee I put back over the course of a day. Much like Dune’s spice, caffeine only reminds me it’s a drug when it isn’t around. It’s one of the few things that’s more passive aggressive than I am. The closest I came to a migraine was when caffeine withdrawal knocked my dick in the dirt.
I used to mainline cigarettes in my reckless youth (and not-so-young days). I still think fondly of the girlfriends from those days who tolerated that acrid stench that clung to me. I know what it is to kiss someone who just had a cigarette when you don’t smoke. You’ve really got to like someone to put up with that shit. Maybe not love, but at least a proper mixture of like and lust. I went from the Tobacco Belt’s finest to the patch to the gum to nothing. Out of the lot, I’d say I miss the patch the most. I had some of the most lucid, fucked up dreams when I wore that.
I miss parts of smoking. The ritual of it. The oddly social “we’re in this together” vibe of the huddled masses of my breathless brethren. Owning a dozen lighters and never being able to find a single one when I needed it. Feeling like a dragon or a diesel pick-up truck. Having a strangely acceptable reason to take a five minute break at any job I had.
For a time, I drank. And drank. And drank. There may or may not have been some legal ramifications as a result, but I’ve all but dried out these days. I’d be hard pressed to say that’s not for the best.
Let’s not turn a blind eye to the fuzzy warmth that cannabis brings. I prefer that term over most other alternatives, like pot or weed. After all, I’m a goddam adult, and cannabis is clearly a big boy word. I paid for it with my money and I smoke it in my basement, thank you very much. Admittedly, I like the slang of “dope” because it amuses me, but I’m sure you’ll agree that cannabis has that air of clinical sophistication. I should probably get a lab coat and a clipboard. It’s gone a long way to quiet my mind, which is nice, given that sometimes the voices don’t shut up on their own. Do they, Dave?
Let’s call a spade a spade: I’m a bit of a stoner these days. I own three, count ‘em three, ukuleles, and I have neither the wardrobe nor the ironic moustache to be a hipster. Should I grow out a moustache, it’s creepy as hell. It comes with a windowless panel van that totally has a pony in the back. Naturally, no one told me to fucking shave the molestache before I got married.
I’ve managed a good deal better than my brothers have over the years. The elder won the genetic jackpot of reasons not to self-medicate, and he’s still fighting that same uphill battle with cheap beer. I’d call it Sisyphean, but he’s never really made any progress with the boulder. The younger went up against heroin, and fared about as well as you’d expect for a number of years. Bless his soul, he cleaned up. No matter which sibling I’m looking at, there’s likely a lifelong struggle ahead of each. I couldn’t tell you what the Vegas odds are for the pair of them.
I’ve managed to avoid the worst of it, but I’ve had my lows all the same. I’ve kept my distance from the rogue’s gallery of drugs that leads to rotten teeth and pock-marked faces, if only because I expect I’d like it way too much. That, and I don’t think my wife would take kindly to me vacuuming at three in the morning while I disassemble our appliances.
Over the years, my attitude towards drugs and drug abuse have changed. Not coincidentally, they’ve shifted in regards to my own habits, and how lives were affected by me and others. I’ve grown more compassionate towards struggles with addiction, but I wouldn’t say I’ve grown more tolerant. I haven’t seen my older brother in about a year, and we’re a town apart. That’s my choice. I love him, but it’s not often that I like him.
I look at the place I’m in now, surrounded by the many shades and variations of drugs, and I don’t know entirely how I got here. It’s not to say I’m not responsible for the actions I’ve taken, or that a twister dropped my house on a witch out of nowhere. It’s the circumstances that prompted my decisions over the years that surprise me. Still, we find ourselves in circumstances more often than not as a result of the decisions we made. The exception to that rule is far and few between.
You can’t let your stance on drugs become your defining feature. To this day, one of the best living arrangements I’ve had was two straight edge guys and another chain smoking booze bag. We got along swimmingly. Our house parties definitely drew a mixed crowd. The reason it worked so well is because no one made their stance a focal point.
It’s part of who you are, but it’s not the whole picture. In the same way that you have that Limp Bizkit CD you don’t talk about next to Leonard Cohen you talk about too much (yes, we get it, you’re so deep), there are layers. Like all the best parfaits or toilet paper, it’s never just one.
Of course, one of the most dangerous thoughts is thinking you’re at a point in your life where you don’t have to worry about something digging its hooks in. You’re never too old/boring/busy/whatever to find yourself hungry for something, obsessed and consumed by whatever set the bait. Maybe you bite, maybe you don’t. It’s a question of whether you wonder forever, or you spend the rest of your life licking your wounds.
You’re the only one who gets to ask and answer: Is it worth it?
There’s only ever one way to find out.