All of my life I’ve been dependent on chemicals; synthetic enzymes, various steroids, and an array of stimulants…ahem... bronchodilators, to name a few. Aside from life sustaining meds, there have been the band aid medications; Ritalin, codeine, valium. Given this conditioning towards experimentation, a certain level of comfort with different forms of medication, and exposure to various unpleasant administration methods, it is no surprise that I might be predisposed to using illicit substances. All I needed was for the opportunity to present itself. And it did, over and over again. Had there been alcohol in my house, it would have started there, but there wasn’t, there was pot. So began my love affair with chemicals. I hadn’t known that there were things out there that would actually make me feel better, rather than just improve some arbitrary number or alleviate but one symptom at a time, even if only temporary. A substance that could make me laugh, quiet my head, and make me eat, all at the same time. It was divine. The docs were surprised when I gained almost twenty pounds inside of a three month spread. Of course, they weren’t concerned about how it occurred, just ecstatic that it did. Good thing, too, because I wouldn’t have wanted to have to lie to my doctor.
If pot had been more socially acceptable and readily available, I may have stopped there. But my newly found friends introduced me to an entire sub culture bent on hedonism. Here, my illness did not matter. People did not pry into my awkwardness. I was thin like the meth addicts; I coughed like the potheads; and like everyone else, I just wanted to be my own degenerated self, free of the pain; free of the anxiety of existing in a world that was not set up for the sick. I learned to embrace my self destructive tendencies, and it felt normal. After all, my body was trying to kill me.
By seventeen I dropped out of school and left home. I didn’t go far, just around the corner, but I had really left years before as my stepfather was learning that there was more to marriage than fucking an older woman. But being away from them allowed me descend farther into the chasm of addiction. Sure I had dark days, really dark days. Days wrought with thoughts of suicide; days of hunger, only to be appeased with another of whatever was around. Loneliness, God was there loneliness; and intense isolation from an outside world I had once wanted to be a part of. But I embraced all of it. A chemical cocktail of emotions was enough to liven any dry day and alleviate the pain of sobriety, but they rarely lasted. Sustenance has never been too far. I’ve been lucky that way.
Then one night, at a techno party downtown, I came to really know a substance I had met before, but never taken seriously. Before, it had usually come to me in the form of a cartoon character on a tiny square. This time it was in a vial, and a much stronger dose. With this substance I was able to see right to the core of me, whether I wanted to or not. I didn’t even know I had a core, but there it was, surrounded by a dark ominous shadow. Thick walls of misery obscuring a disjointed soul seemed a mere pane of glass to my awareness. Through the cold, empty, paralyzing darkness engulfing my being, I could see right down to what looked like a kitten hiding in a corner, crying. With every pained meow, its impressionable eyes blinked with overexerted grace – the erratic breaths of panic – complimenting the vibrato of the whimper. The cry sounded…felt…so familiar. Something in the timbre was screamed of desperation and confusion. Ease rise and fall drained just a little bit more, and the whimper faded to a murmur, then drifted into nothingness. It hit me so hard…I was going to die young, and I knew it. And for the first time I realized how scared I was. Twenty-three years of avoidance and denial couldn’t prepare me for this moment.
I thought so much about what it would be like to just not be. Nothingness. Void. No pain, no joy, just…nothing. And here I was somewhere, but nowhere, all at once. I wanted so much for to calm him down, to tell him that he had nothing to fear. But I didn’t even believe that at the time. I knew it was bullshit. There was everything to fear. Confronting alone won’t make it go away, but even that was yet to come. At that time all I could do was cry, too; I felt like curling up inside that heavy cloud and at lest try to chase away the shivers – his and my own, but all I did was cry. Until I woke up; and there I was again, certainly somewhere. But what had happened to me was real. What I saw, what I felt was still echoing inside of me. One day I would listen, but then, that morning, it was too much. Time to fix that.