On Escapism: The 2 reasons those drugs won’t work

I should tell you that as I begin writing this I’m considering whether to pop an opiate, a benzo, both, or neither.

“Should I take it/them before writing? Will I be lucid enough if they kick in? They’re not strong doses, but I’m allowed to take three at once… What dose is a strong dose? What can I get away with here?

“Mid-writing? Best of both worlds. Do some sober writing, and then experience a bit of wacky writing, see what happens…”

The other option of course is to take the drugs for the medical condition for which they’ve been prescribed. In a minute. Or now. It doesn’t matter.

They seem like innocent, innocuous questions. But there’s a hell of a lot going on behind those debates. For me – maybe for you too.

This is your brain on(/anticipating) drugs. *frying pan*

***

Walking home from the doctors surgery (still free at the point of use in early 2017) with a bag full of pain-relief, Fleetwood Mac lights up my 2007 3rd gen iPod nano.

(…bought with my first bit of student loan – did ’07’s Apple Inc. team miss the planned obsolescence memo or something? Or did they only officially incorporate it as policy later this decade? I remain gratefully stunned. Hang in there, my square little buddy.)

‘Never Going Back Again’ was one of those songs that came up during a transition period for both my mental/emotional health and my iTunes library, and if I remember rightly it was around Christmas a few years back, when the feels stakes are unavoidably higher. So Me and It have got one of them nostalgia links, formed by my desire not to fall back into old patterns of behaviour; the ones that killed me, for a while.

Now, for the first time, my mind is (arguably) in better shape than my body. I’ve just been told by a number of health professionals (some standing to profit, some not) that my x-rays show ‘spinal decay’ (basically arthritis of the spine, or at least it will be if I don’t do something about it) and muscles full of scar tissue. That explains the decade of back pain, and the current spasming that’s causing the involuntary yelping that’s causing the embarrassment in public.

My first desire was to GET SOME SWEET SWEET DRUGZ to relieve the pain. I even consciously determined, as I staggered to the GP, that if I was given a script it would likely be for valium or codeine – neither of which I’ve taken or been prescribed before. I didn’t realise, but I see now that I felt a bit excited.

I got given both.

My second desire, on the sunny stagger home, became something else. Somehow, it became not the desire to be able to move freely in the absence of muscular pain – how dull, basic. It was to sit outside in the winter/spring sun and while away some hours running free from the anxiety and anger that have recently colonised my brain again. (Yippee.)

It was to experience freedom from weight, anticipation, doubt, fear, connection, recognition, association, need, responsibility, contact, regard, honesty, faculty and understanding.

It was to throw myself into the dive, falling with no fallout, into the luxury that science and society has finally and rightfully allowed me. I’ve had enough anguish again today, thanks. And I have this paper that says I don’t have to. SEE YA.

How many valium is too many valium, really?

Lindsey Buckingham, but particularly Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks’ harmonies at 48s in, pulled me out of that smug, and into tears. Into admitting that tired, angry, frightened me is still strong somewhere, and she keeps forgetting to work with the rest of me, and what I know and need, and it’s kind of dangerous. Frightened me will do frightening things.

***

In giving up the ‘freedoms’ and faculties above, I give up my power. In not being there, attending to anxiety, anger, or anything else – whether that’s SMASHING THEM, or just working out why they’re there, what for, and better understanding them, which is kind of the same – I crush what is a burgeoning, and still fragile power.

You can use drugs to forge connection, sure. “Smoking and drinking are social, though – ” yeah, I get it. Short-term relief can seem nice. I could sit around abusing painkillers and downers with people, and find some things that we already had in common. They’re also incredibly addictive, mentally and physically debilitating, and a short term plug that’s easy to abuse or misunderstand as a ‘cure’ to my problem(s); a way to avoid governing myself or my vicinity.

Don’t pretend the high will last into significance. It’s not going to fix the fact that I could have sorted my back out years ago if I’d just paid attention to it instead of weed, how to fit in with obnoxious people, and whether or not the apocalypse was coming (it was/is.)

Gone are the days for chemical denial. Only recognition of all that’s good and bad. Just maybe not all at once. Whatever you can manage at a time. As long as you’ve got a variety of the two and how they make up the in-between that we live in.

Can’t deny that YouTube tutorials for physio core workouts have been available since I bought my iPod, and it’s high time I sorted my life out by doing that, instead of abusing (rather than properly using) substances.

Getting fucked up isn’t going to change the world around you. Plus not getting fucked up all the time is just a nicer life.

***

Reason 1: all life is suffering, and we live in a relative universe. work with that.

Reason 2: you’d be a complete asshole if you went around pretending everything was roses

Just so we’re clear, please do escape. Frequently. Just do something that doesn’t wreck and stunt you and, you know, maybe even benefits you or other people.

***

FOR FREE. BECAUSE I’M IN NEED. I’m looking at you GOP. We all are.

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Stoptober for Softcore Addicts: Try It.

ImageThis month, alongside “thousands” of other Britons (that’s a direct quote from the internet), I am partaking in Stoptober, the government’s first nationwide mass quit campaign. In addition to quitting smoking, I have also decided to embark on the Paleo diet meaning that my Stoptober consists of not only nicotine, but also caffeine and sugar withdrawal (all carbs except tubers/veg, alcohol and controlled drugs are out too). Mayb you’re wondering whether I am simply a masochist, or whether I lost a(n odd) bet.

In fact, going teetotal is something I’ve done numerous times for varying periods of time, and as much as I dread it beforehand and sometimes plan it months in advance to build up (what I imagine to be) the courage and emotional strength needed to do it, I always relish it. Turns out, my body and mind are, like, totally connected, man. My soul needs feeding, and it eats sobriety.

It took me a while to realise that, rather than tempering my depressive side or comforting me, my various addictions make me feel like (no) shit (Sherlock).

My career as an addict (that sounds a little extreme, though I wouldn’t say it’s untrue; let’s use softcore-addict) is quite the cliche. I was once a bright child, at an average British CofE school, with middle-class parents on a working-class wage, enough friends and clean lungs. In school hierarchical terms, I was an Inbetweener (just neither as crude nor as funny as the C4 representations.) I was a Highly Sensitive Child (turns out, actually a thing), and with this trait came huge anxiety, mental self-flagellation and frequent, violent ambushes of emotion that I didn’t understand. (It also came with abundant passion, compassion, spirituality and valuable intuition that I wouldn’t recognise until much later.)

I went from sensitive child, to anxious, sad tweenager, to depressed young-adult, via eating disorder (I hated my appearance, and understandably: I was a normal weight and believed wholeheartedly in popular culture), prescriptions for anti-depressants and sleeping pills, and whatever substances I could get from peers to change my consciousness. This brought me new, equally unstable and unreliable friends, and my confidence, rather than growing, diminished. And then I woke up at 21 years old, having hidden, hated, and inebriated 8 years of my life away.

As I say, cliched. I see and hear this same story from the majority of my generation (with significant variables, of course) but I understood my experience as negative in a way that my friends didn’t; indeed, my overwhelming feeling growing up was guilt. For my drug-seeking behaviour, for my weight and appearance, for my ‘not-living-up-to-my-potential’-ness that bore down on me from elders (“what potential?”), and from a general feeling that I just wasn’t doing The Right Thing at any given time and didn’t know how to. I had ideas to move-on-up at some point; right now, it was easier to sit in the corner with a spliff and headphones at full volume to muddy and mask all guilt and confusion.

This continued throughout University, and once I’d completed my degree with little trouble, it occurred to me that 1) if I could get a decent degree whilst occupying most of my time with head-muddying and resultant lazyness, I could do a fuckload more when ‘clean’, and 2) this was shit, I was angry, and further, I was curious. About people and ideas and life and things. So after a year and a half of help from some patient, dynamic and kind people at Bristol Drugs Project, I started eating better, exercising and smoking less. Common sense, that was buried.

(One of the most odd/interesting situations I have ever been in: the only under-30, only female member of a drug-therapy group full of Class A drug users; while I cry at my perceived inability to give up my drug of choice, a seasoned heroin addict tells me “I know how you feel. I wouldn’t touch marijuana anymore, it sends me barmy”. They all agreed. Everyone was very welcoming and never took the piss, as was my initial fear.)

That was a couple of years ago, and since then substances have still played a varyingly troublesome role in my life (I quit tobacco for a year, then something chronically stressful happened and I had a fag. That was fucking stupid.) But I rarely, if ever, do any party drugs, I don’t drink much, and I smoke on and off. Mostly off.

Every now and again when my mood dips or my confidence is rocked, I start picking up where I left off. So, I go teetotal for a bit. I always think it will be hard, and worry and worry and worry about it and if/when I’ll fail. But my determination has grown greater than my anxiety because of the work I’ve done in and around my increasing ratio of sobriety. I have gained the skill of assertiveness, built my confidence and knowledge base, made some friends-for-life (some caners, some not) and have this strange sort of feeling that I’m actually a pretty capable, worthy human. I just finished an MA, I live in a lovely house with lovely like-minded people, and things are pretty good day-to-day.

So if you take a lot of drugs, or eat a lot of junk, or buy in to The Culture (any culture) enough that you feel like shit all the time, I recommend doing a serious, multi-level Stoptober and see if it changes your spirit a bit. Or Stopvember, Stopcember, Stopril or Stopgust for that matter. Just plan it, do it, and reap the awesome benefits of treating your body like it’s mortal and needs nurturing. (I heard that’s a fact.)