Sunday, September 29, 2013

Drugs: Don't Do Them

There are plenty of drugs out there, and many varieties of them I have never ingested. I have never done cocaine, or amphetamines, or any form of opiate, never even been given prescription painkillers in the aftermath of surgery. The only illegal drugs I've ever taken fall under the general rubric of "hippie drugs," and I have not even done very many of them, or very often. There is a post on this blog I wrote approximately ten years ago, where I posted the notes I'd made in Wordpad the first time I smoked pot, one bored night in college. My thoughts were racing too fast for me to get them down, but none of them were that insightful. I feel like what I experienced was all of the unconscious thoughts that precede conscious thought, all of the "what is the word for that" that you need to have at hand in order to form a sentence. Years later, I would have the experience of smoking pot, or maybe it was hashish, and rather than try to transcribe my thoughts, I attempted to socialize. As my friends spoke, the same thing happened, as I attempted to formulate a response. I had so many things to say in response I was not really listening, and certainly I could not keep track of the overall shape of the conversation. It really depressed me, knowing that this was how my friends went through their days, that most of their interactions with me had this taint to them, that they were too lost to themselves and the noise of their thoughts that it seemed impossible they could understand me and my personality. I have been told by people who smoke a lot of pot that when you smoke a lot of pot this is no longer the experience, that once you build up a tolerance your thoughts don't move as relentlessly, but I am still responded by the joke from Jim Breuer's stand-up comedy, that you can stump any stoner with one question, What were we talking about just now, and and that has been pretty much borne out through the years.

A few years after my first experience smoking pot, I tried LSD, and I enjoyed it, although in most ways it was the same experience, but worse: Thoughts accelerating to such a pace that they deconstructed themselves. Maybe it is because I am a writer, but in retrospect, at this moment, I want to say that the whole thing of language, how you put a name to what you see and as such understand it, combined with the hallucinatory effect of seeing things other people cannot, falls apart. I feel like I saw how my brain works, how all brains work, but in the feedback loop of trying to process this, through language centers or whatever, I eventually disassembled myself, ending up in a blank of neurons firing. It was interesting, but one of the other revelations I had in the midst of this was that I am not someone who uses drugs, really, and what I was doing, and pretty much resolved not to bother again in the future.

It was not a firm resolution, however, and there was a time since then where I used the drug and ended up having a really nice time, not really disabled, but I lay on my bed, listening to music, and thinking about my friends. This must have been a weak dose, or hit, and here, instead of having everything disassemble itself, I felt more like I understood the intentions of everyone, the imagery and moods the music was created to express or capture, and the nature of my friends, filled with love and beautiful. I feel like when people talk about the importance of setting, this is what they are referring to: I can imagine being in a really dirty room, walls and rugged stained with cigarette smoke and cat piss, and feeling the cold indifference of people who do not want to improve themselves.

About a month ago, I tried LSD again. This time, I was trying to experiment with "microdosing," which I'd read about in the context of psychedelics research. The idea is that, you take a hit of acid and dissolve it into a bottle of water, then mark that bottle of water, dividing it into fractions. You would then take a sixth of a hit in the morning, every three days, and keep a journal of what happened. This is meant to be such a small amount that you do not actually hallucinate. Most, apparently, report just having "a real good day," where they are able to get a lot done, with their mind working quickly, without the locked-in, mechanical feeling that is said to come with doing amphetamine derivatives like Adderall. This sounded great to me. I thought I'd be able to do a lot of writing. And maybe, on one of those days, I did. I was not actually keeping a journal. Nor did I have the acid-infused water in a bottle, because I try to avoid purchasing bottled water. I had a tall glass of water I kept in my bedroom, vaguely aware of the scope of it, and I didn't have the methodical approach to only take a small amount every few days, partly because I was worried about the water becoming stagnant and stale, sitting out on my bookshelf, without a top to it. I drained the bottom third one night, aware of the fact that I would probably feel something, and was resigned to the idea that this would probably be a good time.

And it was, for most of the night, until I tried to go to sleep, which I realize is actually maybe a classic mistake in the annals of trip reports. Had a weird night, basically, at that point, my brain's attempts to shut down combined with other active parts led to some unpleasantness. The next day, while trying to read something- Dhalgren, maybe?- that made me nod out with boredom, this then led the drug to reinitialize itself, which wasn't really something I was aware could happen, and I ended up spending two consecutive nights, feeling myself go crazy. It the days and weeks that followed, I was essentially afraid of the hypnagogic state, the border between waking and sleep. Often during the waking days I was also just afraid of my drug experiences in the past, things I'd already worked though, coming back to say "this isn't real." The idea of such deconstruction of thoughts, and the connection of sleep to death, and death to DMT, led to me becoming freaked out by the idea of death, even, which is something I've been accepting of the inevitability of for my entire life. It kept me up at night, and made me feel weird and distant around people I care about. I wanted to tell them about what I was going through, dealing with, but also didn't want to think about it, so this awareness was just a loop at the back of my brain, that I could tune past when I was really engaged. I feel like in general my standing heart rate was elevated, like I was on speed or something, and felt like the speed of my thoughts was such that I couldn't really engage with other people's tempos, my mind racing to the point where I could read, but wouldn't really retain what I was reading. I could watch a movie, and wanted to watch movies, out of a desire to distract myself, but I wouldn't really be engaged with it. (Just yesterday I watched the new Nicole Holofcener movie, totally awake, feeling like I had a hummingbird heart, but I don't think I really got anything out of the movie. To be fair, it's totally possible the movie is mediocre- most of the movies I've been seeing have been pretty mediocre, the things I'm able to choose from when seeking distractions is mostly limited to what's at Redbox, because during this time I have also been pretty damn broke. I watched This Is 40, which is a total piece of shit, much as I'd expected, out of a desperation to fill the hours.)

I feel really certain at this point that what is most important in life is engagement: personal interaction, taking care of those close to you, communicating with them, sharing their joys and sorrows, helping them. What's important is being present in the world and not lost inside your own head. Partly I think that the lingering effects of that last trip over the past month have been because I have been feeling really lonely, and one of the revelations that struck me during said trip is how it's sort of absurd to be lonely in a world with so many lonely people, although previously I'd felt about loneliness the same way I felt about death, as an inevitability that should be accepted. Language, the thing that psychedelics deconstruct by separating the symbol from the symbolized, is, if not truly a miracle, near enough to one, the redemptive force that humans have to connect them. Self-consciousness is paralyzing, and while it is good to be aware of yourself to the extent that you do not say something stupid or hurtful, to be too hyper-conscious is to reach a place where you do not say anything, do not communicate anything, because you are lost in solipsism. I am saying this to you even though I do not even really wish to write it, partly because of my dislike of the way it sounds, either morally scolding on one hand or waving a sign that says "mentally disturbed drug user" on the other. It's me contending with anxiety, the act of consciously thinking about what I don't want to think about, because trying not to think about it doesn't work. Writing this, I feel present, but my hope as I write this is that when I am done with it I will be able to put it behind me, having thought this out and through, and being able to move past it, to focus on things other than the drug I did a month ago, or the drug I did seven years ago. It is absurd to be consumed by those things, despite the all-encompassing feeling they create. I hold in suspicion even the exhilaration of euphoria, feeling now that peace is found in stillness and silence.

Anyway: I'm drinking a tea before bed as of the past few nights, a mixture of valerian and camomile, which has me sleeping pretty well, and I've got a new job to fill my weekdays. I am hoping also that writing this helps me to get past these things. One of the things that sucks about me, and has been damaging, is that I often walk around, thinking about these novels I've written, and imagining myself talking about them to people who'd read them. One of those books, that I finished four years ago, is partly about a dude with psychological issues compounded by drugs, and the importance of getting out of your head through connecting with other people. Literally, I wrote a book about this, and one of the things I imagine myself as having to say is that I don't want to viewed as a "drug writer," but as of the last month of time I've had to amend that to hoping that this book could be therapeutic for those dealing with the same sort of shit as I've been dealing with recently. That's a book that I started writing before I'd done acid, but I took acid during the writing of, partly in the hopes that it would make the book easier to write. Another book I've written is, sort of, about me working through the revelations of that drug trip, or sort of being a response to the idea that Paul McCartney, after his first acid trip, wrote a note to himself that "there are seven levels," and then correlating that concept to the idea, in m-theory, where spacetime consists of eleven dimensions, the four common dimensions (including time) and the seven higher dimensions. These fantasies of talking about myself (self-consciousness and solipsism, again! Which in the book I identify as one of the seven higher dimensions. Man, I hope no one steals my book idea, extrapolating from the explanation within this blog post) have become newly tainted by anxiety, and make it harder to know what it is I am supposed to think about, when I don't have anything to think about. Just writing these past few sentences have made me feel anxious again, after feeling good and relaxed for most of this blog post's composition. I want to keep on writing now, until the point I feel calm again, which I had reached at the conclusion of my last paragraph. But this is still more self-consciousness, which I have already identified as being a problem. This David Foster Wallace style eating of oneself. I'm trying to write a new novel now, that would be more straightforward, and it is to be a horror story, and I think to a certain extent this engagement with terror is what has led to this incessant anxiousness, which has made me too distracted and unfocused to actually write said horror novel. I am just going to assume, now, that this newest bit of panic and tension in my chest is actually just hunger, and move now, to post this and prepare myself a dinner.

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