Pitchshifter “My Kind”
 EPMD “You Gots To Chill”
 Coldcut Featuring Yazz “Doctorin’ The House”
 Austin “I Get High”
 Robert Palmer “Addicted To Love”
The time has come Grueheads to discuss a topic which affects all of us in one way or another. We all have our dependencies, some more hazardous than others, and drugs can prove a decidedly slippery slalom once they get their hooks in. Ordinarily I’m the first to celebrate the highs and have scribed a number of affectionate homages to the plus points of elevation. However, I try not to glorify it too much as I’m actually not as keen as you’d think. It’s not my intention to persuade people in one direction or the other, but I do feel it’s time to reveal a little more of my own twenty-five-year romance with uppers and downers than has been customary. We all know the effects and I’m disinterested in boring you all to dust with pie charts and spreadsheets. Instead, I’m going to flip the bonnet and poke around those spark leads some. You see, I need to find some answers post-haste as my body is currently in pretty abysmal shape and red flags don’t come much clearer than the one creeping towards full mast as we speak.
So about my health then. Well recently I have received visitation from a particularly inhospitable cranial guest. It arrives first thing in the morning and the faintest of splutters can open the door. In less than a minute, said cough has escalated into a full-blown hack, and is completely uncontrollable. This alone is no picnic but, coupled with the most intense migraine I have ever endured, it’s time to get fetal. For thirty minutes I remain in my defensive shell and, mercifully, it slackens its grip eventually. This is one of many ominous delights stemming from my latest four-year flirtation with getting high. It has not always been so prevalent in my life and, indeed, long periods have passed without drugs ever being an issue. However, when life deals me a blow or three, the pesky freaks come out and I’ve never been known for my resilience against higher states of consciousness. In 2013, life dealt me a blow or three and this resulted in the breakdown of a once-healthy marriage. My receptors rejoiced as my life crumbled as I would now be required to scurry back to my mother’s house cap in hand and take up residency there with immediate and indefinite effect.
It’s bizarre returning to one’s hometown after so long out of the loop and everything had changed upon my return. It’s okay when you’re six as you have plenty of things to sidetrack you like passing ice cream vans and Sesame Street marathons. Now in her forties, Mindy from no. 59 no longer wishes to play doctors and nurses with you as she now has three adolescent children and episodes of Deal or No Deal to catch up on. Moreover, there’s a tendency to revert back to adolescence when you settle back into your home base. It isn’t long before the walls close in, particularly when you’re dealing with significant emotional trauma, and it feels imperative that you fashion yourself a warren of sorts. Mine is the tool shed and I have spent more time here than anywhere else while facing up to every last one of my flaws. Throw in a dash of guilt over no longer being able to kiss my six-year-old son goodnight before bedtime and the demons then exploit your weakness.
My responsibilities here amount to enduring that I scribe each day until my eyes start to cross over. I’m a forty-one-year-old man dagnabbit and should no longer have to answer to authority right? That’s what the demons whisper each time I’m placed under scrutiny for steady devolving into a hermit crab. To be honest, there is little anybody can say or do to make you respect your health. Ultimately, the decision has to come from the user, and I’ve long since had enough wagged fingers to last me two lifetimes, thus any words of wisdom now fall on the deafest of ears. Again, the demons have a hand in my downfall, as they mute anything resembling a dressing down and suggest I return to my sanctuary to de-stress. What could be better than a little psychotropic elevation to rally the troops? Soon I feel as right as rain and thank my demons for coming up with such an ingenious plan. However, each smile conceals a grimace.
Bookmakers have long since given up taking bets on whether or not these impish head space invaders will succeed in their bid to transport me to an early grave. Sounds pretty final doesn’t it and, indeed, the writing has been on the wall for some time. That said, recently I made significant progress in my ongoing battle with depression and this has no doubt translated to my writing. There is only so much investigation you can do before constantly questioning yourself grows tiresome. I know only too well of my faults, my weaknesses, my personal devils, their triggers, the lot. For the first time in years I can actually hold my head up with pride. If only puffing out my chest didn’t result in hyperventilation, I’d be a two-minute cab ride from easy street. Like I said, pep talks aren’t the answer here, unless they’re administered by me to me. That can be tough when you hang out 24/7/365 with your own worst enemy.
Now that I’m fairly convinced that my health is approaching critical, you’d think a trip to the doctor’s office would be advisable. Curse not being born a woman, the female of our species only need miss a period and they’re off to the physician for a full and thorough check up. As for us guys, the bliss of ignorance is far more enticing as it means not having to entertain the elephant in the room. I’m generalizing of course but, in my case, the slipper fits rather snugly. Should everything not be kosher, then I’d rather not know about it. That way I can enjoy the shit out of life before dropping dead of an unforeseen coronary and not ever have to concern myself with having a camera threaded through my rectum. I’m not suggesting for one second that my logic isn’t twisted but fear is the mindkiller and I just wish to spend what remaining time I have smiling. Of course, there is still plenty I can do to keep the wolves from the door and writing this now is a good start.
It doesn’t help when you have such an addictive personality and that has always been my weakness. For as much as I was taught that everything in moderation is a good thing, applying that logic to drugs has never been my strong suit. I’m unsure whether this has to do with a certain emotional trauma I suffered at eight but, for whatever reason, reality was really a great friend of mine. Any opportunity to surf a higher plane seemed just too tantalizing to pass up and, with alcohol consumption being so hard to gage, I plumped for mind benders instead. Over my lifetime I have flirted with several strains. LSD, MDMA, Amphetamines, Cocaine, Marijuana – all have had a run out at one time or another and, as the years wore on, I realized that some romances are better short and sweet. The lattermost appeared the least destructive so I eventually plumped for the weed. This seemed to be working out just fine for a while but the thing about weed is that it is considered a gateway drug and the first rung back on the ladder.
State of mind is critical here as it only takes one glum face before my receptors start dancing the I Get High dance and I inevitably end up sliding floor tiles alongside them. Mercifully, I have been far more content of late, and no longer wake each morning to a chorus of hisses. Considering the only person who can dig me out of this trench is yours truly, it helps to feel the breeze in your hair habitually. However, it is only at times like right now, when I’m at my most open, that I can actually discern the penny dropping. Fiction is all well and good but it whisks me away to a far away land and pressing concerns are no longer so weighted. Here I have to direct some of that human insight I pride myself on towards myself and work out some form of battle plan.
My chief downfall is that I am a creature of habit and drugs happen to fit that criteria only too well. There is no quick fix, other than the obvious, and somehow I need to break the cycle before it breaks me. The wheels are already in motion and I have made some progress over the past few weeks but am under no illusion that I’m anywhere near out of the woods yet or that it will get any easier from hereon in. The most critical thing is that I am now back amongst good people and no longer hanging back in the shadows as that has a history of not working out so well. Believe it or not, I am actually a rather sociable fellow, and enjoy the company of others. Drugs have the exact opposite effect, particularly when entertained solo as has generally been the case with me. They have a tendency to turn you into a loner and a liar too, anything for an easy life where they call the shots on your behalf. However, I’ve got their number now. That doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily emerge victorious, but it does give me the fighting chance I have denied myself for too long.
I’ll always be an addict. That isn’t half as defeatist as it sounds as I am not suggesting I will always be a user. But the appeal will always be there. What is more important is finding a way to tackle this and one day at a time sounds far more appealing than setting lofty long-term goals too ambitious to ever hope of achieving. All this does is provide my demons a heads up and more time to work out their own conniving game plan. Should I continue to thwart them daily by way of minor victory, then they’ll never be able to settle into any kind of rhythm. I’m not about to conclude this with some rousing battle cry or set myself up to fail. What matters more is sharing my story and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, as already stated, a problem shared is halved. Secondly, I’m convinced that I’m not alone in my struggle. Our circumstances may be different but many of us have reached a similar point in our lives. The forties bring with them realization that we are no longer quite as unbreakable as previously. I’m living proof of that as my body is no longer quite as grateful for the constant pummeling.
Ultimately it all depends on each individual. I know people who can partake in recreational use and take it or leave it the rest of the time. I’m not ordinarily vulnerable to the green-eyed monster but do envy such part-timers for possessing such an easy come and go attitude. I’m more of your all or nothing kind of fellow and that is the first issue I am addressing. How it plays out from here is anybody’s guess and I’m comfortable with not having all the answers at my fingertips. I’m ringing a fair few changes at present and reside in a far better place than I did six months ago so there’s my progress right there and significant at that. There are many decent, honest people around me who genuinely care and not necessarily based locally either. Knowing that my work resonates with those I have bona fide love for supplies me that drive to thrive. I’ve had some buzzes in my time but can say, with hand on beating heart, none provide anything like the same high as that one. That there is the real trippy shit.