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Better Living Through Chemistry

Or, "Mind-Altering Substances and Me"

I have a strange relationship with drugs, both legal and illegal. Some of which I am addicted to, or have been addicted to, though addiction is a subject I might get to later. Just in a general 'how they have affected my life' kind of way.

For a while, back before the incident at the start of May, I found myself acting in a very alcoholic mode. Go to work, consume caffeine to remain awake and half-focused. Come home, get drunk as soon as was socially acceptable in an attempt to run away from what it looked like my life had become. And if I couldn't get drunk, I'd write. If I couldn't numb what was inside me, I would create. But that only happened if there wasn't an easy way out.

Since then, I've been less fond of things that numb sensation. If nothing else, it brought into sharp relief just how easy it was to run away, to tune out what I was doing and where my life was going. Alcohol was a nice, easy way to not deal with that. Avoidance behaviour. But... if I was willing to give everything up in one mad fit of whatever the fuck it was back then, surely I should be paying attention to what I was throwing away? I should read the fucking newspaper before throwing it away. And that has lead to my current predicament.

After that point, I've been more fond of substances that bring the world into sharp relief. Nicotine, for all its many evils, is a good stimulant. So is caffeine. The mass stimulant-cocktail that is Red Bull is a wonderful, if expensive, mind-enhancing drug. All these stimulants serve to bring life into sharper relief, and to help me make something of it. I don't want my life to be defined by the day job, so I cram myself full of substances that help with that.

Hallucinogens are a special case. My 'shroom of choice has to be the philosopher's stone, psilocybe tampanensis. A hallucinogen bundled with a mild euphoric, designed to produce reflective, highs that open up connections between ideas that I wouldn't normally have in a near-manic frenzy of association. They also often leave me thinking in images. They work my brain in ways that I don't normally, producing an altered state of consciousness free of expectation and archetypes that have been instilled in me since childhood. A trip frees up the brain to think in ideas without the overhead of normal life, muting it entirely.

Stimulants (and here I will admit to not wanting to sample anything stronger than Red Bull, because I know just how bad I can crash), on the other hand, try to brute-force past the overhead. Speed up the mental faculties and pack in more thinking in a given amount of time. Not so much free-association but instead a faster brain, running hotter and doing more useful[0] work.

Alcohol and marijuana don't help with that. At university, the overhead didn't get in the way. Lectures were engaging, made me think. There wasn't the dichotomy, so I didn't feel like I betrayed myself if I spent a night actually relaxed after a period of stressful work or went out to the pub for a quiet five pints. Now, they get in the way of processing. I'm living a dual life, the one I care about snatched from the hours of darkness, and I don't want to waste the productive thinking time on something as spurious as getting nicely high and calming down. I perceive it as a waste of a time that's become very precious to me.

There's also the spectre of addiction. Cigarettes I can deal with. For all the poison and the smell and the negative side effects, the stimulating effect and the nicotine high of a morning are worth it to some part of my brain. Without this whole dual-life overhead, I can quit fine. With it, I can't make it past a month or so. Caffeine I think I will be addicted to on some level until the day I die, but I'm okay with that. I like coffee, though not to the point of being a total snob. It may fuck my guts up when I overdo it, but the rush beforehand when I do is always worth it. Alcohol... I've not been there. Not really. Mild psychological addiction, the urge to get drunk every night without the telltale physical effects, was enough for me. I've seen the end result of alcohol addiction first hand, and would rather never be that way.

I don't know what conclusions to draw from this. As with all my amateur psychoanalysis I find myself able to describe the state of things past and present, but unable to put them to good use. It's a recurring problem of mine.

[0]: pron. "Creative".

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