So far, as part of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse piece, I have written about my experience with alcoholism, alcohol and cannabis. In this 4th and final part of this section, I take a look at some of the darkest times in my life. Put in black and white, it is staggering to see how easy it is to go down a road you never imagined you would go down. Maybe my naivety and unpreparedness for things like this out in the world, led me to be blindsided and less averse to being influenced so easily. Maybe I was just lost and unhappy. One thing I do know. This is the hardest article I’ve ever had to write.
Drug Abuse – ECSTASY And Other Drugs
In part 3 I told you about Lee*, the tall, dark, handsome, older guy I never thought would take an interest in an awkward 19-year-old loser. But he did, and in the summer of 2005, a year after we met, we started seeing each other. It was a short but incredibly intense 3 months long relationship. He moved me into his annex and spoke of engagement rings and our future. We had the kind of love affair you associate with Hollywood movies; big breakups, dramatic makeups. I was hooked on the sheer adrenaline and devastation that only young infatuation can bring. No one told me it could feel like this, so all-consuming. But his problem with cannabis was only the tip of the iceberg.
When he ended it, I thought someone had reached into my body and ripped out my heart. I didn’t know how I was going to carry on living! It was the first and only time my heart has been truly broken. The pain was so intense, I fantasised about jumping in front of cars. Not because I wanted to die, but because I just wanted to make it stop. Nothing mattered anymore.
I didn’t know that at some point, I would get over it.
One evening a few months later, at a friend’s house party, a guy I had never met was showing me some music he had in his room. When he took out and offered me cocaine and MDMA, it wasn’t as shocking to me as it would have been a year earlier. I had seen Lee use these drugs when we were together, and the numbness that came along with the heart-break made everything seem surreal.
Drunk and feeling like there was nothing left to live for (oh the drama of young love!), I took both and welcomed the relief with open arms. For the first time in months, I felt ‘happy’. But as it started to become clear that I had entered a trap, I swiftly removed myself from the room and asked my friends to keep an eye on me. The paranoia set in and I felt lucky to be in the company of people I trusted.
I never felt more vulnerable in my entire life.
A few weeks later, another guy, another room. This time cocaine. I never realised how rife drugs were. How easy they were to get a hold of. I had no interest in seeing anyone, and again removed myself from the situation quickly after taking the drug. No one warned me of the dangers of drinking heavily and taking drugs. That they shouldn’t be taken together. Having drunk a lot of wine, the trip was incredibly disturbing. I never touched cocaine again after that.
Then something clicked inside me. I was still a long way from becoming mentally stable, but I knew drugs weren’t the answer. For nearly two years I didn’t touch anything. A lot happened in those two years, including my overdose, another failed relationship and other things I will go into later. My relationship with alcohol was still unhealthy and many nights remain a complete blank to me.
Then I met Michael*, another cannabis user. But he loved me so much, I started to feel like worthwhile person again. Two broken people, we thought we could build each other up.
Apart from cannabis, Michael was also into ecstasy. Not in the ‘regular using’ kind of way, but in the dance music clubbing kind of way. During our relationship, there were a handful of times we would take pills, and only ever at festivals or dance clubs.
But after my father died suddenly in 2007, I felt like the world could do with me as its wished. It didn’t really matter if I ruined myself.
Drinking and taking ecstasy would sometimes result in a mess of alcohol and drug fuelled arguments. I recoil at the memories of us fighting out in public on nights out, unable to control ourselves. This didn’t happen all the time of course. I loved the way taking ecstasy was like being drunk without losing control (when not durnk), with boundless energy. I loved the feeling of freedom. But as I watched 40 year old men going crazy on the middle of the dance floor alone, I knew that I didn’t want this to be my life.
I told myself that I was just enjoying my youth. In truth, I still hadn’t found the value of living a full, happy life without being drunk or high. I was still trying to avoid coming face to face with myself and I convinced myself that occasional drug use was ok. The fact it was illegal didn’t even come into the equation because I barely met a person who didn’t dabble in something. And these were smart, professional people with jobs and a good education. But looking back, very few people did drugs purely out of a way to enjoy themselves. Most were broken in some way, looking for a relief from the daily struggle of their lives.
As our relationship became more about smoking weed, my mental health started to deteriorate even more and I decided I had to get away from it. And so in 2009 Michael and I decided to break-up. I went to work at a dance festival, took pills together with plenty of red bull and had the worst experience of my life. I sat in a portaloo for hours, paranoid and scared. I thought I was going to die, to the point I was coming up with ways of getting messages to my family after I’d died.
The worst thing about being on a bad trip, is that when you’ve taken drug, everything is heightened- unlike with alcohol where you’re unaware of what is going on – which might sound like you have control, but you don’t. You become trapped in your own body.
I got hold of Michael, too ashamed to call anyone else, and a few hours later he and his dad came and got me! To this day I think his parents think I had a serious drug problem and that I led their son down a bad path. I absolutely am the only one responsible for the things I did. I was weak, lost and unhappy. But I wasn’t a bad person.
We got back together after that. We did ecstasy one more time, and then I decided once and for all I wanted nothing more to do with any drugs ever again. I was 24 and ready to start the rest of my life in a clean way. I would come to realise later that Michael wasn’t ready to do the same.
It would be a few more years before my relationship with alcohol would reach the same maturity. It took a long time for me to nurture the most important relationship in my life: the one with myself. Once I fell in love with who I was, I no longer felt the need to escape, be it through alcohol or anything else.
I know there might be many reading this thinking ‘you were young, so what’s the harm,’ or that those experiences aren’t a big deal. But life is too short to waste on being wasted. Every minute is precious because we don’t know when we will take our last breath. There are so many beautiful and incredible things in life to experience, why would you want to blur them?
I am lucky that I did not become addicted to any substances I took. I’m not t-total. I enjoy drinking and occasionally going out. But now it is an extension of my existing contentment and joy of being alive.
It’s an enhancement instead of an escape.
*Real names not used