|LIFE AS A LOSER #97: "MY ANTI-DRUG IS PARANOIA."|
|By Will Leitch|
When I lived in Los Angeles, I did a lot of drugs. This is for a variety of reasons. First, my fiancee had left me on national television. Also, I had been dating this girl, then asked her to marry me, and sheíd said yes, but then she decided she didnít want to and told me just hours before I was on a cable game show. Another reason: I had a wedding planned, but the person I was going to marry changed her mind and moved away with no explanation. These were the main motivations, but Iím sure there were others. Like how my engagement ended and I was left alone in a strange city I didnít know, or how I almost got married but then didnít. Those are a couple more.
These were not crazy drugs. On only four experiences have I tried anything more extreme than marijuana. Three of them involved hallucinogenic mushrooms. Now, Iím not saying Iím too maladjusted to do mushrooms, but the last time I did them I started crying, stripped down to my boxer shorts and tried to jump in the ocean Ė not easy to do when you live in St. Louis. The other was an ill-advised evening where I inhaled about four individual grains of cocaine off the top of a key, which did nothing more than make me fairly certain I had accelerated the physics of puberty and suddenly grown about four feet of nose hair.
The first time I did drugs was in college. It was the summer after my sophomore year, and I stayed in Champaign rather than go through all the work of procuring an internship. Iíd just started drinking a few months before, and one night, when my roommate and I were downing a couple bottles of MadDog 40/40, a guy from the newspaper named Mike came by. Mike was the type of guy who was constantly extolling the virtues of hemp as a cultural savior and had named his fantasy baseball team the Leesville Leafsmokers. (We all know a guy like Mike. Perhaps you are a guy like Mike. Yes, yes, we know, you can make rope with it. Yes, yes, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it. Got it.) He was carrying a satchel you could store skis in. He opened it up and took out a film container and this glass tube that stood about four-and-a-half feet tall. He spoke. ďWill Ö itís time you became an official staff member of the Daily Illini.Ē He left me little choice.
Forty-five minutes later, after Iíd coughed up my colon, I decided to head to the kitchen where I found, to my surprise, someone was hiding the cabinets from me. Iíd lived there for a month and thought I had a fairly strong grasp of their location. But whoever was in charge of this deception kept shifting them around; it was like watching my father search for the ďTĒ on a keyboard. Move 45 degrees, no, 15, no, behind you behind you! Wait Ö where are the cups usually? That has to be where the cabinet is. I shall catch the cabinet by surprise. FLIP AROUND! Shit. Not there either. They couldnít have gotten too far. THERE they are! Shit. Not there either. I noticed laughter in the corner. The culprit! Bring back my cabinets, you rat bastard! Mike was there, giggling madly as I spun in circles, looking at my feet.
This state of oblivion appealed to me instantly, and I began smoking quite regularly. It was such a novel way to meet new people. Youíd see someone across the room, youíd look them in the eye, and you just knew: He smoked. Letís find a room. Got a hookah? By the time I moved to St. Louis, I found myself hanging out with Phish phans and having serious discussions as to whether or not the government had hidden aliens in John Gottiís basement and whether or not the NBA had rigged the 1985 draft to make sure Patrick Ewing played for the Knicks. Working a 4-12 night shift, this was my daily schedule: See a movie at noon, work eight hours, go home, smoke two bowls, read a sports magazine and pass out watching ER reruns. Man, those EKG machines are some serious shit. Fuck. Wow. Serious. Shit. Seriously. Like, seriously.
But somewhere down the line, the tide turned. It was around the time that I started developing real, meaningful relationships with beings other than my cat. The notion of plugging in and tuning out lost its appeal. The grownup world kept sneaking up on me. I wasnít able to concentrate on, um, not concentrating. Itís not all fun and games. Whenever I smoked, I stopped thinking about having long, circular conversations with friends and started thinking about my bank account, or my broken relationships, or my lack of success in my chosen field. It didnít give me insight or just a happy time away from life; it just made me Ö oh Ö paranoid.
I think itís very possible that I might be getting too old. Donít laugh. I know you want to laugh. Fuddy duddy Will, just not down. Canít you just relax, Will? I get it. Willís too uptight. Fine. Understood. But hear me out. In college, when our major concerns revolved around securing a believable fake ID, it was easy to just numb our brain cells without suffering any major repercussions. But when youíre in the grownup world, a lot more stuff bubbles up when youíre high. Itís not just a pleasant diversion anymore. One minute, youíre just loafing around, blithely floating through life with little awareness of the ramifications of every action, and then you smoke a bowl, and suddenly your mind is afire. I start thinking about everything. It starts small, and snowballs.
Do these shoes make me look gay? Man, I think Iím gaining weight. Did I remember to feed the cat? Man, I gotta pay that phone bill before the 15th. Do my roommates like me? I hope they donít make me move out just because I occasionally leave socks lying around. I gotta make sure to finish that project at work by the time my boss gets back from California. I donít want to get laid off again. Nothing is worse than unemployment. Is this job doing me any good in the first place? Where exactly is my career going? That column I wrote last week, I just half-assed it. I had a busy week, but thatís no excuse. If I donít start devoting myself, Iím never going to break out of my little online niche. Do I even have a niche? What made me decide to become a writer? I donít think Iím all that good. Why did I even come to New York? Am I just a stupid Midwestern kid who thinks heís more important than he is? Man, I really broke that one girlís heart. Whatís my problem? Am I an asshole? Are my parents disappointed in me? Do my parents love me less than they love my sister? Are people always laughing at me behind my back? Am I just a big joke? Is my father embarrassed to talk about me to his friends? And so what? It doesnít matter, regardless, because eventually we all just die and rot. Weíre worm food. Dammit, my life is so pointless. Iím a waste of air. Why are any of us here, anyway? Weíre just a bunch of randomly constructed cells somehow simulating a living, conscious being. Fuck all this. I should just jump off this roof right now and end the whole charade. Whom am I trying to kid? Fuck all this. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Fuck. Fuck fuck. Fuck.
Or something like that. You get the point. Ahem.
And now Ö shit, I just donít smoke anymore.
Check this out: The other evening, I caught myself hanging out with two friends of mine, watching boxing. Iím recently single, so, by definition, I should be out going crazy with my boys, causing trouble, raising a ruckus. They had the right idea. They bought 40s and took bong hits all evening. I sat in the corner, sipping a Diet Coke, hoping nobody noticed. I just didnít have it in me.
I just donít think I can take it anymore. Life has too much going on now. Drugs do nothing but upset my delicate balance. Lifeís hard enough. When they make you uneasy and anxious and off-kilter and you start to agonize over something as simple as a conversation with a friend (he thinks Iím an idiot. I am an idiot. What am I doing, trying to talk about David Foster Wallace? I canít finish that book. Iím not very smart. Smart people like that book. Iím trying to fake it. Iím trying to fake everything. God I hate myself.) Ö maybe itís time to stop.
How bad did it get? Fairly recently, I dated a woman who felt, as many women do, Iíve found, that marijuana relaxed her. She would smoke pot for the same reason many of us take off our shoes after a long day at work. Nothing is wrong with this, of course. Whatever works. But I am not emotionally sound enough to be so flippant about something that plays little games with my brain. After one experience with her, when I became convinced that every time she said ďCould you hand me your lighter?Ē she actually meant ďI think your penis is too small,Ē I decided to try to head this off at the pass. When she brought out a bowl, I stopped her.
ďOK, I need you to help me out here. I have a pen. Do you have any paper?Ē
ďAll right. Now, do you like me?Ē
ďUm Ö yeah? Er, yeah, yes I do. Sure.Ē
ďClose enough. I need you to do something for me. See these five sheets of paper? I need you to write little messages to me on each of these five sheets of paper. You need to remind me that you actually like me, that Iím not too fat, that Iím not too stupid, that Iím not horrible in bed. They donít have to be sweet or fawning. A simple ĎWill is not a bad personí or ĎWill is not a complete moroní will suffice.Ē
ďYeah, yeah, so then, when I start to get that funny look in my eye, when I start to stutter and stammer and clench my hands together and then clam up, just show me one of the signs. Because Iíll forget.Ē
To her credit, she did. It must have taken much patience. Particularly when I asked her to go over her writing in black magic marker so I could see it when I was hiding under a table about 50 feet away. So readers, can I get a witness? I heretofore secede from the weed union. I just canít handle it anymore. It is causing me too much trouble. I am psychologically fragile. I am weak. I want not to crack. I want to be normal. I quit. I cry uncle.
You know, Itís a shame too. I was really starting to get into the Cartoon Network.