Dear Pipe Down,
Whenever I would be in my low moments, I would describe the feeling of impending doom. I always had that prickly feeling in my gut that knew how it would feel to be sat in front of a court room, or in airport customs back-room, knowing that I would be going to prison for a long time, that I would eventually run out of lucky escapes. I have gotten very good at apologies over the years, most likely because I have given them so many times to get out of facing the consequences for me being a fucking idiot. I’d say I spend 80% of my life consumed by guilt, whether it’s deserved or not. Walking through airports I look like I’ve got half of Columbia up my bum, I FEEL like I do, and that everybody knows it. What the hell is all that about.
Now I know that that the impending doom was a little voice in my head telling me that if something didn’t change now, if I didn’t get control of my life, these things would happen. You aren’t born knowing that you’re going to be sent to prison, but you are born with the capability to prevent it from happening.
The clues are all very evident now; addiction issues in my family, a fascination with addiction, adverse childhood experiences, low self-esteem, risk taking behaviour, chronic loneliness. I decided that I wanted to be a psychotherapist, or just a therapist in any capacity, completely blind with denial that I badly needed therapy myself. From the anti-drug campaigns I saw in the media, what I was doing was perfectly fine, I had a mostly happy childhood, I went to a private school and finished university and a MSc, had all my teeth, so why couldn’t I smoke weed every day?
It has just dawned on me that I have been in denial for a long, long time.
I’ve barely even registered anything sad really happening to me, all that is left is the familiar feeling of emptiness, boredom and loneliness. I recently broke up with my boyfriend of two years, stopped speaking to my oldest friend and my flatmate of three years moved out. My friends congratulate me for dealing with everything so well, but I’m not dealing with it at all. I am back being alone and this is the way it is meant to be. I can’t even depend on myself to do the right thing anymore so why depend on anyone else.
It sounds so cheesy, but I think a sense of belonging has been absent from my life for as long as I remember. I was always the newcomer, or the visitor, or the friend of someone who was already part of the group. Even now in my mid twenties I feel the uneasy feeling of being near a group of happy people talking, wishing I could be part of it. Eventually things would happen, or circumstances would change so eventually I’d fade out of one group and go into another; starting again.
Reading the Fear issue of Pipe Down was the final nail in the coffin of my denial. I knew that my skin was looking much older and my voice was getting much lower so instead bought more expensive cosmetics. I always struggled for money and to get the motivation to further myself but blamed everything other than myself. So often I would say to myself, why don’t you just TRY to not smoke, and see if it gets better? That would last maybe a few days until I’d have a bad day, or my period would come, or someone would invite me round to smoke. My relationship was going round in toxic circles, both of us punishing each other for our own lack of sense of worth, disliking one another because we were mirroring our own problems. Each time we would break up and get back together, tentatively the fact we both smoke daily would come up, but we would never do anything about it. The reason why he didn’t want to be with me in the first place was because we both smoked, he saw the problem right away, but I didn’t.
In the Fear issue, it wasn’t just one person’s story that resonated with me. I don’t think it often is the case where one person completely emulates your life. I suppose my ‘story’ is far less eventful; there are no immediate dangers to my safety when I’m stoned. I tend to sit in the same place, doing the same thing, every night. The real dangers come when I try and stop, that’s when I drink and take other recreational drugs to the point of memory loss. The hangover will bring with it the sense of impending doom; everybody hates you; you embarrassed yourself etc. The memory loss would act as a vacuum for every shitty thing I felt about myself. The little voice in my head tells me to stay away from everybody, you aren’t wanted. Sometimes this feeling with hang in the air, sometimes it finds itself something real to cling onto and I will obsess over it and berate myself for it until I can do something to soothe myself (smoke). There was one night in London that I don’t remember; I woke up wearing two coats in my room, without my phone. Apparently I was found lying face down outside Victoria station, unconscious. The taxi driver drove me home, none of my cards worked so I gave him my phone. He called my mother, my friends and my brother to tell them what had happened. I was so embarrassed I never went out in London again; instead I stayed in and smoked.
I would get into trouble in each friendship group I had for getting too drunk and then doing something I’d regret. The last, and worst, night it happened I said something incredibly stupid in front of people’s parents, fell over numerous times, woke up next to a guy who I shouldn’t have, and then rounded it all off for being arrested for having drugs in my purse. The Policeman told me with condescending joy all the organisations and countries I’ll never work in. Because we all know how putting people down and excluding them makes them not want to self-soothe with drugs or alcohol. That was three years ago, and I never got myself into that situation again, but I have smoked nearly every day since.
I probably sound like the kind of person you’d dread to be around, but in actual fact, you’d probably like me. Over time I’ve developed so many masks in order to get people to like me that I’ve forgotten what I’m actually like. This dawned on me while trying to make a tinder profile and when advertising a spare room. I had absolutely no idea how to describe myself, because I would think, well that depends on who I’m talking to.
I always assume that people don’t like me unless they have explicitly stated otherwise. I’d rather have hot pins driven into my eyes than to hear about what people really think about me. I don’t really do anything with my spare time aside from read and make plans that always fall through. It takes me the best part of an hour to get out of bed, I have the same long debate with myself every morning whether there’s any point in anything. I look at everyone with envy; everyone else has their shit together and probably sleeps really well and has relationships and friendships and things to look forward to; I’m such a mess.
The longer I keep trying to pretend I’m somebody I’m not I’m going to drive myself into a permanent sense of dissociation. I can’t feel truly close to anyone anymore. Of course I love my parents and my family, but now my closest friends feel so far away. I feel like my friends and family get sick of me, due to the sporadic meltdowns I have when I can’t physically put any more things to the back of my mind, so I spend most of my time alone. This is voluntary, although I might like to pretend otherwise. I could try and meet new people or take up a new hobby. But I don’t think that I’m good at anything, so the sense of panic to even turn up at any of these things prevents me from doing anything new. I messed up so many amazing opportunities because I wouldn’t know anyone, or it would be too remote so weed wouldn’t be available. I would make up a million different reasons why change was bad. I know that if I keep on living my life like this the regrets will become bigger, the need to smoke will become more overwhelming, and the relationships I have will become more co-dependent and less meaningful, easier to throw away.
I realised that a lot of my friendships in school were unhealthy. I would have one very, very close friend in a group, who would use me as their punch bag in private, and I would not only let it happen but apologise for it. I would replace one with the other, often leaving the first friend confused as to why I had completely dropped her, not understanding my burning rage for being taken advantage of; because I had aided and abetted it. The new friend would capitalise on this, and then treat me exactly the same. This happened until university, when I decided to turn my back on everyone and let weed in as my new best friend. My lack of resilience to things that affect everybody has now made me afraid of becoming close to anyone, genuinely close, rather than just fulfilling a need. I say I love people, but I feel nothing. It’s all about me, now.
It is no surprise that I have preferred to smoke alone that with a friend, because it wasn’t a fun sociable thing to do anymore. The urge to do something to alter my state of mind now is pretty overwhelming, it’s pretty incredible how just NOT doing something can feel so difficult, and can prevent me from doing anything else. Some weekends when I don’t work, I get up, smoke, do yoga, have a shower, make breakfast, smoke, then potter around on the internet pretending to do some work, read up on a few things, smoke, apply for a job half-heartedly, smoke, go and meet friends, smoke, and act as if I’ve had a productive day. Today, I’ve moved from my bed to my sofa and have eaten some cereal. Weed part of my brain would tell me that I’m more productive when I’m high; but it’s actually that not being high leaves me so redundant.
I look at my uncle, and I think to myself, how can you not stop doing something when you have so much to lose? All it takes is to just stop, just don’t do it and go and do something else, go for a run. Yes you’ll be in a bad psychological state for a while, but a month or so to make the rest of your life better; surely that makes more sense than stumbling around in this fog of half being here, half waiting until it’s all over so you can go back to familiar self-destruction. Addiction doesn’t make much sense though, does it?
Why would anybody choose to do something that gives them nothing, but keeps taking, bit by bit, all the things you used to value and replaces it with something that costs money, makes you look and feel worse, because of the perception that you must do it, you have to because it’s WHAT YOU DO.
I remember really clearly learning about drugs when I was at school, when the picture of that girl called Rachel who had overdosed on heroin was part of a popular anti-drug campaign. The picture was horrible; she was naked with purple and yellow blotched skin, lying in the foetal position. I felt close to her, like I could hear her thoughts. She never thought she would end up like that. This time would be her last she would swear to herself, and then after that she would get better. I’m sure she still had a glimmer of hope that the old her could come back and she could live a life that wasn’t necessarily easy, but one that she was part of.
Then I can feel how she knew she’d gone too far this time that this time really would be her last, because it would be the last thing she’d ever do. That feeling of impending doom, you’re out of lucky escapes, and the most painful part of it all is that you did it to yourself, there’s no one to blame, she knew the risks and chose them.
I am well aware that heroin and weed isn’t the same thing, and I almost feel like a complete dick for writing all this turmoil over weed. But on the other hand, this feels pretty real to me, and maybe that’s what kept me going back to it, because I refused to see the similarities between addict’s personalities and instead focused on the substances or the situations. Just like the men I work with, I got around taking responsibility for what I was doing by distracting, blaming and minimising.
A boy I went to school with died a few weeks ago from an overdose; I don’t know anything about what he used, but I know he used to smoke a lot of weed. We never got along, but at a new year’s party I had some and we were best pals that night, I never heard from him again. Now he’s dead.
I say to myself, please don’t let that happen to me, as if my mind has now been split into two; the person who is begging to be saved is the person destroying herself. I don’t know what the hell that’s all about either. I’m sure I’m about to find out.