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Presence: Spectrums and lines

Sometimes I do drugs
Not hard ones, just ones that change my mind up
Drugs, can’t find us?
If you think I’m gone, I’m just doing drugs
Not hard ones, just ones that change my mind up
Don’t mind me if I light up
Only need it sorta kinda

DRUGS – Tai Verdes

I have a friend who only does some drugs. The regular kind. And some other ones. A psychedelic here and there, maybe an upper. He doesn’t get into the hard stuff. Like most people, he’s sometimes had a struggle or two with his mental health. So it was strange to me that he said it would take the world and more for him to ever consider taking an antidepressant. Full disclosure: I take a few myself. They, with a cocktail of other drugs, help me people easier. I think anyone who needs them, and other medication, should always consider speaking to a medical professional about the possibility of trying them out. They’ve made life sunnier; on dark days, almost bearable. Almost.

Now, I’m not a doctor, even if I often sound like one. I have no medical degree. I’m an undergraduate in Economics. But I’ve been reading about mental health medications for a time. Sometimes because I’m desperate. Sometimes because I hate myself. Some times because someone I love, someone I know, is desperate. Mostly because I’m curious about the things I put in my body every morning and evening, and know endless stories of others who do too, with varying results.

So, I thought, perhaps, I could tell him, and you, why I think drugs are oh so great. I can’t make this complicated subject easy. I’ve decided to lean hard on personal experience. Maybe that’ll be of help. Maybe not. But either way, here I am sharing.

I think a lot about the lines we draw between drugs. The ones we do for fun and the ones we take to stay alive. I wonder, many times, if there’s a difference between these. I know there’s a clear line between medicine and recreational drugs, but what’s the line between drugs we take for safety and those we take because … well … why not? Forgive me for the long ramble-up but trying to figure out where to draw the line between the “justified” and “unjustified” reasons to use drugs is not an easy task.

There’s been nights when a drink is all that has kept me alive. Made an unbearable conversation fade into the numbing warmth of a vodka soda. Insecurities floating away with puffs of smoke. There are days ,though, when I feel like I’m in a permanent state of withdrawal from the cradle of an altered state, where every thought, action, and emotion is accompanied by some tiny little voice in the back of my head that’s asking me, “Can you handle this on your own?” Then there are the other nights, the more terrifying ones that have taught me the very hard truth about drugs. They came as a shock to me, especially after my innumerable pleasant experiences with other potentially addictive substances. The nights that came out of nowhere to remind me why I hated alcohol. The ones that took all the strength from my hands, even as I was clawing against it, pushing back until they pushed me away. They took my voice and replaced it with a high-pitched echo in my ears as though I were drowning. They stole my memories. And, when at last I had the guts to face the truth, they stole my very heart. These nights were worse than the nights without alcohol because they left the rest of me intact.

“I know what you mean,” said Diamanté.

“I know what it’s like to drink. When I first started thinking of the whole business as an addiction, I’d start the way you did and drink until my head was a mess. And then I’d wake up the next day and it was as though it never happened.”

But I still drink. Carefully, on most days. Carefully carefree on others. There’s still a reason to drink, knowing it kills me a little each time. Because on good nights, it lets me live a little. What, really, is the difference between this and popping some Zoloft? To this reluctant friend, who I have shared many a drink with, I wonder where the problem is birthed crossing from a spirit to a pill. Why would one be fine, and the other not?

From what he’s told me, there’s something uncomfortable about knowing that the thing you’re taking is not only meant to change your mind, but make it better. That a drug is meant to make you easier for others to deal with. Because if you lived in a world where everyone had the same ‘ilness’ you did, you wouldn’t be all that weird. If everyone was schizopheric, then it would probably be schizophrenic to not be. You know? I think his hesitance is less about drugs, and more a resistance to societal definitions of sanity and normalcy. He isn’t schizophrenic, and I don’t mean to make light of a serious condition either. My point, rather, is that disorders are only defined as exceptions to the spectrum of normalcy. As outliers. So it matters where we draw the line. We name a certain being-in-mind disordered, and another not. There indeed must be some that are infinitesmally close, and differently classified. What does this line-drawing do for definitions of personhood? For conceptions of proper presence? These are things we should care about. I mean, we’re living in our own, personal infinitesmal space. It’s always the case, but for some reason, we have this weird habit of naming and separating people into groups, and telling them what that group means. I think that he’s simply being a little different than you or I. And he has his reasons for that. I wish I could say some more here. I had a lot of notes written about all this. I will have to keep that for later.

This friend is maybe the most present person I know. He is one of the happiest people I know. He is one of few I think of when I think of a good person. So when he says that he wouldn’t take an antidepressant even if he were depressed, I am forced to stop and think. Why am I taking them? Is the man I am able to be because of them the same man I am meant to be. Is he the same man I should be? Is he the man I want to be?

I do not know.

But I like drugs. Many different kinds. And I’m not about to stop doing them. Being present is overrated sometimes. Or maybe not. Make sure I’m all here before you try argue with me about this.

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