Monday, May 7, 2018

How Substances Shaped My Identity - And Why I Quit For Good! (For Now)

Hello. I'm Ryan. I'm usually adverse to talking about myself from a first person perspective - it's much easier to speak from behind the mask of characters, ideology or stage - but as we are here to talk about honesty, independence and integrity it's probably important to write at least one post about my egoic self, the experiences that have shaped my consciousness and led me here. 

Contrary to popular thought, I feel that our identity is more often than not crafted by the result of our circumstances. Especially in our younger years, we are at the mercy of not just our environment and culture, but also an often overwhelming internal laboratory of new chemical release, in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Perhaps this is a good relatable place to start. 

By the time I was 14/15/16 I was already well into alcohol. For me (and my friends) the liquid gold had become synonymous with "good times". As the pressures of mainstream education grew increasingly intense, I accidentally began to shape my identity around my first drug. Except for the rebellion of smashing lockers and causing general harmless trouble, I fucking hated school. The only thing that really got me through those years was the exciting prospect of finishing school, and being able to be finally free to play music with my friends and get wasted at middle class girls posh houses, which seemed way more exciting than learning algebra or who killed how many people and when. 

Then, just in good time, the marijuana arrived. From smoking, introversion and hermitage, I began seeing the world through increasingly less filters; noticing injustice, exploitation and the general filth of capitalism. Weed culture quickly overtook my identification with alcohol (although I still drank lots, of course). By the age of 18/19/20 I was completely reliant upon smoking weed to experience what I defined as "good times". Without it, I would be almost "normal", bourgeois or even capitalist. I didn't want to be like everyone else, caught in the system, I wanted to be free, I wanted my life back! Smoking weed became a symbol of that, which I inhaled every day, religiously. Fuck your society, I Am A Stoner! 

My identification with counter-culture continued to grow, all the time being intrinsically linked with mind altering drugs, which to me were (and still are) visions and sensations of other ways of living. Later on came the magic mushrooms, ecstasy and acid (once, but never again). Each of these opened up new layers of perception, and what I dangerously took to be "understandings of profound truths". These chemicals quickly became interweaved with my identity as a "rebel" and conditioned my associations not just with counterculture, but also my deep spirituality. Ecstasy became my ethical blueprint, and psychedelics became a quest to experience the divine. It wasn't supposed to be fun; it was god-obsession. In the absence of sufficient explanations from western society about existential reality, many of us seek answers through drug culture. Some of us find them, some of us get lost. 

Around the age of 20 I quit weed for the first time. I had begun to see how it had become a habit and I had for sure grown dependent upon it in order to enjoy my humble existence. At this point, as a replacement to stoned living, I started reading books again. I became addicted to anarchism, rule-less expression and spirituality, in fluctuating orders of importance. Inevitably, the masochism and intrigue for substance (ab)use was too much to resist. I continued swimming in and out of drug culture, each time with a renewed personal justification, usually related to something spiritual, artistic or political. The devil was indeed, unfinished with our dance. 

Since then (11 years ago) I have only recently decided to commit to not relying on alcohol, weed, ecstasy, caffeine etc in order to have a "good time". Instead of experimenting with drugs, I'm now experimenting without drugs. As a spiritualist, I have come to see reliance on a substance to experience the profound as one aspect of the root of suffering. As an anarchist, I see dependency on society as the road to slavery and as an addict to expression, I see how substances can be a hindrance to productivity. I have also had enough time within drug culture to see friends and relatives be seduced by the lushness of indulgence, and be taken to much darker holes of existence than I have been lucky to escape. I've started to realise that having "months off" does not give us enough time to develop new, heathy, sustainable ways of experiencing ecstasy, and many of us never find out how. 

As with everything, I never want to commit to never. But for now, every day is today, and today, I don't get wasted. I guess I'm looking for new reliable paths to happiness and ecstasy, without it coming from anything external, anything toxic, or anything sold. I'm certainly grateful for having had shortcuts to alternative realities, and being offered a glimpse of what we are capable of, but now is the time to do the hard work and make those realities manifest. It's time to take control of myself and accept the responsibility, to make the world a nicer place to be, not just for myself, but for everyone to experience. To make heaven on earth, one step at a time.


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