The Moral: Don't do drugs?

I'm going to write this entry because a very old friend of mine told me a tale a few days ago with disturbing parallels. I don't know if me telling my own version is helpful or not. That said, I'd like to warn that this entry sounds a lot worse than it's meant to. It's intended to be an interesting story, not a sob story, so don't read it as something bad. That said, let's begin…

Over a decade ago I was regularly mega-dosing on LSD. The time I remember most vividly I'd taken somewhere between twenty five and thirty tabs. It hits fast and heavy when you take that much; normally I get a very slow one to two hour buildup, but taking that volume of dose smacks you hard, coming on inside half an hour and moving from a lucid but psychedelic state to fully catatonic and out of body in about two minutes. As soon as I felt it I knew it was a little too much, mumbled something about having to go, and somehow made it back to my room to lie down. I think I was alone.

Was time stopping? I hoped so, because I was certain my breathing had stopped, and everything darkened. Either time had stopped or I had. My heart did not appear to be beating either. I felt myself disconnect, and move away from the flesh.

From my vantage point in orbit I looked down at the Earth, observing without emotion as the life left my body. I was already dead by the time anyone came looking for me. Time, already gone, was forgotten entirely and ceased to have meaning for me as I watched events unfold. I remember being surprised at who came to my funeral, and watching with interest as they traveled to it, but I can recall no emotive aspect. I suppose that was left in my body and didn't journey with me. Logically I think I must have been cremated, but I can't recall what was done with my corpse.

After the funeral, I began wondering how my life would have been had I not actually died, and I pretended that my death had been a hallucination. I imagined my body still lying there, somehow unaware of its pulse, unaware of its lungs inflating and deflating automatically. Slowly I convinced myself that things were back to normal. I don't know how much time went by — maybe eight hours, maybe four — but eventually I imagined myself getting up, and I did. I appeared to be breathing, and I was able to eat. The line between experience and imagination blurred and then disappeared.

Life went on, but I don't know if it was life or not.

Every day since then — every day — I've wondered if I'm really alive or not. I wonder if everything that's happened since is just the final thrashing of a dying mind. Will I cease to exist as I finish this letter, having revealed the hoax? The only way to be sure, ironically, is to die. Last year I saw a talk by a quantum philosopher who said that the best way to become an immortal is to kill yourself — by doing so, all of your quantum states which are mortal will cease to exist, and only the incarnation of yourself that is god will remain.

In any case, dead or alive, since that day I have considered ending my life and thus shattering the illusion every hour of every day. It has been my singular obsession, and the only constant that keeps me company. If I'm driving, before every corner I consider going straight. Every balcony I consider jumping from. Every gun I consider shooting myself with. Every knife I pick up I wonder if I have the determination to drive it through my ribcage and into my heart. If I am alive, I know there must be people reading this that feel the same way and can relate to what I'm saying. I am not the only one to live this life.

While there were certainly many other factors at play, about ten years ago I actually put the theory to test. After years clean, I took a small dose of acid, maybe three or four hits, and stood on the roof of a small apartment building in downtown Toronto watching the first snow of the season come down at me like a million angels fleeing heaven. A week later I overdosed on tranquilizers and died, at least in the technical sense of the word. My death is one of the few things in my life that I remember with some clarity, and the terrible truth that I saw after I died for the second time was nothing but silence and blackness. Eventually it wore off and I was back to pretending to be alive. Since then I've overdosed twice more, once on morphine and once on Dilaudid, spending four more days in the void.

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
   in a brilliant blaze than it
   should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
   of me in magnificent glow,
   than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

- Jack London, 1916
Fatally overdosed on morphine two weeks later

I don't really know what any of it means, and I don't know if I'm just lying in my bed right now, imagining this moment as a years-long drama plays out in my final microseconds. I'm fairly certain my life is a dream, but I'm willing to live with that delusion since the alternate reality is, well, kind of boring and not really very amusing. Maybe I'm wrong though, and by reading this someone else knows that they're not alone in what they're feeling themselves. I can offer you nothing to suggest that you didn't imagine reading this entire entry. However, I am flattered that you chose to hallucinate me. I appreciate the backstory you've written for me. If a hallucination can enjoy himself, I have.

I'd like to repeat that you should not read this to be some downer woe-is-me entry, because it's not. This isn't about depression at all — I love my life, and while I have my down days like we all do, I'm thrilled with the game I've been able to play so far, and the entire story up until now (and I hope forever more) is immensely amusing to me. There's a big difference between being suicidal and depressed. The thing that I think most people have trouble understanding is that you can be a happy person but still constantly fantasize and edge toward your own demise. Part of me thinks that's even the right way — the only way — to live, and that facing life without total acceptance of death is somehow incompete.

In terms of what actually keeps me from pulling the trigger, Canada had sort of an easy “crutch” solution for it all, and that's of course massive amounts of marijuana. Back when I was still living there I was buying by the half pound usually, and while I didn't bogart that joint and was generous with friends, I really did smoke the majority of it myself. I was a little paranoid about being busted as a dealer (Canada tolerates personal use but will still prosecute trafficking offenses) — in fact, that's part of the reason I grew my hair long. I liked having it long, but I also really liked that if I was ever drawn into court, they could analyze my hair and say, “holy crap, this crazy stoner really did smoke two pounds this year!”

But the crutch wasn't adding to my life and it's been over a month since I smoked pot — it was just putting me into a sort of limbo state between life and death. There were and continue to be better protections against this flock of grim reapers that follows me around… It's funny, because I think a combination of having suicidal tendencies and having zero fear of death is actually what's made my living life what it is now. I tend to make deals with myself as if coercing a child to eat its dinner on the promise of desert — “OK, you can kill yourself, but first you have to buy me a Porsche…”

“Well, thanks for the Porsche, and wow, driving 240 kph is fun, but I've got one more request before you hop off that balcony — I'd like you to go check out Africa first.”

Of course, until I run out of interesting things to do, it's generally not that hard to keep the deals coming. I'm not saying I won't one day float off into some watery abyss, but today isn't the day for that, and neither is tomorrow.

The moral of story is of course not as I've implied in the title.

Feel free to do all the drugs you want. The real moral of the story is that you need to have a sense of humor about your life. It's all funny. The purpose of life is to experience it and enjoy it, no matter what it happens to be. Or at least that's what my brain is telling me as it plays out an elaborate scenario in my final moments, perhaps to justify an end that came too soon.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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