May 16, 2005

Play, Maturation and Undirected Drug Use

A couple of weeks back I had the worst week ever, as a result of the terrible combination of alcohol, ecstasy and retrograde behaviour. It started innocently enough with a few drinks after work. My team had just completed a release of the website and it had dragged on pretty late into Friday afternoon and then into the evening. By the time it was done I was ready to go home, but I went down to this quarter's drinking hole anyway, and got a round in. I'd had a sandwich for lunch and nothing for dinner so I was pretty wrecked pretty quickly. I was at the world famous and widely feared 'insulting your managers' stage... in this case directly in front of him. He didn't seem to care.

By last orders I'd decided, and said out loud, that I wasn't interested in his pathetic relationships or the dreary circus of his life, and a couple of colleagues and I got dragged along to Fabric by a girlfriend and her friend from home. Fabric, after kicking out time, is pretty hard to get into. When it's 2ManyDJs and it's been advertised on the escalators on the Underground... forget it. The queue was about 500m long - all the way roung the block and 3 or 4 people wide. Drunk and a bit bored I invited everyone back to mine to take drugs and listen to music. This was serious mistake #2.

By the time they'd left I had given away 3 pairs of socks, 12 pills, had 4 myself and got the eye-shakes as bad as I've ever had them in my life. When I woke up on Saturday lunchtime with the phone ringing, my head was pounding from the booze and my eyes were screaming from the abuse they'd had. They felt like the muscles all around the orbs, but especially along the top, were being individually squeezed by metal tweezers. Light was unbearable. People appalled me. It was my mum calling.

Fortunately I was able to field her pointless and stupid questions and inane chatter without even once telling her to SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET ME DIE! and I got through the rest of the day mostly asleep, only really surfacing for about 5 hours in total. I did meet one of my colleagues, D, to give him back his Oystercard but it was pretty tricky. During the night we'd had a couple of extremely interesting but sometimes forced conversations and there had been a strange tension. Looking back I think it was just two really fried brains having difficulty handshaking properly, dropping packets if you will, but it wasn't too bad the next day. However, it was already clear that something larger was wrong.

But before I get to the problem, I want to briefly address the hell that was the subsequent week. Sunday night: couldn't sleep. Monday day: flat, lonely, cold, scared. Monday night: 4 hours. Tuesday day: depressed, cold, paranoid, distrustful, scared. Tuesday night: 4 hours. Each day lasted about 72 hours and if you were to plot happiness over time you'd end up with an entirely wasted positive y-axis. On Wednesday I lost about 10 minutes work when my computer crashed and I was flooded with a white-hot searing fury and wanted to throw my monitors out the window. Actually, it would've been more like at the window as they're both flatpanels and the windows in my office are reinforced bomb-proof glass, but I wanted to destroy. I can't begin to describe the anger that flowed from such a tiny misfortune, but if you will, please try to imagine that you've just cut yourself while doing something unnecessary and doing it badly. As you start to kick yourself, someone comes up to you, pisses on your trousers, slaps you in the face, calls you an arsehole and walks off with your girlfriend, who flashes her tits at you and leers as she leaves. How do you feel now? I couldn't face another empty evening and sweaty sheet-wrapped night so on Wednesday evening I took steps and met up with the Tokyo crew and got pretty sloshed in a pub, which was enormous fun with beer and banter flowing in about equal amounts. I slept, of course, and on Thursday I felt like shit, but at least I felt like I was out the other side of a long, dark tunnel.

On Wednesday night, the drugs worked well; the conversation varied between interesting and hysterical, and clichéd as it may be, a good time was had by all.

So what's the problem with drugs then? Alcohol on Wednesday was fine, but alcohol on Friday wasn't, especially not with a load of pills to chase it. Well, the problem - and it's one I'd been vaguely aware of for a while but hadn't really grasped - was that doing drugs for the sake of it just isn't that fun any more. On Friday night I was there for the sake of it; I didn't actually want to go, but found myself stepping out of the office and going anyway. Something like habit, or some old drive which isn't appropriate any more made me do it. In any case, the results weren't great.

Let's look at another case. My very old friend C from Bristol has recently given up smoking draw after what's probably knocking on 8 years of being nearly permanently stoned. He went to Oz, but lacking the contacts and being out of the usual lifestyle context, he didn't smoke any after the first few nights. I imagine that getting banged out of his mind by the girl he was staying with probably helped him get to sleep instead, but anyway, on his return he found his head was clearer, his motiviation higher and his general joie de vivre enormously improved. So he decided to quit, or at the very least, not depend on it. D too, and now me. All of us 28 years old, too. Strange that we all, independently arrived at the same place with respect to our relationship with drugs at the same time.

Let me elucidate: for some time, as I said earlier, I'd been aware of a nagging sensation of not actually enjoying the smoking, probably as often as 4 times out of 5. Nevertheless, come the weekend I'd be annoyed I couldn't just chill out and smoke in my room, and every night irritated that I had to plan my evning in my room and set everything up so I could shut the door and smoke.

And not enjoy it.

The nagging question for me was not that of why I was doing something I didn't enjoy, because that answer's obvious: habit. No, the much more pressing issue was why did I no longer enjoy something I used to dig so much. Why had I started to feel I was wasting my time when stoned? Why did I find myself bored when before I would have just been happy to be stoned? My circumstances weren't markedly changed, my attitudes to most things have been pretty stable for a fairly long time, and certainly I haven't suddenly started to think drugs are evil or anything like that. In fact, it wasn't until I had a long, stoned, fractured chat with D in the morning of the night described above that it came to me: an answer so simple I think Occam would approve. The manner in which I play has changed, and, I suspect, this change is neurological and an inevitable part of maturation for most people.

Think about it: people have different styles of play at different stages of their lives, and it's pretty much a given that play is developmentally very important in children, but I suspect that it's also important right up until maturity. Think about the way you played as a child. When I was younger I was happy with a toy on my own, or with others pretending to be something else or pretending that our toys were different things, but then later this play ceased to be fun. During adolescence play was often related to risk-taking, but this too ultimately ceased to be fun. Why shouldn't it be that undirected drug use - drug use for the hell of it - shouldn't also just stop being fun?

Again - when I was a bit younger I was generally pretty happy to sit around and do nothing with friends. During my teenage years I'd sit around with my friends and drink, or smoke hash, and often not do a whole lot more. I never developed a physiological dependence on any of the drugs I took, even cigarettes, which I count as a blessing. As a post-university adult, I was often extremely happy to get high with my girlfriend and watch TV. And as recently as just prior to Japan, when I was developing my travel blogging software, I was buying and smoking tremendous amounts of weed while coding. Some of my finest software moments coalesced out of the smoke! But in recent years it just hasn't been that fun anymore. And I am pretty certain that it's because I'm just not wired to enjoy that style of undirected play anymore. I'm just too old for it.

When I think of it, everything I do which is fun has a point, except for watching films and listening to music, but even then I don't simply listen to music any more. I code and listen, or I read and listen, or I tidy and listen, although that last one is usually the closest I come to just listening. And I don't watch films on my own anymore either. Nowadays watching films is always social. And, I suspect, so will drug taking be too, which is good on a number of levels. I won't be ingesting, inhaling or insufflating chemicals of dubious origin and uncertain import except when in the presence of others who want to, which cuts down the opportunities (or risks if you prefer to look at it from that direction) enormously. I want to stress too that this isn't some WeightWatchers-esque situation where I'm using peer pressure to avoid a behaviour I crave; what's actually happening is that I'm just not interested in doing drugs on my own. If I'm high, I want to be rolling and laughing with other people, enjoying the different take on our relationships and - and this is key - having fun. I want to be in a club dancing like I can never dance straight feeling the music in a way I never feel it at home. Sure I could pill at home and feel the music that way, but as I said before, I don't listen to music in and of itself anymore, and I have no desire to get high just to do so.

This change has been a while in the making. I don't know when I could have recognised it earlier, but the signs have been there for at least a couple of years. I gave up drink as a social habit in Japan and now drink only when I don't mind the anticipated hangover and when there's a group of people I want to be drunk with. I was introduced to London cocaine culture but it bored me. I still have a load in my drawer if anyone wants it. My colleague's solitary drug exploration doesn't have the romantic appeal it had all those years ago when I could never afford to do it myself. However obvious these signs are now, I didn't recognise them at the time - there are some things that you just don't question; some attitudes which you felt were inviolable are in the end merely the temporary products of the worldview you held at the time. As that worldview is altered, whether by accident, necessity, revelation or, as I supect is the case with me simple maturation, so the attitudes which no longer fit must be discarded.

Posted by Oxygenik at 1:22 AM | Comments (1785)

Day 2

My brother was hospitalised yesterday. Attempting to heroically climb the side of a house in order to gain entrance to his girlfriend's flat, he fell about 6 or 7 metres and landed with both feet onto paving, shattering his heels and impacting his ankle structures.

His friends and girlfriend called the ambulance, and I found out yesterday afternoon about 12 hours after the accident. He's in a hospital very close to my house, which means I can cycle and visit him often, and I'm already getting very familiar with the potholes of Victoria Road. Yesterday was awful; he was in so much obvious pain, fighting back the tears and biting down on a wad of bedsheets. i was crying myself; I've never seen anyone enduring that much pain before. The wave lasted about 25 minutes and after that it seemed to abate. The ice wrapped around his heels helps.

The parents were up today, which was nice. Mum wasn't too happy and bizarrely demanded that there be no levity by the bedside, when I asked her to take a look at his corpse-ankles. Why not levity? It is too late for levitation. They brought loads of goodies for him, audio books, toileteries and so on (he now has 3 sets of wet wipes and 4 toothbrushes) and I've set up an account on my powerbook so he can sync his mail once or twice a day when I collect the powerbook and take it back to mine for the evening or at lunch. It seems to work quite well. We're looking at getting Perl installed, and if I can find a way to hook up the laptop to my phone as a bluetooth GPRS modem that could give him some degree of net access from his bed.

The bad news is that the registrar said today his prognosis is pretty mediocre. His bones are very badly damaged and his flesh is too swollen for them to safely operate; if they did, then the swelling would push all the bones out of place as soon as they stitched him back together. So he's gone from yesterday being advised of a 1 week hospitalisation followed by 3 or 4 weeks in a chair to a 4 week stay on the wards with 2 or 3 months in the chair to look forward to after that. Pretty rough.

Then there's the injuries to the mind to think about...

(23:54:23) Squidboy!: hiya
(23:54:45) Squidboy!: how's it going?
23:55:55) Oxygenik: Just got back, parents were up today
23:56:00) Oxygenik: am pretty bushed
23:56:17) Oxygenik: bro's situ pretty fearful
(23:56:26) Squidboy!: really?
23:56:42) Oxygenik: His heels are crushed into itty bitty pieces
23:56:57) Oxygenik: and the swelling is so massive they're unable to operate
(23:57:01) Squidboy!: *shudder*
(23:57:45) Squidboy!: is the delay a problem (aside from intense pain)
23:58:11) Oxygenik: they have to delicately reassemble his heel under GA, but if they do it before the swelling has gone down, when they sew him back up his own flesh will obliterate the surgeon's work
23:58:22) Oxygenik: it'll just squish it all out of place
23:58:48) Oxygenik: like supergluing an eggshel back together and then wrapping it up in beefsteak
23:58:52) Oxygenik: maybe ')
23:59:34) Oxygenik: and his projected hospital sta has gone from 1 week to 4
23:59:46) Oxygenik: and his projected wheelchair stay has gone from 4 weeks to 12
(00:00:00) Squidboy!: oh fk
00:00:04) Oxygenik: and early onset arthritis looks likely
00:00:14) Oxygenik: as in before he's 40
(00:00:30) Squidboy!: oh no. that's pretty bad
00:00:32) Oxygenik: so all in all, fearful
(00:00:36) Squidboy!: yes
00:00:38) Oxygenik: sigh
(00:00:42) Squidboy!: how is he?
00:00:54) Oxygenik: still early
00:01:07) Oxygenik: I expect a serious depression is on the way
00:01:16) Oxygenik: I reckon a year or two's worth
00:01:45) Oxygenik: but it won't hit until he's near the end of his healing
00:01:51) Oxygenik: initial* healing
(00:02:19) Squidboy!: quite possibly
00:02:55) Oxygenik: the trigger for the depression will be the realisation, as he gets more mobile, that he will never achieve the level of mobility he had before the accident
00:03:26) Oxygenik: and that after he's back to, say 80%, it'll start declining again
00:03:55) Oxygenik: as the arthritis kicks in, if you'll excuse the pun, and every step becomes painful
00:05:41) Oxygenik: anyway, we'll see
Posted by Oxygenik at 12:47 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2005

A friend's dream

(11:25:39) Squidboy!: next time you turn up in one of my dreams, i'd appreciate it if you weren't completely off your tits having just taken 5 minutes to get from plymouth to bristol
(11:25:51) Squidboy!: where you'd been for a night out
(11:25:57) Squidboy!: or something
(11:26:18) Squidboy!: and please dont bring the cocaine shaped like a joint of bacon again
(11:26:19) Squidboy!: please
(11:30:32) Squidboy!: then the cocaine turned into something that can only be described as looking like a curly dogshit, yet was still unmistakably cocaine, to my mind anyway, and i couldn't leave it anywhere.
(11:30:45) Squidboy!: spent the rest of the dream in intense paranoia of being busted
(11:31:26) Squidboy!: but the free pies at work were a bonus
(11:31:34) Squidboy!: parsnip and sesame...

Posted by Oxygenik at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)