Under the Influence

While three weeks wasn’t that long to wait for my next check, being high, homeless and trying to hide only added to the problem. With my mental reserves already in short supply, coming clean meant trusting others; something I couldn’t do without first knowing what was going on with me.

The first day was pretty much like every other day: the show, talk, walk and pasted on smile all within manageable means. The next day my voice changed becoming weaker and less decisive; a slight hesitancy permeated my actions. Naturally cautious, I paid it only a passing attention. By the third day, the effects of sleep deprivation showed themselves through increasing bouts of daydreaming. With increasing hesitancy, people places and things became invasions to my private inner world. I avoided going for coffee, calling friends, standing my ground and doing drugs with others, to name but a few. I tried to see it as self-protection, but with no one to protect me from my own self-defeating jabs, put-downs and self-loathing, I felt abandoned, hurt and lost. It was obvious I was lying to myself, but it was so subtle as to be almost invisible.

Seeing a connection between my increasing loss in functionality and what I’d learned in UBC’s Computer Programming classes, I tried to come up with a set of parameter-producing functions for the program called My Life. Yet, being messed up and the sheer complexity of trying to figure out all the variables was beyond my current capabilities. Humbled, I had no choice but to let go and hope they’d show themselves as needed. It was either that or end up with a fistful of dangling pointers.

In the meantime, I became far too available.  Lack of clean clothes and needing to be discreet about my doings made visiting friends a nightmare. To protect friends from my ready-to-explode bad feelings, I stayed away from them. Despite the pain, I slipped slowly away from the society I once knew into the unknown. I tried keeping busy taking long walks, reading, sitting at the beach, having coffee and formulating plans for my secret comeback. Yet all the while it felt empty and flavorless. Slowing down my social activities increased my exposure to the elements and my energy began to biofeedback. To compensate, I thought about using downers, but luckily it came and went. Better the devil I knew than the one I didn’t!

Not wanting to end up like those ‘crazies’ who asked, answered and debated to the exclusion of everyone else around them, I panicked. Changing geography wouldn’t change anything, so I tried the opposite by melting into the scenery on the beach. Imagine: pants, shirt, jacket and black leather shoes on a blistering hot sunny day! The mere thought of taking off any piece of clothing was akin to a soldier taking off his fatigues and admitting defeat. Worse it made me feel lecherous.

Turning to food (my saving grace when all else failed), I found the courage to buy a burger and fries from the Sunset Beach cafe. Surprisingly, my madness decreased when dealing with those paid to be of service. While not the healthiest means to mental stability, it was a start. In my true unappreciative ways, I cursed God for creating food, especially junk food that tired the body. Needing a way to counter the effects of eating, I developed a new plan: more jib meant less food meant less eating meant less time tired meant more time awake meant more time for me meant more time to find a place to live. It was a simple formula for a simple fool.


I knew it’d eventually catch up with me one day, but I was desperate and that day wasn’t today! Besides, I couldn’t sleep when anybody could do anything to me. At least high, awake and a mess, I’d be alert and/or scary enough looking to keep people away. Despite thankful for the protection being trapped between a rock and a hard place offered, I still looked forward to my long overdue crash. Until then I wouldn’t just be getting high and sunbathing, I’d also be getting a place to live, a job and getting my life back on track. But, as stated previously, knowing what to do and doing it were two different things. I didn’t even know where to begin let alone what was required of me.

Knowing it had nothing to do with the outside world, I paid particular attention to myself, my intentions and how smoking dope affected them. Intention: get a place to live. One hoot, nothing changed. Two, three, four hoots, nothing changed. Five, six, seven hoots, same thing, nothing apparently changed other than a slight head rush. Feeling confused, I got up to go for a walk. Then I saw it! As innocent as that walk appeared to be, it felt different. It was a diversion away from the original task of getting a place to live. Surprisingly, I didn’t even feel like getting a place anymore. It wasn’t a whim; I truly didn’t feel like it!

The thought was there, but felt disconnected from feeling. “Well, obviously Mike, you’re high. How can you look for a place when you’re high?” I chastised myself. What was obvious to most, was a breakthrough for me. More than that, my true feelings carried such incredible force and persuasion that not listening to them actually hurt no matter how I tried. Whether I was pleasurably avoiding responsibility or not, for once I just listened to my heart and went for a walk. Despite feeling ecstatic about finding the ‘here and now’ (something I’d been searching for most of my life) there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment for being irresponsible. If only I could feel ecstatic or any feeling besides fear about finding a place to live then maybe I could get on with living.


© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Varma and The Gong Show with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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