Birthday Present

Waiting for him to answer, I rehearsed my grand entrance. Then I knocked – again. There was no answer again. Pushing annoyance aside, I gave him the benefit of the doubt for being on the phone, in the washroom or some other trivial human activity. Not wanting to appear too desperate, I knocked a little louder. Then cautiously I pressed my ear to the door and listened, struggling to not let my imagination get the better of me. The walls closed in around me; the dark, musty smelling hallway lengthened. Not liking to be made a fool of, I took a deep breath and knocked more forcefully. Fed up, I motioned to leave. The door swung open as if the required price of admission had been reached.

Any notions of being unwelcome evaporated with Zack’s warm greeting. I smiled and entered cautiously. In the living room a pungent, bitter odor forced me to gag. Confused by Zack’s lack of concern, a quick scan revealed a room full of strangers and worsened my social anxiety. To stay grounded, I pierced the eyes of one of the guests only to be met by anxiety worse than my own. I had no choice but to back off and keep his secret safe.

The others sat uncharacteristically quiet (considering it was a birthday party) around a large overburdened coffee table. The shadow dance from candle flame cast the room in a tribal high. A glass pipe, almost hidden except for its inherent property of reflection became a nucleus to escapist desires and called to me in a siren-like manner. My gut instinct told me to leave, but my ever-curious mind reasoned away such behavior as rude, impulsive and weak. I recomposed myself, greeted everyone and sat down. “Who died?” I asked laughingly in a vain attempt to hide my nervousness, but Zack’s piercing, bespectacled look and everyone’s non-rebuttal amplified my social faux pas. No, the only thing that appeared dead was any expectation of normalcy. I shut up and became the observer.

Conversation (if indeed it could be called that) was devoid of any recognizable topic. Instead, rapid volleys of crosstalk splayed the room in a machine gun like manner, highlighting themes of evasiveness, non-agreement and non-capture. I tried to join in, but our wavelengths were too out of sync. They weren’t doing it on purpose, they were jonesing. So, they were high, after all. I smiled, relieved I’d sussed them out, but confused I actually cared as much as I did. Now with the upper hand, I pityingly mocked those poor bastards for the song and dance they were still putting themselves through. When would they ever learn? With a sigh, I sat down comforted in the knowledge I’d just come from NA!

While waiting for them to begin, a convoluted mixture of anger, rejection, even impudence arose that they might be waiting for me to leave. But I wasn’t about to leave because of anyone else or their drug habit. I was worth more than that! I dug in my heels and curtseyed a smile. Zack took one last look into my eyes, shrugged his shoulders and reached for the pipe. I beamed in satisfaction. I was right! I was right!

While the pipe was readied, they sprang back to life much like an orchestra warming up before the main act. Conversation (yes conversation) began, but centered on the need to get high and being agreeable in order to do so. Beneath the veils of superficiality it was easy to see who’d paid for the drugs and who hadn’t!

The ordinary living room became an incense-burning temple of worship to the gods of escapist desires. A thousand thoughts and feelings stormed within, but I didn’t want to interrupt their performance or put the spotlight on me. The pipe passed by me. Indignant they didn’t offer me any, I asked myself why I should be shocked when I wasn’t doing drugs? ‘It doesn’t matter; they could’ve asked. I would’ve said no. They didn’t even give me the chance!’ ‘To say no to something you’re not going to do?’ ‘This isn’t about that’ ‘Really?’ ‘I’m a somebody; I’ve got money; I can buy drugs if I want to. I deserve to be seen and not discounted so easily.’ ‘But we’re not doing drugs anymore, remember.’ ‘Oh yeah, but that’s not the point. Who are they to reject me?’

“What are you smoking?” I queried Zack, changing tactics by trying to fit in. “Crystal,” Zack shot out. “Oh, I didn’t know you could smoke it. Looks interesting. I did crystal once….” Rehashing old drug stories was pure manipulative pleasing. An ex-roommate once told me: ‘tell people what they want to hear, the way they want to hear it, to get the results that you want’. At first, I hated it – it was manipulation laid bare. Worse, it was me laid bare to the core. It was how I got what I wanted; how I pleased; how I got high.

When someone blurted out that it was good for quitting cocaine and crack, my ears perked up. I sarcastically asked if treatment centers used it in their programs. Then joked in my best salesman-like voice ‘new and improved crystal won’t get you addicted like cocaine or crack. No, it’s all the high without the die.’ Had they been talking about me behind my back or was he just giving innocent advice? Whatever the case, the notion of quitting cocaine for good was too intriguing for me to just ignore. I knew it was substitution, but maybe I could quit the crystal before it got a hold of me? Besides, with the night I was having I downright deserved a reward and succeeding in such an ironic way sounded just insane enough to work! As long as I kept my eye on the final outcome of not doing drugs anymore, it could work for me!

I knew how tricky and devious addictive thinking was. NA didn’t have all the answers, so I had to try something. I guess I hadn’t really been trying to quit, so it didn’t matter either way if I tried it or not. I could and would quit tomorrow or any other day for that matter when I’d be stronger, cleaner and more able. And it was Zack’s birthday and I wanted to celebrate it with him. What was wrong with that? They were all excuses and I knew it, but in that moment I was as truthful as I’d ever been – I just didn’t want to stay quit.

Enthralled, the pipe continued to be passed around. One by one they offered themselves up to the gods of the higher realms. I fed on their energies empathically and surfed new dimensional gateways. Away from my center, the pipe came back to me. This time I knew exactly what to do. I reached out and took it.

Awestruck, I entered a ceremonial rite of passage on how to first melt it, vaporize it, inhale it, and then exhale it before it could settle on my lungs and do irreparable damage. Wow, it was so ritualistic and, well, so laced with danger that I couldn’t not like it! Zack chastised me for charring the bottom of the pipe and reached out to reclaim it, but I laughed scornfully and held on tightly. Having come so far, I had no intention of giving in so easily and offered an apologetic bullet.  Lighting up again I got it right, very right.

The crystal melted and in an instant was gone. Shocked, their laughter only made me want to perform better, much better. Smoke twirled like miniature cloud formations within the pipe’s semi-sealed biosphere. Transfixed, I inhaled. A slight warm tingly sensation flooded the senses satiating my mind. A gross taste stung the back of my throat, almost making me gag. It had the same bitterness as what I’d smelled earlier. I took another hoot. A wave of energy surged through my being causing my mind, emotions and physicality to surrender and calm. Another … another.

O – o – – o – o – o – h – h – h – h – m – m – m – m…

I sat staring into space as waves of energy permeated every fiber of my being. As resistance melted away, higher levels of consciousness revealed themselves as monuments to my evolutionary potential. I was reborn.

I didn’t know what I’d been thinking. I could’ve skipped NA and saved myself a night full of misery. ‘Mike, look at yourself,’ a voice bulleted home the harsh reality, but it was way too late. Guilt and remorse at what I’d let slip through my fingers yet again, shot through me with such intensity I almost dropped the pipe. Stern faces greeted me, but I knew there was no concern for me or my psychodramas. No, their concerns were entirely selfish. I passed the pipe along albeit hesitantly.

Inside I felt good, real good, but I didn’t know how I could feel so good after doing something so bad. I checked and rechecked, but my good feelings felt just as genuine as my bad ones. But how could I feel both good and bad at the same time? Which was the right one? Intensely high, confused and vulnerable, it felt good to be on familiar ground again. Through the mounting guilt, I reinvented my recovery plan based on the ‘Just for today’ principle of NA itself! I could shelve everything I’d ever learned in treatment and NA and start again tomorrow. ‘Just for today’ there was no use in crying over spilled milk. ‘Just for today’ I could use denial to deal with the pain. ‘Just For today’ I didn’t give a shit! I was amazed at how well it actually worked and even managed a smile on my highway to euphoria. Oh yes, I was an addict – again.

© 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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