The Sinister Sweetness

Early April nights were cool on the street where I grew up. I was content living there again, despite the lonely detention that kept the tumbleweed of my nature snagged on the barbed wire fence of full time employment. I frowned at the orange glow rising above the Bay Area which smudged away the stars. A million red and yellow lights twinkled below like a festering wound on the skin of the Earth. The moon, however, wouldn’t be so easily spurned. It shined through with a pure white radiance in defiance of the ugly light pollution.

I spent many of those nights in quiet solitude listening to owls hooting from telephone poles, watching oaks bathe in fog. In those moments, the street was all mine. And it felt like the world lay before me, waiting for the day I’d be free again.

To ease the burden of the daily grind, like so many, I dulled with drugs. Sweet ganja was my panacea of choice. Meticulously grinding up, building a crutch, and rolling a joint became a ritual. I drank the sweet smoke outside beneath the night sky, and for a brief period I felt lion hearted and powerful. The bleak lifestyle almost seemed enlivened.

Smoking was to me a sigh of relief at the end of the day. It began as a weekly act of relaxation, but slowly crept up in frequency until it was a daily necessity of pure habit. I recognized this even at the time when the draws no longer satisfied. The joints got bigger, the breathes held longer, but the highs were flat. And still I continued to smoke. Smoking became my vice, my addiction, and its tangled vines would extend deeper into my psyche, sap more of my motivation, than I would have knowingly assented to. So it goes.

And that’s how it is with addiction. Addiction is sinister by its sweetness, not because the acts done satisfying it are sinful, injurious, or unhealthy. Addiction creates a massive cognitive dissonance into which the vows of escape futilely plunge. Addiction is a tar pit that swallows up the resolve to change.

My addiction stole from me my writing. It became more important to satisfy the craving for a joint than it was meeting a deadline for a blog post. It wrapped itself around the time and place I was in. It attached itself to my routine.

Overcoming addiction, any addiction, is a matter of maintaining a self aware frame of mind. That way, we can transcend momentary yearnings, and act for longer term benefit. Vows of self denial are meaningless in the cold moments between cravings. When not self aware, we become impulsive, revert to habit, and give creedence to momentary desires, believing them to be urgent and their satisfaction necessary. In those moments I had to abandon myself, distrust myself, disregard the whole nature of my being which told me that smoking was the route to contentedness.

It goes back to the fluxing nature of our consciousness. In one moment we admonish ourselves for giving in to an addiction, and in another we willing assent to it. This is insanity within the paradigm of identity. Under a more objective paradigm of consciousness, wherein you view yourself as a constantly shifting entity, it makes sense that you’d view a certain vice differently at two different points in time.

Once you can admit your own susceptibility to the influences of your environment and routine, you can begin to strengthen the skills needed to resist those influences.

I’d like to write that with such skills I crushed my addiction. But I didn’t. It wasn’t until my environment changed that I escaped the tense cycle of temptation, satisfaction, and self reproach. I believe the reason was that at the end of a long day of enervating work, the energy needed to activate the self regulating part of my brain was simply absent. I was too weak, and that particular addiction was too strong. In those days smoking was my one outlet, and it didn’t matter how stale the high, I wasn’t going to deny myself.

And now here I am writing these words with a cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine coursing through my veins. I can feel the elated boost of creative confidence aiding my production. I already recognize the sprouts of a new addiction. I feel happier. I feel more sociable. And I’m worried about that. I must be careful not to let myself identify too strongly with this caffeinated state, lest it become a need. Time will reveal how it goes.

Are humans doomed then to hop from one addiction to another? I suppose I need food and water to sustain my body. I need some chemical input to function. Coffee, nicotine, THC, sugar, alcohol; these are only different forms of such substances. These are merely discrete shades on the infinitely nuanced palate of consciousness. These days my consciousness resembles coffee brown, tinted a hue of nicotine grey, and flecked with sugar white. Rather ugly when put that way, but not bad to live with for the time being.

Ultimately it comes down to choice and responsibility. If you’re satisfied with living with a brain that is only comfortable under the narcotic of caffeine, sugar, THC, or even heroine, then so be it. With the accepted consequences of such an existence, who is anyone to judge? But for me, there’s something appealing about the purity of sobreity. I want to maintain that baseline, and only add the seasoning of altered states as I see fit.

Thank you for reading.

-C

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