[02] The First Step by Anonymous

Catch-22

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The first step in harm reduction is asking, “Why do I want to use this drug?” The second step is much harder: It’s answering that question honestly. Some people use drugs for fun and pleasure. For others, drugs present a spiritual journey. Many don’t really know why they use drugs, or they never considered the question. In my opinion, this last group presents the greatest risk of harm to themselves.

Before I start to sound preachy and pious, I have to admit that I spent quite a few years firmly entrenched in this last category. I was less then ten years old when drugs were first introduced to me, and I did them mostly because they were there. After all, my older brother did them too. It was usually fun and pleasurable, but I continued to do them even when it wasn’t. I never really gave it any thought. It just seemed obvious. Drugs were “the thing to do”.

For much of my life, it was hard to imagine living without drugs. To be quite honest, the thought actually frightened me a great deal. It took me a long time to come to grips with this. In fact, I wasn’t aware that I even had this fear until later in my adult life. But in hindsight, this fear was always there. It was especially strong when that bag of weed dwindled to just a few bong hits, and it always drove me to go find the next bag of weed… whereupon it seemed to subside, at least temporarily. If you’ve ever experienced this end-of-the-bag sort of feeling, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

What was the real source of the anxiety? I was afraid of what life would be like without drugs. After all, drugs made life exciting. They made me feel quite “special”, and much more sophisticated than all the “normal” kids. However, I was also afraid that without drugs, life would be painfully boring. This fear was an unfounded one, as it turns out. In my mid-thirties, I’ve largely quit using drugs altogether. After more than twenty years of heavy drinking and drug use, I simply quit cold turkey.

For the past several years, my only drug use has involved the ritual use of entheogens, three or four times a year at most. That’s it! And amazingly, the world is more exciting than ever. While my career and life circumstances have put me under greater pressure and responsibility, I’m actually more satisfied, peaceful and content than I’ve ever been! In retrospect, it seems downright absurd that I was ever afraid to quit. And in fact, after two decades of dope smoking, I’ve actually come to the conclusion that I never really liked being stoned! It usually made me feel paranoid, and it was extraordinarily difficult to focus mentally. The main reason I kept smoking dope was that I was afraid to stop!!

So why did I ever start using drugs at all? Simply because they were offered to me, and I never stopped to ask “why”. If I had first asked myself “why should I use this drug”, I might have saved myself a great deal of money and time, because quite frankly, I can think of very few good reasons for drug use as a young person. Now, once you ask yourself that question, “Why am I using this drug?”, you need to be able to answer it honestly.

Let’s say you do it for fun. Is that really true? How often are you drinking so much that you regret it? Is it really fun to vomit or to suffer through a hangover? If this is happening to you regularly, you’re probably not really drinking for fun. You’re drinking to escape, or for some other reason, and you need to reassess your motives.

Do you do drugs for spiritual reasons? If the answer is “yes”, then ask yourself how spiritual you are when you’re not using drugs. If your motives are genuinely spiritual, you won’t confine spirituality to your drug use. If you frequently find yourself acting like an asshole when you’re sober, or you never think about spiritual matters when you’re not high, you ought to wonder why you’re really using drugs.

If you’re doing a drug simply because “it’s there”, you should also stop and wonder about yourself. Drugs are not mountains to be climbed. I hear a lot of people say they like to experience altered states just to see what it’s like, but I wonder if this makes sense. A lot of these people are reacting to a deep inner curiosity and desire for altered states. If that desire really stems from escapism, that’s a problem. So if your normal life is full of pain and problems, you should be very suspicious of yourself.

If it is genuinely a matter of curiosity, maybe that is OK, but then you need to assess how much it is costing you. Curiosity can be expensive, as many dead cats know. When it comes to the more dangerous drugs, curiosity simply isn’t worth it. If you find yourself doing them anyway, you probably have a hidden motive somewhere (see escapism). You might also ask whether your friends’ use of these drugs is putting pressure on you to do them, even subconsciously.

If you have a hard time using moderation, you need to be particularly skeptical about your motives. For example, excessive drug use is not conducive to spirituality, in my experience. Excessive drug use is also going way beyond curiosity. After all, you already know what it feels like, so why don’t you stop now? And while some may think excessive drug use is fun, it isn’t fun forever.

No matter what you think your motives are, I encourage you to periodically abstain from all drugs for some period of time, even if it is only for a few days. This will keep you honest, because if your real motives are actually unhealthy ones, the delusional nature of your rationalizations will become obvious. For example, anyone who says they do drugs for spiritual reasons should have no problem going without drugs for some time. If they can’t, they’re fooling themselves.

Also, if you have a good friend who has known you for some time, ask them why they think you use drugs. Sometimes others can see things about us that we can’t, especially in the fog of unhealthy drug use. I encourage you to take this process seriously. If you must, sit down with a piece of paper and a pen, write down each drug you do, and then write down the reasons why you do each drug. Put some thought into it and search your soul as best you can. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself.
 

Catch-22

Bluelighter
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Reminder: I am posting this essay on behalf of someone else. Whether you want to agree or disagree, please put your thoughts in this thread. Do not send me PM's or emails unless you are contributing a new essay of your own. Thanks!
 

Shimmer.Fade

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Wow...what category i am under i don't know. I would say a combination of curiosity and the fact that they are there. I am faded as i write this and i wonder why exactly i do the things that i do as they hurt me. It is a good question, and the funny thing as i can answer it honestly. However, the problem is that i feel so much better with drugs..
Edit..Also, i think this is a very good post and really identifies with many of the people who do drugs.
 

Si Dread

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That was absolutely superb, an excellent read!!

But y'know there really are people out there for whom recreational drug use is, far from being harmful, truly, deeply beneficial to their existance. I'm one of these.

I never took anything until 19 years of age, and I only smoked that spliff after weeks and weeks of thought and investigation. I had a phenomanal personal experience the first time I ever got properly stoned, an experience that shaped my life and made me (to a fair degree) what I'm proud to be today.

I went on to take LSD, ecstacy, magic mushrooms, amphetamines and cocaine through the same careful, thoughtful, investigative process. I've never used a drug irresponsibly and I've always gained personal insight whether I've enjoyed a drug experience or not.

I'm a regular marijuana smoker, but rarely more than a spliff or two a day. I do not smoke tobacco in any shape or form. I rarely drink. I use shrooms a half dozen times a year, maybe one or two E's in that time as well. So far I have noticed no negative physical or mental effects from my drug use... I'm 35 years old!

Just goes to show ya! :)
 

Morrison's Lament

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Excellent read, well written!

However, I would have liked to see at least a mention of those that don't actually fool themselves at all - but simply hate themselves and want the drugs to either take the pain away or kill them. Or both.

I guess escapism is a hidden motive for a lot of people - but for many of us it is clearly and openly the main reason for our drug abuse. Not everyone is in denial, even if they are junkies ;)

--- G.
 

ChronicSceptic

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You forgot perhaps the most seedy and perhaps worst category, which I also happen to be a part of. The "I need this shit to help me get laid" category.

ahem.

There I said it.
 

Blowmonkey

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Catch-22 said:
I hear a lot of people say they like to experience altered states just to see what it’s like, but I wonder if this makes sense. A lot of these people are reacting to a deep inner curiosity and desire for altered states. If that desire really stems from escapism, that’s a problem. So if your normal life is full of pain and problems, you should be very suspicious of yourself.
This curiosity doesn't have to stem form "escapism", people have been using drugs since the beginning of time.. It's a perfectly natural thing to have interests, I'm interested in (especially psychedelics) them because of what they show me and do for me. I benefit from these experiences and yes my life is often full of pain and problems, especially in these times it can be quite beneficial to have such an (psychedelic) experience. Don't get me wrong, I could also go without during these times (which I often do), but taking a (psychedelic) drug let's you reach certain states where it's so much easier to understand everything, what can and should help you in your daily life. Drugs are not bad if you have respect for them and handle them that way..
 

PuristLove

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Great Essay. Glad to see it looks like this project is getting off the ground.
 

ayjay

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Interesting essay - but from my perspective seems to be about the final steps in harm reduction, bot the first. Those first steps in reducing the harms of your drug use are about knowing your drugs, knowing your limits, and taking drugs in the right time and place. You don't really have to know why you are getting wasted to reduce the harms associated with that wastedness. Now, if this was an essay on personal growth, then I could agree that self-inspection was very important...
 

xXTOKERXx

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Truly interesting and very well written....

the funny thing is that i use these drugs for ALL of those reasons...

sometimes a spliff helps calm me down, helps me forget (escape) from problems in life - and this may sound lame, but pot helped me through my depression period which was a few years. i forgot all my worries, and my fears and continued with life, although i still was a raving lunatic without pot id would have been in a MUCH worse situation, it also helped me move out of my depression.

MDMA altered my mind state and removed me from my depression, it only did that the first time i used it, it altered my perspective, and thats why I am so thankful to MDMA and treat it with respect.

i used drugs for fun too, made me more socialible, joyful, light hearted, but it also did the opposite.

the spiritural one is debatable, to me i seek altered mind states to see what could be there after death, death isn't a fear to me, but not something i want to experience to soon!

drugs help me see other truths in life, but they also stop me from believing certain things.

drugs to me = experiences, experiences are everything, how can you have lived without experiences. Some people seek stardom, some people seek money, and some just seek happiness.

i seek happiness and drugs are helping me to find my way. I treat them with respect, i dis-respected pot and that turned my life upside down, for the better at the end of it, but a lesson well learnt!

drugs arnt for everyone, and many do not understand the concept of free-living, they prefer to "get fucked up".

i will admit, there have been the times where i have drank my self silly, smoked too much etc. but there all valuable lessons.

i respected the writers comments, they are amazingly well written and couldn't agree more.

back to the altered state business, although i believe this is one of the most "dangerous" ways about drugs its also the most "acceptable" way in my eyes, the altered state and spiritual interlink in my way of thinking and thats why i do drugs....

to seek what is out there, to learn interesting facts about others and my self.

harm reduction is all about the following:

knowing thy body mind and soul.
moderating.
being sensible.

now these arnt rules, but they are very important factors, drugs harm you WE ALL SHOULD KNOW THAT.

drugs are a tool, use them wisely and you will gain wisdom, use them recklessly and you will cause harm to you and others around you.

be safe ppl!

------
edit - spell check
 

nick44

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This is a good essay that is written in a way that will not cause the random drug user to dismiss it out of hand. And I like the fact that it doesn't pull any punches.

But...

It seems that there is an implicit conclusion in the essay. That your life is better off without drugs. Drugs are seen as "outside" one's own life. I just don't see why that has to be the case. Value judgments are being made here.

You see - the problem I have when people try to elucidate arguments on whether drugs are good or bad is that they can only speak about their experiences. Yes, drugs can "ruin" your life. But in truth, the only person who can make a decision on whether your life is ruined - is yourself.

No one can really say why a person does anything - and putting people in groups that delineate why they use them is not really fair. It's oversimplification that is bolstered by people trying to identify with what they believe to be a large group of similar people. It's reflexive - trying to put yourself in a group.

All in all - it depends on what you want out of life whether drugs are right for you. The only reason I am posting this, is that while the essay is reasonably good, it does come off as condescending. If I can come up with a legitimate reason for using drugs, it seems to imply (not state) that I am fooling myself. Why is that? Well, maybe because the author tends to think he/she was fooling themself in the past.
 

punktuality

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Some excellent points in the essay. But i do have to agree it seems to lean towards the "drugs are bad" and "you dont really need them" approach.......... while this is better than the "drugs will kill you!" approach taken by the media it still has its shortcomings.

When i started taking drugs it was largely out of curiosity and peer presure... yet that developed later into a spiritual reason. The only drugs i really take anymore are psychadelics (mainly lsd) because they are of an inherant value in experiencing the world. What I have gained (and continue) to gain out of psychadelics is a greater understanding of the world and the people around me.... and most of this is achieved while in sober states. lsd just acts as a catalyst to get your mind thinking in ways it would not normally think.... the rest is done by my mind when sober.

I can see a day (maybe soon) where I wont need or want to take them any more.... and that is fine.... i know the world is amazing without drugs... but the drugs helped me realize this and so for me they had a definate benefit.

so while i perhaps did start drugs as escapism or out of stupid curiosity, it is drugs themselves that have helped me realise in a positive way that i dont need them... quite ironic.
 

TiTTy

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Interesting essay got me thinking about why I use.

I have to agree with xXTOKERXx about using for all of those mentioned reasons however I'm starting to wonder more and more if I'm using to escape- but i dont know what from. :\
 

xXTOKERXx

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your job not what you want???

havent furfilled something you wanted too???

had any emotional upsets???

anything bothering you? something you may shrug off but if you think about it more you realise your more bothered than you first thought??

it can be something minor, or major, or could be nothing, personally i take drugs, why? cause i enjoy them.
 

TiTTy

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My first intention when I take a drug is for a new experience and also curiosity. I am interested in how drugs can affect a persons mind in different ways and how this affects their outlook on life. I guess I repeat using them because i like the effects and it’s fun or mindblowing (salvia, LSD and dxm).

I sometimes catch the self distructive side of me thinking if I just take a bit more I could completely fuck myself over and not have to deal with anything. I think this is when escapism could be my reason of use- however the realistic side of me usually talks myself out of it because if I do use to escape I usually loose self control and make a fool of myself- making real life more difficult in the morning. What I find interesting is I usually use alcohol as my drug of choice when I want to escape.

xXTOKERXx, There are a lot of things in mylife I want to escape from but I know it is not realistic using drugs as the escape. I guess I’m walking a fine line with my choices but you get that.
 

ebeneezer_geeza

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interesting and true to a point. i'd just like to add a few other reasons - some i know have been said, but i think i terms of hard drug use these are repetitive themes:

1. Confidence - to bolster lowered self esteem
2. Boredom - to escape the tedium of a non-fulfilled life
3. To stop the pain of a painful past and present
4. To aid depression
5. Undiagnosed mental problem ranging from ADD - Bipolar - Schizophrenia
interestingly category 5 accounts for 50% of the UK addiction services clientel.

u may not always know which category(s) if any you will fall into unless you try and quit and give it at least a year of being clean - then you may truely know.
 
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banksy

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It seems to me that your post is more fitting to moderation management and spiritual management and not harm reduction which usually relates more to a reduction in health difficulties such as blood borne viruses, user discrimination and the challenging of poor practises and provisions.
 
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