A couple of years ago, a friend of mine mentioned something about how many writers snorted coke.
My friend is a writer and he had a good point. Cocaine lets you work forever and believe everything you write is poetry. You can believe that even if people don’t get you, you’re doing the work you’re supposed to do. You can become the infinite number of monkeys on the infinite number of typewriters. The allure goes beyond being a party king. It’s creative fuel. For a writer, a creative bump is the equivalent of an orgasm.
A writer’s Achilles’ heel is confidence. He cannot write without it. If he manages to finish something in spite of his fear, he can barely bear to let anyone else see it. Potential failure is a dabilitatiing force. It’s easier to fail in one’s own mind than fail in public. At least if it’s in private, only one person knows how bad you really are. And this is not the only reason writers turn to speed. Some successful novelists depend on blow because they have to produce. Once you start up the hill to stardom, you can’t let off the gas. If you do, the roll back into the muck can happen a lot faster than the climb to the summit.
It’s not much of a secret that I hate myself. Pretty much always have. No real reason why that I’ve been able to figure out. Had a great childhood. Never really endured much in the way of emotional trauma. Have always had a loving family and great friends. In fact, I spent a good long while hating myself because I had no real reason to feel as bad about myself as I usually do. It was the postmodern version of survivor guilt. Suburban kid grows up in a good family, seemingly makes good, and raises a family of his own. He does it all despite a pretty serious sense of self-loathing.
Among my closest friends, my sense of self-worth has almost become an Inside Baseball joke. Five or six years ago, it was not uncommon for me to sit in an underground bar with one of my best friends and ask, “What are we doing?” It was generally understood that I wasn’t asking so much for his benefit as my own. How, I wondered, could I be doing the world, my family, or myself any good doing what I was at the time and for the money I was getting paid?
My life changed in 2005. I abandoned what I had come to think of as my calling and set out in search of myself. This new career of mine was a vehicle and one that would take me far and wide on a quest to be something different, something better, something meaningful. It opened my eyes to a different world, one the was on the fringe of polite society and that…almost…operated with a sense of legitimacy. Before too long, I was neck-deep in a society that lived from noon to sunrise and only slept if sheer exhaustion finally set in.
In 2006, I came home from an extended work trip. I weighed less than I ever have. I walked up to a downtown festival and from across the lawn another friend said, “There’s Brad. I’d recognize that gaunt frame anywhere.” I didn’t realize at the time that this friend thought I was septum-deep in cocaine.
It was a reasonable assumption. I live in a world where people don’t sleep, and if they do, it’s going to cost them money. I live a decent percentage of my working life in Las Vegas, where, as the ads say, what happens stays there. To survive in my business–that which happens in gambler’s towns and requires way too much confidence–one has to have something pushing them along. Otherwise, a guy could just lose his damned mind, or, in a ideal situation, just die before it gets too bad.
What the friend still has a hard time believing is that I have managed to keep myself coke-free through all of it. It’s not because it wasn’t available. And, I’ll be honest–it’s not because I didn’t want to. I did, and so badly on some nights and mornings that it took every ounce of will power not to.
I’m an idiot. That much has been established time and again. Sometimes I even startle myself with how bad my decision-making can be. What’s nearly as surprising to me is that I haven’t yet turned to coke. For a guy like me–low on confidence and seeking every possible adrenaline rush—it would seem natural.
I think it probably goes without saying that I don’t have any real moral aversion to drugs in general. What a person does with and to his body is a personal choice and I’m the last person to be throwing any stones. After all, I ate crayons for money. What’s more, I have both friends and family who are recreational drug users and hard core addicts. I love them all (well, most of them anyway) and am not about to judge.
This all seems like I was on my way to some overwrought confession that ends with me saying, “Hi, I’m Brad, and I’m a drug addict.” It’s nearly self-indulgent and navel-gazing enough to make me just delete it all and write something about going gray or feeling arthritic. I won’t, though, because, even if it’s only for my benefit, this exercise in mental masturbation has been a little cathartic. I’m fortunate enough to not be a drug addict and there’s a good reason for that.
So, why do I sit down at 4:30 in the morning to write such tripe? It’s largely because I’m exhausted. The sun is going to come up (again) and I want little more than to just sleep for a week. I’ve felt like this before and many of those times I’ve thought, “One little bump would get me through until am finished.”
Indeed, I know countless people who work harder, longer, and more productively than I do. I’m nothing special. I’m just one tired guy in sea of worn out folks. I can’t help but wonder how many people feel the same way or worse.
I’ve been asked more than a few times why I don’t use cocaine. My answer is always the same:
If I do, I will never stop.
And really, that’s why I write this morning. Sometimes I need to remind myself.