On cocaine

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, I bet I could have even offered him a 9 panel drug test for proof and he might still think there was something.

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 just knew that if I did I’d lose control and end up in an Addiction Recovery Centre, and while we are lucky that these exist, it would include a journey of self-discovery that I did not want to go on.

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. I let them know they can get help from arcproject.org.uk if they want it, but that’s all.

I just wish that those who do wish to proceed with taking drugs, for whatever purpose, do so in as safe a manner as possible as, while there are implicit dangers of taking them, there are still ways to lower some of the risks to one’s health. Take LSD for example. Many dealers act in bad faith and lace their products with all kinds of questionable substances and their ‘customers’ are none the wiser – that is unless they use something like an LSD test kit. This way they can identify these substances to assess their purity allowing them to make more of an informed decision on the safety of the product. But I digress…

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.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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16 Responses

  1. emme says:

    It’s because you’re not STUPID. You’ve been around long enough to have seen how cocaine can chew someone up and spit them out. You’ve seen people lose cars, jobs, marriages, homes without ever seeing it coming. You may be self loathing. You may like to eat crayons. But you’re not stupid, Otis.


  2. G-Rob says:

    Once a person starts enjoying cocaine they only QUIT for good once they’ve bottomed out.

    The only way to avoid the bottom is to not start at all.

    Wherever you find yourself, be glad it isn’t the bottom.

  3. KenP says:

    Well, I’m 69. Been a long time since I could hold up fingers to give away my age. You have one of those and one on the way. That may seem daunting to you at this moment. I can see why. But, it is happening and fortunately with two people who can handle that well.

    As your senior, my life failed to cure cancer or perform acts worthy of statues. Along the way I have had doubt and angst that would make, even you, (jopke) seem sane. I am in the majority and the minority are outliers. Your only real flaw is thinking what’s going on is demeaning or points to your supposedly massive flaws somehow.

    So, many look for a chemical solution. I share your fear of addiction. I tended, like you, to go overboard in pursuit of things. Hobbies have come and gone but were intense along the way. We’d make horrid drug users and poor candidates for going clean.

    In the pecking order, you are one that many to most will envy. Seeing that the best of us are about as impressive as those shy, Norwegian farmers from Lake Wobegon, we only brag late at night in bad environs. We don’t believe it about ourselves. Chemicals never improve that but they are great at masking.

    Don’t sweat it. Everybody get one, free, mid-life crisis. Chako’s also blogging his. I had mine long before blogs. Too bad you two aren’t closer. You could go halvies on a Ferrari.

  4. FiberDeviant says:

    keep reminding yourself… i think that it is true that lots of people think about using… life can be incredibly hard to navigate… but i think that you realize in the end, that giving control of your life over to addiction is not the right choice… not for you… not for your family.

    best wishes.

  5. Pauly says:

    Have you tried getting high on Christ?

  6. emme says:

    Pauly- you, as always, crack me up!

  7. change100 says:

    Screw cocaine. Adderall is where it’s at. How do you think Hollywood stays thin and parties all night?

  8. Betty says:

    “If I do, I won’t stop.” I think I’ve uttered those words before myself.

  9. otis says:

    Thanks to the above folks for not calling me out (publicly anyway) on my self-indulgent early morning…whatever it was.

  10. Average White Boy says:

    Hey, is now a good time to confess that I’ve always felt intellectually inadequate in your presence? Nothing makes me feel better than when others feel inferior around me.

  11. Average White Boy says:

    Oh yeah… and don’t do drugs.

  12. Dr. Chako says:

    Hey KenP – the Ferrari thing is mine. I doubt Brad’s crisis would be satisfied the same way.

    I do have a solution, however. You need a near-death experience! Nothing will reset your priorities faster.

    How ’bout it? You and me. Barcelona. Running. Bulls.

    What do you say?


  13. T says:

    Adderall is where it’s at. Yeah, try that. It won’t hurt ya.

  14. Dr. Chako says:

    FYI – I woke up this morning thinking, “Pamplona, you idiot!”



  15. Da Goddess says:

    “If I do, I won’t stop.” That should have been my six-word biography. I’m easily caught up in that which makes things SEEM easier. But I have too much going on with my kids to ever want or need that particular monkey on my back. Besides, it’d really ruin my Percocet mellow. (I have doctor’s note. I’m bona fide)

  1. April 10, 2009

    […] Deb had that PROMPTuesday dealio with the whole six-word biography terror going on this week. And it just dawned on me what my real bio should say. Of course, I had to steal it from Otis over at RER, but who’s really original anymore? So I paraphrase: […]