I scored a big batch of Oxycontin not too long ago, and I have to say, I liked it a lot. It soothed me, and for the first time in my entire life, I truly felt pain free — physically and emotionally. Even though I know it can be dangerous, I’ve honestly not seen any drawbacks so far — I just finally felt good. The thing is, now I don’t have anymore pills, and all I can think about is taking the next step: heroin. I’ve just lost my job and don’t have a girlfriend or any close family, so I don’t really have any responsibilities. But I’ve got enough money saved up to survive and just want the world fade away for a while. I want to go away from everything. Should I?
– High Right Now
Dear High Right Now,
Why do some people go all the way into oblivion and give up on “regular” life? Why do other people never seem to even consider giving up? I think wanting to find a way out of life is a completely understandable desire. And in many ways, the entire human struggle is centered around finding a way out of suffering. Why do we keep on striving every day forever? What are we hoping to find? Why is it so hard just to get by, let alone to thrive? It takes an untiring commitment to the belief that if we keep trying to succeed, someday everything will be perfect and we’ll finally be truly happy.
Does that perfect happiness exist? And even if it does, what’s the point of getting to that state if 99% of our time is spent struggling to find it? There might not be any point to anything at all, so why not remove oneself from the entire process and just focus on feeling as good as possible right now? Why do we feel we must participate in this version of life, with all its efforts, jobs, drama, and social interaction? Who invented this version of the world? And is it really the best way to live? Did we really agree to it? Or were we forced into it? Who taught us how to live like this? And who taught them? Why bother trying to be a good person? Why not just opt out of the whole system and embrace the oblivion that we’ll all face eventually?
Becoming a drug addict can be a perfectly reasonable reaction to the incredibly exhausting project called “being alive.” We must do our best to remember how close each of us is to the edge of oblivion at any moment, and not be too quick to judge the person who chooses to take another path to get there. The easy way out is often the hardest way, and there is something strangely heroic about the person who chooses to venture into the no-man’s-land beyond the trappings of “day-to-day life.” Who are these people who fling themselves into the abyss, and then try to exist there?
The drug addict, the homeless person, the hermit, the ascetic — the deviants both frighten us and fascinate us. As easy as it can be to see them as weak or crazy, we also sense some sort of courage in their decision to not live like the rest of us. Most frightening of all, perhaps we can relate to it — perhaps we fantasize about it only to shove the thought back into the darkest parts of our mind. The amount of effort it takes to live is undeniable. We must have more compassion for those people who choose to live in another way. Their life choices shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a negative judgement of our own lifestyle. Society doesn’t like people who don’t participate in society because it makes us think of jumping ship too. We should never feel that we’re “better than” people who use drugs. The terrifying truth is that no one is ever really better than anyone, just different.
So, should you become a heroin user? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t think less of you if you did. And that scares me, and I hope it scares you too. One of my best friends who did heroin said he realized “humans aren’t meant to feel that good.” There are many paths that lead to many outcomes, and it all depends on what your ultimate goals are. If your goal is to achieve a bunch of “accomplishments” and “succeed,” then becoming a full-blown drug addict might not be the best path. If your goal is to avoid pain by whatever means necessary, then becoming a full-blown drug addict might be the right path, at least for a while.
But always remember: the pain that comes from being alive is also what makes pleasure feel good, so we need that contrast in order to feel either. If all we felt was pleasure, then that pleasure would soon become pain. It’s a law of nature that one can’t exist without the other. The true scam is believing that there ever will be a perfect way to live. So you have to be careful which version of the scam you choose to believe. It’s like someone always looking for the perfect way to win at roulette. The odds are always the same, no matter how many times the ball lands on black. And despite what many people believe, it’s OK to not feel good all the time. No one knows what’s really going on. Everything is neither true nor false, except that everything is neither true nor false… or maybe not. Try to stay in that state of mind, and the pain and pleasure will just be another aspect of this absurd and perplexing party called “life” — it’s the best party we can have — it’s the party of not being dead.
Stay strong and live it up, my friend.”
– Andrew W.K.