Addicts and the people around them have different versions of the story of the addict’s life and role of drugs or compulsive behaviours in the addict’s life.
All human beings live their lives from their own place, and we are automatically self-centered. We tend to overrate our abilities and our importance in the real objective world. We also tend to see ourselves as victims of impersonal and personal forces, although we also see ourselves as good and powerful at times. Sometimes we are in fact thrown about by forces beyond our power. The world is chaotic, and we are at the mercy of sudden natural catastrophe, disease, war, crime, and betrayal. Being self-centered and creative, we can blame our disappointments and failings on outside powers – real and imagined.
We think we know ourselves and our stories, and that we can communicate well, but we tend to overrate our abilities in that area too. Our perceptions, memory and presentation are limited by our skills and powers, coloured by emotion, and twisted by our self-serving personal agendas. The language we use is flexible and we have trouble telling the stories of our lives accurately, clearly and truthfully. Most people’s stories of their lives and their place in the world have true elements, mistakes, metaphors and myths, a lot of white lies and bullshit, and few big lies.
An addict’s story always has a few big lies. The addict feels that there is a good explanation for the addiction – he needs to deal with boredom, pressure, pain, anxiety or stress. He may feel that his addiction is socially acceptable, or he may feel that society is judging him harshly. He may feel that he can stop when he wants, or he may believe that he could stop if he could find other relief from his bad feelings about his life and the people in his life. He may feel that he can’t stop, or he may feel that he shouldn’t stop because life might otherwise be too boring.
During the spring and summer of 2003, n. was using drugs heavily but he was lying about it. My wife and I were putting pressure on him to go back to school or to get a job for the summer. He preferred to spend his time playing video games, and surfing the Internet. He liked to download cartoons, porn and metal. He liked movies with drug themes, particularly “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“. Since he ran away, he has consistently said that he had used drugs and run away because his life was too boring, and that adults – parents and teachers – were putting too much pressure on him and trying to control his life.
Hunter S. Thompson, journalist and writer, author of the book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” died on Sunday (February 20, 2005). He wrote about his own drug abuse. It’s hard to judge if he was an addict. He embraced the counterculture. His portrayal of American politics, advertising, and the Nixon presidency (“Where the Buffalo Roam”) was bleak. His attacks on conservative politicians and American business were blistering. His writing about Vegas was savage. For many people a trip to Vegas is a happy, mildly hedonistic experience pampering themselves with sunshine, leisure, massages, facials, golf, food, drink, gambling, entertainment. His judgment was that Vegas was so boring and banal that it was terrifying, and that a sane person could only experience Vegas with the benefit of mood-altering drugs.
Thompson’s vision of Vegas as a city devoted the cynical exploitation of people’s carefully conditioned idea of a good time indicts the sellers and the buyers – the hotels, casinos, bars, travel agents, the whole American corporate media, and the consuming public – equally. From my perspective his story about his own use of drugs during that trip was an interesting story-telling device and a bit of personal performance art.
His story of Vegas is a polemic, parable, a literary device, a story which a reasonable adult will accept as poetically true, but not literally true. Unfortunately, his story can also be taken as a literal, rather than literary, relevation of the fact that life without drugs sucks. I don’t know if n. picked up that baggage from “Fear and Loathing” or from other influences but he wove it into the fabric of his own story.
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