The first time that I heard somebody use the term "chasing the dragon," I was confused. I was watching a movie called From Hell, where Johnny Depp plays a British detective who is trying to find Jack the Ripper. He would go to these sketchy looking opium bars and spend hours of the day getting high. Somebody in the movie knew his ritual and called him out on it, "Chasing the dragon won't help you solve this" was what he said. Also don't quote me I haven't watched the movie in years.
So what is chasing the dragon? It's that feeling you get the first time you try a substance and escape reality. The world seems to make sense and euphoria consumes you. You get the feeling that somehow everything is going to be OK. Then the come down begins. As the drugs lose their effect, you get flung back to the harsh reality of your current situation. Up is down, left is right, everything went to shit and you're stuck with the bill. Now you gotta get that feeling back, only it's never the same after the first time. It's almost like that feeling never happened and you're chasing something mythical. The stuff of legend perhaps, maybe a dragon? You see how I arrived there.
When it comes to substance abuse, other parts of your life become secondary almost without you knowing.
I had a good friend of mine become a drug addict. Crack specifically. I never imagined he'd be using it in a million years, but life has a funny way of showing you that anything is possible. He was a natural born hustler. He sold dope at school, at parties and pretty much wherever he could make a buck. Everyone loved him and rightfully so, he was the life of the party. Even though his avenue of income was unsavory, he was genuinely a good dude. Besides, how else was he going to finance the epic parties he had us witness and take part in. Damn they were epic.
Anyway, he was a regular pharmacy and everything was smooth until he graduated from smoking weed and drinking booze to the school of prescription pills and cocaine consumption. He used them casually at parties and it never really messed with him at first. It gradually turned from recreation to routine. He began using cocaine in the mornings to subdue a hangover that would have had him sick and not able to continue his daily business. Then he began using cocaine and pills throughout most of his day just to get by. To kind of stay balanced and not feel the come down. At this point though, it had become as much a part of his day as eating or using the washroom.
When it comes to substance abuse, other parts of your life become secondary almost without you knowing. You become sloppy and the tight ship you once ran begins to sink. Police became aware of my friend's enterprise and busted him for trafficking in narcotics. That's when the downward spiral began to speed up. Instead of cleaning up his act, he decided to go deeper into the abyss. In no time he was drunk by 2 p.m. and blazing up the crack pipe for the rest of the day.
We all started off looking through the dealer's eyes and never putting ourselves in the shoes of the user.
How does one end up smoking rock? That is literally rock bottom! I've had this conversation with many crackheads before. How did you get to using crack? Most of them told me they "got turned out" by a significant other, which is the most common answer. But some of their responses were more depressing. Tragedy and loss of a loved one usually did this to some people. But there was a large group of people unaccounted for in their reasoning for substance abuse. My friend is a part of that group. Why was he chasing the dragon? What life changing tragedy had befallen him and made him turn to the pipe? It definitely wasn't a woman, because those situations start off with big, huge warning signs in the beginning and we most likely would have stopped that relationship. So what was it?
Some people just can't be alone with their thoughts. My friend broke down to me and told me everything. He couldn't reconcile selling crack while he was sober. Selling to a person who was in a fragile place financially and could be homeless at the drop of a hat, was not his idea of fair. I don't think anybody would disagree with him. But he chose to continue. The money flow was too sweet to pass up, but he was barely sober enough to appreciate it. The rest of his money went to lawyer fees. He ended up doing a little time and lost everything. When he got out we all tried to do what we could to change his circumstances but he wasn't having it. He was so far gone, everything we said fell on deaf ears. The drugs completely enveloped him and he let it. He made a conscious decision to give up. He became a zombie in or out of jail, which was a revolving door for him.
Nobody ever sees these things coming. We all started off looking through the dealer's eyes and never putting ourselves in the shoes of the user. I have another friend whose story went differently after he went to jail. He made a conscious decision to stop. Even though he was longing for one more hit, he fought the urge. We would be downtown partying and he'd literally be biting his knuckle fighting the urge. Now he's fully recovered and going about his life as he originally intended. But that doesn't make him better, or worse. It just makes my other friend's situation that much sadder.
Nobody is invincible. You can stick your nose up at people all day until somebody you care about, or you yourself begin to battle addiction. I never understood how high people wanted to get, until I understood how low they really felt. It's a slippery slope and not everyone is equipped to handle it. So don't judge. Besides, dragons can be found on HBO, thanks to Daenarys Stormborn Targaryan, first of her name, the unburnt, breaker of chains, mother of dragons, Queen of the 7 kingdoms, protector of the realm and ruler of the Andals!
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