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I'm Not Good at Drugs

I was going to save my thoughts on drugs for a few weeks. But in light of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, now feels like the right time. I worked with him on Paul Thomas Anderson's. His death truly rattled me. Like I'm bad at math, I'm bad at drugs.
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I'll be honest -- at 25, drugs feel omnipresent. This past year they were everywhere in my life, used recreationally and mainly by people who didn't have a problem. But something about their sudden, dramatic appearance made me frightened. Every weekend, I was left shaking my head, wondering, what's happened here? Why is this going on?

Before they'd really made their mark, I think I knew that drugs were going to change everything. Sex, booze, religion: nothing else made things so weird so quickly. Nothing else has ever been so divisive. All this said, I was going to save my thoughts on drugs for a few weeks. But in light of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, now feels like the right time.

On Phil, I will say what I know about him, which is very little. I worked with him on Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. On my first day, I sat in a church, a scene in which I was essentially a background actor. The famous actors smoked real cigarettes. I tried not to do anything wrong and to remember everything to tell my mom later. The first time I saw Phil on set he was walking by the trailers, early in the morning and I felt my knees go weak. He was my favourite actor and now I was lucky enough to work with him, to see him in his civilian clothes, a sweatshirt and shorts. He looked not only lost in thought, but like his mind was on a raft a million miles away. Watching him work that summer, I felt like I was in the presence of a witch or a magician, someone tapping into a realm that wasn't available to me. He was kind; he was a normal person with a family. But, to me, he was otherworldly.

His death truly rattled me.

There were many times this year when I wished drugs just didn't exist, but never more than now. People my age are mainly doing coke and Molly and sometimes but rarely K. I think we all know what cocaine is. Molly is a nickname for MDMA, a form of ecstasy. K is a cat tranquillizer. For the average 25-year-old, they aren't using needles. They snort things or take pills.

Drugs make me feel the same as when a pretty and developed blonde girl in my grade seven class was giving blowjobs. It's the deeply uncool feeling of being frightened by something hip kids your age were more than ready to try. At 25, still brunette and still relatively flat chested, the feeling resurfaces.

A person I loved told me what he liked most about drugs was how clandestine they were. To him, they were a second secret world that was happening all the time, all around him. I wanted to tell him that's what I hated about drugs. I hated that at parties people went into bathrooms and shared something secret. For the rest of the night they had an in-joke that bonded them, a closeness I was not invited to be a part of.

Like I'm bad at math, I'm bad at drugs. I have a million stupid questions about them. I don't know what to call them, is cocaine coke or blow? Were there other names for it? Who could I ask? I hate that I have no idea how to even get drugs.

When I watch people disappear behind locked doors, my heart always beats too quickly. "Are you sure?" I want to ask. "Are you guys going to be OK in there? Are you sure? What about your serotonin levels?"

But, I don't say those things. Maybe synthetic happiness is as good as the real kind. I'm too scared to do drugs so I'll never know.

Watching people I know dance when they are on Molly, I wonder what it would be like to step into their minds. Can they feel their neurotransmitters bending? Are thoughts scrambling around their brains, twisted and lonely? Or is it like the good kind of drunk, a vacancy, when the world feels like a clean slate, when everything is beautiful and nothing hurts?

Like a mother, I ask girls I know if the after-hours scene scares them. If they ever feel strange being in illegal establishments as dawn settles, surrounded by weird men on weirder drugs. Truth be told, my impression is that most people found the underworld of it all thrilling. I get it, sure. Being bad feels amazing.

I had one period in my life when my interest in doing drugs really piqued, about two months ago. I had just broken up with my ex-boyfriend. I was that kind of heartbroken that permeates everything around you. Any part of the world just looked like a reminder that he was gone. I felt like a Halloween pumpkin, hollowed out with a creepy, carved smile and a flickering candle inside that didn't want to stay lit.

I was going out all the time with a real sense of "fuck it" about me. Half-drunk and with memories of him coming too close, I wanted to take candy from strangers to feel connected, to feel whole, to feel anything but so sad. I wanted to stay out all night because the last thing I wanted to do was go home and sleep in my bed alone. But for whatever reason, the fear in me was still too strong. When offered, I'd decline. The night ended when I got tired. I never saw dawn. I just cried in dark cabs on the way home.

Most people I know who do drugs have an attitude about them that is along the lines of a collar pull. Like, "I know they're bad, but..." or a shoulder brush, "It's a phase, it's not really a big deal, it's fun." I think people feel weird talking to me about them and that makes me feel even more awkward. I am on the outside, I'm sure that's obvious to everyone. This is something I can't break through, one part of my generation I can't understand.

I wonder if we're staying out so late because we don't want to go home. Do we want to get fucked up because we feel lost? The future is so uncertain for people who are 25, I'm not sure we know what we're supposed to want.

Or, maybe we are all just desperate for nights with our friends where we act different than ourselves, in a world completely different than our own. Maybe it's the time to have fun and maybe I should loosen up. Probably this is a period that everyone will leave unscathed with some good stories for the road. But lately I've discovered that reality comes crashing back whether I want it to or not. There is no drug that cures heartbreak.

I feel so much like that 12-year-old; the little girl who wants to play dolls still, hoping that holding hands would be enough to offer boys forever.


Philip Seymour Hoffman's Funeral