“For the sake of my health,” I think automatically each time I pour frozen peas into my instant noodles.
Then I lie in my sarcophagus, which is my bed when it’s covered in linen sheets, when the blackout curtains are drawn and it’s dark and soft in the room like a soft grave. As the poisons leave my body, a throbbing lump of pain is formed behind my right eye, the size of a grape. Sometimes when it’s gotten really bad I’ve put a bag of frozen soy mince on my eye and felt it slowly thaw as I count down the hours. Time, my saviour. As long as the clock keeps going forward I’m not trapped in an eternal now which feels unbearable but which will be borne and over.
It could have been worse. 2013, after an illegal rave in an abandoned mail center where malicious hallucinations chased me and spoke to me, I took a sip of orange juice in front of the mirror and spat it out immediately. It felt like my throat was closing up. I thought I was about to die. It was the acid in the oranges; I studied my palate and throat in the mirror with my mouth gaping wide. I’d smoked and gurned so badly with my tongue against the roof of my mouth that it had filled up with blisters, which had now burst. Full of little burn holes, like Freddie Krueger’s skin.
Burnt. Everyone says they’re about to change, but they never do. The pendulum swings from action to regret. It does not go forwards, only side to side.
Mike often used to call me late at night when he was anxious because he was coming down. He partied loads, many days in a row, because his parents lived far away from the city centre and it was so expensive to travel home. I liked his calls, I was an hour ahead of him timezone-wise and besides I was lonely in that bourgie neighbourhood where I didn’t have any friends and it was so quiet at night. I brought my phone with me to a bar and drank wine there while I talked to him, like I’d gone to the bar with a dear friend. I was happy to soothe his anxieties. I’ve got to change the way I live! he’d always say to me, but the next week he’d call again.
In my head, I see visions of gross primordial creatures, like my visual imagination is trying and not quite succeeding at remembering how things fit together. It invents living beings from scratch with only the vaguest frame of reference. Humans with too many eyes and weird tubes in their skin, or little creatures that are nothing but these weird, fleshy tubes. It’s important not to get scared by what your own mind shows you, regardless of how nasty it is. There are things you cannot help.
It’s easy to fall into a self-analysis spiral and question everything you’ve done the previous night. For most halfway functional people, booze and drugs are a way to get close to other people in an uninhibited, unforced way, where social contact becomes more open, more honest, more positively emotionally charged, and above all more stimulating. You can say anything. Right then and there a space is opened for the meeting between two souls – so it feels at the time – but afterwards, once the meeting’s over, you bitterly regret having flaunted yourself, agonizing over ugly sounds made while laughing or if you’re bad at fucking. Better not to think about those sorts of things, because it doesn’t help to obsess over yourself.
When I was around fourteen my only friend and I thought all people who drank and partied were worthless bimbos. The funnest thing we knew was eating about a kilo of pick’n’mix and playing Playstation 2 until we passed out from the sugar crash. High school was a whole different story. Indeed. Because they told me I had ADHD and prescribed me a medicine which was a slow-release amphetamine. I was so depressed that winter that I couldn’t do anything. It was so dark and cold, inside and out, and every lamp shone with a sickly yellow light that gave me nightmares about evil incidents in obscure bowling alleys and rollerskating rinks. It hurt so much. “It” was nothing in particular. “It” was everything. Sometimes I took 5-6 methylphenidate pills at once, to have the energy to perform socially, like when my friends were celebrating their birthdays. I remember once, after such a celebration, sitting awake until 6AM while everyone else was sleeping, shaking with diffuse fear, writing rambling and paranoid diary entries about a guy we met on the bus on the way home. I wrote them in Japanese, looking up each kanji individually. It was important to keep my observations top secret. When you’re coming down, you can get all sorts of strange notions.
Methylphenidate is the worst when it comes to paranoia and anxiety during the comedown. Well, perhaps meth is worse – I don’t have a lot of experience with meth, but I definitely don’t recommend getting high on ADHD meds. They make you walk around like a robot, only talking about yourself with thousands of strangers while your heart remains ice cold and selfish. Later I started taking it just to be able to drink for longer without throwing up or falling asleep, and it worked so well I managed to give myself alcohol poisoning a number of times. Lying in bed and throwing up for days, unable to take a painkiller or even drink water, until Rhiannon came home to me with a bottle of Milk of Magnesia which tasted like mint and chalk.
My childhood friend and I took some kind of potent dark web speed which you had to wash beforehand not to burn your nostrils. 48 hours later we still weren’t sleeping but were both paranoid as hell with our hearts thumping out 120 beats a minute. What helps against a high heart rate? we googled. Or something like, “How to support your heart”. There was something about Omega3, or maybe Omega6. Canola oil has a lot of omega fats in it, so in the end we downed a couple shots of straight cooking oil each.
All’s well that ends well. 2015, in the depths of Deptford we dressed up for Halloween and snorted really lousy MDMA and then Zeynab and her psychotic girlfriend went climbing on the scaffolding on the house next door. Her girlfriend rushed in and told us Zeynab had a fall and “bonked her head” so hard on the cement floor that she’d lost consciousness.
“It’s cool, it’s cool!” said Zeynab and climbed through the window, then suddenly started cascade vomiting liters of hot pink Cherry Lambrini across the floor. We took her to ER and left her there, along with her psycho girlfriend, then Rachel and I went to a catholic mass, still in our halloween clothes, gurning. We thought it’d be a “funny thing to do”, but there we were, coming down in a congregation so warm and welcoming that we felt like villains. So when the socialist pastor offered me the sacrament, I said, no, just give me your blessing. Are you sure? he said so quietly no one else heard, and then he blessed my brow. I really felt it in me – that blessing.
Writing’s always possible, once I could draw, too, but I’ve forgotten how. What people write when they come down resembles what they write when mania fades. They pick fights with their own anxiety, argue with it, try to make deals. My friend showed me a text they’d written on a comedown, four tight, incoherent pages where they’d written about me, that we were obviously both in love with each other and may God let me read their thoughts. I really got the hint and we fucked the same night, but then I went home, and came down.
Swedish teens got pissed like they wanted to die. My friend threw up on Walpurghis night, about 5-6 cigarette butts. Those of my friends who were really mental – there were a few, and they really were mental – were put into psychiatric hospitals, always in the section for psychotic patients, because nowhere else had any space. They’d end up befriending the only other normal people in the ward which were the people selling coke and heroin.
The least you can do for yourself when you’re about to come down is taking a proper shower and then make the bed you’ll be forced to lie in. To come down is one thing, but coming down on twisted sheets, with the smell of ciggies still in your hair, is really tormenting yourself more than you’ve deserved. Oh, and it’s lovely to have a few popsicles in the fridge. Eat a salad, perhaps, but let’s be real with ourselves about who we are and what we’re going to do. If we’d been the kind of people who pick salad over instant noodles I suppose we wouldn’t be lying here now, in the dark.
“I’m never going to drink again after last night,” Ian writes to me. But he will and I will too. Some are hit by a terrible sense of guilt whenever they’ve done anything debauched. You think you ought to be a certain way, act a certain way. During the comedown, you pray to God for forgiveness, but a week later you’re ready for the same thing all over again, you’ve already forgotten. I don’t understand why you even ought to be ashamed, what good it’s supposed to do. Shame and regret aren’t strong enough to make you change anything. Partying really can be a total riot.
Text & Image: Zola Gorgon