Content warning: Drug use
Alright look, I want to begin with the disclaimer that I do not believe drugs and alcohol are ‘the answer.’ I write as someone with a history of alcohol abuse in the family, and as one who’s lost loved ones to drugs and alcohol. I don’t mean to suggest that going on benders is the key to a happy and healthy life. But sometimes we get bored of doing the things that are one-hundred percent conducive to our well being! In case anybody is unfamiliar with the term, a bender is essentially an extended drug or alcohol binge. A bender is, by nature, excessive and reckless. I’d argue benders are inherently self-destructive too! But like I said, we get bored, restless, sick of being in our own heads. The self-righteous little twits among you might be thinking: hmm sounds like self medicating to me… astute observation! Of course there’s healthier outlets for such predicaments. It’s just simply that sometimes, as the Ramones eloquently put it, I Wanna Be Sedated! To engage with substances excessively is to engage with self-abandon. While self-abandon can quickly become self-erasure, especially for the lot of us who are impulsive and maybe afflicted in some sense, we can only look out for one another and ourselves to try to ensure that it doesn’t.
Regardless, risk and danger have their special charms and it’s precisely this ‘forbidden fruit’ nature of drugs and alcohol that initially attracts many of us to begin using/drinking in our teens. The ‘rebel without a cause’ is a stereotype for a reason: and it’s not just James Dean’s swagger and sex appeal that tempt us to emulate it. Freud called it the death drive and observed it as ‘an urge in organic life to restore an earlier state of things.’ I find some poetic and philosophical beauty in the idea that we’re all bound together in our tragic trajectory towards that elusive ‘earlier state of things’. I find poetic and philosophical beauty in the idea of self-abandon, too: which, once again, is not to say it’s always or even most-of-the-time beautiful in practice. But, oh can it be bliss! Which brings me back to the bender…
Ah yes, bender the beautiful! You wake up in the filth of last night’s clothes feeling like you’ve been hit over the head with one of those cartoon bats, stars dancing around you and all. Hell, you even feel like a cartoon yourself – a strange dissociative state of mind, waking up still drunk! Maybe you go straight for the toilet, maybe you linger in bed for hours, maybe (if you really have no mercy for yourself) you stumble to brunch seeking a cure via the good ole’ ‘hair of the dog.’ If you’ve opted for ‘hair of the dog’ drink and have more than one, it’s likely a bender has now commenced. There’s a sense of timelessness that sets in once you’ve been partying continuously for more than a single night that feels liberating. It feels like you’re living in an alternate reality in which the usual natural laws of things no longer apply – especially if you’re on holiday.
An occasion in Rome this past summer comes to mind for me. After some wining and dining, my sisters and I went to one of those ice cave bars in which the whole bar is made of ice and you’re given giant coats upon entry. The actual ice cave experience was frankly underwhelming for the price, but we recognized some guys from the restaurant and got to chatting. Once we came to the conclusion that it’s actually not that enjoyable to drink from ice cups in a freezing room, we hit a club downtown. The club was overpriced and the barmaid hostile, so we eventually ditched the club for the street where we were able to secure ourselves a bag. The six of us crouching behind a van to take lines off a phone screen (why is it always the phone screen? Like, I’m convinced you could have a tray of solid gold and the phone screen would ultimately prevail!). What followed was approximately four hours of wandering the deserted, narrow streets and piazzas of Old Rome. Talk about a time warp! It felt kind of post-apocalyptic being out there just the five of us, but minus the dreadfulness. It was extraordinarily peaceful actually. Just us on the streets, singing and smoking and laughing and chatting. Just before sunrise, we made our way back to theirs to smoke some weed as we came down. We smoked and lay on their building’s old marble staircase and sang and laughed some more, somewhat maniacally, as one does when you haven’t slept a wink, but in the moment it felt glorious. Time out of time and time out of mind.