We could think of our physical bodies as human-shaped, drug-processing plants. We are always buzzing on some substance or other. These powerful substances are known as hormones and our flesh is constantly flooded with them.
The endocrine system is our dealer on speed-dial, and the dangerous stimulants are our favourites. Nothing says ‘‘I am truly alive’‘ quite like the cold-fire slam of adrenaline coursing through our veins. Strung out on sadness, hit after surging hit, we finally feel something, and this is what we love.
We might believe we hate it – the anger, the fear, the eternal misery – but we are in fact biologically addicted to their spell hitting the soft spot in our brains. We have an identity when we are on the hard drugs, a life that apparently means something, because we have an ocean of gritty hormones to swim through every day. Navigating ”the fear” is part of what makes us feel alive when we are addicted.
The bad-boy drugs, like epinephrine, cortisol and adrenaline, grab us (hurl us against the wall, and scream in our face ”Do you feel it now?”) much more effectively than the softer sedatives like dopamine, serotonin and the endorphins.
One shot of adrenaline responds instantaneously to our familiar thought and in that very moment electrifies us to the finger tips. Though we claim to loathe this, we are buzzing again, our hunger for something – anything – is satisfied.
A soft wave of oxytocin after love, or a quick hit of serontonin from walking by the ocean, just does not shake us to the very roots in the same way.
This is the way we are hard-wired. Ancestrally speaking. We are meant to be junkies. Our neural pathways are shaped by our hormones – they are like acidic groove-weaving chemicals forging through the web of our brains. Like drill sergeants they train our glands, such as the amygdala, in a bio-feedback loop that ensures we will always go back with our hands out for more of the bad stuff. Why? Because we had to learn how to run fast and instantly from danger at one time in our history. Because love and friendship could take time, but survival matters were imperative in this moment. Our bodies had to be able to handle regular use of hard drugs and thrive on them.
And so we came to love them. To find meaning in the ache of a broken heart and an identity in a dark, complex mind.
For me. personally, the narcotic spell of terror and depression consumed years. Though the early shots were forced into my body against my will, eventually it became a enslavement where, if I was truthful, I felt more engaged, more alive, more purposeful once I was stupefied by fear. When I came off adrenaline, the sharp colours lost their edge for a while, like when the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers decided not to get stoned anymore. Slowly they changed from being cartoons into being real live people. Life seemed boring. The Furry Brothers took more drugs to remedy the dilemma, but if they had stayed sober, with the passing of time, they might have discovered that ”out here, we is stoned immaculate.”
Weaning off the hard drugs is possible. It works the same as weaning off anything else. Recognition of the craving, distraction, knowing we are attached to the heroin-buzz and asking ourselves why, and so on. It boils down to desiring the soft glow of a manageable buzz more deeply than the dangerous, glorious, purposeful high of pain.