I was born in a hospital in Boston. Good family, upper middle class. Moved to a house in the suburbs when I was still small. Bullied like shit through all of grade school. Played a lot of video games, was fat, started antidepressants around 10 or 12. Ran a legalize cannabis campaign at 14 ish. Had my first mental hospitalization the following year. Went to a therapeutic high school. Stopped antidepressants, lost a lot of weight. Smoked weed for the first time in my last year of high school. Realized I was trans, started transition. Went to college.
Made my first real friends, became less depressed. Started smoking a lot of weed. Eventually got into other drugs.
Someone on Drugs-Forum said they’ve read that only about 8% of people who go into recovery continue to stay sober without relapse. That most of what recovery is is a process of getting better at managing relapse.
When I was first using drugs I was using them with great recklessness, a lot of delusion to how they impacted me and those around me. After that first stint of drug use ended in psychosis and a month in and out of the hospital’s detox unit, i dropped out of college and became the most depressed I ever had been. My drug use because initially more desperate but also more cautious, at times both reckless and careful. It was about then that I became seriously interested in harm reduction.
Then when I went into the hospital and converted to Buddhism, I looked around and saw how much my life sucked. I decided to try and suffer less. I was in Programs for a year and some change. That period started with sobriety, moments of relapse sprinkled in. I remember every evening hiking out to the woods to smoke weed out of apples for two weeks. Later I got drunk twice, smoked weed on earth day. By the end of it I was in a relationship and was using cannabis regularly, although was strict about not using other drugs I had previously. Just nicotine, caffeine and cannabis. I stopped getting high before work or therapy, maintained my daily meditation practice.
I quit cannabis again when I tried to go back to school, the first time I decided to do it myself. Six months later after leaving school again and starting my job as a counselor, I started using cannabis again, only on days I wasn’t working. Then I quit again last year in August.
I wrote in a Reddit thread shortly before I resumed my last usage period about how a study on controlled heroin use indicates this strong point that drug use isn’t linear. That it is subject to change throughout a person’s life.
Throughout my entire experience with drugs, my relationship has been in continual growth. It’s never been a static decline or ascent in skillfulness. Although I think on the whole, after a certain peak, my usage has continually become more skillful and less destructive especially after my conversion.
In the anthology book Queering Anarchism, the essay Harm Reduction as Pleasure Activism looks at the close ties between Anarchism and it’s values of autonomy, and self-determination. As my use continued so too has my understanding of and engagement with harm reduction.
The need for pleasure fuels the imperative to reduce harm. After all, what inspired [the harm reduction] movement’s formation but a struggle over expression and desire [during the AIDS crisis]. While drug use is often about numbing pain, it is also fundamentally about pleasure seeking and sensuality. Harm Reduction As Pleasure Activism, Queering Anarchism p 108
Fundamentally, the drive for sensual pleasure is this recurring thing that we’re sewn to as unenlightened people. There are more or less skillful ways to get that pleasure and a large part of my efforts since conversion has been a pursuit of a skillful pleasure, harm reduction. A part of my current struggles stems directly from my present inability to derive consistent pleasure from meditation. Because I cannot find strong pleasure in concentration and because I have systematically removed sources of sensual pleasure (music, porn, videogames, drugs, etc.) I have worked myself into this shitty position of spending most of my time neutral or mildly unsatisfied.
Ayya Khemma said during a talk that without jhana you will always struggle from sensual desire, that because you have no alternative pleasure in meditation it’s incredibly difficult if not impossible to actually put aside the pleasure from the world. The pleasure from jhana is pleasure that reduces the most harm. It’s not an easily accessible pleasure however.
I will say that however much I believe that sensual pleasure is ultimately unsatisfactory, I do think that everyone should be allowed to pursuit pleasure and enabled to do so safely. When we as a society punish people for doing this, we punish them for being human and only make worse the problems sensual pleasure already creates. Better to approach with compassion and understanding of the myriad ways in which we seek pleasure.
What does this mean for me? I’ve been listening to music and playing a lot of Dwarf Fortress. Where it goes from here I am unsure.