Disclaimer: I have taken a fair few recreational drugs over the last 20 years. I’m not proud of this fact but I’m not ashamed either. I am aware that drugs can be the source of serious problems for some people and I will never make light of that. However my drug taking was just part of who I was at the time and I’ve had many fabulous times with them, and a few not so fabulous times with them. I’m not taking any at present but I’ll never say never. If this bothers you then walk away now because this post kicks off with one of my funner drug moments…
London. 1998. 3:30am on a somewhat chilly London Spring evening with sunrise still five hours away. The night is still young. The Crew are ambling along Town Hall Parade in Brixton and everyone is present tonight – Chuckie – an old friend of mine, his girlfriend Kathy, his flatmates, various partners, girlfriends, friends, and myself. We total about 15 in number and are just becoming regulars on the London dance club scene which is thriving thanks to the relatively recent marriage of Trance dance music and 3-4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, aka MDMA, aka Ecstasy. For us and countless thousands of young people across Europe, it is a marriage made in Heaven.
We are on our way home from a small club called The Plug in Camberwell where we have been supporting a friend playing his first ever DJ gig and even after 4 hours the Ecstasy is still going strong and we are all grinning, sweating, trying to focus, and being very tactile. One of the many wonderful effects of MDMA is an incredible empathy and love for others combined with a heightened sense of touch. There is a lot of hugging and mutual head scratching going on.
We stop outside a ticket booth in the front of an old theatre and there is a man sitting there and we ask if the club is still open and he says “yes” so we ask how much to get in and he says “10 quid” and when we say that’s fine he asks “you realise tonight is LoveMuscle?” and we ask what that is and he says “Gay Night” and after a few querulous looks at each other and nods of assent we tell him that is fine and he says “OK… no refunds”.
Inside, the club is packed with men wearing jeans and nothing else just jeans. They are clearly having a fabulous time and the energy is palpable. The place is heaving. They seem perfectly OK with us being mostly heterosexual (two of the flatmates are gay) and keeping our T-shirts on seems to be the accepted signal of our non-availability for potential gay romance but we queue up with the girls to use their bathroom because the boys bathroom is full of gay guys and there is literally steam coming out the door. Before long we are lost in the arms of music and class-A drugs and having the best time of our lives since the last time we were dancing until dawn on Ecstasy (the previous Saturday night if my memory serves me correctly).
It is during this night before the event ends and we head outside at 9:30am that Chuckie utters the profound and oft-repeated line that will characterize my years in London and ever after….
“If someone had said to us ten years ago that in ten years’ time you will be in London dancing in a gay nightclub while on Ecstasy we would have never have believed them!”
Now I know that is a little underwhelming and that many of you can imagine the exact same line being spoken about yourself (the bit about not believing where you would be in 10 years’ time, not the gay ecstasy bit), but 10 years before this night myself and Chuckie had been active and enthusiastic members of a Pentecostal Evangelical Church and were anti-LGBT in that ‘hate the sin love the sinner’ way Christians justify their intolerance for men who sleep with men while having no trouble finding women-only porn arousing and ignoring all the stuff that their God finds equally as sinful. Like divorce.
I know a lot can happen to a person in 10 years, but even so I felt the truth of what Chuckie was saying as much Dorothy or Luke did when they realized they were no longer in Kansas or on Tatooine. Geographically I’d only moved across the other side of the world, but sociologically I was in a galaxy far, far, away.
So at the tender age of 35 and long before I was aware I was an ACoN I lost my faith in God and then only a few months later I took my first ecstasy pill and turned into Jesus.
I did. I couldn’t believe it. All those years of trying to walk in Jesus’ footsteps and be like Him and shake off my selfish sinful ways and all it took was a small chemical adjustment in my brain and I was the most loving, accepting, empathetic, caring person in the world who just wanted everyone around me to be happy. I loved all of them like they were my brothers and sisters and I was surrounded by hundreds and sometimes thousands of Jesus’s and female Goddesses who loved me back. All thanks to these magical little pills that arrived by the vanload from Holland and came in a variety of colours with a variety of logos tamped on them i.e. Yellow Doves, Blue Mitsubishis, Red Ferraris (of course), and Pink Elephants.
So I lost my religion only to find another one in world of clubbing and party pills. It was one of those pivotal life moments that propel you off down an entirely different path to the one you had thought was the way to go. And it happened right here…
In hindsight it’s easy to see that I swapped one system of control for another. One restrictive narrative for another equally limited narrative about myself. Everyone defines their own identity by things like career, social standing, sports, interests, etc so technically everyone has a narrative about themselves. It’s what people usually reply to the well-used social conversation starter “so what do you do?” However for an ACoN this narrative is arse-backwards; a well-adjusted adult becomes themselves by doing what they enjoy doing and expressing their personality and vision. An ACoN has no vision and their personality is repressed so we can’t just ‘be’ and see what we bring forth over time. Instead we pick a narrative that we think might make us acceptable and loveable and we mold ourselves as best we can to fit that narrative. In my life I’ve been:-
- Class Clown
- Skater/Rebellious Teenager
- Christian Leader
- Clubber/Ethical Hedonist
- Career IT Guy
- Buff Gym Guy
Although to be honest I’ve never actually been any of these. I’ve been an actor trying to be one of these. My entire life has been lived by someone else who I refer to as The Construct. He is the False Self that I built to hide my own lack of self and my fear that my real self might be exposed and rejected (again). I’ve been hiding inside the construct while simultaneously doing what author Leanne Payne calls “living outside yourself”. This is a common behavior of people with critically low self-esteem – instead of being in the present moment we are metaphysically watching our construct in action from a third person perspective to see how he/she is received and fine tuning him/her to try and be more loveable and accepted. The Construct fools a lot of the people a lot of the time, including ourselves. However we are not Creators and the construct is always flawed or at best a cheap facsimile of a real person. Some people live their entire life this way, always playing a part, never being their real authentic self. In the world but not of it. Unable to be, forever doing.
Recently I broke free of my fear of rejection and deconstructed the construct and emerged like a butterfly from my chrysalis into the world as a fully formed adult human being. Which is fabulous. Huzzah. Yay me. Unfortunately I didn’t magically turn into Jesus this time. Or Buddha. Or even Gandhi. In fact I didn’t magically turn into anyone, least of all myself because after a 50 years of hiding behind the construct I have no idea who I really am.
But fuck I’m having the time of my life, literally, finding it out.
If you are an ACoN or were abused in some way as a child (or even as an adult) that does not have to lock you into a life of not really being alive. I don’t want to glibly say that the answer is within each of us because I wasn’t abused as badly as some, so I am going to earnestly say that I think each of us has within ourselves the wonderful human being we were created to be and although it took me a long time to understand what happened to me and to find my authentic self and work out how to get him out of my self-made Construct, it’s been entirely worth it and not without its moments.
And you don’t need to drop a pink elephant in The Fridge to find this out for yourself.