I write fantasy. (Duh.) Yet fantasy for fantasy’s sake doesn’t interest me. I love a good, solid grounding of reality – it gives me purpose as a writer, and allows me a place to think about issues that really matter to me, and to society as a whole. Superheroes and angels and the world I build around it is just the spoonful of sugar, and I like my fiction to go down easy, so there ya go.
So you may have seen this already if you’re on my Facebook or Twitter accounts, but I had a couple of readers contact me regarding this article: krokodil, the Russian street drug featured in – and, indeed, what inspired – the plot of The Lost has hit America. (The header said ‘finally’ hit America … as if it was the event we were all waiting for. I mean, really.)
I actually heard a news broadcast about a year ago of a woman wandering through a local WalMart, and serripitously opening and mixing paint thinner and gasoline, but the employees had no idea why and it took them awhile to catch on to what she was doing. I think their greatest worry was that she was using (no pun intended) gasoline and not paying for it. It eventually came out that she was a meth addict, but for someone who is not addicted to these sort of drugs, the reasons for this particular concoction still had to seem unreal.
Look, y’all know IANAD and I am certainly no expert on drugs. Advil is a rarity for me. I was given a prescription for (no surprise to those who read my last two posts) anxiety during a particularly stressful time a few years ago and couldn’t bring myself to even fill it. My husband, James, is so skeeved by drugs that we don’t even watch Breaking Bad. (I’m trying to get him to cave on that one, but he just pulls up before and after pics of people on meth from the Internet and my “But everyone is watching it” argument is totally blown.) My cognitive understanding of this sort of opiod concoction is that one hit and you’re finished. Your mind, the way your brain is physically wired, is forever changed. But desperation doesn’t think this way, does it? Desperation has its own language.*
I am willingly – even gleefully – addicted to caffeine** and I have a pretty obsessive and addictive personality overall, so I think I could very easily love, say, wine enough to bed down with a bottle or two at night if I let myself. But it’s knowing that which helps me keep it in check. I love cocktails and cocktail culture – mules and Hendricks/tonic are my summer drinks; old-fashioned in the winter – but I like them as much for their social aspects, and the theatre of them (much like a Japanese tea ceremony) as I do for the taste.
So, no, I don’t understand the addiction aspect of drugs, but I do work hard to understand the human condition, and if there’s one thing I learned while researching krokodil, it’s this: taking drugs away from a desperate person – or making them unattainable – doesn’t make that person any less desperate. If you look in the interactive section of the above article, most comments are along the lines of “For the love of God, why???” which is a reasonable question coming from a reasonable person…
Who has never known true desperation.
So this is what I try to do when writing, and considering any character and their habits or traits: Why … but with the intent of understanding, not judgment. I try to put myself in their shoes, their thoughts. Under what conditions would I do this?
Well, let’s see. If I was born in outer Siberia where the government stomps on people as a matter of course – that is, when they’re in give-a-shit mode – then I cannot say with any degree of certainty that I’d have to fortitude to resist escape. Any sort of it. So, yeah, I can put myself in that position.
As for someone living just one state over – or in Walmart – it becomes a little harder to understand how a person afforded all the privileges of being born in this country could actively choose this form of addiction, but pain and suffering and desperation isn’t a zero sum game. You have no idea what’s going on with a person just by looking at them (again, a reference to my last post).
So outrage and disbelief is appropriate, but judgment helps no one because it doesn’t come from an altruistic place, or one of understanding. We all have our addictions, but so many factors – nature and nurture and opportunity and how much you’ve already had to endure – go into forming a person’s resilience.
So what can we do about this? (I’m not even sure that’s the point of this post, but it’s always a question worth posing, right?) Maybe nothing at all for someone who is so far gone that they think injecting lighter fluid in their veins will provide a happy escape.
But how about not being another mitigating factor in pushing someone over the edge? Just a smile or an encouraging word, genuinely felt, can turn someone’s day around. And how you live your days is how you live your life, right?
Anyway, that’s my post on drugs: don’t be such a dick to people that you make them want to do drugs.
Also. Sometimes the craziest parts of fiction are those you can’t make up.
* On desperation. As per my last post, I’ve been having trouble sleeping. When my sister visited this summer, she gave me a bottle of this:
I accepted it with thanks and, of course, didn’t take it. Then, in desperation for this acute insomnia I’ve been suffering, I pulled the bottle out two nights ago and took two pills with dinner. I had no idea how long it would take for this stuff to enter the system, but Jesus, what I wouldn’t do for eight solid hours.
I slept through the night and woke freakin’ joyous yesterday. I couldn’t believe it. So, rinse and repeat …
Deeply, and like a baby, throughout the night again.
So, there. I’m desperate and I took drugs. I am not going to say that if any of you suffer from insomnia that you should take them, because that would then make me a drug pusher. But do what you will with that information.
** On caffeine: So James took away my coffee maker. He came to realize, through study of the Nespresso bill, that instead of saving us money (by not having to trek to Starbucks for a brilliant cup) that my addiction was actually costing us money. Like, a couple grand for the year. I work at home – I can’t sleep – and so I was pulling these babies from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. So his ultimatum was to cut down or go back to drip. For some reason he thought this would work on me, which is weird because he knows me *insert world’s biggest eyeroll*.
See, when I’m addicted, my friends, it is a deep and abiding commitment. I am nothing, if not loyal. (Which makes me a great friend and a terrible businesswoman. But that’s another post.) So I’m stubbornly back on drip, but in light of my sleep issues I’ve decided I have to stop drinking coffee by 3 p.m. If I can make it up in sleep hours, no one should be able to see a difference in my cheery **koff** disposition. So stay tuned…