There are three kinds of people in this world: people who do drugs (addicts), people who don’t do drugs, and people who haven’t been driven to do drugs. . . yet. I think it’s fair to say that I am the third. I don’t do drugs (though I did entertain a cocaine habit after three years of failed weight loss plans), and I don’t really want to do drugs, most of the time.
My first foray into the world of weekly therapy led me to Dr. Cary Friedman, a Jewish man of slight stature, who was working in Cambridge. I knew going into it that I was only going to be able to give him a glimpse of my true crazy, mostly because I didn’t want to scare him. He was a professional, but I got the feeling he dealt mostly with 40-somethings who dyed their grays and needed to be told they were still good enough. Experience is for daddy issues, body image, depression, schizophrenia, and the like. Creativity, now that’s a specialty practice.
Initially, most therapists will ask a few weed-out questions. In my experience, it’s just to make sure you don’t need to bypass therapy for a lobotomy or shock therapy. The first time a therapist asked me if I’d ever contemplated suicide I was shocked. The thought of allowing something in my life to drive me to death seemed absurd. Kill yourself over work? You’d have to be an idiot. The first time a therapist ever asked me if I’d ever contemplated suicide, I hadn’t entered the real world. I was in college. I had no idea how relevant and important that question was.
By the time Friedman asked me whether I’d contemplated killing myself, I knew the drill. Be honest, but certainly don’t say anything to alarm the good doctor. The last thing you want to do is set a desperate tone with your therapist. Revealing how needy you are can only come back to haunt you (especially when you decide you don’t need therapy anymore; try walking away from a man who knows you’re nothing more than a phone-call-from-mom away from being committed). He went through the checklist of quasi-crazy-people qualities. Do you pace? Do you play with your feces? Do you obsessively save things? Do you feel the need to count your steps? Do you have friends or conversations that do not exist in the tangible universe? Occasionally I’d throw him a bone; tell him about conversations I’d had with myself, or the time I sat on the floor of my closet for an extended period of time. (The truth being that I got tired while trying to find the left BCBG sandal; I simply rested for a bit. I could see how it was alarming to the search party who found me, though.) He finally asked me whether or not I’d ever contemplated suicide.
No. I hadn’t ever contemplated suicide. I think suicide is selfish and ridiculous. But. . .
Did I ever contemplate obliterating my mind to the point that I couldn’t think, or even recall the evens of a particular evening, the personality of a particular person, or the specifics of my life?
Oh fuck yes.
There are no gateway drugs, only gateways to drugs. Marijuana doesn’t lead to mainlining heroin. Mismanagement and poor work environment lead to toking or mind-erasing boozing. From there, it’s just a matter of maintaining. Maybe a little grass isn’t doing it. Maybe a client drives you to something a little more extreme, or an email to do blow in the bathroom. That little talk about personal brand? A spoonful of Xanex helps that go right down. Being fired pairs well with a single malt and a cigar. Eviction? Always an occasion for a little E. And nothing compliments “my boss doesn’t know my name” like a shot of tequila.
Or maybe the gateway is the obsession with sanity. We drive ourselves crazy to be sane and then look around at our cubes, our screens, our pens and fluorescent sticky notes and realize that the living was in the crazy.
And then we raise our glasses to remember. And then we forget.