Help me change and reaffirm my mindset that I need to stop doing drugs.
August 12, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop doing drugs when it is so involved with my friends and my own personal view of artistic creativity?

I've spent the last 8 years of my life partying hard and doing drugs. I've recently just graduated university, and after a pretty terrible month of interpersonal relationships and a personal meltdown, I've lost my best friends and my boyfriend. After a month of recuperation and a couple sessions with a therapist, all of this has led to an understanding that several changes must be made in my life, here and now, so as for me to be better acclimated to adult life and independence.

So here's the thing: I'm a creative/artist in Los Angeles. I've spent nearly all my life romanticizing this idea of a drug-addled artist living against the grain of society. For the most part, I've lived up to that (without having made any considerable works of art yet). It started off with weed and alcohol, then moved to all kinds of hallucinogens and party drugs (namely ecstasy/MDMA), and then onto harder ones like cocaine and pharmaceuticals in the past year. Nothing too incredibly addicting, apart from the cocaine (which I didn't like but still did a lot of) and the pharmaceuticals (which I don't get with as much frequency or ease). Nearly all my friends are creatives in the entertainment/party business (successful musicians, professional party throwers, etc.), and if they aren't, they are incredibly intelligent people successfully working in all areas of academia or intellectual careers. I can say without a doubt that nearly all of these friends do drugs...and maybe it's because I'm still young and have a limited scope on these things, but they're very successful at what they do.

So I'd like your best reasoning towards why I should stop doing drugs. I don't think I'm addicted yet (or maybe I am, you tell me), and I'm constantly surrounded by people who make it seem like it's alright to do drugs because they're still successful, functioning members of society. I'm afraid I'll slip out of this drug-free attitude because the "glamour" of what drugs can be has been so entrenched in my mindset for a very long time, but quitting is something I definitely want to do. I suppose this seems like a very basic question that can be answered by a rehashing of DARE, but at a very early age (when I discovered weed), I reasoned out most of the arguments towards anti-drug use as closed-minded or naive. Anyway, I think I've learned and "expanded my mind" to the greatest extent I can, but stopping is so...difficult. So please, how do I fully stop drugs when it's something that's so much a part of my mindset, lifestyle, and social circle? Life experience and anecdotes welcome.

(not sure what category to put this under)
posted by lyinlion to Society & Culture (51 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
You sound pretty addicted to me.

I work and live with artists and creatives. We drink, and smoke weed sometimes. Harder drugs are increasingly rare. We definitely don't t need them to create - in fact, I'd probably argue the opposite. I think much of the stuff that drugs can feel like they bring, can be found through friends, community, good food, making art... etc.

You call yourself an artist, but you haven't made any considerable works of art. Why not? What's holding you back?

I think you know what''s getting in the way of your art and this question holds the answers. Stop distracting yourself with all the drugs. Start listening clearly to that inner artist voice that you're trying hard to ignore.
posted by miles1972 at 9:06 AM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

I cannot tell you much other than this. If you want to discover if you are or are not addicted, Just Stop Using and see what happens.
posted by Postroad at 9:09 AM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Madonna and Cher both skipped the whole drug thing and have been incredibly successful in several fields. Mick Jagger, Steve Tyler and no doubt other big names did their best work after they finally got clean and sober.

If you want to be a serious artist, get clean. Your drug habit is a big part of why you aren't accomplishing anything as an artist.
posted by Michele in California at 9:15 AM on August 12, 2012 [11 favorites]

I've spent nearly all my life romanticizing this idea of a drug-addled artist living against the grain of society. For the most part, I've lived up to that (without having made any considerable works of art yet).

So... you are justifying the use of drugs as an artist, but you really aren't an artist. Why the drug use? And, what's the difference between being a party girl, or being a flat out junkie, and what you are doing now?

What are you getting from drug use, and how has it improved your artistic drive and/or vision? Has drug use improved your networking or social skills? I know quite a lot of people that smoke pot, and it has little to no impact upon their lives, it's really more like having a drink, but most people I know on the other stuff? They kind of drop out of life after a few months, go into some sort of tailspin, or just stop everything except drinks and smoking. That's not to say that there aren't pot smokers or drinkers that don't have issues, it's just been my experience that the other stuff takes its toll. How old are all these successful academics and intellectuals? What is your meter stick for success?

To me, it sounds like you are spending time & money on some romantic notion of drug use to explain that you want to party. Go ahead, party, have fun. But don't kid yourself into thinking it is for your own good.
posted by kellyblah at 9:16 AM on August 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

5 years ago, I was you. I (mostly) stopped, and sadly have lost those friends in my milieu who didn't. Here's a few reasons.

- Eventually, you will probably get addicted. Pharmas, especially opiates, are no joke. It might take 5 years, but it'll happen. You'll ease into thinking of normal sober living as "having an edge" and then you'll need something to "take the edge off." Eventually you'll realize that you're never totally sober.
- You might not get addicted, but using at significant levels will take a toll on your body as you get older, regardless of whether you're addicted or not. After 5 years of slowly chipping away at your mental sharpness, your vocabulary, your looks, and your body's general well-being, you'll look and sound less and less glamorous and more and more addled. When you imagine yourself at 40 and still hardcore, you probably think of Iggy Pop or something. The thing is, that man's genes were built to withstand drug use, luckily for him. Most people aren't Iggy Pop, including probably you.
- You'll get boring. You spend all your free time getting high whereas other people spend their free time developing their interests, traveling, being social, exploring themselves and the world. Those people will have had those experiences and have gained the corresponding wisdom. You might argue that this is no different with drugs involved, but I disagree - all that time spent in an addled stupor or in manic high-gear quasi conversation does not translate into the same kind of wisdom.
- You will become, in the end, a professional masturbator. At best, not particularly admirable. Life becomes a compulsive selfish inwardly-directed pursuit of sensation.

Disclaimer: This clearly doesn't apply to casual, responsible, occasional drug use, which I'm totally in favor of. This is about that level of borderline-addiction habitual high-level drug use, the kind that makes you wonder if the person is an addict, a high-functioning addict, or Iggy Pop.
posted by tempythethird at 9:16 AM on August 12, 2012 [47 favorites]

My reasoning for you stop doing drugs?

It hurts your body. It hurts your mind. It will hurt your artistic endeavors or cut your endeavors short. Despite what your friends are doing and how it seems to be helping them, it's not. It is hurting them, perhaps in ways you can't see or in ways that haven't been seen yet. Addiction is a disease. It can and does kill.

If you want some real world examples of creative and successful people who died because of drugs, you don't have to look too far. Factor them into your decision to quit or not as you see fit.

Amy Winehouse
River Phoenix
John Belushi
John Bonham
Chris Farley
Judy Garland
Jimi Hendrix

Imagine the work they could have done had they not succumbed to drugs.
posted by zizzle at 9:16 AM on August 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

I run in a very creative circle; musicians, artists, photographers, poets, writers. None of the successful among us are drug users. We drink now and then (some more than others), some smoke weed occasionally, and that's it. No one uses drugs to fuel their creativity. I'm talking about people who have gallery openings on a regular basis, people who are published poets/writers, and musicians who have large followings. These aren't D-List people in our community; they're incredibly successful.

You say you think you need drugs to create art but you haven't created any considerable works while you've been using. I'm sure you see the dissonance in that so why not stop using and see what happens?

Long story short, you've created this image in your mind that hasn't been borne out by your personal experience (not your friends' experiences, yours). Why keep doing the same things over and over if your results aren't changing?
posted by cooker girl at 9:19 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have some friends in the entertainment and arts arenas in LA. My experience is that the more successful folks are in fact sober. They are more driven, aware of opportunities and able to focus when needed to accomplish their goals.

Invariably there some folks in these circles who do ok work and get lucky now and then, but they aren't going anywhere because they miss opportunities.

Harsh reality check: You're not an artist. You're a wannabe. Until you "do something" you're just a drug user who likes to party. And in my book that's kinda sad. Make up your mind about whether you really want to be an artist. If you do, then you need to get clean and make some art. If not, keep on partying.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:20 AM on August 12, 2012 [21 favorites]

Comparing yourself to other people is a trap. You don't know what is going on in their heads, or how they will end up. Do what is right for yourself.
posted by zebraantelope at 9:23 AM on August 12, 2012 [11 favorites]

So I'd like your best reasoning towards why I should stop doing drugs. I don't think I'm addicted yet (or maybe I am, you tell me), and I'm constantly surrounded by people who make it seem like it's alright to do drugs because they're still successful, functioning members of society.

For me the big thing turned out to be having a bad experience [overdose, nearly died, felt really stupid afterwards, scared my family, looked back at what I'd been doing and decided it wasn't worth it] and that giving me a perspective on what I'd been up to that made it seem not just selfish but the opposite of productive, like it was anti-productive really, it was allowing me to live inside my own head and not out in the real world.

This is, of course, just my perspective and I'm not saying it will work for you or that you should care, but coming from a background of addiction [one alcoholic parent, one parent who was a child of alcoholics] I just lacked the perspective to make smart choices for myself because I was so stuck in either the addictive mindset or the "Fuck 'em they are just trying to control me, I will do what I want!!" mindset which is, itself, a sort of dysfunctional way to look at the world. It's easy especially when you're younger, to think that you have it all figured out, but it's worth some serious introspection to see if you personally [not your artist friends, not other people you might know from movies and tv] are actually thriving in the environment you've set up for yourself.

For me personally (again, ymmv) the friends I had that did drugs were also a little selfish and self absorbed to the point that my drug-doing being one of the things we shared was an important part of my personality to them. Enough so that when I made a change and pretty much switched to being an occasional beer person as opposed to more of a hard drug [club drugs mostly] doer, I was much less interesting to them and I could see them working against what I now felt were my best interests and trying to get me back to the recreational activities we shared. They didn't want me to be healthy or even happy they wanted me to be more like them.

Lots of people do drugs and are successful (or not) and lots of people don't do drugs and are successful (or not). It's not the drugs that make things one way or the other. For me the big change that was so valuable was the LACK OF DRAMA, not worrying about where your drugs or money for drugs was going to come from, not worrying about cops and/or people who weren't in your drug circles, not worrying about other people on drugs being crazy or inappropriate or dangerous or sick. And not having a secret.

There's something sort of titillating about having a "I do drugs!" secret that is neat on the one hand and at the same time sort of sets you apart from all the other people in the world. And I decided I didn't want to be that way. I felt it was snobby and selfish and kept me from experiencing what I considered (later) to be a real life. Everyone has their own reasons, that's pretty much mine.
posted by jessamyn at 9:29 AM on August 12, 2012 [25 favorites]

after a pretty terrible month of interpersonal relationships and a personal meltdown, I've lost my best friends and my boyfriend.[...]

So I'd like your best reasoning towards why I should stop doing drugs.

You answered your own question. Friends you have when you're high are not the same as friends you have when you're sober. Relationships must be forged on something besides chemicals, and if all your friends are drug users, you're not going to have any real relationships. Stop using and see how many of your drug-using friends drop away. If their friendship was dependent on your drug use, were they ever real friends? You deserve some real friends.
posted by desjardins at 9:30 AM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

You need new friends. Take it from there.
posted by alms at 9:45 AM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Back in my youth, most of my "friends" did drugs. Now, most of them are dead.

As others have said, you are not an artist if you don't do anything artistic. Being a party girl is not artistic. Pointing at others and saying "but they do drugs and are successful" is also not artistic. That's justification for sticking with drugs and parties, except "they" are not "you".

I find it not sad, I find it pathetic to claim "I need drugs to be creative". Whatever you produce under influence is the drugs speaking. It's not your mind, not your art. So if you can't be creative without drugs, you are no artist and will never be an artist. Then you are just a junkie with some mechanical skill to put the blurry trips on paper (or medium of preference).

Why do you think there are so many rehab clinics for famous artists? Because these creative people - artists - enjoy the romantic life of addiction so much? Nope, because they don't and realize it would be wise to clean up their lives.

Actually, I can't see a reason to keep on doing drugs, because everything related to that stands in your way to do something, anything, productive.
posted by MinusCelsius at 9:46 AM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Speaking as a creative person with decades of art, music and writing behind me, and a lot of drug abuse in my youth, let me say this: what you want to do for your creativity is to let it have free reign with a clear mind. You do not need drugs to be creative. That's bullshit. You like drugs, you want to keep taking them, and usually they make you feel good. Your peer group takes drugs. I was the same. But drugs are a way to lessen your pain, and as a creative person you need to feel the pain in order to decide how best to deal with it, how best to externalize it through creativity. Anything else is just jacking off.

I don't say you have to quit drugs... time will take care of that for you. You'll grow bored with them, and they'll start making you feel crappy. One day you'll wake up in a bath tub covered with your own vomit, like I did, and think, "What the fuck am I doing?"

I still take the occasional toke, but other than than and a bottom wine once in a while, I'm done with the drug thing. I like having a clear head. I could go on about this at great length, but I think you're getting the idea from other posts.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:59 AM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

So here's the thing: I'm a creative/artist in Los Angeles. I've spent nearly all my life romanticizing this idea of a drug-addled artist living against the grain of society. For the most part, I've lived up to that (without having made any considerable works of art yet).

Here's the thing: being "creative" doesn't actually mean anything if you're not actually creating anything. One thing about drugs is that they often play this neat little trick on you: you suddenly feel so awesome, and creative, and have all these great ideas. But guess what--you've said yourself you haven't followed through on them. You can keep doing drugs, and keep feeling like in just a little while you'll have your breakthrough moment and create some amazing work. And when you don't, drugs do provide the feeling that it's coming soon.

But creating good art is work. It can be great, fun, fulfilling work, but it's work. It's not a glamorous life style choice. Even if all your creative friends are in fact totally functional on drugs, you are not. That's all that matters.
posted by dysh at 9:59 AM on August 12, 2012 [19 favorites]

You're the only one who can decide what to do with your life.

You challenge us "I'd like your best reasoning towards why I should stop doing drugs," when you've already made yourself a list answering that for yourself. Your list of what your drug use has given you, in your own words:

"terrible month of interpersonal relationships,"
"a personal meltdown,"
"I've lost my best friends,"
"I've lost my boyfriend,"
"a month of recuperation."

All that and you're still left "without having made any considerable works of art,"

So you look at all that and say "quitting is something I definitely want to do," like you said. And then you just.. do it. It's easier to do if you've got something all-consuming to take your time away from partying (a project, a goal, something to work towards that requires a lot of your time and passion). Like, say, making art.

By the way, partying with glamorous successful artists doesn't make you a glamorous successful artist, in the same way that putting on a Lakers jersey doesn't make a great basketball player. I know at least four successful working artists, and none of them live a party lifestyle. Not to say they're sober, but their art is their passion, and it definitely comes first in their lives.
posted by erst at 10:12 AM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

You don't think you're an addict but your using has apparently cost you your boyfriend and your best friends. If using is more important to you than your relationships, then you've got a problem. Call it what you like.

And if you're using because That's What Artists Do, Man, but you're not even creating anything, then what are you using for?
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

It's good that you're asking this now, and looking for a way to be out of the endless cycle and successfully remove this stumbling block from your life.

It's sad when the person asking this is 35, or 45, or 55. Don't be that person. Do it now. The up side is that it's the one thing you can totally walk away from in your life that you'll never be sorry about.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 10:16 AM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm constantly surrounded by people who make it seem like it's alright to do drugs because they're still successful, functioning members of society.

Yes, there are successful, functioning members of society who do drugs*.

That doesn't mean that you can.

*These people are—by definition—not "drug-addled", i.e., there is a difference between "use" and "abuse".
posted by she's not there at 10:19 AM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wonder if you could turn this into a creative project. Like say to yourself, "For 100 days (or a thousand, or for a certain season) I will do no mind altering substances. But what I will do is wake up every morning and make one thing." At the end of the period, you could take stock of what you have made, and see what your art tells you about whether or not you are addicted, and what the significance the absence of drugs has in your life.
posted by pickypicky at 10:26 AM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

I've spent nearly all my life romanticizing this idea of a drug-addled artist living against the grain of society.

It's hard giving up on notions you've invested so much in, even when the evidence should make it obvious that your theory holds little or no water. You have my sympathy.

Sunk cost fallacy.
posted by jon1270 at 10:28 AM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't really speak about addiction, but I can tell you about the role of drugs in the creative process.

I produce music professionally, and the myth of 'drugs inspire creativity' is one of the most insidiously untrue truisms of any creative profession. The image that non-musicians have of musicians - consuming drugs with reckless abandon and then having the music pour pure out of their soul because it lives inSIDE them, man, and the drugs let it out - is frankly insulting.

It is an appealing myth to most people because they don't understand the creative process. Non-musical people are always astounded that I can make music (in the same way that I'm astounded by people who can paint) and assume that the process is something akin to magic. The idea of drugs tapping into this magic is hugely overstated in popular culture because I imagine the majority of people do not make music or art or whatnot. It is a particular favourite of either the extremely tacky, or, very frequently, those who fancy themselves artists but lack the ability or the discipline to do it at a professional (or even respectable) level. Because, of course, they turn out utter dreck because they're high, but also because they don't understand the creative process; specifically, they don't understand that 'the creative process' is actually, 'work'.

When people assume that I must have been high when I created a song, it is profoundly, profoundly insulting to me. 'Nope, no drugs. What you're actually hearing is the 40 hours of work I put into a 3 minute song.'

Listen --- despite all the romantic notions of creative abandon, NOTHING I do is reckless or accidental - even when it sounds like a wild mess, everything I do is deliberate, meticulous and purposefully thought out. As an artist, this should be your goal - to treat your art like the craft that it is, to develop it to the point where you can control your craft with the precision and intention of, uh, a crafstman.

This is what artists who take their craft seriously do - all that shit about the drugs and that, I can tell you, first hand, is a largely cultivated image that doesn't reflect the reality. The professional musicians I know --- and these are big names here, people you would have heard of and maybe assumed were doing drugs while making music --- really don't use drugs when they're working. You would be shocked by the reality of backstage life - picture a bunch of people drinking tea and checking their e-mail while they wait for their stage time. But then when you get back from the festival, your friends are like, 'hey, that must have been a wild time!' and there's a lot of nudging and winking because that's fun and it seems cool and so i don't bother emphasizing that mostly, all of us rock stars just sat around and ate hummous.

So, this is what I'm saying --- all of that 'artist doing drugs and going against the grain of society' image is largely a bullshit image perpetuated by the people whose art is actually respected; the reason it's bullshit is because all of them, all of them, have a great deal of respect for their own work, and take. it. seriously. Maybe they let on, like, 'oh, I just do drugs and the music comes through me,' but this isn't actually true. Maybe there was a brief moment of creative ecstasy, and maybe that was even under the influence of drugs, but that's always just the spark. After that, the music is fussed over, thought about, worked and re-worked --- in short, crafted.

This might sound harsh, but the absolute shittest musicians and artists I've ever met were the ones who bought into the 'artist as drug user' completely and without irony; every one I can think of produced basically hack work - there was no evidence that their work was anything other than a bunch of bullshit they made while on drugs because they believed that that was what art was.

Have respect for your work; give up on the lies about drugs that the hacks and the uncreatives and tacky, tacky 'artistes' believe about art before you become one of them. Take your art seriously. It's your work, after all.
posted by Tiresias at 10:34 AM on August 12, 2012 [33 favorites]

Of course you are addicted. Why else would you need to ask for help stopping? If you were not addicted, you would simply stop and see what happens.

Anyhoo, the addiction may be chemical or emotional or both, but if you aren't producing your art at this point, then you already have the answer you need on why to stop: those intelligent, successful people are managing to create art and/or succeed despite drugs, not because of them.

The darker side to that is, of course, that the first time you do drugs, it has no real impact. Over a year, and it starts to, but you manage it. Over several years, you cannot overcome it any more, and eventually you either get out (with professional help, typically), you die, or you simply squeeze out the tiniest semblance of a decent life under the thumb of your addiction.

Data point: whether you like his work or not, Frank Zappa did not use drugs, and I am guessing almost every musician you know, however many drugs they may be taking and whatever talent they may possess, has a genuine respect for him and his work (even if they don't like it.)

So, why do so many turn to drugs in these industries? Well, it is fun, and makes you feel like part of the scene, and as you fritter your life away and watch other people achieve their success under the influence you start doubting yourself and believing that you can't actually be successful without drugs, that they're the only thing standing between you and invisibility, even as they are actually dragging you under.

Just sayin'.
posted by davejay at 10:43 AM on August 12, 2012

I've spent nearly all my life romanticizing this idea of a drug-addled artist living against the grain of society.

That’s going to be the toughest part.
posted by bongo_x at 10:54 AM on August 12, 2012

have you checked out an AA meeting yet? (they're for everything, not just "A"...some meetings are tailored for other drugs, but its all the same message) me (random dude on the internet! :D), it's free, there's no obligation to return, or to talk (other than to introduce yourself), and the worst thing that could happen is you'll be bored for an hour. (you probably won't be...the stories people tell in meetings are, in general, much, much, more interesting than your own.)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:56 AM on August 12, 2012

Drugs make you depressed. You don't realize this until you've been off drugs for several months. You probably think you take them because they help you not be depressed. Not true. But realistically, you're not going to stop until something seriously bad happens and makes you truly realize that the drugs are significantly negatively affecting your life.

And when you do stop, you cannot be friends with any of those people who still do drugs. Stopping involves changing your life, surroundings, and social circle. See why it's so difficult? And stay away from those opiates. I've only ever met ONE person who successfully quit opiates for good.
posted by catatethebird at 11:12 AM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'll say to you what I wish I had the courage to say to one of my close relatives:

Is getting fucked up SO much fun that it's worth losing all your friends and family relationships one by one, or any concrete plans you have for your own future? Is it really THAT much fun?

Because that's where you are headed now.

People are right when they say one day you'll eventually just stop. The question is, will that day come in two years or twenty?
posted by hermitosis at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Drugs are not enhancing your creative, artistic output. That's reason to quit, to see if, at minimum, you might do more without them. You're losing important relationships while you're using lots of drugs, and again, that's a reason to quit and at least see if things can improve when you're sober.

I think you're addicted. Quitting is going to be difficult, but you can do it. But to the extent it makes a difference in how you evaluate things while trying to do so, again, I think you're an addict.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:17 AM on August 12, 2012

How about an argument by authority? Brian Eno invented whole weird genres of music, produced some of the iconic albums of the century (including the Bowie Berlin albums, one of high points of Bowie's whole body of work, made after he moved to Germany to get away from the drugs and his habit), and did all kinds of awesome creative things. He had this to say about creativity (1982): "The point about working is not to produce great stuff all the time, but to remain ready for when you can. There's no point in saying, I don't have an idea today, so I'll just smoke some drugs. You should stay alert." And this (2001): "I don't like drugs in the recording studio -- they just mean everything takes five times longer to do." Eno, judging by his biography, is no prude or prohibitionist, and he's obsessed with the work of creativity -- if the drugs helped, he'd talk about it. As was said upthread, drugs are great for feeling creative, and terrible for being creative and actually doing anything of value. They let you enjoy the feeling of futurity, of your limitless potential and energy, while slowly, surely eroding that futurity away so it remains permanently unrealized.
posted by finnb at 11:20 AM on August 12, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't have any overarching moral objection to going through your party phase with weed and hallucinogens and even something speedy, fine. But pharmaceuticals aren't so casual. And did a bunch of cocaine that you don't even like.

So...not to be glib, but this romantic ideal thing seems to be flawed, no? You're not making art and you're not having fun.

As for how, you don't have to announce to your friends FRIENDS, I AM NOW CLEAN FROM THE DRUGS. Next time pills or coke are passed around, just start by saying "eh, not tonight." Make the little palm-out hand motion of whoa, I'm cool, pass me by. If they ask why, just say that you're just not in the mood for it tonight. If someone gets incredulous and jerky about it and won't drop it, give 'em a raised eyebrow, jokingly say something like "um, is that okay with you, or is this the dreaded peer pressure I learned about in middle school?" or just a quizzical "dude, more for you, quit yer complaining."

One by one, most of the people in my group of friends have, on their own, given up drugs except for alcohol and pot. Some have given up one or both of those as well. If the friendship is of value, it continues. If it's just based on shared partying, it'll probably drift away -- which I don't mean as a judgement. I don't see the casual friends I used to go dancing with years ago, but it's not because I think nightclubs are a devil that ruined my youth, quite the contrary, I just moved on to other interests.
posted by desuetude at 11:27 AM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Just to add my story:

I knew a man who wrote some very popular YA novels in the 1970s and 1980s. (Royalties still trickle in to his estate today; they're considering making a movie of his most popular novel.) He died of alcoholism in his 50s.

New novels under his name continue to be produced sporadically; the title page says "by FamousAuthor, completed by GhostAuthor". The book jacket says that FamousAuthor "left behind lots of notes, enough material so that GhostAuthor was able to take those notes and finish what FamousAuthor left behind."

What notes? I asked his ex-wife. Did he leave a lot of notes? Did the alcoholism enhance his creativity at the end? No, that's all bullshit, she said. When he died, they found exactly 11 words on his typewriter, and nothing else. The new books were entirely created by GhostAuthor but with FamousAuthor's name, because they wanted to continue to produce books that would sell. The alcoholism completely destroyed him. Among other things, local schools stopped inviting him to speak, because he was an embarrassment.

I dated this man's son, who died of a drug overdose at age 29.

But drugs are a way to lessen your pain, and as a creative person you need to feel the pain in order to decide how best to deal with it, how best to externalize it through creativity. Anything else is just jacking off.

Favorited a gazillion times.
posted by Melismata at 11:38 AM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

From an anonymous commenter:
My family collects contemporary art. Over 30 years, this has developed into a significant collection; it appears in art and popular culture magazines, and pieces are regularly loaned to major museums. In other words, we deal with serious work and serious artists, which is what I'm assuming you want to be. (Maybe not!)

Because of the nature how the collection is built, I have grown up knowing most of the artists represented very well. We have close and long-standing personal relationships with 90% of them. Every artist I knew who is dead died of AIDS or drug overdoses in the 80's and 90's. Everyone I know who is still alive and working as a self-supporting artist enjoying the interest of legitimate collectors, buyers, exhibitors and gallery representation is these days clean, and largely sober. They produce incredible work. I don't know anyone still doing what you're doing. It sounds a bit Studio 54, to be honest.

I just thought you should know that outside your social milieu, and from a different perspective, art and "successful" artists look very different. What you describe is to me not the serious pursuit of art; it is lifestyle dilettantism. I don't see how a career of any longevity can be built on that.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:11 PM on August 12, 2012 [16 favorites]

You're not an artist. You haven't produced any art in 8 years.

I don't know if you're an addict or not, but you have done nothing but drugs for 8 years. Doing drugs is not art.

Also, you have lost all your friends and your boyfriend, so apparently it's not doing your social skills much good. Social skills are needed to succeed in any profession, not much, but enough not to alienate everyone in your circle.

I've worked with and for alcoholics and they were, once you got past the shiny first impressions, fuckups who were always on the brink of losing everything, highly dependent on manipulating their patrons to pull strings so they could get by in spite of the disdain of quite a lot of people in their professional circle. I now actively avoid environments where a hard-drinking culture is in evidence and, as a result, I'm left in peace to do my work rather than constantly having to put out fires and deal with Borgia-ensue levels of damaging political bullshit, or generally having to placate emotionally unstable hacks. This hasn't exactly increased my productivity in quantitative terms, because I had to do the drunkards' work for them quite a lot and cover for their mistakes and so there was substantial output for one person. But the quality of my work is better now that I'm doing just one person's work and don't have to worry about lunatic coworkers barging into my office and threatening violence at random.
posted by tel3path at 12:40 PM on August 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

Oddly enough, I just finished reading the part of Stephen King's On Writing where he talks about his own drinking and drug problem before I sat down to read Metafilter.

"The idea that creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time. The four twentieth century writers whose work is most responsible for it are probably Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poety Dylan Thomas. They are the writers who largely formed our vision of an existential English-speaking wasteland where people have been cut off from one another and live in an atmosphere of emotional strangulation and despair. These concepts are very familiar to most alcoholics; the common reaction to them is amusement. Substance-abusing writers are just substance abusers--common garden-variety drunks and druggies, in other words. Any claims that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving bullshit.

I've heard alcoholic snowplow drivers make the same claim, that they drink to still the demons. It doesn't matter if you're James jones, John Cheever, or a stewbum snoozing in Penn Station; for an addict, the right to the drink or drug of choice must be preserved at all costs. Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn't drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it's what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what? We all look pretty much the same when we're puking in the gutter."

As for my part, I work as a writer and have friends who are extremely successful writers and artists. A bit of drinking and a bit of pot are the vices of all those I know, but none of them (myself included) have the time or energy for serious partying and drugging because they/we are so busy working on actual creative things.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:42 PM on August 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

and a bottom wine once in a while

Should be "..a bottle of wine once in a while..."

Jeez. My kingdom for an EDIT button! :-/
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anyway, I think I've learned and "expanded my mind" to the greatest extent I can, but stopping is so...difficult. So please, how do I fully stop drugs when it's something that's so much a part of my mindset, lifestyle, and social circle?

How long has it been since you used anything? Does the month of recuperation mean a month without using? If so, that is a really good start. I think you need to get away from using your addictive substances for a while to really get perspective. Especially if you've been in a subculture where using heavily seems normal, you need to get some distance from the habit in the sense of just letting some time go by.

If by "fully stop," you mean stop forever, a lot of people have trouble with that idea and that's why they talk about one day at a time.
posted by BibiRose at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, if drugs were going to help you come to some burst of enlightenment, it would have happened by now. (And it seems like you realize that already.) And since they haven't given you that, at this point you're just . . . looking at yourself in a whole bunch of different ways. Nothing wrong with that as recreation (though some people have trouble with it even as recreation, and it sounds like you could use a looooong break in any case) but as a means of trying to inspire yourself, it seems a bit self-indulgent. It's like you're looking at the world through a kaleidoscope, and every time you want inspiration you turn the kaleidoscope another quarter-turn to warp the view in another new and interesting way, when what you really need to do is put the kaleidoscope down, turn your head, and look at something else.

Also, it sounds like you may be a little swept up in the idea of your friends as "creatives." People involved in the arts aren't, like, a different species. (And, honestly, the fact that you put "successful musicians" and "professional party throwers" in the same category of "creatives" suggests to me that, for you, that designation might be more about the bohemian lifestyle than what your friends actually create.) You don't have to cut ties with those friends, but try making some additional friends who, say, hold down a boring job during the week, make art or music on the weekend, and normally stop after two beers. Join somebody's bar trivia team. Invite friends over to bake a ridiculous cake. Start a special-interest book club! These people might be a little less fun-every-minute than your current group, but once you start redeveloping a sensitivity to the pleasures of a less "glamorous" kind of life, they can be incredibly fun to be around. Also, you'll be glad to have some kind of calm refuge if some of your current friends have a weird reaction to the fact that you're cutting back on drugs.

Also, the fact that you no longer enjoy the effects of drugs but keep on doing them (cocaine, which you "didn't like but still did a lot of") suggests that you have in fact formed some kind of psychological dependency, whether or not you are physically addicted. You might find it useful to set aside the question of physical addiction and bear in mind that you are dependent at this point in at least one way -- it might help you keep from getting discouraged by the fact that doing what you're doing is hard.

And another also: "living against the grain of society" depends on what kind of society you're in. It sounds like right now, you're living in a little micro-society in which doing drugs is going with the grain. Why else would you cite the norms of your friend group so much in this question? There are other, interesting micro-societies that are separate from what you're doing now but also separate from the Whitebread Stripmall America you want to avoid, and the sooner you disentangle your thought process a little, the sooner you can go find them.
posted by ostro at 2:40 PM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

Nthing that you're not "a creative," because you're not actually creating anything. (Also, "creative" is an adjective, not a noun.) So stop kidding yourself about who and what you are in the world. You're not "an artist" because you hang out with artists in the same way that wearing my Green Bay Packers jersey does not make a member of the team. And if all the "artists" you hang with are in the same boat as you, using drugs instead of making shit, it is likely that NONE of you are real artists. You're only as good as the company you keep.

Your question is really pushing my buttons today because it's coming up on the anniversary of the death of one of my oldest and dearest, who spent his last 18 years addicted to heroin. He died unforgiven by me and most of the other people who had been friends with him for the shit he pulled with us. I'd like to be able to forgive him but am not there yet, maybe never will be. Maybe I shouldn't answer your question today, but I am going to talk to my friend as well as to you as I do.

Dave lost multiple fiancees, two lucrative careers, and destroyed his family. He alienated all his non-using friends because you know what? Drug addicts suck. They lie, they steal, they turn their whiny victim mentality into their personality...ugh. Nobody wants to be friends with them except other addicts. I loved my friend before he started using, still love the memory of that friend, but could not honestly say the same about the person he was in the years just before he died.

You only get a finite amount of time on this planet and you are the only one who can choose what you do with it. If you'd like your legacy to be that you couldn't get your shit together, lived your illusions instead of a productive life, and made excuses for yourself instead of anything else (including art), then keep using. If you have higher standards for your life and you'd like to create a different outcome for yourself, then get whatever help you need (Narcotics Anonymous would be my first recommendation) and commit to working the hell out of that program and ruthlessly pursuing only absolute truth about who and what you are.

You already know all this; you didn't need to post to AskMeFi to get the opinions of internet strangers about why you need to make this change. Start taking responsibility for your behavior RIGHT NOW: go look in the mirror and ask that person why you shouldn't do drugs anymore. Just because it's "...difficult" to stop doesn't mean you shouldn't stop. Sometimes you actually have to work for things.
posted by deliciae at 2:48 PM on August 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

> "I've spent nearly all my life romanticizing this idea of a drug-addled artist living against the grain of society."

Buying into this is buying into just the same kind of lie as the people who believe they have to have to be good little worker drones and wear the suits and make the money or something unnamed but terrible will happen because society says.

Because the fact that you are not the money that you make or the stuff that you own works both ways. You are not the clothes that you wear, whether it's a business suit or vinyl and mesh. And you are certainly not the drugs that you take.

Never live against the grain just because you're "supposed" to live against the grain. That's just choosing a different society to tell you what to do.

Society has good things about it and bad things about it. BOTH societies. EVERY society. Don't take drugs because you think the kind of person who does what you want to do has to do a certain thing a certain way.

You get to pick and choose. You get to decide what you do based on your ethics and your love and your art and your wisdom.

And if anyone drops you as a friend because you don't do drugs anymore, or pressures you to do drugs again to make you more like them ... they are society. They are the grain.

Be who you choose to be. The rest is bullshit.
posted by kyrademon at 3:48 PM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

"I believe that drugs are basically of more use to the audience than to the artist. I think that the illusion of oneness with the universe, and absorption with the significance of every object in your environment, and the pervasive aura of peace and contentment is not the ideal state for an artist. It tranquilizes the creative personality, which thrives on conflict and on the clash and ferment of ideas. The artist's transcendence must be within his own work; he should not impose any artificial barriers between himself and the mainspring of his subconscious. One of the things that's turned me against LSD is that all the people I know who use it have a peculiar inability to distinguish between things that are really interesting and stimulating and things that appear to be so in the state of universal bliss that the drug induces on a "good" trip. They seem to completely lose their critical faculties and disengage themselves from some of the most stimulating areas of life. Perhaps when everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful."
-Stanley Kubrick
posted by Drop Daedalus at 3:52 PM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Stop using drugs for a month. If you can't, you know you're an addict.

A few years ago, a friend of mine found out he was going to be a dad. He was thrilled and he wanted to be really supportive. Since he knew his girlfriend couldn't drink while she was pregnant, he decided he wouldn't drink either. And that's how he realized he had a problem. He quickly found out that he couldn't quit. Not for nine months. Not even for one. He got help.

Echoing what kyrademon said: "Never live against the grain just because you're "supposed" to live against the grain. That's just choosing a different society to tell you what to do." I'd favorite that a thousand times if I could. He's absolutely right.

One more thought: beware of people who tell you what you want to hear, especially about drugs.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:18 PM on August 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

As someone who makes their living as an artist in Los Angeles I can tell you that I don't use drugs other then the occasional drink of alcohol. Bottom line, you don't need drugs to do great work. Right now it seems that you're more so enjoying the "idea" of being an artist. But if you haven't had success and worked making a living doing your art you're not having as great of success as you could. Sure...success isn't only measured on financial gains but let's face it...the goal is to make a living. The most important thing that you must come to grips with is that drugs are going to eventually kill you. Make fun of dare and specials on discovery health all you want, but your health is in great danger if you continue down this path. Get help, get off drugs. Plain and simple. Pursue your career....please pursue your career. If you love art then follow your dream. But drugs have nothing to do with success. Many successful people use drugs, but that's probably more so because they can and not because they should or it truly helps them. The real high is the natural one you get from doing what you love and sharing that with others. This is the only is drug you should ever need. Get high off of that...not cocaine.
posted by ljs30 at 4:42 PM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

It sounds like drugs are a big part of how you define yourself and your relationship to your friends, and the rest of the world. Consider that that might distort your perception of how drug use fits in the life of your successful drug-using friends and acquaintances. Consider that it might blind you to how much harder they have to work to counteract the time, attention, and money they spend on drugs. Consider that you might be assuming that they are as invested in drug-use as you are. Consider that for them, taking X is an indulgence, or a reward for working hard or succeeding at something else that is more important to them. Consider that for them, smoking a joint in the evening is a way to unwind after spending the day working damn hard at something else.

I did plenty of drugs when I was younger, mostly alcohol, pot and hallucinogens. MDA/MDMA were too rare or too expensive. I kept away from coke because it was expensive, addictive, and all the people I saw on coke seemed to be assholes, and heroin, well, too damn addictive. For a few years, drugs use was a big part of how I saw myself. I gradually stopped though, because I increasingly had things I'd rather be doing.

Even then, I didn't necessarily plan to stop, I just did them less, and doing them less meant I had more time, money and motivation to do other things. I found I had less in common with some of my friends (the friends I mainly had drugs in common with), and I saw less and less of them. With friends I had other things in common with, more and more of our time together revolved around those things, rather than drugs. In time, I had pretty much given up everything except the occasional drink. Some time after that, I tried smoking out with an old friend, I found I no longer enjoyed it.

These days, I don't know much about drug use among friends, family and coworkers. I know some people drink because we meet up over beers or cocktails. Sometimes we end up a little intoxicated, but my father drank himself to death, so I have no interest in having anything to do with heavy drinkers. There are hints that many of the people I know in most walks of life (artists, programmers, engineers, social workers, administrators, musicians, academics, lawyers, doctors, etc, etc, etc) probably enjoy pot occasionally, but its not a major part of their lives. I know people who would not miss taking ecstasy and/or dropping acid at Burning Man every year, but for months before that, they spend their nights and weekends planning and making whatever cool kinetic sculpture they plan to display at Black Rock City, on top of whatever they do to make a living.

The question you need to wrestle with is whether there are things that matter more to you than drugs? If so, then spend more of your time, attention and money on them. If not, well, you definitely have a drug problem and your life is likely to get worse and worse until you deal with that.
posted by Good Brain at 7:32 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Of course you are addicted. Why else would you need to ask for help stopping? If you were not addicted, you would simply stop and see what happens.

This is unhelpful and condescending. No one here knows whether you're addicted, but I think judgy, simplistic labels like "addicted" are rarely helpful anyway, and they indicate a kind of black-and-white thinking that is neither helpful nor personally empowering. Don't waste time worrying about whether you're addicted; you want to stop but you're having trouble doing so. That's all that matters.

People have already given a lot of good advice here. One thing I would add is that you don't really grow when you're using drugs. Emotionally, artistically, etc.

It might be helpful to check out some NA meetings (rather than AA). Even if you don't fully agree with the 12-step method, it's good to meet and talk to others who have decided to stop using. It's good moral support and reminds you that you're not alone in this and that there are other options and lifestyles available to you.

Good Brain mentioned Burning Man-- I bet it would be super inspiring to go, if you can get a ticket, and camp in Anonymous Village. You'd meet lots of artistic types who no longer use. Something to think about, anyway.
posted by désoeuvrée at 8:12 PM on August 12, 2012

There is a podcast I love called The Mental Illness Happy Hour - the guy who does it is a professional comedian who interviews performers (and sometimes regular people) about the links between depression, mental illness, addiction, and creativity. The notion of the "drug addled artist living against the grain of society" has come up several times. The general consensus seems to be that it's a crock - something your brain tells you because, well, it wants drugs.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:09 PM on August 12, 2012

I've spent nearly all my life romanticizing this idea of a drug-addled artist living against the grain of society.

The fact that you romanticize this means you need to be cautious of attempting it. Your successful friends are probably sober most of the time. You haven't created anything in years, so this approach hasn't been working for you.
posted by yohko at 12:53 AM on August 13, 2012

Here is the best reason for not doing drugs (it's the same reason for avoiding plastic surgery imo). There is clearly a spectrum of use between one time, every now and then, and ending up dead in your bathtub like Whitney Houston or the hundreds of celebrities before her. Where is that line? How do you know when you've crossed it? Will you know? Nobody sets out to die in a bathtub from an overdose, but sometime between the first hit ever and the tragic death the line is crossed and you lose control and become a slave to your drugs of choice. The only way to prevent losing that control and crossing that line is to keep away from the drugs entirely.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 7:38 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I once heard a story from an older bearded guy as he was packing up his shiny new trailer and stashing all kinds of camping gear in his nice car, on the morning after a festival. At one point a couple decades back he said, he was losing his mind after extended psychedelics sprees. It was so bad he had to get away from it all. He took a job in the Black Forest in Germany to work in a hotel and take walks every day for several months. "On the train there all the articles in the newspaper were talking about me. That's how bad it was."

Not saying it'll come to this for you but I need to join into the chorus of above posters. At least divest yourself from cokeheads asap.

Now While you need something more than books, I've at least partially channeled my romanticism of drugs into reading about stuff. So here's a bit of a random list. Hope it helps.

- From another AskMe a while back, "Witness to the Fire" is an inspiring study of the link between creativity and addiction. Not a self-help book but definitely helpful.
- The Natural Mind by Andrew Weil.
- DF Wallace, Infinite Jest, bits about addiction (not the tennis).
- Baudelaire's Artificial Paradises.
- Also the Confessions of an Opium Eater by deQuincey.
- Lem's The Futurological Congress.

Live vicariously, as Henry Miller said. Read about instead of doing it (-;
- Gonzo books, Burrough's Junkie, The graphic novel Transmetropolitan.
- trip reports on erowid, bluelight ]

Shaman-type usage. "If drugs worked and we had them in our society constrained by highly ritualised access only given by wise men at key points in life" or some such.
- Huxley's The Island. Castaneda. Also Jodorowsky's Psychomagic. The graphic novel Blueberry. (do avoid at all cost to become a self-taught crazy shaman acolyte)
posted by yoHighness at 8:27 AM on August 13, 2012

In my experience "creative" people who don't make anything are a dime a dozen. Wannabes who have never made any one thing worth discussing, much less anything that could be considered a body of work. There are a lot of people invested in this image of the super human counter cultural artist who is out partying constantly and having lots of sex and.... somehow also making things? Except that last part never seems to get done, although there's always plenty of talk to go around. Talk is cheap and the creative process is about work. It's a long process, there is no burst of inspiration (drug fueled or otherwise) or getting discovered or whatever other misconceptions people have about the reality of being an artist. You just get up every day and do it, there are not shortcuts.

All of the actual artists I know, people who are really making things and really doing it and really going forward with their work, are not out partying all the time. They're in their studios all day and often late into the night, hard at work and in it for the long haul. They might smoke weed or other things at a party once in a while, but they don't make that a lifestyle choice that gets in the way of doing things.
"The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case. -Chuck Close
If you describe yourself as an "artist" but you never make things, you need a reality check.
posted by bradbane at 12:10 PM on August 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Why should you quite drugs?

Because you haven't created jack shit yet.

Because your romantic notion is actually not a fact.

Think about what you really want, and take it from there.
posted by Vaike at 5:23 PM on August 14, 2012

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