I was back onboard the Benzo Bus.
I continued my trips away with friends in what had become a recurring theme of distraction. A distraction from some awkward moments I needed to have with myself.
I hired a barge boat and sailed some sleepy canals for the weekend. My friend had turned up with some prescription 5mg diazepam and lots of red wine.
The little yellow tablets felt delightful. It makes me ponder how much of the diazepam is counterfeit from the black market. These fifty yellow tablets were straight from a pharmacy in the valley and were the real deal. I felt fantastic as soon as I got a couple down me, I was pretty much into double figures after a couple hours.
That left five of us, intoxicated, high on prescription drugs cruising these sleepy island canals, with a sound bar blasting out music for about 36 hours. What a sight we must have been. Once again, the footage from phones has meant another trip that would’ve been lost has now survived in some part.
The boat made me so happy that I thought I would repeat the same experience for my birthday, a year earlier my birthday had not been a cause for celebration. I wanted this to be different and, oh it unquestionably was.
I was determined to enjoy it, I went to the chilliest European city and took new friends from the capital. Armed with about thirty Valium in my inside jean pocket I got to the departure lounge and shook hands with my friends. I mentioned what I had in my jean pocket, Valium was a drug they had heard of but never associated it with recreational use. That changed.
By the time we had finished our first ‘King Lear’ in the airport I had a couple of them asking for more.
I didn’t feel anything, I had been back on the Valium and back on it in a big way for about six months. The buzz had disappeared and the enjoyment gone. It was habitual addiction as opposed to recreational enjoyment.
It was on this trip where seeds for this blog sprouted, it was my first real moment of true self reflection and the moment that was partly responsible for changing the course of my life.
My friends from the Capital were different to my friends from my valley. One friend whom I would describe as sensitive and caring decided to put hallucinogenic mushrooms in my coffee.
I had mentioned to him earlier how I didn’t think my fragile mind could handle a ‘trip’ and that I didn’t see anything “magic from mushrooms.” His take on this was to spike me.
What is ‘normal?’ I hear myself ask.
I remember the same friend gave me a ‘balloon’ for the first time.
Now, I can only describe a balloon as suffocated yourself to euphoria. It was a great buzz but totally random, it definitely gave me a better and less judgemental perspective for those who enjoy that type of sex game.
It was in this moment I started to feel peculiar. An edge comes over me, a black cloud wraps its arms around me and I do not know why.
I desperately swallowed the remaining two Valium and nothing. I started to go into meltdown and remember my friend laughing. I remember holding back the urge to punch him but couldn’t hold back the urge of removing my top half of clothing. And that’s when it hit me. My ‘trip’ had begun. And it was going to be a bad one!
I needed to escape the boat.
Topless, I finally got to the top of the boat on the crisp winter evening. The ‘trip’ was awful, it was as if all the black thoughts, the negativity and the darkness had finally got past my defences. I spoke of the darkness in a previous blog post, the darkness a year earlier I started to feel when the high from cocaine would wear off and Valium would rescue me. But not now, there would be no rescue package, I had to weather this myself.
I was terrified, a storm was unleashed and I remember begging and pleading with myself “to feel normal again.”
I visited moments in my life I had forgotten and immersed myself in moments I had fought so hard to not think about; they came thick and fast with such clarity.
I needed to get off the boat!
I started walking the streets, trying to be invisible. I didn’t want anyone to look at me (everyone was or at least it felt like it) but at the same time couldn’t stand still. To top this off I couldn’t walk properly, it was as if someone had tied a rope around my legs. I decided to give myself landmarks to reach to feel like I was making progress. The first landmark was easy, a sign for ‘Chinese Massage and Acupuncture’ 150 metres away from me.
This probably sounds like an exaggeration but I must have spent an hour trying to reach it. I have no idea what I was doing but it couldn’t have been walking or at least walking in the most commonly known form.
I finally returned to the boat. Did I even leave the boat? I often ask myself that question.
I started to notice the canal beginning to glisten in the moonlight sky. The feeling of the trip started to ease was creeping in.
It was beautiful. It had finally started to subside.
The darkness had lifted and the most intense feeling I have ever experienced started to evaporate.
Little by little, then quicker and quicker.
I started to feel ‘normal’ again and feel thankful for it. Absolutely ecstatic about it. I vowed to never take feeling normal lightly again and I thought about how lucky I was. I never wanted to not feel like me again, the fog and mist Valium had cast over me, lifted with the ‘trip’ and I began to feel angry that they had stolen another year of my life.
I began that awkward discussion with myself right there and then. I started to realise I had been missing for the three people I cared about most in the world. I wondered about the trio nestled deeply in my heart and feared I had pushed them away, too far away. People who cared for me gave me a pass because of what I had gone through but I took advantage of that and slipped severely, becoming entrenched in old habits.
I climbed off the top deck and walked to a bar (at a reasonable pace). I downed a pint and a half of ‘King Lear’ and thought about my wife, my son and my daughter .
It was time to once again realise my stop was calling. Time to get off the Benzo Bus.
*King Lear – Beer