My Biannual Dalliance with Substance Abuse

I’ll have ten packets please. Oh, and maybe some for tomorrow, too.

We had heard that Valium flowed like water through the streets of Bangkok. That every pharmacy was giving them away, that children on the street tossed them like pebbles, that they were ground up and used as seasoning salt in most dishes. They were considered mild anaesthetics and treatments for abrasions and sore throats and were served as garnishes at tea parties. One could get them over the counter, as well as in most reputable supermarkets, and also tumbling out of the pockets of clumsy, unwary people who took no care of their large stores of Valium.

We were staring down the barrel of some serious long-haul travel. There were Indian trains and buses and cars looming in our future—much as we had heard legends of Thai Valium availability, we were also privy to numerous stories about the nature of travel in the subcontinent. Long delays, cramped conditions, thin shaky metallic beds hovering over scores of unattended owls—all the horrors of Hades soon to be unleashed on our trembling, waking forms. We wanted nothing more than the sweet bliss of a murky, fogged-up sleep, the hazy slumber of a questionably legal controlled substance to lull us into dreamland.

Ty and I were both dainty sleepers, easily woken and constantly on the brink of truly zen REM, a gilded cloud always floating just beyond reach. Faith by contrast was a champion napper, capable of dozing through anything short of a category five hurricane or her kidneys being forcibly removed through her nostrils, and we envied her ability to escape the most unpleasant aspects of long-term travel. Nearly seconds after laying her head upon whatever iron slab or spiky, fibrous surface we had purchased for ourselves aboard a hurtling, ramshackle conveyance, she would be off to sleepyville. Ty and I would stew the hours away, wakefulness slowly beginning to converge with insanity, as we hungered for the sweet release of unconsciousness.

How then could we lull ourselves into the kind of necessary calm to allow us slumber? The answer, of course, was drugs.

Continue reading