Several years ago while adventuring through Peru, I stopped to work at a hostel bar for a couple of months. There I met Cyril, with whom I connected instantly. A fascinating person with an intricate mind, I wanted to get to know the real Cyril. There was just one problem: he had a tendency to disappear for days on end, myself and others at the hostel wondering where he could be, and more importantly, if he was okay. You see, he would go off on benders, partying with who knows who, taking god only knows what. Now, over three years later, Cyril is clean from all drugs, and shares the ups and downs of being a drug addict on the road.
My name is Cyril House, I am twenty-four years old, and am currently three years clean and sober from, primarily, an addiction to methamphetamines, but meth was only the climax of my addiction-process. I offer this information to demonstrate both the open-mindedness of my personality, as well as the severe restrictions imposed upon it. From start to finish my drug career expended nearly eight years of my vitality, and put me through the darkest gauntlet of life I have ever known, leaving me with clinical anxiety and depression, as well as suffering post-traumatically from drug-induced-schizophrenia. I write to you today to describe my travelling experience as a drug-addict, both the pros and the cons.
I have a number of smaller travelling experiences such as a two week trip to a Mexican resort, many cross-country (Canada) trips for varying purposes, and also many travelling trips throughout my own province (Alberta). I don’t believe I will touch too much on these smaller experiences due primarily to their disconnection to any central theme, and also due to their brevity on paper. I have done many things in my own country and province, as well as others’ countries that threatened to end my life, either literally or metaphorically, as a result of serious crimes. I think that such a comment is where I shall begin my primary section of discourse in the following paragraph, in which I shall discuss the implications of travelling as a drug-addict during the six months I spent living in Peru in 2012, the place in which, perhaps not so coincidentally, I met Ms. Ditzian.
In 2012 I was in quite a terminal state of drug-induced-schizophrenia, and still actively using. Whether it was a result of the voices in my head, or whether it was a result of the people I had acted against in my deteriorating state of mind, one way or the other I had people after me all the time; sometimes in the next room, sometimes in the dark alleyways, and sometimes in the bushes outside my home; sometimes these threats were real, and other times they were mere hallucinations. At the time I was unaware that I had come to be schizophrenic, and so everything which happened was especially vivid to me. It was due to the resulting fear that I accepted a generous offer to travel to Peru. Peru was on the other side of the world and surely no one would be looking for me there.
As I hopped on the plane out of Canada my gripping sense of unease began to lift as I raced through the sky, away from the turmoil at 600 miles per hour. Although I was to meet up with a friend in a small surfing village in northern Peru, I was on my own for the flight and the first week in the country as I travelled from the capital to the village. I drove away from the airport, at approximately midnight, in a cramped taxi van, and surrounded by strong looking Peruvians whom were all speaking in Spanish and staring at me. As we continued to drive we passed through a rather decrepit neighbourhood of Lima, where gangs had spray-painted all the walls with the recurring word “Blood”, and on some corners individuals were being beaten by several other individuals, and on other corners there were old men getting their dicks sucked right out in the open.
As I took in all of this terror and lawlessness, my mind began to paint a picture of this new country, and this neighbourhood represented it all. The peculiar thing, however, is that being surrounded by such savagery made me feel completely safe. More safe than I had felt in many years; it was as though a warm, light pressure had embraced me about my back and shoulders; a hug from the chaos. Now, in retrospect, I have come to believe that I felt so safe in such chaos due to the fact that the external world seemed to mirror my internal state. I no longer needed to be worried about if or when I would be attacked because suddenly it was very obvious that if I stepped out of the van I would be robbed and killed, and if I were to choose to do so I needn’t even be anxious for those few minutes before it all happened because as soon as I saw anyone walking towards me I would know that they are a threat. Drug culture, and first world culture even more so, are such anxious and stressful places to live because enemies always wear smiles, and invite you to their parties, and for all intents and purposes your enemies are your friends. You simply cannot tell when a person may strike, and you cannot tell if a person even wants to strike. In Peru this all changed very suddenly, and I loved it.
Now before I entirely soil your opinion of the magnificent country I ought to clarify: the van drove through this savage neighbourhood for about 40 minutes to an hour, before coming out into a much more civilized, well lit, and safe-seeming portion of Lima. It dropped me off at a beautiful hotel, and I spent my next few days exploring the immediate neighbourhood on foot and getting to know the culture. I had come to escape the terrors of my addiction, and I was doing so quite effectively; I was not using drugs and only consuming trivial amounts of alcohol with my dinner.
About a week later I caught the bus away from the big city and off to the coast. I arrived and met my friend, who introduced me to many more friends, and we spent the day together, having a few drinks and getting to know each other; then the night time came. It was at this time that someone brought out some cocaine. Now although I had spent many years addicted to cocaine, my meth addiction had wiped clear any straggling desires I held for the substance, because nothing is as good as meth. But, ‘When in Rome’ as they say; I did this cocaine and was immediately mind boggled. This was the best cocaine I had ever done! I put about 3/4 of a gram up my nose all in a go and I was high for sixteen hours straight. I remember thinking it was like acid because I had no cravings for it, I had no agitating ticks from it, and I came down perfectly clean. Not a single stroke of anxiety or craving, I just was high and then I wasn’t.
Now to spare you the obsequious details of the progression of tales which follows, I shall come sharply to my point. When travelling in destinations where the inhabitants are not so well off, many of them sell drugs, and many of them sell drugs cheap, and many of these cheap drugs are very good for the simple reason that the vendors cannot afford to cut them with other products, nor would they dare to sully their brand if they could. Addiction is a fierce enemy when the dope is shit and the prices are unaffordable; addiction in a place such as northern Peru: absolutely insurmountable. There simply was no way to avoid it because all excuses were stripped from the transactions. “It’s too expensive”? Actually it costs less than a meal and a bed for the night. “I’ll spend more money going back later than I am willing to lose”? Actually you won’t be able to go back for the rest of the night because you’ll be so fuckin’ high. I know this to be the case in other areas of the world as well: in the Middle-East it is heroin, in Asia it is methamphetamines. Where you find these drug locales it is arguably cheaper to stay high than it is to eat and sleep, and that is a huge problem for a travelling drug addict because an addict will become lost in the ‘bliss’ of it all, and when I say lost I do not mean off in a blissful fairy tale of serotonin/dopamine overload, what I mean is lost in such a way that one is too high and too happy to care about much else, eternally trusting, and increasingly putting oneself in more and more vulnerable positions; which eventually will be taken advantage of, whether it is being robbed or being murdered, many people in such places will feel no remorse for attacking a senseless drug addict.
My addiction also lead me to make enemies of dangerous people, in an already dangerous part of the world; and it lead me to stay in places longer than I cared to, or could afford to, because my connections in that town/city/village were secure. My bliss-filled evenings of mindless intoxication prohibited me from doing many things I would like to have otherwise done: my pre-spent-drug-money could have been used to take surf lessons, or kite-boarding lessons, and perhaps if I wasn’t so high I would have not dropped out of the Spanish course I enrolled in, which would have benefited me greatly to be able to better speak the language as I later progressed into area of the country that spoke progressively less English.
There were, as I mentioned, also some pros to being a maniacal drug fiend in one of the top party-tourism capitals of the world. I met a tonne of people, and the people I met were typically from all areas of the globe, and our emotional-rollercoaster-drug-frenzies with one another brought us all to a very intimate degree of closeness. These people are friends whom I still am in contact with, and would go to great distances to support me in any times of need, as I would for them. Another benefit of being ‘The Crazy Canadian’, or so otherwise to speak ‘the Canadian who emitted a negative-fucks-atmosphere’, was that I was a shoe-in for jobs setting up and promoting parties, as well as an indispensable tool for keeping those parties going long after they typically shut down. I was able to bring my employers in large sums of money in very short times in ways I would not have been able to do as effectively without my ‘high-as-fuck-attitude’ as well as my connections to important drug dealers.
When I finally tricked myself into returning to Canada from Peru, I had burnt myself out and was sober for many months. But eventually I slipped back into my shady, paranoid, glass-toking habits; it was this portion of the gauntlet that lead me into the deepest and most frightening episodes of schizophrenic-mania. This mania led to hospitalization, and the hospitalization led to rehabilitation. Here now, three years clean from any and all abusive substances, my life is blossoming with greatness and perfection. I have been in Canada the entire time throughout my sobriety, yet always yearning for escape. So very soon here, next month in fact, my partner and I are going to the South East Asian Islands for a five week adventure. I feel confident in my sobriety, although I am positive that travelling as a recovering drug addict has its own hazards (as well as its own benefits). Perhaps when I return Ms. Ditzian will allow me to write a supplementary piece recalling the differences between my adventures. For now I bid you all peace and safety, and may your wildest dreams come to be continuously fulfilled.
Cyril C. House
Check out part 2 of Cyril’s story – his first time travelling far from home as a recovering addict.
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