Sadly, no level of intelligence or common sense makes a person immune to the threat of addiction. I've harbored my secret for a long time now, afraid of what people might think when they found out I was a spice addict.
A few years ago—I honestly can't tell you exactly how long ago it was—a friend asked me that fateful question: "Have you ever tried synthetic weed?" As a former pot smoker, I was skeptical. There's a legal alternative to marijuana? was what first came to mind. At the time, there were no laws against its distribution or use. My next thought: Well, if it's legal, it's got to be safe.
My first experience with spice was surreal. I hadn't remembered pot making me feel so dissociative, so disconnected from my body. It also made me feel exceptionally relaxed, euphoric, and inspired. Despite having chronic lung issues, I started smoking it regularly.
And then things began to get interesting.
The government began outlawing the specific formulations chemists were using to create that artificial THC. In turn, chemists began changing their formulations—tweaking the molecule here and there every time the government added the most current one to its list. By that time, I'd become so familiar with the drug, I could only assume the illegalization was merely an attempt to keep people from enjoying the pot-like drug.
But, you see, every time the chemists altered the drug, it became just a little more potent and a little more addictive. It became more dangerous.
By the time I finally quit, I might as well have been addicted to crack (I can only assume; I've never smoked crack). The highs would get so intense I'd be nearly out of my mind. I would notice my lungs would go several seconds at a time refusing to heed my mental command to inhale. My heart would race, and I'd feel certain I was going to die. I'd throw away the pipe and whatever spice I had left, determined never to put myself through such hell again.
Then, five minutes later, I'd be digging it all out of the trash, craving the euphoria that came before that terrifying hell.
I wrote The Hidden Valley on spice. Enough said.
I share all of this with you today on my one-year sobriety anniversary.
When I wrote The Private Sector, I wanted to process all I'd gone through with the spice. Those who've read it will know the main character's sister, Jenny, is a hard-core addict to an imaginary drug called the silver serum. The silver serum whisks its users away from reality, into a heavenly realm that vaguely mirrors the world around them. They hear music and dance with angels. They float through the clouds in a dazed euphoria. Then the hell hits. The angels become demons. The euphoria transforms into panic. Its abusers promise themselves they'll never use again … but they do because it's just too damn addictive.
While I never fell to the lows Jenny does, the silver serum is an exaggeration of my experience with spice, just as The Private Sector is an exaggeration of certain political movements. While neither may be real, what they represent is. They're extremes to genuine issues.
We writers are constantly integrating tiny pieces of ourselves into our work. While we might alter certain experiences or attributes to distance them from us as people, the grain of truth is still there. The truth here is that I was a spice addict for somewhere between one and two years, and then I was an alcoholic for a good year after I quit using the spice. I've been so transparent about other aspects to who I am, it was time I became transparent about this ugly piece too.