The first hit of ecstasy is just that; ecstatic. A warm feeling of pleasure and love surges through you. The beauty of music is dialled to 11, its very rhythm pulsing through your veins, your essence melting into the beat. People become overwhelmingly attractive, everyone becomes your best friend. It is pure, undiluted ecstasy.
Well, for a few hours, depending on the dosage. Then, it’s the first train to skag town. Coming down from MDMA, or the skag as its more commonly known as, is almost like your soul’s way of telling you how irresponsible and stupid you are.
While the feeling the night before could be said to have approximated something like bliss, the morning after can come close to falling into Hell. A fair trade, one might surmise. What’s one, two days of wretchedness for a night of unadulterated joy?
So, you indulge the second hit, maybe a few days after the first, maybe a few weeks. Its amazing, not quite as good as the first, but still amazing. A buzz unlike any other. The come down is still there, but look, it’s not unmanageable.
You may find yourself at a crossroads now. One path dimly lit. It’s littered with dull green, red and blue pills, powder sprinkled down it like a discoloured snow. At the end is that first night, the initial buzz that started it all, the feeling of pure ecstasy.
You may find yourself choosing this path without even a moment’s consideration for the other. After all, what can top that first buzz? Surely, nothing down another path? What another phenomenon in life causes bliss?
So, you take the first path. You gorge on the fruits of the journey in an attempt to reach its end. As time passes, you notice the buzz beginning to taste bitter. That ecstatic feeling is just static, a love buzz without love. Now and then you see catch a glimpse of your reflection, and it frightens you.
You look on towards your destination, yet it seems further than ever. Your heart falls from your chest. The bliss turns to ash in your mouth as you realise that the lights have dimmed completely. You turn back but the crossroads are out of view, shrouded in shadow. Hope dies as you see no way out and at last, depression grips your soul.
This is how an excess of MDMA consumption can feel. It’s essentially a trap. It tempts people into a lifestyle that is fundamentally hedonistic. The flaw in a hedonistic lifestyle is that it only accounts for short-term pleasure. It does not address the human need for long-term meaning.
Finding your way off that path is tough. It involves completely revolutionising the structures of your life. The user needs to completely transform their value hierarchy so that different actions achieve results that replace the need for instant gratification.
What MDMA essentially does is release a huge burst of the chemical serotonin at once. Serotonin is what regulates our mood. A significant increase in serotonin is what creates that ecstatic feeling. The lack of serotonin thereafter is what causes the comedown.
Dopamine, the chemical released when we achieve our goals, is also released. Cocaine is dopaminergic drug, that’s why it makes the user feel confident and strong, as if you’ve accomplished something impressive.
The biological effects of serotonin mirror its ethical impact. To indulge in MDMA is to indulge expedience. It’s a literal and metaphorical abdication of a long-term attempt to achieve fulfillment. Engaging in expedient activity in antithetical to the pursuit of meaning.
The problem with drug use in general, but particularly with MDMA, is that it’s the easy way out. It’s selfish. It involves no personal responsibility. It’s cheating your future self out of happiness. It’s denying yourself something profoundly beautiful.
So, what’s the alternative? To start, assume your mental health is important. You would not want someone you loved to depend on a drug, so why would you want that for yourself? It is important that you establish this as one of your fundamental axioms.
Setting goals is important in replacing the pursuit of expedience. The goal should be difficult but achievable. It should push you. Taoism posits that one follows The Way by having one foot in order and one foot in chaos.
The yin and yang symbolise this; the interplay of chaos and order, with either one within the other. This ancient idea is present in much of mythology. The hero who confronts chaos voluntarily and crafts order from the chaos. This is the myth of the hero.
Craft a plan. Set up a couple of goals. Rank order them in terms of importance. Break down those goals into achievable steps. It’s crucial that you establish a method of measuring your progress towards a goal. Even the competition of a sub-goal releases dopamine, the reward chemical.
When you acquiesce to your vices, when you choose drugs over responsibility, you only contribute to the misery in the world. An ancient mythic truth is that life is suffering. The correct response to this is to try your hardest to stamp out as much of that suffering as you can.
Finding meaning is not the same thing as finding happiness. A meaningful life isn’t the pursuit of happiness. Adopting responsibility is to bear a load, it’s to realise that the alternative warps your Being into something Hellish.
A life characterised by excessive drug use is a life often drowning in chaos. For the user, drugs often take priority, which causes a plethora of problems in numerous aspects of life; social, financial, academic etc.
In addition to devising a plan and set of goals, begin to add structure to your life. Start small. Write up a schedule. Establish a fixed sleep schedule. Make your bed in the morning. Eat some breakfast. Create a routine. This incremental steps towards order will add up.
Essentially, choose another path. Now, upon first glance, this path looks rather threatening. It’s dotted with jagged rocks. It’s steep. It’s slippery. That’s okay, you’re going to fall, a lot. The trick is keep going.
Eventually, after an arduous journey, you’ll reach a peak, and you’ll gaze upon the brilliant sun illuminating the path. Its rays will warm your face and spark a smile. You’ll look onto the horizon and notice another path, a steeper, more slippery, more dangerous path, and funnily enough, you’ll begin climbing that one too.
That is meaning.
Image credit: Carrie McMullan