OK I’ve got your attention. While addiction is a serious social problem in modern life – and I say this from a place of both reason and experience – DRUGS ARE ALSO WONDERFUL.
Let’s define terms before we get into it: I’m not talking about “drugs” as a lifestyle you sabotage yourself with while congratulating yourself on being “functional.” I’m talking about occasional and deliberate use of a specific set of psychotropic substances as tools for reawakening, re-ignition and self-understanding, specifically entheogens.
Entheogens – from the Greek en [inside] + theo [god] + gen [create] – have their foundations in most religions of the world, and today are used in therapeutic circles to treat depression, narcotic addiction, trauma, even sexual dysfunction. These are tools that allow you to recognize the additional wider bandwidth of the senses you already use every day, and walk around in your body using those heightened senses instead. Tools for actualizing yourself, for overcoming fears, for creating intimate bonds with others, for having experiences and attaining knowledge that you’ll bring back into everyday life in ways that make you better, kinder, stronger and more whole.
The culture we live in says “drugs” are bad and illegal, a downward spiral. This demon “drugs” a singular experience with a singular life-destroying outcome for all. I’m calling bullshit on that. Elevating your consciousness above the mental noise of everyday life is like being born again: Everything is new and strange, and the way it all fits together a wonder. It’s an experience we were all biologically designed to experience before society wrapped you up in time and money and responsibility.
I myself have never been a drug addict, nor am I a regular user of any mood-altering substance beyond caffeine (not for a long time anyhow). I am however a big believer in truth-seeking and self-calibration. Fine-tuning of your hardware (body) and software (mind) give life focus and purpose, and these are experiences everyone should have, even if only once (or once a year). A wonderful psychedelic experience is one that reconnects you with your own beating heart, and the beating heart of the world you were born into, reminding you that have the constant option to be a part of it. These moments are touch-points that remind you that everyday life is utterly magical, that stories and imagination are real, that we can affect each other with our thoughts and words as much as our actions.
I’ve experienced life-changing, perspective-shifting times on entheogenic drugs that changed me wholly for the better: helped me edit out ineffective inherited behaviors I just didn’t like about myself, even forced me to face and defeat things I couldn’t run away from anymore when the self-constructed walls were brought down by chemicals I’d put into my own bloodstream.
Nowadays I use my comic series Red Light Properties to speak to this idea of psychedelic self-surgery through Jude Tobin, the tortured schmuck who runs a real estate agency that exorcises and sells haunted houses. Jude was born seeing spirits but needs entheogens (salvia divinorum, ayahuasca, blue lotus, morning glory, DMT, psilocybin mushrooms) to fully cross over into the spirit world and exorcise them. Drug-taking for him is less addiction or recreation, more a necessity for doing his daily work. There’s no party here (tripping is honestly the last goddamn thing he wants to do) but he deals with both his professional and personal lives with blown-out psychic bandwidth, living in between worlds while trying to remain in both. In this way, his shamanism exists as a metaphor for being an artist – or living life within the Sublime that most people miss – and the struggle that presents when trying to interface with the rest of “normal” society.
There are a million other facets to this discussion from angles ranging from legality and addiction to chemistry and consciousness and even reality, and nothing will be solved here in this article. But it was important to draw my line in the sand here and say NO to “drugs are bad” blanket statements that tend to be common in this end of the conversation, especially in a morally simplified good-vs-evil milieu like comics conversation. There are always other options, other tools to help you fill your life with self-knowledge and discovery instead of numbness and escape, and the magic of the universe is all around us, and always here waiting for you. It’s ignorant and fearful and kinda sad to just call it all bad, call using different tools an addiction.
And here’s my recommended reading list of comics to engage people about this topic:
The Incal, by Jodorowsky & Moebius
Saga of the Swamp Thing #34: “Rite of Spring,” by Alan Moore & Steve Bissette
The Invisibles (Apocalipstick), by Grant Morrison and Jill Thompson, et al
Promethea, by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III
Red Light Properties, by Dan Goldman (me!)