Before we set off for a long-awaited three-week trip back home to Canada, I’d like to confess something. I only confessed it to myself the other day, and after much contemplation, am now doing it here: I’ve started up a habit I’d thought I’d grown out of long ago and let go for good.
Back in my teens it was all so easy. By the time I was 15 I had pocket money from a few odd jobs, so I’d sneak away at lunchtime to buy some from one of only two sources in town, savouring the anticipation of school’s end when I could enjoy my purchase either by myself or with a couple of close friends. Because the subjects I took were so stimulating, I was always a good student, so the time spent on my habit didn’t affect my grades at all. That was a good thing, because my parents during one phase in Grade 11 became really worried I was spending far too much time alone in my bedroom.
Growing up in my little village perched on a mountain sliding into the sea, there was no chance of getting some closer to home unless friends were offering, so I’d go into Vancouver, where there was a lot of choice. Granville Street, seedy back then and not much better today, held good possibilities to score. I didn’t feel bad about it because I enjoyed it so much, and besides, a lot of my friends were into it way more than I was, and they were doing OK.
It didn’t end with High School though. When I started to earn some real money on summer break while going to university I’d buy even more, branching out into different varieties as the possibilities – and my wallet – broadened. I remember thinking each time I shouldn’t, but was unable to resist the urge.
Then all of a sudden in the early 80s – just when my enthusiasm for it was peaking – my addiction was no longer cool. Even though there was still tons of it going around out there, the world was moving on, and I figured that if I didn’t change, it would move along without me. Then, little by little, the supply started to dry up. What had once been so easy to find was no longer on every streetcorner. So, facing reality, I slowly let it go, relegating that period in my life to the musty reaches of the back shelf. I think the last time I bought some was in 1986.
But then a couple of years ago, I came across a dealer in downtown Hamburg, some guy in a back alley of the university quarter near where all the students hang out. I’d always known there were dealers in this city, and that it would be so easy just to go out and get some, but I thought: no. Leave it in the past. You’ve got a family now, a steady job you’d like to hang on to, and the money could be put to such better use, like one day putting your growing daughter through university, for example. When you get older, frivolity should be left behind, right?
But I can’t help myself. I go back every once in a while and pick up some more. In Paris three weeks ago across the street from Gare St Lazare I spied a dealer and thought of an Oscar Wilde quote – the great man buried only a few dozen blocks east – that the best way to rid oneself of a temptation is to yield to it. So with what bit of cash I had left over from my trip, for the first time in 25 years I bought three brand new slices of that lovely stuff I just can’t seem to get enough of.
Is there any cure once you’re hooked?