On Addiction

I originally wrote this in April 2015. I’ve revised it in light of Chris Cornell’s suicide. Vale.

ACT 1: When I was 17, I got drunk for the first time along Melbourne’s Yarra River. It’s where all students went at the end of the year to forget their high-school woes and to cut loose.

Someone threw up on a cop car (LEGEND!) and I pashed a lot of boys.

The thing is, a lot of us Catholic school girls, especially us wogs, grew up in tortuous communities where EVERY SINGLE step was measured by our parents, neighbours, people we met at a wedding one time, and people who knew our mother and father but we had not seen since we were ten. And either despite this, or in spite of this, we Rebelled with a capital R. I knew lots of Aussie girls who rebelled against being a teenager, but us wog kids, well we rebelled against so much more.

What is incredibly sad is that, at 48, I’m still rebelling. Or perhaps just reeling. What was Chris Cornell reeling from when he chose to hang himself instead of heading back on stage, then back to his family? What made him so sad that he didn’t see an alternative?

Guilt and Fear do not stop just because you get older. Sadness becomes deeper, more tonal, filled with regret, missed opportunities, death.

ACT 2: Being high is better than, well, not being high.

Some people hold onto their youth by listening to the same music or wearing the same clothes or even holding onto the same hairstyle as that time when they were most happy in their lives. Some of us hold onto the greatest moments, and we mythologise them.

I mythologise drinking, getting high, acting out.

Being high makes me think I’m a better writer, a victim, funny, a great friend and wife, more interesting, just more…

And because of this…

Sometimes it feels like I have no past (or just no weekend).

ACT 3: We didn’t have digital cameras in the 80s and I had no money while I was at uni, so that means I have no photographic proof of my memories, my most important memories that explain who I am, whether good or bad.

I don’t have proof of:
– My first acid trip where I saw a cicada that was the MOST GIANT FLY I’d ever seen.
– The time Maree and I made a 4-Season diorama in a shoe box (based on the children’s book, The trip).
– The time, in 1987, when a bunch of us chucked a bunch of dishwashing liquid in the Deaking Uni moat.
– The hitch-hiking posts at Deakin
– The house on Packington Street in Geelong with walls covered in graffiti.
– My “tomato” plants in Geelong.
– Anorexia
– Bulimia
– Passing out in public phone booths from not eating.
– Sit ins against HECS in 1986-88
(pause)
– My purple plastic and flannel-lined raincoat that I picked up in that place on 13th Street near Uni in Eugene.
– The glittery blue bike I bought for a gram of weed in Eugene.
– The first time I met Jeff (although I have a t-shirt from the place where we met)…/

I also don’t see anyone from that time (late 80s). I have no photographic evidence, and a very romantic memory.

My memories of that time are hilarious, though, and it feels like I’m holding on REALLY TIGHT ┬áto a time that wasn’t real, a time that was so fleeting, a time that has no proof. No photos. No friends that still exist (despite Facebook).

So all I remember was a cool chick who lounged and sang and listened to psychedelic music and loved and wrote.
It’s the myth of addiction. That those times were better.
Even now, one month sober, I remember fun nights, solo, drunk, but better. Sobriety isn’t anything. Sobriety forces you to face the things you drank to mask.
So addiction looks best when its mythologised. But the stuff, the things you drank to shove down, it busts its way through the floorboards and says “here I am, now, entertain me.” Depression is bleak. My addictions allowed me to forget the bleakness.
Maybe Chris Cornell was flooded with his truth the other night. Maybe it was too hard to shove it down anymore. Maybe the bleakness he’d cloaked in black returned, as it always does, even after decades of creative success and fandom, a cute family, all the trappings.
I believe that long-term depression, whether caused by addiction or the result of addiction, is permanent, hardwired, and difficult to treat.
Like deep sadness. I see deep sadness when I watch Chris Cornell’s last minutes on stage in Detroit the other night. Despite the trappings, deep sadness is a fucker to manage. Deep sadness seeps into the walls and curtain and can’t be washed out.
So, Chris Cornell is safe now, no longer sad or overwhelmed by fear and addiction. I wish him sweet passage. And to the rest of us, tell someone, don’t be ashamed of depression or addiction. Keep going. I’m sure it gets better.
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