Dextro Heaven & The Death Drug Impulse
The gateway drug is not the weed you smoke in a too-thin pin-joint as a teenager, it’s not the beer you surreptitiously sip from your father’s fishing cooler while hunkered down in the garage. The gateway drug is escape. Ever since you were old enough to crawl, you’ve been playing hide n’ seek, building pillow fortresses, disappearing into closets.
The gateway itself is the thing, the tunnel down which you expect to find a warm, maternal light, something that will wrap itself around you, whisking you away. The gateway is the same as bungee-jumping or parachuting. It is Thanatos, the death impulse.
Years after reaching my chemical-sensual plateau, after receiving a full-on soul implosion by the most euphoric drug on the market, I would end up a heroin user with a “chippy.” I’d experience the sensation of being on stilts with sub-woofers for ears that the spike affords the “G-Bronze” user. After snorting a wax paper baggie of Afghani’s finest, tastefully stamped with an image of the Twin Towers smoldering, I’d know the horror of dry-heaving to the point you wanna deep throat a handgun and “blow your mind.”
As a teenager, you meet ether. You end up risking potential poisoning by following filtering instructions on Erowid. How to Yield Pure Ether from Starter Fluid. I’d already heard the steady “Wah-wah-wah” droning in my Eustachian tubes after huffing shit that left a smell of gasoline clinging to my breath for days. I’d heard the Wah and seen the Why, that moment where your brain is crystallized and you sink down a void toward something so sinister, it triggers a fit of hysterical laughter that can’t be explained.
But before the back injury got me hooked on the rising warmth in the chest and incessant itching of Roxycodone, I felt God’s fingers massaging my brain and I didn’t have to pay for the privilege. It came in sleeves of “Red Devils” or snub-nosed bottles of Delsym, orange sizzurp with a fairy nymph’s sparkle.
Talkin’ the time when my hypothalamus was hot-wired by that hyper-making psychotropic known clinically as Dextromethorphan. DXM is a chemical present in nearly all OTC cold meds. Before I’d succumbed to the spike or witnessed a friend in a paroxysm of paranoia brought on by the amphetamine psychosis of “the peevee,” prior to the emergence of the scaly “skels” created by Russia’s “Krokodil”—a dirt-cheap heroin substitute that eats away at the flesh of the junkie until they resemble a reptile—I’d gone to my dealer. I.S.O.
He claimed he was dry but said if I was hard up, there was always DXM. A friend and I stole boxes from CVS. Ingesting two sleeves of pills, however small, destroys the esophagus and stomach, triggering gag reflex. Minutes after gobbling, we crossed a highway and I fell to my knees behind an abandoned Pizza Hut. There I voided my guts of everything until I choked on ropes of bile. Misery in my gullet. But then…a paragon.
Lifting my head heavenward, I could see, through watery eyes, a sight I’d never cared about before—the sun and the sky, all of it vibrant. Perfect color.
Standing up, my body vibrated, my typically sullen demeanor washed away, replaced by nirvana. We were all right, for once. We literally skipped two miles across town to a carnival in the parking lot beside Our Lady Of The Dubious Miracle, and the boy with vertigo didn’t hesitate to hop on and ride The Kamikaze. Any other time, I’d have been crying with fear, but in the hands of DXM, I was unbreakable. The ride took me up in the air and looked fit to send me plunging into the pavement from on high. But I embraced death in that instant, imbued with a sense that everything was love. There was no doubt I’d be going somewhere great if I croaked it.
After that day I became a slave to dextromethorphan, hunting constantly for the high I’d attained. Sometimes I came close after Hoovering three bottles, feeling that familiar nasal sting. I’d crawl like a spider with palms pressed to the ground. My pupils would eclipse my egg-yolk eyes and I’d grin, pirouetting around, a Dervish, hit with the only real pick-up of my agonizing existence.
But no high ever came close to that first date with Thanatos, the day I found the drug that could make me fearless, that could give me over to death, the one true escape.