Navigating the spider webs of life, sober and not

by DGO Web Administrator

As I travelled around the World Wide Web recently, I got caught up in some metaphorical . They’re old webs built by spiders dosed on various psychoactive chemicals. I remember seeing the pictures of them back in my days, early sophomore year, in a magazine I’d collected for my work-study library job. It was a good job because when I came across something that caught my interest, I could post up in a corner and read to my heart’s content.

I was often high at work; it was a pretty mindless job and most days I was scheduled for a couple hours before my classes began. I didn’t get my usual amount of work done that particular morning: These spiders really grabbed my attention. There was a lot going on in my life at the time. I was dealing with undiagnosed depression, things at home were rocky and communication was rare; I was in a relationship that may have been the inspiration for the phrase “It’s Complicated,” and friends were few because I wasn’t that much fun to be around most of the time.

The results of these spider web experiments, begun in the early 1950s by Swiss pharmacologist Peter Witt, webs in various states of “normal” based on the chemicals given to the arachnids, really got me thinking about myself and the relationship different chemicals had on my mind. I’d been smoking weed for several years at that point and knew pretty well when and where it was going to work well for me. My use was primarily recreational but had begun to creep toward being a crutch as I navigated through the first time of crisis of my adult life. Drinking was out – I come from a family chock-full of Irish alcoholism on both sides, and I’d known since I was 15 that a night boozing usually meant a morning full of headaches and questions. I was lucky enough to be in places where opiates and stimulants were very rarely encountered. I’d discovered LSD the previous summer, and while the results of individual trips were mind-blowing and, in retrospect, probably played a huge part in my ability to unify the vast and fast-moving themes running through my mind, it was also incredibly emotionally draining and difficult to integrate with the very conservative environment that surrounded me. It was as if the facade of a “normal” life that rang false for me had begun to crack and there was a light piercing through them but it was faint and far away and I didn’t understand its source.

I was treading water and I knew I needed to figure out a way to get right with myself and the swirl around me. I was at a Catholic school but I’d abandoned religion long before; the only grace it held for me was an occasional rest in the grotto on campus late at night or in the chapel, where the stained glass reminded me of my childhood. I’d borrowed a book on meditation from my girlfriend’s father, but it would be years before any of the techniques it detailed would be any help.

What I did was probably a mistake at the time. My coursework was all but abandoned, tuition money went down the drain and the friends I had remaining couldn’t understand it at all. But I put my trust in two metaphorical girls, Lucy (LSD) and Mary Jane. I barely left my room except to work and grab food; when I got back, I would smoke until the noise in my head receded, and whenever I came across it, I’d buy some more acid.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my path to anyone. It was desperate, and I’m probably lucky that I didn’t end up in worse situations than I did, but it somehow got me through. Almost every day, I thought about those spiders. I knew where the magazine was shelved, and I’d pull it out every so often and stare at the webs, feeling like one of those spiders, dosed not by a scientist but by life and the world around me, unfolding beyond my power and way beyond my comprehension.

Contemplating those webs, while high or tripping, eventually led me to the idea that maybe what I needed to do was to be the control spider, to forgo chemicals entirely and relearn how to build my life webs clean and sober, with myself as my only influence. So, I did. When I returned to chemical use a few years later, my relationship to it had changed and I could see more clearly what worked for me and what didn’t. It was as if I’d flown to a faraway land and then had to walk back. The journey there was one thing and the journey back was another thing entirely; and I learned an immeasurable amount from each.

That was my trip DGO, and I wish you well on yours. Be careful as you travel and always, always, always check your intentions as you decide to open a new door. Consciousness travels in strange ways, often far beyond the boundaries of the levels of comprehension that we possess, only to be understood in retrospect.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]

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