Past the blank horizon

Timothy Leary, the 1960s prophet of psychedelic self-transformation, saw parallels between seekers of enlightenment and seekers of oblivion. I forget where, perhaps in the introduction to The Psychedelic Experience, he observes that the sanyasi and the addict both seek the means to detach their consciousness from the continual demands of the material, to find peace, to still the unceasing chatter of their minds, and that ultimately, both seek death. Addiction (which is also to say, death) has stood beside and a little behind me, an indistinct figure in my peripheral vision, for much of my life. It is a small miracle that, despite the careless enthusiasm of my youth for any and all psychoactive substances, I never developed a neurochemical dependency on any of them – and it is a stroke of good luck that I wasn’t offered heroin on more than a handful of occasions. I was given methadone by an addict I was friendly with, and I enjoyed it, but the opportunity for its use to become habitual never arose, and my very occasional pursuit of analgesic contrails along folded strips of foil did not develop, as it sadly did for several of my friends, into an all-consuming passion.