Sometimes being a clean-and-sober atheist kind of sucks. Take this little cancer hobby of mine, for instance.
People of faith have a higher power to turn to, both for aid and comfort in their times of trouble, and as a causative agent to help explain and justify their experiences. People who drink find another approach to escaping the troubles of their lives. Likewise my stoner friends. All of those behaviors are for some people paths that for a while help abstract them from the trials and tribulations of their everyday life. They can go some place where the pain either has less meaning, or is completely transformed.
I’m not a faith holder. I’m not wired for it. I’m too literally minded, too invested in the empirical universe, to hold a mythic truth without experiencing serious cognitive dissonance. There are times when I recognize this as a loss on my part. Comfort denied is comfort delayed, after all. But faith comes at too high a price for me to willing to pay. I won’t betray my reason, not even for the example of the best of faith holders. And frankly, the fact that most faith holders visible in American culture are far, far from the best of faith holders does nothing to set an example for my reconsideration. In other words, religion is not my opiate. (As for real opiates, the less said the better. I am boggled as to how anyone can do that vile shit recreationally.)
Likewise drinking. Alcohol just makes me stupid and loud. I don’t like being stupid, not one tiny bit. And I certainly don’t need to be any louder. Furthermore, the temptations to even minor misbehavior while drinking are strong for me. I can be mean or petty without even realizing it. Kindness is a social virtue I value far too highly to trade it away for a buzz.
Pot, too. Marijuana just makes me stupid and slow. That’s a slight improvement over booze, in that I’m less likely to say or do something regrettable, but I still don’t like being stupid at all. And slow isn’t really in it for me, either. I live in my head way too much to tolerate that.
The only other class of drugs I ever tried was hallucinogens. I dropped acid once, and ate mushrooms once. I liked each of them so much that I realized instantly I would never be able to indulge again. I wouldn’t have the willpower to stay off them, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life tripping balls in a refrigerator box under a bridge somewhere.
Never coked up, never smoked crack, never shot heroin, et cetera. I think I did ecstasy once, but mostly that gave me an erection the size and density of a two-by-four which would not conclude in any satisfactory method whatsoever, despite enthusiastic assistance.
As a result of all this, for many years, reality has been my drug of choice, with an assist from fiction. The trials and tribulations of my life have been faced with a clear head and open eyes, and no higher power than myself to turn to for either comfort or to assign responsibility to. I have always faced the world on its own terms and mine, owned my responsibility as best I could, and taken the steps to move on when required.
Cancer, especially now at the beginning of my end game, has been one of the greatest trials of my life. Believe me, I really do understand why people self-medicate or turn to God or half a hundred other solutions. I can’t. So I don’t get see all my trials and tribulations sinking in a gentle pool of wine. They ride me now, they will ride me into the grave.
I see cancer. Cancer sees me. No one and nothing stands between us.