Partying is a part of growing up. At some point, most people go through a party phase. A few souls avoid the party scene all together, but most people take at least a short tour. Some never leave.
The party scene revolves around alcohol, music, and sex. Drugs have always been around, but didn’t become mainstream until maybe the Sixties. Things have changed a lot since then.
I smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol before I was old enough to drive a car. I added marijuana to the mix in college. A few months later, I lost my virginity. Within a year, I’d figured out I was gay.
My friends and I went out six nights a week, only because nothing was open on Sundays. We’d hang out before going out, play dance music LPs on the stereo, and watch MTV with the sound turned off as we primed ourselves for a night of celebration at the Cha Cha Palace — one of many nicknames for the local gay bar.
At the bar, we danced with a cigarette in one hand and a cocktail in the other. Bottles of poppers got passed around. The spectacular light show, sound system, and dance music made the gay bar a favorite destination for folks tripping on acid or mushrooms.
Cocaine was around, but too expensive for more than special occasions. Pills were everywhere — mostly fakes. If anyone was shooting up, I didn’t know about it.
Back then, alcohol was the big killer and ruiner of lives. Cocaine addiction stories were less common. Popping pills was a lifestyle for some, with Valium, Quaaludes, and Xanax being the most popular. Addiction to painkillers was rare compared with to today.
When I quit partying, so called “designer” drugs were just entering the scene. Crack came along a few years later. Meth came online in the 90s. Heroin never left. With most of these drugs, using them EVEN ONE TIME is enough to trigger addiction.
These highly addictive substances are plentiful and readily available at night clubs, dances, parties, concerts, shopping malls — wherever young people gather. They’re everywhere. All of it. Whatever you want, whenever you want it.
Addiction knows no boundaries. Nobody is too old or too young. It’s not a white or black thing anymore than it’s a gay or straight thing. Everyone is at risk, but young people are particularly vulnerable.
I’m grateful none of that shit was around when I was partying every night. I was wild enough, but in the end, lived to tell my stories. Back then, the odds were in our favor. I don’t think that’s true anymore. Something has to change, before addiction claims an entire generation.
I don’t have any answers. Prior to my own recent encounter with a loved one in the throes of addiction, I was blissfully unaware the problem even existed. Throwing addicts into jail isn’t the answer. We need to find a better way.
Fortunately, my friend entered a good rehab facility and, after some initial resistance, embraced the program. He wants to go to a halfway house when he gets out later this month. I’m optimistic about his future. Relapse is an ever present specter, but all signs point to recovery.