Tessa – chooses not to use drugs
Tessa is drug free – though many of the people she socialises with are drug users. In this interview she talks about the reasons for her choices, shares her views on on why she thinks other people use drugs and discusses the impact she believes the drug laws have on herself and others.
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TRANSCRIPT OF TESSA’S INTERVIEW
1/14 Who are you and why be interviewed?
My name is Tessa. I’m 31 and I live in East London. I do a combination of different types of jobs, all in the field of music and dance. I manage dance studio, teach the piano and do various creative performance projects. I’ve been interested in this project since I first heard about it, and I’m really pleased to participate in it as somebody that doesn’t take drugs.
2/14 Being identified for this interview
I don’t take drugs, so I’m in a privileged position in terms of the law because I don’t participate in anything that is considered illegal by the government. But I am involved in the communities, I have a lot of close friends that take a lot of drugs. So I will have to be careful how I identify myself and them.
3/14 My drug use
I don’t do anything that is classified by the government as drugs. I don’t drink alcohol or caffeine and I don’t smoke. I don’t take really strong stimulants because I feel they’re a bit special and that if you’re going to take them you should do so in a situation where you’re supported by, say, teachers, if you’ve gone into it consciously and you’ve got enough resources to make the most of the drug. I haven’t had that yet, and also, if I’m honest, I’ve got an addictive personality and I’m a bit scared of becoming dependent, and of the physical repercussions. Because I’m a dancer and I work with my body so much, I tend to feel guilty, and I suffer through those periods – I feel really sorry for myself. So that began to outweigh the positive side for me.
4/14 Using drugs as a teenager
When I was about fourteen I wanted to be really cool, I needed to be cooler than the people at school, so I tried to make friends with people who were quite a lot older than me. They tolerated having me around, and part of hanging out with them was drinking, so I used to drink, specially in public spaces. By sixteen or seventeen I’d got through that. I was a bit bored by it really. Then I started smoking weed. But I felt then that I needed something that would open me up, because of the personality type that I am. I found that weed would close me down a little bit, and tend to make me feel a bit paranoid, so I didn’t feel that was the direction I needed to move in – if I was going to take a stimulant I needed something that would sort of rip me open and take me the other way. So I gave it a bit of a rest for a few years, and then at uni – I’d gone off drinking – I took myself off and started to make friends in other ways in other places.
5/14 Socialising with drug users
A lot of the social life of the communities that I’m in is based around drugs, and around parties that go on through the night and all the way through the next day. Not only do I normally not take drugs, I’m also keen to go to sleep quite early, so I’ve got a bit of a reputation in the group. But they know that if I’m coming out we have to be going where something will happen before ten or eleven so I don’t miss everything before I have to go home to bed. I do feel I miss out on things because I know that people have amazing experiences, and sometimes they have opportunities that I don’t have to bond in quite intimate and special ways. But I also feel that I’m totally accepted by the group, and that there’s no social pressure on me to do anything that I don’t want to do, so I’m quite happy with it really.
6/14 Why not make friends with non drug users?
I can’t find many people in my circles or with my interests who don’t take drugs. I don’t really know why that is. I suppose I hang out with a lot of artists, with people who like to party, with people who are interested in thinking slightly outside the box. And for some reason all of those groups also have an intimate connection to drugs and drug taking. I haven’t found many other people who are like me, as straight as me. But, as somebody who doesn’t take drugs in a group of people that do, I don’t have any difficulty with my identity or my behaviour.
7/14 Being sober around drug users
It’s probably more challenging for other people in the group than it is for me. If I’m there it makes them challenge themselves and ask themselves deep questions about why they take drugs. People are in quite a vulnerable state when they take drugs and so they’re probably a bit self-conscious. They might think “she’s sober, she’s going to remember things” whereas their friends who are not sober might not. I would never embarrass someone in that way, but I suppose it threatens them anyway. People who have gone really far on any drug can be less interesting because they’re often in their own world, especially people who have taken things that calm you down, like ketamine, and to a certain extent marijuana and, if you go far enough, alcohol. For me the people who are really good to be around are people who are on ecstasy; it’s probably the drug that I would benefit from most. People who are on mushrooms are nice and friendly: it’s like they have their little hearts peeled open and they’re very sociable and ready to be intimate and share special things, and it somehow makes the time really special. Or it can do.
8/14 Why do you think people take drugs?
I think taking drugs is an amazing opportunity for transformation. Sometimes people crave a state of transformation, especially if they can’t accept what they are, so they take a shortcut. I think that, as drugs can provide a transformation, they’re beautiful and essential things, and also extremely powerful. It’s totally up to the individual at the time: they’re the only one that can know whether it’s going to be ok or whether it’s a horrible mistake, whether they’re developing themselves or abusing themselves.
9/14 What are the dangers of drug use?
You could use drugs as an escape, perhaps not acknowledging how you really feel, running away from your problems, or you could take drugs because you’re not confident that you can enjoy yourself or make a social connection without them.
10/14 What are the benefits of taking drugs?
I think there are lots of benefits of taking drugs: they give you an opportunity to step out of the normal tracks that you travel along, and to observe yourself and your environment from a different perspective; it can give you an opportunity to go through personal transformations, such as overcoming self-confidence issues or being able to be intimate with another person. All of those are essential things for the development of the human race and of individuals as they go through their life. It’s an incredibly complex sort of journey.
11/14 What do you think of drug laws?
I wish that the laws on drugs recognised the positive aspects of drug taking, and, because people will use drugs anyway, that they empowered people to use drugs for positive reasons. The laws are founded on a sense of fear of the power of drugs, and that’s to the whole society’s detriment.
12/14 Friends who’ve got into trouble with drugs
Do you know anybody who’s got into serious trouble with drugs, who’s become an addict, or who’s commited crimes to fund their habit?
Yes, I do.
And with those people in mind, do you still feel the same way about the laws on drugs?
Yes, because I think those laws probably helped them get to that place. There is no support for those people, for the parts of their personality that started to abuse drugs. If there was a more supportive cultural context to take drugs in, they would have had the support that they needed much earlier. Instead their ‘demons’ got the upper hand because they were so alone.
13/14 How do you feel about your friends being criminals?
It hadn’t really occured to me that all of my friends are criminals. It’s quite shocking when I think about it like that. I suppose we tend to live in our own little bubble and not really think about it. If my friends are criminals for taking drugs then I accept the label that any institution wants to put on them. That doesn’t mean that I accept that those laws are right. If our culture lays down laws that make criminals of good people, then that makes the term ‘criminal’ quite a nice one – we empower the term to mean something much more positive.
14/14 What will you tell your children about drugs?
If I had children I would definitely broach the subject of drugs with them, no later than age eleven. I can’t say more than that because it would depend on who they were and what they needed at that time. I don’t feel that a person has to take drugs in order to have a good life, but I do feel that a person needs to know about the power of drugs, and the positive and the negative sides of drug-taking, because they will come into contact with it.
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