Back in high school as a fourteen year old, I attended school counseling. I didn´t get good grades and I must have seemed not particularly happy. At some point, the counselor suspected I might have some form of autism. It remains a mystery whether that´s true or not. My mother did what people who feel marginalized by the society around them tend to do: They view it with distrust and dissociate from it. So, I was withdrawn from counseling, out of fear that I might end up with a label that would end up negatively affecting me for the rest of my life.
Is it true, do I fall somewhere on the spectrum? I don´t know. I very well might. My father met my mother because he drove circles back and forth in front of the store she worked at. At some point she wandered out and asked him what the hell he was doing. It´s clear to me that he suffers from some of the same problems I suffer. My mother has anecdotes of parties she wanted to attend he didn´t want to visit and times when he would pick her up at the clothing store, embarrassing her by wearing a rope to hold up his pants out of convenience. He almost panicked a few days ago, when he misinterpreted what my brother said on the phone and thought he was asking him to come join them for dinner at his girlfriend´s home, quickly handing the phone to my mother. All the evidence I see suggests to me that he experiences social interaction in the same manner as I do.
I know that I find social interaction very exhausting. When I say something I consider awkward, I´ll replay it endlessly in my head. I communicate in the manner aspies tend to communicate. I hold a monologue to a friend about something intellectually abstract that I find interesting, then he can hold his monologue to me. I had a good friend who communicated in the same manner, her passion was art, she faced similar accusations and was very distressed by them. For me that works as a method of communication. Tell me what you find interesting and I can move myself into your perspective. The way normies communicate, mentioning the non-interesting things they did, the non-interesting gossip about others and the jokes at each other´s expense, has never worked for me. I spend a lot of time by myself, because I find that hanging out with normies often leaves me feeling lonelier than being by myself. I like to think I´ve moved beyond blaming the normies for that, or feeling a smug sense of superiority over it. It´s just something I learned to live with.
But today was different, for a number of reasons. To start with, my friends from work are different from the majority of people our age, in the sense that they seek out stronger impulses. Normal people enjoy mild impulses. You go out and watch the latest superhero movie, you eat at McDonald’s and you have a good time. For me that doesn´t work. I struggle to finish most movies I watch and I eat raw oysters, seaweed and Kombucha tea. I need stronger impulses. I can´t put up music that wouldn´t completely alienate the people I hang out with, so I´ve learned not to discuss music.
You could say I hang out with the wrong crowd. Wealthy cybercriminals, drug dealers, drunk drivers, catholic priests, you name it. Why would you seek out such amoral people? I´ve learned we´re not dissimilar, in that we need stronger impulses than most people and struggle to make long-term plans for the future. At the end of the day, we live in a mysterious universe where it´s easy to find yourself feeling like an alien organism. Most importantly, these are the people I enjoy being around. They make me feel normal, in more than one way.
I always had a rule for myself that I stay away from illegal and synthetic substances. I´d tell myself that I don´t need to try LSD because I have access to mushrooms and mescaline. Today however, I decided to violate that rule. There are a number of reasons for that. Besides the simple fact that I´m eventually going to die regardless of what I do, I´m not really in the position I want to be in life at my age. I don´t mean that in the sense that I won´t be able to afford that big boat at age seventy.
I mean it in the sense that I don´t have long term plans for my future, that I find myself feeling stuck in limbo, that there are things other people intuitively figure out as teenagers and move on with their lives that I´m still struggling to figure out today. As an example, what do you say to a girl when you like her? How do you make it clear that you like her more than a friend? What happens if she doesn´t feel that way? There are fears that hover through your head. Will everyone gossip about it, will they make jokes about it a year from now? Worse, does she proclaim that you misbehaved? There´s an undefined boundary somewhere between normal flirting and unprovoked behavior that gets you in trouble. For men who struggle with social interaction, #metoo is the most frightening thing there is. It made the difference between worrying you´ll be alone and worrying you´ll be alone and carry a social stigma for the rest of your life.
I want to be able to put such fears out of my mind. I want to be able to go through social interaction intuitively. I want to be able to speak without having to worry whether what I say is alienating. And today, I found those fears dissipating. I found myself feeling almost normal. And what is the reason for that? MDMA. Boys have a habit of pushing cocaine and psychedelics on girls. Girls have a habit of pushing MDMA on guys, I fell victim too. I´m glad I tried it. I had wanted to try it for some time, because of what I have read about it. I know there are risks involved, so I made sure to drink a lot of water, take my vitamin C and to take merely a small dose. But the effect was fantastic.
Suddenly social interaction is intuitive. You don´t doubt every word you say, you don´t have to build up courage to speak to someone you don´t directly know, you notice the same expressions girls more often make when they look at you, but this time you don´t find yourself wondering if you´re misinterpreting them. You don´t fear expressing your feelings, because you don´t think your self-image would implode if she says no or steers away the conversation. You don´t wonder whether whatever you do is outside of the range of normal behavior, whether you sit weird, whether you dance weird, whether you sound weird. If someone says something that might be meant as subtle teasing, you don´t put up defenses that alienate you from them, you don´t even feel self-conscious. You bounce it back at their direction with ease. It´s social interaction on autopilot.
You could say it´s almost too easy. I´m dancing with and embracing another guy´s girlfriend, telling her how pretty she is. I´m dancing with my friend´s girlfriend, she´s wearing my sweater, licking MDMA from my finger. I tell him he´s blessed to have a girl like that, that I had to drag mine along to parties. All is well. And the strangest thing is, I don´t seem to fuck it up. I don´t say things that ruin the mood, I don´t notice anyone cringing, I don´t feel pain in my head when my mind replays the things I said, I don´t question how someone would have interpreted something. And perhaps I´m wrong, perhaps I actually made a complete fool out of myself. But in contrast to every previous time, I find myself not paralyzed by the fear of that possibility.
These substances depend on the proper context to display their full potential. You shouldn´t take them at a party because you´ll want to discuss Laplace´s demon rather than dance, but the sacred mushrooms have saved my life before. I don´t feel the need to make a secret of that, because people need to understand the damage the taboo our society imposes on these substances causes to other people. If I dance around that fact, if I pretend that this is merely a peculiar recreational hobby of mine, then I´m complicit in the damage caused by the societal taboo. Japan is a country where you won´t find anything to sedate yourself with besides alcohol. Japan is also the country where 45% of young women don´t want relationships. It´s a country with record high suicide rates. It´s a country with more than a million Hikikomori. These are young men who only leave their room in the middle of the night, to pick up the food their mothers left in front of their bedroom door. They feel defeated, like burdens and disappointments on their families. They deserve a chance to escape the hell they live in, as much as I do. Perhaps it´s true that winners don´t do drugs. But some of us are not trying to win the race. For some of us it´s already an accomplishment if we don´t drop out halfway through.
I´m not the first to notice any of this. But I think my observations matter, because I´m not the usual MDMA demographic. I work in IT, I rarely go out and tend to feel uneasy in crowds. MDMA is the vice of young partygirls, not the vice of people who live off their Bitcoin savings and play procedural roguelikes. But perhaps that needs to change. Two therapy sessions of MDMA still lead to reduced social anxiety six months later in autistic adults. I´m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that dancing with a girl who stole your clothing might be a therapeutic context too.
I´m not planning to give medical advice here, unless that medical advice is to bring chewing gum and to take your vitamin C. But I´m going to make a request. Give us a chance at a normal life. Don´t vote for politicians whose sentimental chauvinism leaves us with no options. Don´t throw people in jail who make a living delivering us access to these substances that change our lives for the better. Do research into these substances, allow us to test whether we bought the real deal. There will inevitably be a guy born later than me, who will face the exact same obstacles that I faced in my mind. He should have better chances in life than me.
Let´s end on a positive note. Here´s some music I´d happily dance the night away to: