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2) Bolivian Marching Powder

Actually it was Ecuadorian. Ecuadorian Marching Powder. I had tried cocaine a few times in my 20s, but it wasn't until I moved to Ecuador in 2009 that I became a regular cocaine user. But first, I should preface this post with the plain and simple fact that I have always been an addict. I was born an addict and I firmly believe that. I have a strong propensity towards addiction, genetically. I am an adult child of an addict and alcoholic. My father was in active addiction throughout my childhood. He finally got clean when I was 26. He went to rehab for 4 months--he's the rare case of "one and done." He went to rehab once and hasn't relapsed since. He celebrated 21 years sober this year, April 1st. That has not been the case for me. I have now been to four rehabs, but that it is for a later post. Although cocaine didn't enter my life until my mid-30s when I moved to Ecuador to conduct my research for my dissertation, studying sex work (street prostitution, specifically), in Quito's red-light district, I was addicted to many other substances before meeting my true love--cocaine. I started drinking at age 13 and drank heavily, recklessly, and alcoholically, throughout high school. I used to black out and drink until I vomited. During college, I made the decision that drinking was for losers (i.e. frat boys), and I would now do drugs. Being a college student in New York City, at Barnard College, drugs seemed sophisticated and cool. Drinking was sloppy and messy. I felt that I had drank so much in high school that I needed to stop before I would turn into my father--a raging alcoholic. I became addicted to weed. I was a very heavy user, smoking day and night, around the clock during my college years. I couldn't function without weed, but I was a very high performer academically. I got top grades, just like in high school, and was recognized for having the best senior honors thesis in the Sociologist Department my senior year. I did my entire college career high. I drank from time to time, but every time I did, it was to excess--blacking out and getting sick. That was my norm with alcohol. I knew I was out of control doing it so I didn't like it, even though I loved how it made me feel. My senior year of college I dipped into harder drugs--Ecstasy, as it was called back then (MDMA), and psychedelics, like mushrooms and LSD. I loved all of it. I loved clubbing. I transformed into this euphoric and connected person under the influence of Ecstasy. I just wanted to hug and touch everyone around me. This was NYC in the mid 1990s: the Tunnel, Twilo, Limelight, Roxy, Palladium, etc. All drug dens. All incredible party spots, which, as cliche as it sounds, I felt God. It was a spiritual experience. I worshipped these clubs like any churchgoer. My "fwb" (friends with benefits) at the time was an Argentinian DJ. But more about my club kids days later, let's turn back to cocaine.

I moved to Ecuador to conduct my dissertation research, as I said, in 2009. I was in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at New York University, one of the most prestigious programs in the country for anthropology. When I arrived in Ecuador, I was coming off 8 years sober. When my father went to rehab, we had Family Therapy Week and a therapist took my older sister and younger brother and I aside and asked us about our drinking and drug habits. I wanted to disappear into my chair. She said that we had a genetic predisposition towards addiction and that we needed to examine our own using/drinking habits. I was terrified. This woman scared me straight. I had been reckless and indulgent with drinking and drugs throughout my 20s. I went cold turkey, then and there. I was also going through my first major depressive episode (a lot more on this later), and was put on antidepressants. My psychiatrist told me I could no longer consume alcohol. So I had my reasons. I joined Al-Anon and ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and worked on my codependency issues. I didn't identify as an addict or alcoholic at that point, so it never occurred to me to go to AA or NA. I was going for my father. I didn't drink for my father. It was all about my father. I lived a monk-like existence during my PhD coursework. Sober and somber.

When I arrived to Ecuador, during my first month of fieldwork with street prostitutes (the term they preferred to call themselves), it was the birthday of one of the women. All the women were drinking and someone offered me a beer and I politely declined saying that I didn't drink. I was encouraged to drink and suddenly, all the women in the room started chanting my name, Anita, Anita, Anita! Drink! Drink! Drink! I was terrified the women wouldn't accept me if I didn't pass this obvious test, so I took the beer and drank it down quickly and smoothly. It felt good. It was just one beer. What could it hurt? Furthermore, I hadn't drank in 8 years, I couldn't be an alcoholic. I also felt like I deserved it after being so "good" for so many years--working tirelessly on my academic work. Plus, now I was in a foreign country, I could do what I pleased, no one back home would even know, and fuck it, did I deserve it! So I started drinking again. At first it was very controlled. A beer here and there. One beer or glass of wine and I would call it a night. But it slowly started slipping away from me--cunning, baffling, and powerful--as AA says about addiction. I would drink to excess one night and then pull back and not drink for weeks. It was always a push and pull. But the excess eventually won out. I began drinking heavily, regularly and blacking out, as I always did with alcohol. I was officially off the wagon and straight back into my old life of hedonism.

Enter Pablo (all names changed). My on again, off again Ecuadorian boyfriend. Our relationship was volatile, passionate and very dramatic. It was toxic as hell. He was the lead singer of a famous band in Ecuador and I was his girlfriend. But, Pablo had lots of girlfriends. I only knew about a couple of them. I was the "other woman" to start and then became his "main squeeze" once he broke up with his girlfriend, but he never actually broke things off with her completely. It was all a mess and instead of just walking away, I became sucked further and further into his web of lies. I was addicted to Pablo like I was to alcohol. He was my absolute obsession. I was utterly helpless in his presence. I was weak in the knees and my heart would go aflutter. I saw him as the hottest and sexiest man on the planet. Admittedly, we had amazing sex. Always. I quickly learned that Pablo didn't do much without his ever-present baggie of cocaine, always on him. He offered me some one night, one very drunk night, and I loved it. I felt it shock through me and I suddenly sobered up and realized, holy shit, I have been waiting for this THIS, for my entire life. I knew at that moment that cocaine and I would have a grand love story. Little did I know that it would become my lover and my best friend. My greatest love affair of all love affairs. All those lovesick poems I would write Pablo, could eventually be written to my glorious cocaine. I felt powerful, alive, invigorated and euphoric. I was superwoman and knew I could do anything. I immediately asked for another line. When that was done, I immediately asked for another line. When that was done, I immediately......etc. etc. That was it for me. It was done. Hook, line and sinker. Cocaine was mine from that day forward. All I wondered was, where on earth had it been all my life???? What had I been doing all my life, without this incredible substance?

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