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3) Halcyon Days

Those were halcyon days--those days of cocaine use during my years in Ecuador. I was still just dabbling, a casual user, which is the best kind of user of all (if one is going to use at all). Not using would be preferred, of course, but for me--born an addict--that just seemed impossible. Even though I managed 8 years without substances or alcohol, I did not identify as an addict so I had no program to prevent my relapse. Essentially, I was "white knuckling" it. In AA it says "we are defenseless against the first drink." That resonates with me completely. When I had the opportunity to drink again, I jumped at the chance. Sure, I felt social pressure to do so, but it was my decision, ultimately. I was overjoyed and happy to break my 8 years of sobriety. Once I started drinking again, and when Pablo (all names changed) introduced me to cocaine, I was back in my element and all I thought was, "why on Earth was I depriving myself of doing the things that always made me happiest?" Me, with my addict's brain--as distorted as it might sound to "normies"--felt that only drugs and alcohol could bring me my greatest moments of joy in life. Now with cocaine in my life, I was flying high, pun intended. Our life was lived mostly at night--jumping from one party to the next, from one bar or club to the next, until the wee hours of the morning. I remember Pablo used to joke that he was a vampire. It's true, he loved the night. He loved everything about it. We used to knock back a few beers at his place--pre-gaming--before going out. We would get into his old, beat-up, red Volkswagen beetle, its motor sounding like a plane taking off, feeling the anticipatory excitement of the night ahead. We had no idea where we would end up, what party or bar/club would seduce us that night, but I always knew it would involve drinking and cocaine. That's all I needed to know. Those moments when we set out into the silky darkness felt magical. I could hardly wait for the transformation: shedding my sobriety of the early evening and slipping into an altered state where nothing mattered and I felt free. We gathered with like minded people to do thick lines on glass tables or discretely passed each other baggies, ducking into bathrooms for quick bumps while dancing or drinking at one of Quito's hottest night spots.

Quito is not exactly on the map as an international destination for its nightlife, but given the sheer quantity (and purity) of cocaine that passes through it on its way to other countries--Central America, Mexico, the United States, Europe--meant that anyone could indulge in an occasional bump or line whenever they wanted. Cheap, pure, and literally, everywhere, I used to tell my friends back home that people in Ecuador did cocaine at parties the way we smoke weed. I would walk into a house party and people would be doing lines openly, on a kitchen countertop or off mirrors, without a care in the world. It was everywhere. Obviously, it was everywhere for me because I sought it out everywhere. I'm sure there were also plenty of people in Quito who have never done cocaine in their life, but certainly not in my social circles. I hung with the musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, and other bohemian types, though there was always the occasional lawyer or civil servant who also sought out its pleasures. I met a European guy who actually moved to Ecuador for its cheap, high quality cocaine. That's next level addict shit, but it also seemed so reasonable to me at the time. Why not go straight to the source? Though, Ecuador is not actually the source. It does not produce cocaine. Cocaine is produced in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. As stated above, Ecuador is just a country of transit--a "cocaine super highway," if you will. These other Andean countries send their cocaine through Ecuador, historically, known as a safe place, not dominated by the drug cartels of Colombia. In the post-Pablo Escobar era, in which the mega Colombian cartels began to splinter, Mexican cartels have moved in, and unfortunately, these exceedingly ruthless Mexican cartels have finally arrived in Ecuador. They are quickly taking over the drug trade there and with them, have brought a dramatic increase in violence in Ecuador, which is heart breaking, as it has always been considered an "island of peace"among its Andean neighbors--countries with long histories of violence. The homicide rate has increased dramatically, along with violent crimes in general, robberies, kidnappings, muggings, etc. Danger lurks on its streets, all fueled by the cocaine I used to consume without a thought in the world. I knew people in Ecuador who refused to do cocaine for political reasons, in order to avoid supporting drug-trafficking and the cartels, but I smashed my rails carelessly and recklessly, figuring that my participation in its consumption wasn't possibly contributing to the larger than life drug trade happening around me. Who knows? I certainly was not deterred from my beloved drug due to politics. I wanted to get properly fucked up and nothing could come between me and my need to reach an altered, euphoric state.

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