Stage 1: Water, water everywhere and I don’t want to drink
It all starts with the desire to adopt a healthy lifestyle, but eventually you begin to crave anything other than the numb mineral taste of restaurant tap water. You imagine yourself parched in a desert, throwing away your case of (insert corporate slogan here) Evian in exchange for a chance to suck the strangely-familiar-tasting sap from the prickly flesh of a cactus leaf. No, I don’t want a slice of lemon. Give me something with some bite. Are you going to finish your cactus?
Stage 2: Grind plants, add water
Memories of your time in the foreign legion aside, you realise you have been staring over your teacup into space for nine hours and you have a midterm tomorrow. A few dozen sleepless nights of study have made you realize that the now-cold, flowery liquid (that may or may not be just stray bookshelf dust in a bag) is no longer enough to keep your mind focused. You have a taste for the bitter now, but the punch packed by your sleeve of Celestial Seasonings’ Indian Spice Chai tastes as though you’re drinking it in the rain and has about as much effect. By the end of the semester, you come to find you have memorized every campus caf coffee blend and pick your classes based around when the next fresh pot hits the café counter.
Stage 3: A little nip never hurt anyone
With coffee becoming the new normal and classes feeling like even more of a drag before your seventh or eighth cup, you do what anyone would do: spike it with a shot of Jack Daniel’s old time Tennessee whiskey. Just a little nip on a Monday morning makes the whole week seem to fly by. Although, eventually you realize it’s not Monday, it’s 4 a.m. on a Friday and you’ve been drinking Irish coffee every day for the last month. And though that may explain why your five-o’clock shadow now tickles your chest, or why that one guy at the bus stop keeps calling you captain of the party squad, the thought of going back to an unadulterated draft leaves a worse taste in your mouth than any slimy throat vomit, and you push to find something strong enough to wake you up in the morning, something that will take the edge off the cold, paved sidewalk you find yourself on.
Stage 4: The deep end
Cocaine feels great; who wouldn’t love a buzz that keeps you in top form? Exams are coming and your study schedule begins taking on a work-reward system of finish a chapter, do a line, finish another chapter, do another two lines. You start to think ahead to recreate your study conditions. As you carve your elaborate plan into your arm with the tine of your pen cap, you imagine sneaking a snow-dusted pack of spearmint gum past the invigilators.
Stage 5: Rock Bottom
You’ve failed the exam, even though you were totally in the zone and just killin’ that long-form trig section. Unfortunately, your constant loud sputters of grunts, excited yips and general twitchy use of your calculator ended up getting you forcibly removed. This led to you being restrained by campus security and lashing out with a fist full of pencils as you attempted to reach across the room and answer the last three questions like Wolverine. As the police car turns a corner and you are flung to the opposite end of the rear seat, you begin to look back on what could have led to such a tragic day. Broke, failed, and jailed, you sit there wishing there was something that could take you away from all your troubles. If only you knew where to get some heroin.