Four Vices Are Not Enough

Yeah right!

The ravaging effects of smoking on the human body

I am not a special or unique snowflake, as the fella says. I know that in having a job, a roof over my head and food in my belly puts me in an enviable position to a lot of the world’s population. However, my inner dickhead has a sense of entitlement that cannot be completely ignored. I don’t have a labor intensive job, and I still only work five days out of seven, but I can’t shake off the need to ingest possibly – and in some cases definitely – harmful substances after a shift. Is it because I work nights? Maybe. Is it because I work nights in a bar in France? Most probably.

Is it because I lock horns at least once a night with drunken racist cunts (and I take back every “they’re taking our jobs” joke or comment I made in my earlier years, even though they were in jest, because that shit is fucking rage inducing when you’re on the receiving end – sorry foreigners!) and then instead of shaking it off like a normal person would, I instead bring that shit home and rather than getting the sleep I need, I use my very fertile imagination to construct such wonderful scenes as carving out their eyes and filling in the sockets with hot sauce while a crowd cheers me on?


hannibal in the kitchen yo
Bit rough, Neil...


I might just be sick in the head, but there are a lot of people who self-medicate for a lot less. Here are some things that I put, or used to put into my body to take the edge off.

Vice 1: Alcohol

My relationship with booze/sauce/gargle is a long standing one. Kicking off at around the age of thirteen (or maybe fourteen, who can remember all the drinks) it was fairly full-on for most of it. Being an Irish teenager at the time, there wasn’t as much stigma attached to getting polluted and fucked up on a regular basis, at least none that I noticed. Peer pressure played the tiniest of roles, in that there was no point in drinking alone when there were others around to help you out and encourage you to finish the can or bottle with negative reinforcement.

One thing I never learned was my limit. If I started on a night’s – or a day’s, oh how I miss the day’s – drinking the mission was to finish at the other end completely wrecked or as close as possible. Anything less was a failure.

(An artist’s rendition of my nights. The car represents my dignity, and the drunk represents the drunk me)

Side note: Typing ‘McNulty’ into YouTube, the first suggestion will be ‘McNulty drunk driving’

Maybe it’s because I was a shy kid and a shy teenager hiding behind a character that was at least 40% alcohol. Meeting new people, especially girls, gave me an unpleasant adrenaline dump in my nether regions and rather than being a healthy modern individual by working on my self and self confidence, I had a load of drink.

And it worked.

Sorry moms and AA members, but for me, that shit worked like a charm. Up until a certain point, that was. I can see with hindsight that it was probably that point where I should have finished drinking on so many nights, but try telling someone who’s drunk and sees drink as social interaction fuel.

So then come the recriminations. The regrets. The blacked out time that if I added it up would be more than I get for annual holidays. The dirty looks and shamed faces, and the texts. The fucking texts. Why couldn’t I have been a drunk in the sixties, with no handheld devices apart from a cigarette case and a lighter?

The hangovers are an obvious consequence, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain them. Suffice it to say, the shower the next day was almost always like the beginning of Rocky V, the bit just after Rocky has been beaten so bad by Ivan Drago that he has brain damage that affects his speech. (The bit I’m talking about is at about 2:14 but I also like the start when they show how the Cold War was won and Russia became best friends with America because Sly beat the head off of Dolph)

After a trail of bullshit that stretched out behind me into the horizon, I decided recently that I should knock it on the head. Stress relieving, anti-oxidant properties aside, the only line I realized I was crossing was the one to the toilet in the bar. The ladies’ toilet. Because I was too drunk to see which one it was. Metaphorically speaking.

I feel great, my skin is in good shape, I haven’t strained any relationships and my wallet is bursting at the seams with the money I save from not slapping down minimum fifty quid a night on the bar. It also speeds up any physical changes you might be looking for from exercise, such as a reigned-in gut and normal-coloured face. I have a very – very – occasional bottle or glass of wine if the situation calls for it, but I haven’t gone mad in months. It’s not too bad, actually, and I think I might be more productive as a result.

I know, I’m a preachy quitter and a sobriety-peddling wanker. You can tell me in person over an orange juice, probably two or three times in the same conversation as you tell me you love me.

Vice 2: Cigarettes

Here’s a winning idea: Find a plant that when smoked gives no psychedelic or mind altering effects, soak the dried leaves and stems in poison, roll them up, package those fuckers in boxes of twenty, put pictures of lungs shriveled up and hearts banjaxed from cancer and make sure to say that they kill in bold black letters on the front. Charge at least eight euros for the fuckers (my peoples in Ireland tell me it’s just shy of a tenner these days) and let them people know that they can’t smoke them inside or near people who aren’t smokers.

And for the love of Gob, DO NOT advertise, whatever you do. Just sit back and let the money roll in, even when the yearly death tolls reach Holocaust levels.

Pretty stupid idea for a product, yeah? Global profits 2011: $35 billion. That’s $35,000,000,000. Profit. On a 600 to 700 billion dollar industry.

Fuck you Marlboro Man, or whoever is in charge.

In case it’s not obvious, I’ve also stopped smoking cigarettes. That one is a no brainer, but it took me about twelve years or so to realise it. Breathing is better, as well as breath and skin, and I get to keep my money for other nice things like food and the bus. Plus, I don’t have to go outside in the rain and cold or across the street every ten to twenty minutes. As a bonus, I get to honestly tell people who cadge fags outside the bar that I don’t smoke and to go fuck themselves for assuming they have the right to my hard earned cancer enhancers just because it’s bad for your health.

Non smoker? What a prick. I don’t even use those iFags*, another finely constructed hole you can drop your burning money into. Just have to find another way to look cool outside. In the cold.

*Copyright! And for any American readers that aren’t aware, fags are another word for cigarettes. Although by now you should know, it’s not like it takes information 6 weeks to cross the ocean anymore.

For legal purposes, all that follows can be construed as hypothetical or fictional or whichever one can’t be used against me in the future.

Vice 3: Cannabis

Marijuana. Mary Jane. Shmoke, doobs, jints, tulips and so on. Lovely stuff, if hard to come by sometimes. Illegal in a lot of countries, most of those places being the same places I’ve smoked lived in. A ridiculous attitude towards a substance whose side effects might make you a better person just by accident, and has yet to be the contributing factor in somebody’s demise. Fuck the soapbar soapbox though, that’s a subject for a different day.

What I will say is that I’ve had a great time shmokin’ the green stuff, laughed myself into spasms of muscle cramps and heard layers of music behind the music, all that goodness. Problem is, it’s not the most sociable of recreational activities for me. I’m a ponderer when I’m high, preferring my own company or a handful of like minded people around. A lot of my friends and peers would enjoy having adventures while THC loads up in their brain, strenuous physical activity with lots of walking and exploring, but a lot of the time I would rather sit around, maybe play a few tunes or watch about 12 hours of The Wire and marvel at the slow burn of the story. Maybe that’s an argument against the stuff, that it makes people lazy and inactive, but I think I was like that already anyway. Crowds are not much fun either. If, God forbid, I ever want to go back out in the world proper and start interacting with large groups of people, I would rather be sober and deadpan than high and uncomfortable.

Also, there are some legal problems. Can’t smoke it out on the street in most of the world, and we’re told that we fund splatter gore drug cartels by buying a few leaves, and at an outrageous price considering the quality of the product most of the time. Have a nice think about that the next time you light up, they say, and you do. Ad nauseum, possibly literally. So not only do you get ripped off, you also have a shit buzz thinking about the heads swinging off of bridges down in marijuana country.

No thanks.

Vice 4: LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD-25, or acid. Fantastic stuff. Unbelievable, actually. Tripping balls, I have had more insights into myself and the world around me than I could ever manage watching Dr. Phil marathons on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN, as in she OWNs everything) or whatever it is ‘normal’ people do to better themselves. It is also a right laugh, with giggling fits very common on the come-up. Bang for your buck, it’s the most value for money on the list, if that’s what the issue was. From one tiny little square of paper you get a good six hours of great visuals, auditory perception and nice feelings, as long as you stay positive.

On the other hand, negative trips, although easily turned around, can be a horrible little experience. Thoughts, images and sounds will converge in your head to convince you that you are mental and demons are possibly attempting to burst forth into our world from your mind through the little spot that the Clearasil missed in between your eyebrows. While in a rational state this is easily dismissed, in a panicked state these thoughts can hijack the experience and give you a shit time while the stuff is still in your system. All you have to do though, is remind yourself that it’s just a trip, that the feelings are a result of your attitude and not the other way around. Maybe stick some Post-It notes around the place with nice calming messages to yourself. This is also a useful trick for life in general.


Just be chill, you’re freaking out the wall

Again, due to legal constraints, it’s not exactly applauded in public. Most of the time though, you won’t want to bother with the public, as they will be light years behind where you are in your head at the time. Either that, or they’ll wreck your buzz. Another problem is that it can mess with your sleep cycle, keeping you up for hours longer than you would stay awake normally, and can leave you feeling a bit delicate the next day. Think of it as a distant cousin of the part of a booze hangover that affects your thought.

With no addictive qualities, and a cooling down period between trips almost necessary not only for effectiveness of the high but for cognitive function to return to normal, this one doesn’t really count as a vice. I don’t know of anyone, haven’t heard of anyone or read about anyone who was off their chops every day/week. If anyone out there is doing this, please get in touch and let me know how you’re getting on. Unless you’re mental, which is more likely. Then you can just beam the message to me with your mind, or whatever.

Vice 5: ???

Go on, tell me more about your great life…

I don’t know. Being on a mini health kick here, and trying to avoid prosecution/persecution, there’s not a lot left for me on that list. I know what a lot of people might be saying. “Neil, you shouldn’t be putting that stuff in your body. There’s no need for a vice, just meditate and exercise and drink water and eat fruit and be at one with nature and your fellow man and the universe naturally. You should probably stop eating meat and wearing processed clothes too,” or something to that effect.

I say to you, hypothetical helper, go shit in your hat. I want the pollution. I want the buzz, the roller-coaster going up to the top and giving me that feeling in the pit of my stomach before coming down the other side, giving me that other feeling in the pit of my stomach. I need a release, and although I could have put anonymous/semi-anonymous sex in here as number 5, I’m in a loving relationship so that’s off the table unless I come home with a mask on, and that might not get the reaction I’m looking for.

Why are you screaming? You know there's no one out there...

I’m eating to get my energy up for all the se… Where are you going?

So to all the people who made it this far with me down confessional lane, I need an answer. What healthy, legal vice can I get into to take my mind of the drudgery and begrudgery of the modern world? How do I save myself money on filling in holes that I’ve punched into badly insulated walls? Does such a thing as a nice vice even exist?

Nice vice but not in the way I mean

I’m not convinced…

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About Neil

Neil Rochford is a writer from Ireland and has lived in various places around the world. He loves fiction where bad things happen, is trying to feed himself with his words and he is available for freelance writing gigs and wakes. His book, The Blue Ridge Project, is available NOW on Amazon.