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Talking Points

Riding High

Why this former drug user quit powder for powder

For reasons that are about to become painfully obvious, the author wishes to remain anonymous. Illustration by Kieron Black.

DISCLAIMER: Not even Mr. Rat would advocate snowboarding WHILE on drugs. You didn’t really need us to spell that out, did you?

Fuck, I’ve given it a good go, over the years like, but I never really got that good at it. I mean, I passed the entry level pretty quickly, got well into it, spent the money, burnt the hours, but only rarely, and so fleetingly, did I feel like I was doing it right.

I am of course talking about drugs. Grass, resin, meth-amphetamine (such a punk-rock drug that one), coke, acid, mescal, pills, Ritalin… stopping only when needles or eyeballs were involved. With only a moment’s pause I’d throw it down my neck or up my nose and set off on an adventure that nine times out of ten ended up prefaced with a ‘mis’.

“Sometimes it was so right, like every heartbeat was a soft explosion of white joy. floating, observing, realising, just pulsing with the simple pleasure of an enhanced existence”

And don’t be believing any ‘alternative facts’ on this one – it wasn’t all bad. Yes, there was the time I passed out in a strange woman’s bed and woke up to find her licking my own shit off my nether regions (OK, so it was chocolate mousse that she had put there in a desperate bid to bring me round, but I didn’t know that at the time).

There was the time I got arrested for shooting a tourist between the eyes with a soft-airgun (that was a great shot), and the time a girl I really liked came round to mine so I could print out her CV, only to find I had at some time during the previous 48hour amphetamine bender I had pissed all over my laser printer… Good times.

What was I talking about? Oh yes, drugs. Aye, it wasn’t all bad. Sometimes it was so right, like every heartbeat was a soft explosion of white joy. Floating, observing, realising, just pulsing with the simple pleasure of an enhanced existence… knowing that the comedown is hours away… knowing nothing… knowing everything.

But hey, all good times have to end. I got sick, I recovered, and I stopped doing drugs. And when I got well again I got married, started a family, levelled out, and life is good now (occasionally I might still do a bit of Ritalin, but hey, some people beat their kids.) But the point is I don’t miss those times, and I’m glad I had them, and apart from a bit of short-term memory loss, I’ve no real regrets.

So, what does all this have to do with snowboarding? Well, there’s a moment, a state of being, a ‘high’ if you will, that I achieve on a good day (hell, even a bad day), on the hill, where my conscious self seems to melt away somehow and I ascend (regress?) to a purer version of my me unburdened by ego or id, that in many way is reminiscent of my days ingesting chemicals. And it struck me that this feeling, this ‘high’ is just as tricky / expensive / time consuming to do right as a drug high is, only there’s no comedown, (apart from the Easyjet check-in at Geneva, of course).

“So, allow me to say with some authority that snowboarding is way, way, way better than drugs”

Yes, any goon can buy a wrap of powder and jump up and down to Underworld screaming “lager-lager-lager”, just in the same way anyone can book an all-inclusive to Pas De La Casa, rent something with end-caps, and go gaping for a week; both feel great, but it’s all a bit first-time.

To do it right takes commitment, time, some money, and the correct attitude. You can’t be a first-timer – you need hours of it in the bank. You need to understand what it took to be there, how fleeting it all is, how mercurial, how evasive… just how fucking hard it is. We’re told it takes ten thousand hours to be an expert at anything, and snowboarding is no different. “The best snowboarder on the hill is the one having the best fun” I hear you say. Well, maybe, but there are many rungs to the ‘ladder of fun’ and it ain’t an easy climb.

And I’m not saying snowboarding is a replacement for drugs – I’m not one of those recovering alcoholics who now listen to Jesus instead of the bottle, that would be demeaning to the shred. No, it’s just that I see a parallel with the investment and returns of both the drug and the shred world, and the experience of both allows me to see the purity of the latter, and with that its inherent value.

So, allow me to say with some authority that snowboarding is way, way, way better than drugs. And though both pursuits may find you regaining consciousness in a hospital bed, it is unlikely that in snowboarding you will ever wake up to discover a strange woman licking shit off your balls.

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