When Gorgeous George asked me to write something for studio 83’s first ever issue, I thought “How thrilling”! It’s now exactly midnight and I’m struggling to string the first three sentences together. It’s not so much a struggle of what to write about, but how to write it. Now I’m beginning to imagine how sinister intentions lied behind George’s million-dollar smile when he asked me to write about absolutely “anything”. I mean “absolutely anything?” I need a brief damn it, I’m a creative. From day one, I needed a brief to be born! And besides I’m an Art Director. I spell check the word “it”. Anyway…
There’s a placed where most creative people go to at some point in their lives or at least know of others that have reached this frontier. They usually disappear silently into this Bermuda triangle of the “amplified few” and re-appear as one of three things. Either as their old grandiose, arrogant selves or as imitation Dalai Lamas that repeatedly regurgitate pseudo religious mantra and the rest fall somewhere in the middle. Precariously balanced on the fence. The latter is the most common variety.
A dictionary definition of Amplitude is an amount that is more than required. Augmented, enlarged, bigger, improved, better, to be greater, stronger, or have emotions or sensations that are larger, greater, stronger. And people who have this attribute and don’t acknowledge it usually meet in rehab trying to figure why they are there for half their stay because really; “I don’t have a problem! Do I?” of course there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with being “amplified”, except when you don’t know how to live it.
Think Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Salvador Dali, Jabu Pule, Brenda Fassie, Rick James, Hugh Masekela, TK (God bless her sexy self, seriously she oozed it from her toe nails), John. F Kennedy (yes, him too), Kurt Corbain, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown? Billie Holiday, Miles Davies, Robert Downey jnr (he’s genius), Gill Scott Heron, need I say more? I can continue mentioning James Brown, Marvin Gaye, even the village people (they have to be on something as well), Diego Maradona (easily the most poetic footballer of all time) and that cycling dude that won every single race he ever rode. I mean the Tour De France was like a mere jog for that dude and he was on coke? He was something Pantini, the next best thing after Lance Armstrong’s retirement. The drug hall of fame is littered with immeasurable talent.
I’ve come to realise that when you have an amplitude of passion, love, fear, ambition, talent, creativity, zest, sensitivity, fragility, energy, thought, anxiety, depression, anger, joy, loneliness, happiness and so forth. You’re naturally inclined to push the idea of fun further than most people.
I can’t say for sure when and where exactly my fun morphed into desperation because the evolution was so subtle. But at some point I wasn’t comfortable with being alone with my thoughts. I’d either work myself into a grind or play like it was my last party ever.
To be quite honest, I’ve got no idea how to convince on how to stop using or even how to tell if you should and if it might indeed be a problem in your life. In my case, when I took inventory of my life and its progression, my losses were far outweighed my gains. Morally I’d become unrecognisable to myself. I told little white lies, made promises I knew I wouldn’t keep and was forever late for appointments amongst other things. And even though these are things we generally take for granted and sometimes avoidable. Not being sound mind half the time exhaust bated the situation.
So I checked myself into a rehab hoping to learn how to use more successfully. You know…”in moderation”. I found that rehab is more a course on life. It’s an opportunity to do a thorough moral inventory of one’s life. To help others to see themselves the way that the rest of the world perceives them and for them to do the same for you. It’s a lot more about life than it is about drugs and alcohol (which is drug too by the way). Rehab was a reminder of sacrifices I’d made along my life journey and how much I’d paid for them. It initially felt like an ending when it is really a beginning. Much like a caterpillar turned to cocoon turned to butterfly. Okay, I’ll stop with the Dalai Lama inspired one-liners, but life is really a series of clichés (wait! I did it again).
In essence my process is life itself really. The other day a good friend of mine impatiently asked me “in a nutshell, how would you put this whole recovery process business of yours”. And I would reluctantly venture to deduce it to one single thought and it’s rather subjective because everyone’s approach is unique. I would say that a connection to your higher power is the most important ingredient. Now let me explain this concept of a higher power, just so I don’t freak out the “not so religious”. Most people recognise Higher Power as God Allah, Buddha and so on, but Higher Power can come in million forms. It is any entity that one puts faith in because you recognise it as having more power than (other things that you have faith in or even what the next person has faith on).
For instance nature can be your higher power and family too can be your higher power because you value its collective power ahead of your own as an individual. Almost anything can be your higher power as long as it serves you well. It’s extremely personal so I’m not going to dwell on this part. What I feel is necessary to have is some form of spirituality. And this is not to be confused with religion. Spirituality is anything that gives you faith, the ability to blindly believe in something without a logical reason. You can’t apply formula or logic to spirituality anyway. It’s ironic and contradictory.
Anyway there’s far too much stuff I’ve learnt from my stint in that faraway land called rehab to write about in one article, which is why they’ll probably be another one on its way with the next edition. The recovery itself will stay with me for life because it’s about a way of life whether you’re an addict or not. A reminder of principles and values sacrificed somewhere along life’s journey. It’s in doing an act of kindness for someone and not letting them or anyone else know about it (because that would kill the magic, wouldn’t it?) or just writing a daily list of things you’re grateful for. These are not things that make one the Dalai Lama.
They take five minutes out of a day, but add a lot of self-worth in one’s life. I’m still awful with time, but I strive to keep my promises and I’m constantly aware, not to tell fibs, however insignificant. So if you’re an ass, I’ll probably let you know. Personally I’ve realised that these little acts only mean something when I do them genuinely from the heart.
Rehab is by far the toughest and most enriching experience I’ve had to go through. It begs one to re-evaluate their thoughts and beliefs; half the time people have to discard identities they’ve spent their lives believing defined who they were. I witnessed people tear themselves down in order to be build themselves up again in the space of six weeks. Some have had to lose everything before they gain everything (another habit the amplified can’t resist). It’s a world of extremes. Intense doesn’t begin to explain the process they go through. People rediscover their passion, their desire to not just live, but thrive. They contemplate future and past in order to understand the present and ultimately master the art of living just for today. So when the party feels like its ending, it might just be starting out.
So in the wise words of Mister Sparks, “Live long and prosper” or is it “above and beyond?”
Writer: Dumisani Maqutu Photographer: Steven Onoja