I’ve always hated smoking, but bars continue to be the only places that make me wish I smoked. Not so much for the black lung or the yellow teeth, but rather, I want to smoke for the cinematic effect—you know, the kind that depict someone completely consumed by the one-two puff and shake of a poisonous romance. When watching this kind of scene, there comes a feeling that the smoker, hidden behind a cloud of smoke, is experiencing something special and esoteric. It’s all very subtle, but often, the pensive expression on their face gives the non-smoker a taste of some great immersion that they can only dream of. So, for all of its silliness, it’s the cinematic effect I want for.

That’s what all this drug business is really about. Let me be clear: drug use has always existed. Yet, until popular media and technology caught up with the true culture of users, drug users were merely escape artists—people in pain looking for a way out, or at the very least, a lengthy distraction. I would even venture to say that in the throes of true addiction, the afflicted would never wish their experience upon anyone else.

It’s only when drug use went mainstream, hitting the big screen and dotting television with a cast of seedy characters and questionable heroes, that it became an accessory more than an affliction—a recreation to be celebrated. With explosions in the number and availability of sources, as life began to transform slowly into art, so did affliction into accessory. The cost of life imitating art has added a seemingly permanent performance requisite to everyday living.

Society has done a real flip on this one. It used to be that life was shitty enough for people to spend most of it on hopes that it would get better, all the while relishing in the few moments of relief that substance use offered. Once life got to be good, it’s participants spoiled by the ever bending will of government and social institution, people became numb and began to seek oppression and crisis. This is the world we live in today.

I know a woman who is married and has a beautiful daughter, but she was bored and decided to have a one-night stand with another man she knew. In the hour that preceded her infidelity I inquired about her motives.

She said, “If I know something is wrong, I have to do it, or else I feel like I missed my chance.”

Today, people are afraid to miss their opportunities to screw up. After her night out with the “boy toy” as she has named him, I was still interested in the outcome—not the sex itself, but rather the true details about what she had accomplished.

“So, now that you’ve had your ‘fun’ and ‘freedom’, how do you feel? Are you happier now?” I asked.

“No.” she replied.

People talk about happiness as something to be attained; I think, given what I’ve seen about human tendencies to experience boredom when things go right, happiness itself will always be something to be attained. This is not because it is something difficult to achieve, but because even when it is, it can’t be realized. The modernization of human life has rendered our minds slow to reflect on the reality of situations; too easily people become distracted and unable to calculate hard facts. They adopt wild expectations, ever fantasies of better fortune, and are unable to savor what true good fortune already exists within their lives.

After technology, government, and institutionalization had fulfilled all the basic needs of its participants, they turned their backs on solace and sought doom.

He lit up a fresh cigarette and I watched his smile dim behind the veil of its smoke.

“So, you wanna beer?” he asked in his usual tone. It was the tone of friendship, accompanied by a smile of conviction, rooted in the resolve that if I were to die by beer, it would please him to know that his hand had served me death.

Behind the blur of alcohol, I watched my friend pluck guitar strings into the seductive chords of a blues progression. I took a swill of beer, and while enjoying the smooth coolness of its descent, a smile appeared on my face. I took unexpected joy in knowing that I would never choose to die by smoking cigarettes, but that I would gladly die by the second-hand smoke of my beloved friends.