In the novel, Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney, You is the main character who battles drug addiction from cocaine. Cocaine alters many addicts’ lives and You’s life in the novel. You goes about his personal life and work life unaware that the vast problems that occur all stem from his addiction to cocaine. Cocaine addicts often confide in cocaine usage to motivate themselves in overwhelming and difficult issues in life.
The difficult issues often deal with family, friends, and an individual’s personal life or their work atmosphere. For You, cocaine offers the sense of acceptance that he is unable to find anywhere else. Also, among most cocaine addicts, they are able to confide in the drug to get them through hard times and help themselves escape into a fantasy world. From the extensive use of cocaine, You is able to escape the reality world into his fantasy world. However, the acceptance and confidence drug addicts, including You, find in cocaine is followed by ongoing psychological and physical effects. The countless days without sleep, gradual forgetfulness, the importance of cocaine over daily and work obligations, paranoia and anxiety, and masking the truth with lies are just a few effects that cocaine addicts and especially You endure.
Cocaine is a dangerous and powerful drug that has been around for decades and is frequently used among various social standings in society. Coca plants produce a white powder that addicts know and refer to as cocaine. Cocaine generates from South America and is mainly grown in Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. In relevance to You referring to cocaine as “Bolivian Marching Powder” (McInerney 1). “Cocaine is a stimulant” that accelerates various functions of the body (Bozza). Functions that almost always affect the ways an addict acts, thinks, and responds to the world around him/her. Thus, for an addict, like You, cocaine is the way of life.
Cocaine plays a significant role in addict’s lives often affecting relationships with others. Cocaine is not only used as a method to get high and escape from reality, but cocaine also “replaces relaxed conversation and real sharing” in relationships (Woods 25). Users tend to spend time with others who are also interested in using cocaine. Thus, time spent with cocaine addicts often results in an increase use of cocaine and the affects of cocaine. Overall, an addict’s involvement with other cocaine users tends to diminish a normal life.
For instance, Tad Allagash is You’s best friend or one could say only friend. However, Tad is not what someone would consider a good friend. Tad seems to live a rather unique life; he knows almost everyone important around town, and his connections to get the ever wonderful “Bolivian Marching Powder”. Even though You knows better than to follow Tad and his endless adventurous nights, he cannot resist, for Tad Allagash manipulates him into doing cocaine. It is You’s unwillingness to let the night life with Tad and cocaine addiction go that eventually brings endless nights without sleep.
Due to the extensive use of cocaine, addicts often suffer from sleep deprivation. The feeling from cocaine is so enjoyable, that the thought of sleep does not even cross the addict’s mind. In fact, cocaine begins to take over an addict’s mind and eventually their entire life. Cocaine takes over to the point where they can no longer think of nothing but their next high. “People who are psychologically dependent on cocaine can think of little else. . . . whose lives become focused on the drug” (Woods).
Going out night after night and doing cocaine becomes a ritual for You. Instead of staying home and constantly being reminded of his life with Amanda, You goes out on the town with Tad. Also, Tad refuses to let You mope around the apartment and miss out on the fun with cocaine and women. For there is cocaine to be done and women to be sought: “Eleven-forty. A little early for Odeon, but once we’re downtown, it’s happy hunting ground for sneeze and squeeze” (McInerney 44). Eventually You’s adventurous nights with cocaine and alcohol are followed by days and nights without sleep.
The ongoing nights without sleep eventually catch up to You and cause the problems he has at work. You is seldom on time for work and rarely focuses on the articles to be checked for verification, especially the French piece. Instead, You is attempting to recover from the night before: “You dig into your desk and pull out a Vicks inhaler. Try to plow a path through some of the crusted snow in your head” (McInerney 19). As the day nears an end, nothing has been accomplished.
You does not get anything accomplished because he has no ambition or energy to complete his work. Before leaving, Megan asks You to bring her a Tab. Upon returning to the office, You realizes he has forgotten Megan’s Tab. You apologizes for his forgetfulness and offers to go back out and get her the Tab she had asked for. This is just the beginning of You’s forgetfulness, and this continues to get worse, along with his cocaine usage.
As the endless nights without sleep build up, due to the overpowering of “Bolivian Marching Powder”, so does You’s forgetfulness. Once again Megan has asked You to get her something for lunch, and once again You forgot. Forgetfulness is becoming a regular occurrence for You because he has too many things on his mind. His main worry is how he is going to get his next high. The effects of cocaine are beginning to cloud over You’s memory: “It’s so hard just getting in here every morning, let alone remembering all that you’re supposed to do” (McInerney 79). Cocaine is taking over You’s life because he can no longer remember from day to day what is supposed to happen.
The extensive use of cocaine is followed by many effects in an addict’s everyday life. Drug addicts are unable to get daily tasks completed, whether it be at school or at a job, they merely cannot focus on what is to be accomplished. Basically, cocaine becomes more important in the addicts life than work or personal obligations. “Someone who has a heavy cocaine habit is absent from work often. . . . leading to poor performance on the job” (Woods 24). Cocaine has ongoing affects other than a few short hours after being of use. Rather, most addicts cannot escape the influences of cocaine and suffer the long term effects.
As the result of daily cocaine use and addiction, You faces vast problems at work. He is rarely on time to work, often due to the late night partying and snorting cocaine. Also, the lack of sleep from all night partying has a significant role in You almost always being late for work. When You is at work, he can barely focus on tasks and verifications that need to be done. Instead, You is recalling the events that took place the night before and how “Bolivian Marching Powder” was able to get him through the night. Struggling to focus on the French piece due on Clara’s desk before he leaves, You wishes he only has some cocaine to keep him awake and get him through the beyond horrible French article: “A boatload of Marching Powder might get you through this ordeal” (McInerney 25). Once again, his dependence on cocaine is what You needs to rescue him from reality. However, cocaine never rescues You from reality, instead, cocaine causes the loss of his job.
As problems in life stack up for an addict due to cocaine, they often unnoticing, resort to cocaine to help solve their troubles. Once again, cocaine offers the addict the acceptance and confidence needed to feel in control. “Drugs, for example, can be used as a means of coping with problems to such an extent that the development of more effective coping methods is limited” (Peele 142). Also, once the high from the drug wears off, addicts will do whatever is needed to keep the high going. Thus, addicts “turn to the drug again for more relief” (Woods 23).
You resorts to cocaine after getting fired from the magazine and admitting he “screwed up”, You regains his composure by snorting cocaine. You’s snorting cocaine is an attempt to lighten the feelings and emotions: “In terms of improving your mood, this might be just what the doctor ordered . . .” (McInerney 105). Basically, to You, cocaine helps lighten the mood of reality and puts him in his fantasy world.
An escape from reality into a fantasy world is often what addicts want and experience while under the influence of cocaine. In an addict’s fantasy world they feel as though they are able to do everything that most cannot achieve under normal circumstances. Cocaine releases addicts into their fantasy world and users enjoy the feeling of being able to do anything, thus they will resort to any means of keeping the high “rather than finding behavioral ways to meet the needs and reduce the state of alarm” (Peele 32). Therefore, addicts “turn to the drug again for more relief” (Woods 23).
Now that You has lost his job, he has no specific place to go and nothing specific to do. Wanting to keep the buzz and good mood going, You buys cocaine from a young boy. You purchases the cocaine in order to keep the prior high. Under the influence of cocaine, You can pretend the prior events did not happen or are not as bad as they may appear to be. Even though, You lost his job primarily due to the effects of cocaine, he still uses the drug to keep himself in good spirits and to steer away from the fact he has lost his job and has no specific place to go.
Not all experiences and affects of cocaine are as wonderful as they may seem. A few addicts suffer from unpleasant after affects of cocaine. Some affects that are evident after snorting cocaine are: paranoia, anxiety, and nervousness. “But diehard users can be prone to high-pitched anxiety, irrational fears, paranoia . . .” (Andersen). Even though, most affects from snorting cocaine extend into an addict’s everyday life, which still does not stop or prolong the use of cocaine.
Throughout the days of You’s cocaine addiction, he gradually becomes paranoid and more anxious. You’s paranoia is a result of him worrying about being left behind, and others off enjoying the drugs without him. As many ideas run through You’s mind of what possibly could have happened, he becomes very anxious and a waits their return. Due to his paranoia, You goes in search of his friends. After finding out he was not being excluded from any drugs, You realizes that his paranoia and anxiety was nothing to get worked up about.
Another incident of You’s paranoia is evident at a bar when he is confronted by a young girl looking for drugs and sex. You reminds himself that he does not need to stoop to the level of buying cocaine with two young girls: “You are not this desperate, you tell yourself. You still have some self respect” (McInerney 153). Although, the next morning You wakes up in this young girl’s bed in a panic, wondering what happened and what he has done.
Anxiety sets in as You quietly crept out of the girl’s room and her parents’ apartment. Once in Manhattan, You begins to calm down and is thankful to see he lived through last night, and a sense of relief sank in to be home: “You have never been so glad to see the inside of your apartment” (McInerney 155). Throughout the book, You goes through different situations that put him in a state of paranoia and anxiety which often involve the use or prior use of cocaine.
Cocaine addicts often tell lies to mask the truth in order to look or feel better about what they have done or has happened in their life. In addition, habitual lying becomes common and eventually the addict cannot distinguish between the truth and a lie. As a result, problems from cocaine keep piling up and in the end addicts “become unable to cope without” lying about what has actually happened in life in hopes horrible events will turn out for the better (Woods 23). Overall, masking the truth with lies has everlasting effects on cocaine addicts because in the end they use lies and cocaine to get them through every day obligations.