Imagine you walk into a restaurant, you sit down and the server gives you a menu. You go to the second half of it and suddenly you see there are so many tempting options: the Hawaiian pizza with magic mushrooms sounds good, but the pepperoni pizza with marijuana-infused oil sounds good too, to drink you don’t know if you should get the mushroom banana shake or the tea with opium, for dessert why not get a laughing gas-filled balloon, and might as well order a joint to enjoy while you wait for your order. If you think this is just a dream, then let me tell you this restaurant exists, actually more than one, and they are in Vang Vieng.
Vang Vieng is a place of extremes; on one extreme it is a small town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains, caves, jungle, and the Nam Song river. There is only one main road, which is unpaved, and there is not a single McDonald’s, 7 eleven, or any other western type of place anywhere. On the other extreme the nightlife is so much fun, drugs are everywhere and they are ridiculously easy to get, it makes Amsterdam seem restrictive and boring.
I spent 4 days there, and my daily routine was both predictable and outrageous, it would look something like this:
- Wake up hangover and tired
- Check that I still had my wallet and phone
- Walk to the patio of the hostel to eat breakfast
- 30 minutes later my friend Steve would join me, followed by Australia (the nickname of one of the guys), Fokker, and the rest of the gang
- We would all try to remember the previous night and how fun it was
- After some chatting, we would agree on an outdoor activity to do. It could be to rent bicycles and ride around in the jungle looking for waterfalls, or to rent scooters to go to the countryside and explore some caves, or to rent inflatable tubes to go spend the day at the river bar hopping (yes you read this right, instead of a road there is a river, which takes you from bar to bar, it’s amazing), swimming and getting drunk
- After all of this, we would eat, go back to the hostel, shower and rest, to get ready for the night
- For dinner we would go to a restaurant to eat and get high at the same time, I would stick to marijuana, mushrooms, alcohol or tobacco, never mixing more than 2 to keep it safe, but my friends would basically go thru every drug in the menu
- After our nice dinner, we would head out to the bars or clubs, to dance the night away
- Each of us would eventually get lost and stumble to the hostel at various hours of the night
My last night there started like any other night, we were at the restaurant ordering from the drug side of the menu, but since it was my last night I said fuck it, I’m leaving so let’s have some more fun and broke my rule of sticking to only two things. Since the mushrooms were mixed with the food, it would take a while to kick in, so after eating I was still feeling pretty well. I left by myself to meet up with my friend Julia, who had just arrived in town. We went to the club to dance and drink some beers, and there is where everything kicked in at once. All of a sudden my mind was completely gone, time stopped making sense, I could barely talk or dance, and I forgot where I was. Julia saw me just standing there looking at my watch and thought I was bored, I wasn’t, time slowed down so much that I was trying to look at the time to get a grip on reality. After a while, I told her “Julia let’s go, I’m too high, but… can you take me to my hostel? I don’t know where I am or how to get there”. Julia being super nice, took me to my hostel, I felt like a little child being taken to school by his mother.
When I got to my room, my friends were already there, they asked me where I had gone to, I could barely speak or remember so I just said “I have no idea what happened this night”, I remember they laughed and said, “damn, I want whatever angel is having”. After that, I passed out on my bed. The next day I woke up with a horrible headache and realized I had lost the watch I bought myself for my Uni graduation. I really liked this watch and was very sad that I lost it. As hard as I tried I just could not remember when I lost it, the night was a big blur. That day I took a bus to the capital Vientiane, which was very painful since I didn’t feel well the whole time. That headache and hangover lasted me over two days. By now I had been partying and drinking almost daily for close to 7 months, I was used to being hangover, but this was the worst so far.
Julia was with me in Vientiane, I told her I needed a break from going out or drinking, she liked my idea and we ended up spending our time going to the movies, temples, walking around in the mall, eating good food, watching Netflix, and going to sleep early. During this time something unexpected happened: I started sleeping well again! For months I would fall asleep drunk, and later wake up at around 2 or 3 am, I would stay awake for around 2 hours, then fall asleep again. It was horrible and I hated this, but had no idea why this was happening, and I was used to it now. But this time after 3 days of not drinking, I had my first night where I slept like a baby. I realized that not drinking solved the problem, and liked sleeping well again that I decided to take a whole month off drinking and partying.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the last time in my life that I would party and drink like I used to, it was the end of an era. After that night in Vang Vieng, my life was different, I guess I got the partying out of my system and that horrible hangover was the last straw that I needed to realize this.
Some weeks ago I saw my friend Steve in Bangkok (where he lives now), after over 3 years of not seeing each other, we were remembering this time in our lives and the adventures we had in Vang Vieng. Now life is very different: I am sober and he is a responsible adult that works as the head chef of a restaurant. In a couple of days it will be my 1 year anniversary of being completely sober, so it seemed fitting to remember the time in my life when I was the farthest away from being sober.
This experience taught me that your life can change very very fast, all you need is a reason to do it. So if your life seems like it’s been the same for a long time, you never know what experience will change you forever.