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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Read Online (FREE)

What time was it? Eight-thirty. Where was she? Rehearsal? She was in a new production of Othello at the RSC, and it wasn’t going particularly well. Endless rehearsals had been taking their toll. She seemed visibly tired, pale, thinner than usual, fighting a cold. “I’m so fucking sick all the time,” she said. “I’m exhausted.”

It was true; she’d come back from rehearsal later and later each night, looking terrible; she’d yawn and stumble straight into bed. So she probably wouldn’t be home for a couple of hours at the earliest. I decided to risk it.

 

I took the jar of weed from its hiding place and started rolling a joint.

I’d been smoking marijuana since university. I first encountered it during my first term, alone and friendless at a fresher party, too paralyzed with fear to initiate a conversation with any of the good-looking and confident young people around me. I was planning my escape when the girl standing next to me offered me something. I thought it was a cigarette until I smelled the spicy, pungent, curling black smoke. Too shy to refuse, I accepted it and brought the joint to my lips. It was badly rolled and coming unstuck, unraveling at the end. The tip was wet and stained red from her lipstick. It tasted different from a cigarette; it was richer, rawer, more exotic. I swallowed down the thick smoke and tried not to cough. Initially all I felt was a little light on my feet. Like sex, clearly more fuss was made over marijuana than it merited. Then—a minute or so later—something happened. Something incredible. It was like being drenched in an enormous wave of well-being. I felt safe, relaxed, totally at ease, silly and unself-conscious.

That was it. Before long I was smoking weed every day. It became my best friend, my inspiration, my solace. An endless ritual of rolling, licking, lighting. I would get stoned just from the rustling of rolling papers and the anticipation of the warm, intoxicating high.

All kinds of theories have been put forward about the origins of addiction. It could be genetic; it could be chemical; it could be psychological. But marijuana was doing something much more than soothing me: crucially, it altered the way I experienced my emotions; it cradled me and held me safe like a well-loved child.

In other words, it contained me.

The psychoanalyst W. R. Bion came up with the term containment to describe a mother’s ability to manage her baby’s pain. Remember, babyhood is not a time of bliss; it’s one of terror. As babies we are trapped in a strange, alien world, unable to see properly, constantly surprised at our bodies, alarmed by hunger and wind and bowel movements, overwhelmed by our feelings. We are quite literally under attack. We need our mother to soothe our distress and make sense of our experience. As she does so, we slowly learn how to manage our physical and emotional states on our own. But our ability to contain ourselves directly depends on our mother’s ability to contain us—if she had never experienced containment by her own mother, how could she teach us what she did not know? Someone who has never learned to contain himself is plagued by anxious feelings for the rest of his life, feelings that Bion aptly titled nameless dread. Such a person endlessly seeks this unquenchable containment from external sources—he needs a drink or a joint to “take the edge off” this endless anxiety. Hence my addiction to marijuana.