It all sounded safe coming from him, a man with a pair of tongs delicately handling sautéed tofu.
The words “family,” “narcotics,” and “trade” conjure up scenes of destitution; street-teens peddling their parent’s manufactured drugs. Something like Namond Brice’s drug running career in The Wire. But dealing my dad’s MDMA wasn’t tidy like in an HBO drama.
Before we went into “business” together, my dad was just my dealer. At 20, he gave me my first ever cap of MDMA at the Big Day Out. He could see I was too awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin to buy my own drugs, and because he’s an ex-Silicon Valley guru with a penchant for punk ideologies, he ordered MDMA by the rock-load from the dark web.
I thought taking drugs would fix the inexorable anxiety inside me. That they would make me louder, braver, and a better dancer. And yes, there was some fist-pumping that day but the ecstasy was short-lived. When I got home and the comedown hit, my bedroom became Dante’s Inferno. All I could do was stare at the floor and mutter, “fuck carpet.”
My dad, on the other hand, was thrilled. In his mind, us rolling together at the Big Day Out was a bonding exercise. “Don’t worry about the comedown,” he said like a good mate after a big weekend. “Your tolerance will develop.”
After that first taste, I developed a pretty serious habit. Initially, I was only using on the weekends when I went clubbing in an attempt to feel less awkward, but the days after were excruciating and launched me into depression. This made me rely on the artificial serotonin even more, so I began lining my gums whenever I had to interact in a social setting.
Eventually, my dad noticed the partying. “If you want to make sure your friends are only getting the good stuff,” he asked me one day, “why don’t you sell them what I order online?”
He came from a good place. You can’t always assure the purity of street-bought MDMA. And to me, it all sounded even safer coming from him, a man with a pair of tongs delicately handling sautéed tofu.
We agreed I’d sell my friends caps for $25 a pop. With every cap I sold, he’d pocket $22 profit. The caps only cost him $3, so his takings were high. I, on the other hand, decided to act altruistically. Predominantly because I wanted to consume grade-A quality drugs, and I wanted the same for my friends. But more importantly because my dad was on Centrelink. This way he could make some money on the side, and MyGov wouldn’t redact his dole.
I didn’t plan on getting psychologically addicted to MDMA, but I was eating my dad’s drugs every weekend, and I wasn't paying for it. He noticed the reduction in profits. One day he called and asked me point blank: “Where’s my money?” In that moment, I wasn’t his daughter, I was his lackie — a drug-runner who’d been skimming the cash. I told him I’d gotten too high and couldn’t remember. There was silence. Then he cleared his throat, said “Don’t you dare do that again,” and hung up.
That conversation made me turn to drugs even more. I kept selling for my dad, and avoided my anxiety by getting absolutely obliterated. One cap turned into two caps; two caps turned into lining my gums before dinner with my friends.
One night a few months later my boyfriend and I went to a rave. After a few hours we noticed a large group of people standing at the entrance; they wore white plimsolls and beige overcoats. Someone alerted us to the fact they were undercover cops, but before we had a chance to make any kind of decision, two huge German Shepards entered the venue too. My partner and I were very high, and I still had two caps of MDMA on me. I was paralysed on the outskirts of the dance-floor as the dog came closer, its eyes locked on mine. Then the animal sat down, signifying to the officers that it had found something. I thought I was done.
But he’d sat in front of a guy who turned out to have a gram of weed in his backpack. My feet danced guiltily for the rest of the night.
The next day I woke up with my hair matted and my makeup smeared. I got myself a Berocca, found my mum, and sat on the end of her bed. She asked me what was going on; why I was coming home days later with wine stains on my sleeves. It was over. I told her, in an exhausted breath, that I was selling drugs for Dad. She tried to mumble something but couldn’t muster comprehensible sentences. Instead she cried, and I joined her. Then I sent my dad the text message: “Mum knows.” It was done.
I stopped taking drugs and discontinued any parasitic, pseudo-friendships — including my relationship with my dad. After we exchanged some bitterness, and I screamed through a mouthful of spit that I didn’t love him anymore, I sought a psychologist. She concluded that my serious psychological issues more-or-less originated from my dad, and that the drugs stint was simply a catalyst for my wider issues.
“He tried to bond with you over drugs like a friend,” she told me. “I guess it was the friend that neither of you have ever really had.”
I go to the club now, sober, and I hold up my end of the conversation while my friends talk to me about their gakked plans for the future and why they love me and why they’re happy to have me in their lives. I’ve found agency in a distant relationship with my dad and in soda water. And I now realise that there’s a certain sane and happy equilibrium to be found somewhere between control and chaos, which errs mostly on the side of non-alcoholic beverages, and drugs — if they feature — bought from friends, not family.
*The author's name has been changed to protect her privacy.
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.