Forty years ago the Ramones first album was released. I was 15 and fell in love. Not just with the music but with the whole joyously nihilistic New York vibe that oozed out of da bruddahs.
The Ramones chant 'Gabba Gabba Hey' on the song 'Pinhead' off 1977's Leave Home, the follow-up to the first album. It's a mangled version of 'Gobble Gobble, we accept her, we accept her, one of us' from Freaks, the 1932 Todd Browning movie, notorious for using real, ahem, freaks.
I swallowed the dark and dangerous New York shtick hook, line and sinker. While I was too scared to go the whole Jim Carroll/Johnny Thunders hog into smack, I did do my best to look pale and wasted. Large quantities of booze helped.
If an alcoholic is defined as someone who is powerless over booze, that was me from my first drink. It didn't help that I knew from an early age I was some sort of writer and picked Hemingway, Kerouac and Bukowski as my wobbly gods and role models.
I was foolish enough to believe that boozing was romantic and (which makes me wince) stupid enough to believe intelligent people possessed some sort of highly evolved liver that couldn't be damaged by drink.
After I quit drinking nine years ago, I struggled with having to exist inside my own head, in what I had no choice but to assume was the real world. But when I began practicing Kundalini yoga, I was astonished at how naturally stoned it got me. I became obsessed and practiced every day. I've since found out that many recovering addicts do Kundalini.
From Kundalini I moved to Hatha. Since then I've tried pretty much every style of yoga except for Bikram and Acroyoga. Whatever the style, the effects have been variations on a theme. While I've never gone as high as I did with Kundalini, my practice always leaves me beautifully relaxed.
Curiosity is a quality anyone who writes needs to possess. So it was inevitable that I would start to wonder why yoga did what it did to me. I discovered that it was all about the GABA.
Gamma-Amino Butyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, calming us down. Alcohol mimics the effects of GABA, making us relaxed and sleepy. Studies have shown that practicing yoga increases the amount of GABA in the brain.
Which explains why yoga makes us feel so mellow and also why I took to yoga like a drunk to lager. I was addicted to the belief that my brain was swimming in GABA. And, perhaps, it's the reason why so many writers are alcoholic.
Even if I wanted to, I can never drink again. But there's no doubt that it's an effective way of putting some distance between oneself and reality. It also helps the creative juices flow. The only problem is that it becomes a depressant in itself and, unfortunately, ruins your life.
But yoga doesn't. I took to yoga because it got me naturally high. Then I discovered that it opened the door to wherever inspiration for my writing comes from far more effectively than booze ever did, without killing me. So:
GABA GABA OM!