Chasing the dopamine; how 16 year old car thieves are helping me fly.

Our house was burgled last week. The person entered in the wee hours of the morning, took my car keys then hightailed it out of here, taking my car with them. I was home at the time. The story, if you want to read it, is here on my facebook page.

My car turned up a number of days later, damaged. The police were certain it was teenagers who were only interested in taking my car, and hooning around in it for a good time. They drove it so fast, and so recklessly, it is damaged along the passenger side, probably crashed into something, and the tyres were all gone. And not to alarm you, but the police said it’s become a real problem, and sometimes there is up to 8 such burglaries a night!

It has been challenging. It has triggered my sense of vulnerability and instability, especially as a person dealing with ADHD and CPTSD. It is definitely time to move out of here. But the challenges I have in doing that are in so many ways related to my conditions. Especially the ‘stable income’ needed to get a rental. Having to deal with a whole heap of bureaucracy is very overwhelming. And although we are very lucky to have it, the social security system here still does not understand how to support these conditions during transient or emergency times. Getting help to move is proving to be quite difficult. I will talk more about this later. I am fortunate. I mentor regularly, I am building this blog and shop, and I have theatre projects. I have lanterns to prepare for an exhibition at Radius Gallery in Hepburn. And getting a play script ready for the second half of March. I am working on rising above the whole housing thing and keeping my focus on things that are important as much as I can. Things which can progress me forward. I am determined to not let this housing situation get the better of me. Not everyone has the capacity to manage all of this bureaucracy. And this is how people end up homeless.

Although I have felt at times anger at the systemic and organisational challenges I have faced over the past few weeks, I oddly haven’t felt anger towards the little sprite who entered our house. As I sat listening to the intruder from my bedroom it was clear they were incredibly light footed- a young person. They were so fast, coming in, grabbing my car keys then out again. Then my car was gone. It was over very quickly. When the police said they were most certainly teenagers it made sense.

I know nothing about their neurology, their mental health or housing situation. But I do know part of ADHD is risk taking behaviour, and strongly represented in youth crime:

…the most common criminal offences related to a first juvenile justice record for youths with ADHD was found to be burglaries and break and enters and these offences were twice as likely to be committed by children with ADHD than matched controls.

The risk taking behaviour is a way of stimulating the brain which has low dopamine levels. I am not saying that this person is on the spectrum, but, I know this tendency in myself. I mean, I get it. Now that I am diagnosed there’s a lot of things that make sense to me looking back.

When I was 16 I had a friend Graham, who was around the same age, who drove a car unlicensed everywhere. He used to drive his mum to the pub. He had been doing so since he was around age 11. I met his mum at his house on a couple of occasions. She was a sweet lovely woman, very welcoming, but very vulnerable, and obviously an alcoholic. There was a sense that Graham was looking after her. At such a young age, he was the ‘man’ of the house. Graham himself, underneath his tough exterior and car hooning behaviour, was vulnerable also. He had a speech impediment. As did my mother.

I used to love getting into the car with Graham. I remember my friends saying ‘don’t get in the car’ as I ignored them, and happily hopped into his car to go for a spin. Graham would speed around the streets, launching us over speed humps, laughing hysterically, doing burns outs and coming to a spinning stop. I loved it. It totally got my dopamine levels up.

This is why it’s hard to be angry at the little sprites who took my car. In fact, my friend even said she had a dream that I told her I want to be friends with them. Haha. It’s true.

I myself as a teenager used to shoplift. It wasn’t because I wanted things. It was because that level of risk taking kept my brain stimulated. I got quite good at it also. Still a teen I went travelling with another friend right up the eastern coast of Australia, and we shoplifted the whole way. It was a game of life and death, of survival as we had no income, apart from busking, which we did along the way also. The more challenging the situation, the more of a high we would get from our ‘success’. Eventually my friend and I got caught shoplifting. After being arrested and getting a warning from police, I realised I had to train myself out of the impulse to do it, as it was spiralling. I had become addicted to it. Addicted to the dopamine hit. Like other compulsive behaviours I had trained myself out of over the years, I managed to do it, but the urge did resurface many times over a number of years. I am not saying I condone stealing. I don’t condone stealing at all. I never did really. I knew it wasn’t right, even though I may have justified it by the wrong doing of the large corporations we were mostly stealing from. But energetically it’s a low vibration to be in. Taking action from love and truth are my goals now, and that takes a lot more courage, and gets the dopamine levels going at a much higher and sustained level. Speaking and acting from truth is way more terrifying, but also a way more powerful and reliable high, and one which I am building on and developing over time. But I am not judging those who are in that loop of dopamine chasing at the lowest level.

Another experience I had of hooning, was when I was aged 18. I was living in a squat, which was a well organised and creative place to live, full of artists, musicians, activists and many other people who would drop in. It was a pretty wild place. We would put together street theatre there for political actions. Sometimes people would show up with very serious mental health issues needing a place to stay. So there were a number of dramas that went on. And there were also very interesting and free spirited characters who came to stay at times, passing through.

One day a man turned up, I have no idea who he was but he was nice enough, and not at all threatening or unsafe feeling. He had a high powered motorbike which he parked out the front. I can’t remember what type of bike, other than it was black. For some reason we walked together up to the main street to find a second hand shop. He wanted to buy a padlock, probably to lock up his bike helmets. The owner of the second hand shop pulled out a few padlocks and placed them on the bench, then a large jar full of keys. There must have been hundreds of keys in there.

‘If you can find a matching key and lock, it’s yours’ the shop owner said.

‘This is the lock I want’ said the man, placing aside the padlock he preferred. ‘Who knows where the key is though..’

I looked at the jar packed with keys, then tipped out a large pile onto the table. I rummaged my hand through them, then picked up one of them and handed it to him. He tried it and straight up it worked! It was the right key. Oh my gosh! Wooow!

He was very impressed. And delighted that he got the padlock he wanted.

‘Because you helped me find the key to the lock, I will take you for a little ride on my motorbike’ he said.

‘Sure!’ I answered. I had been on the back of a motorbike once before, a friend’s big sister’s boyfriend had taken me for a ride once, and I loved it! The wind blowing through my hair. The feeling of freedom. The vibrating of the engine all along the inside of the legs. What fun!

So we went back to the squat, he fitted me with his spare helmet, and I am guessing a jacket though I don’t remember, and then I jumped on the back of his bike, and we rode out towards the outer edges of the city towards the freeway.

I was imagining we would go for a lovely gentle ride, taking in the scenery, then he would bring me home again.  

But once on the freeway, he started to go really fast, I mean so fast we were passing every single other vehicle in a flash. There was nothing I could do but hold on tight and surrender. He was easily doing over 220 kph. 250 even. And I was loving every bit of it! But to be honest I didn’t have much choice. It was either enjoy it or die. I instinctively knew that any resistance from me would put us at risk. It was much better to relax, and fly. It was certainly the kind of stimulation my brain really responded to. I felt completely alive and in the moment. And, to be honest, I trusted him.

Then he slowed down, and spoke to me behind him.

‘I am going to give you a little surprise. I want you to hold on to the grip behind you, and stay calm OK.’

‘OK’ I replied… what could be more of a surprise than going so fast like that?

So I did what he told me, and held on tight to the grip behind the seat.

Once again he built up his speed, 220-250, or even more. Then suddenly he jumped up onto the seat of the bike, so he was squatting on it, with both hands still holding the handlebars. And then he slowly and gracefully rose up on one leg, extending the other out behind him, over the top of my head, still holding the handlebars, in an elegant and perfectly executed arabesque! Maintaining this incredibly high speed in this position, he overtook several cars, like an elegant swan flying, me holding on behind. It must have been a shock to those cars! To me it felt like we were some divine apparition descending from the heavens. Like we were flying effortlessly along the crack between heaven and hell. It felt epic.

Of course back then there were no speed cameras like there are now. He wouldn’t get away with this for an instant now days. And I am so glad that my daughter or son have never done this I can tell you. But hell, it was pretty good fun.

He got me home safe and sound afterwards, a perfect gentleman. Apart from putting my life in grave danger, he was absolutely respectful in every way. And I remain to this day, grateful that he gave me such an experience, all for finding in one go the right key to his lock.

I tried to generate an AI image of this story but no matter how many prompts, it wouldn’t generate a man doing an arabesque on a motorbike with a woman sitting behind him. If you can generate one, please share with me! (the interpretation of ‘arabesque’ is interesting, don’t you think?)

So back to my present situation.

Sometimes life can feel chaotic, especially as you work towards a higher level of things, suddenly, BAM. Its almost like you are forced to choose better… We are currently faced with many challenges to level up. But one thing I know I am good at, that is flying, in the moment through chaos and uncertainty, and keeping my centre. I am not letting myself be derailed by all the tasks I need to do to sort my car insurance, my tenancy lease or social security.

I will not let myself be derailed by the uncertainty.

Like the young person on the back of that bike, I am giving my absolute focus to what matters in the moment, which is preparing my paper light sculptures for the sustainable art exhibition next week. I am keeping the other things at bay in the meantime, holding space for myself to step towards what i want.. and hopefully things in my immediate world will unfold favourably while i make them ..

And hopefully the young person who entered my house will be found, so I can meet them, and perhaps talk with them about these things, to let them know how much potential they have, and how they could channel their power into amazing things, and also so that they don’t put others in harms way with their goddam stupid and reckless driving.

The lanterns pictured are made from leaf rubbings, watercolours, ink, various papers, vintage maps and staple art. Get in contact if you want some lanterns for a special occasion!

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