You Never Really Get Clean, You Just Get Less Dirty

By  · Published on November 3rd, 2016

Trainspotting 2 and the New Addiction

Willie Nelson has famously said, and I’m paraphrasing, “whatever it takes to get you through the day, do it.” Willie is, of course, referring to marijuana, but the sentiment works for prescription pills, alcohol, Yerba Mate, exercise, sex, Sudoku, an extra latte, or old episodes of Friends – the point is the same: life is tough, occasionally shitty, and ridiculously short, so don’t postpone joy, and don’t suffer when there’s a world of stuff to distract you from suffering.

Now, this is a very selfish sentiment, but that’s what addiction is, no matter the form: selfish. True, it’s also a condition, an illness, but at its origins it is a decision, it is a conscious choice we make to indulge ourselves, to escape. Trust me, I know of what I speak. It’s also a very dangerous sentiment, because addiction, as we all know, can kill. But that in and of itself is one of the thrills of addiction: waltzing up to the abyss then stepping back, convincing yourself that using isn’t abusing. When you can.

Because ultimately addiction has you. It’s an illness, yes, but not one that can be cured. It’s like the virus that causes chicken pox, once you have it, it’s in you forever, always there and waiting to resurface should the right conditions align. It’s why we say people are recovering whether they’ve been clean an hour or a decade: you never get clean, not really, not all the way, you just less dirty.

So you trade booze for yoga, weed for Kale, pornography for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Candy Crush or any of the zillion bright blinking distractions the information age offers, and you grow up best you can. You still get through the days, they’re just different now, a little less exciting, sure, a little less indulgent, definitely, but also a lot safer, a lot sounder, a lot healthier, and a lot more mature.

This is the world to which Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting (suck it, James Cameron) introduces us: one post-heroin but not post-addiction. It’s been 20 years since Renton ran out on his mates with their collective cash after a deal in London and though he’s drug-free for the moment, he’s far from clean. As he’s reintroduced to old friends and foes and the underworld of Edinburgh from which he fled as well, Renton comes to realize it’s not the drugs that he craved, it’s the kind of freedom they offered him. From a job. From a career. From a family. From a fucking big television. From HD washing machines, MP3 players, and electrical tin can openers. From, in essence, the life he built after drugs.

Today we got our first trailer for T2 and it is full of the frenetic buoyancy of the original, the manic happiness and tragic despair, but with one added facet: hindsight. Unfortunately such a thing isn’t always preventative, and old habits, as Renton’s going to learn, die the hardest. If you had any doubts about whether or not the Trainspotting sequel was going to be good, banish them from your thoughts right now: it’s going to be great.

Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Kelly MacDonald and my man Robert Carlyle have all returned for the sequel, as has screenwriter John Hodge, who has only written one script for Boyle since 2000’s The Beach, Trance. This is also the first time McGregor and Boyle – the UK’s answer to Scorsese/DeNiro in the late 90’s – have worked together since their infamous spat over Boyle casting Leonardo DiCaprio instead of McGregor in The Beach. But if the joyous energy of this trailer is any indication, all grudges have been set aside and everyone’s got back down to doing what they do best – making a great fucking film that inspires and comforts as much as it cautions.

This is the new addiction, wiser, sleeker, and more efficient but made of the same parts, and thus the same flaws, as the original. This is T2 Trainspotting, in US theaters February 3rd, 2017.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist