SmokeLong Quarterly

Share This f l Translate this page

If God is My Drug Can I Still Claim Sobriety?

Story by Shelby Hinte (Read author interview) November 15, 2021

Photograph by Damon Lam

  1. california hellscape with beach & ash

First day of fall and fire season has come early this year. Sunday and there was supposed to be a heatwave. People sat in 3 hours of traffic to spend 2 hours at the beach. Call it Self Care Sunday.


In Northern California we are always trying to escape

the heat

the fire

the smoke

the rain

the cold

versions of ourselves that no longer serve us.


Being a human is just a state of trying to optimize the way you feel.

Have you tried cutting out



dead things

people that don’t celebrate you?


Have you tried

finding god



a silence retreat

jade crystals in your vagina?


On this beach, people are huddled in blankets, snuggling, shivering. They have escaped the heat. Now they try to fend off the breeze.


  1. sky

The sky is blue, nearly cloudless and this should be a less radical thing than it is, but California is more ash than sky as of late.

Miraculously, there is no smoke or ash at this beach. Think it must be myth that mere hours ago, just some miles away, as you breathed, you also inhaled the particles of a forest or someone else’s home.

Try not to think about what you are breathing in – eucalyptus ash, melted playground, paw patrol bedsheets, somebody’s wedding dress.


  1. where is my pink cloud?

There is a party of adults near a tidepool. One wears a dinosaur onesie – another has pigtails. They laugh and drink white claws and the world glimmers around them.

Do not let yourself think for too long about the way a body becomes a pliable thing in the sun after a couple of drinks or about the way the sharp edges of the world are dulled in this way.

You have escaped the smoke, the ash, but you are no longer in the habit of escaping your body. You go to meetings where there is inevitably someone in attendance who says when I first got sober it was so hard to feel my feelings.

You have 32 days. There are no vices left with which to escape your feelings. You just know that there is always a way to feel better than the way you are feeling.

Someone said there would be a pink cloud – that this would feel good – euphoric even. Where is your pink cloud?

You think of the sky turning red from the fires, the glowing clouds, but it was from things burning, something to do with the speed of light. This is not the pink cloud you have heard of.


  1. god is a drug

Everyone is talking about god lately, but not in the way you remember from childhood of

speaking in tongues

banning the Disney channel

praying not to be left behind in the second coming

forced to watch film adaptations of the book of revelations.

It’s been 20 years and still you remember the guillotine

how it really looked like her head had been severed from the body

caught by a bucket.

She wasn’t a believer and every night before bed you prayed, I swear I believe, I swear I believe, I swear I believe

until you didn’t anymore.


This new god is new-agey – he can be anything you want him to be – he can be a she – he can be without gender – something inside of you – you can be god (it seems). Everyone is their own god. I am god.


A woman at the gas station wore a shirt that said God is dope.

A bumper sticker said god is my drug of choice.


On the radio as you drive home from the beach, emerging into red sky and smoke, ash falls on your windshield, a woman on the radio is asked how she is coping with the fires, she says, my god won’t give me anything I can’t handle.


You think a lot about the people from your meetings – how they talk about finding god – how everything in their world revolves around god

You think about addiction transference

how if it’s not one thing it’s another




your husband’s cock.


You wonder if god is your new drug of choice

how much does it cost

how fucked up can it get you

will you feel any different

any better

less like you’re stuck in a flesh prison

if you can still claim sobriety.


  1. nothing can save you, everything will kill you


In your house, ash collects around the windowsills. Fire is miles away – still, you choke on the smoke in your living room. You should have stayed at the beach a little longer.

You open the fridge, chug two diet cokes back-to-back and pretend it can make you feel anything different than the way you feel.

You hate diet coke. You are addicted to diet coke. You drink them all day because you’re off sugar now – killing one vice at a time until you are just a feeling machine.

You read that aspartame is bad for hormones – something about tricking insulin receptors – stevia does this too – don’t be fooled into the marketed innocence of its overpriced organic counterparts.

Your sponsor says not to worry too much about addiction transference, says it’s about quitting the things that will kill you first and going from there, accept you’re not in control, entrust things to your higher power, etc. etc. etc.

How then can you know what will kill you first?

You are not in control

god is.

Then you remember god is whatever you want god to be:

You can be god

You are god.

About the Author

Shelby Hinte is a writer and educator living in the Bay Area with her small family and a pack of chihuahuas. She is a regular contributor to Write or Die Tribe and her fiction has appeared in Maudlin House, Entropy, Witness Magazine, Hobart, and elsewhere.

About the Artist

Damon Lam is a photographer based in Hong Kong.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Three

Support SmokeLong Quarterly

Your donation helps writers and artists get paid for their work. If you’re enjoying what you read here, please consider donating to SmokeLong Quarterly today.

The Hybrid Flash: How to Dual-Wield Genre

Book Now!

The Hybrid Flash with Erin Vachon

In this webinar/workshop, you will harness the experimental power of hybrid flash. You will discover the intertwined history of hybrid and flash, and read published flash crossed with image, poetry, and creative nonfiction. You will learn the rules of each genre, so you know how to break them.