So, I’ve been feeling pretty good this week. The new book was released, I somehow navigated my daughter’s 21st birthday without too much fret that I was getting old, I’m just waiting for the green light to announce something else fairly major that I thought was coming this week and the weather has been standard Maine summer, which evokes a sense of positive nostalgia. Also, the hammock my kids got me for Father’s Day has really been a nice respite at the end of the day.
Several days ago, for the first time ever in my life, I was offered edibles — marijuana-laced foodstuffs. It has been preached to me to try smoking a little to see if it helps with anxiety issues, but with my wife working in a respiratory therapist’s office, she’s taught me to be smarter than to ever put any burning substance into my mouth and ingest it into my lungs. Weed smokers — I know you like preach that it’s more organic than cigarettes, and it is, but it is never healthy to have any kind of smoke in your lungs. Are you familiar with how they smoke meat? Your lungs are meat.
Anyway, though a third party, I was given a small tub of cotton candy and a chocolate bar. While my anxiety isn’t kicking my ass right now — it oddly hasn’t been since the start of the pandemic — I wondered if this might be the answer instead of the Ativan, which has some side effects.
I asked a friend who I know is a marijuana guy how many milligrams I should ingest. He said he didn’t know. He liked smoking because there was a fine line of edibles not working and of sending him into a deep high he didn’t like.
Like a geek, I looked at the Internet and it said that the first time user should go for 10-15 milligrams and appreciate that everybody’s metabolism is different. Some need more, some need less. Some hits fast, some takes forever.
My body is not predictable with chemicals. I don’t know if it has to do with the bipolar disorder or if I’m just a rare bird. I have no medical data to back this up, but I believe when I was 17 and had a nasty, extended case of mono that my body’s chemistry changed. Maybe it was coupled with the end of puberty, but I came out of it different than I went in. Suddenly things like codeine or Nyquil had a stimulant effect, yet to this day, there are also sedatives that my doctors have laughed about because they give me the dosage they start a 90-pound, 80-year-old person on and it knocks me out for two days. Morphine does nothing for me and I’ve had three hydrocortisone shots that have done the exact opposite of what they are intended. Anytime I try new medicine, I never know what’s going to happen.
I also wonder if the mono could have somehow triggered or aided the bipolar in developing because it was immediately after I recovered that I started having the kind of manic and depressive swings that marked the next eight or nine years. Whatever it was, my drinking increased a bit post-mono, but I discovered marijuana and for the first time in my life, I started feeling OK.
I’m not going to bore you with long stories of my extended adolescence/early adulthood. I don’t find them interesting either. Suffice to say, for three years, I smoked marijuana at least five days a week, usually seven. Much like the way I enjoyed drinking alone, I was not a social smoker. I did it on my own in a safe place. While it numbed me to the point of what most people call stoned, I tried not to overdo it. I just wanted to feel nothing.
But, feeling nothing isn’t an exact science and there were times the marijuana was either too strong or I didn’t pace myself. In my spectrum of intoxication, be it alcohol, marijuana, or one of the other substances I may have experimented with in my youth, I realized that I have different stages. The final stage, overdose/poisioning, happened a couple times but I don’t really tell those war stories anymore. The stage before that is being out of control. I can’t control my thoughts, my mouth, my actions. This is when I always knew to be in a safe place, just ride it out and not interact with people. Prior to that stage is very intoxicated, and then it winds down.
I don’t know if I was addicted to marijuana in those three years, but I quit one day, cold turkey, without even thinking about it. It was the week after I was put on anti-depressants and other anti-psychotic meds (I love the name…so dramatic) for the first time. I didn’t need the weed anymore so I stopped. The co-pay on the pills was much lower and it was still technically illegal at the time. (When I think about it, between the invention of the Internet, legalization of gay marriage, legalization of marijuana and this Coronavirus…my world is really different than it was 30 years ago. History marches on, even if you don’t feel like you’re part of it.)
I briefly returned to smoking for a couple months at 25 when I dated the woman I saw immediately before I met my wife. This woman smoked for a lot of the same reasons I did prior to getting on meds. Now, the weed just made me tired and hungry. I didn’t need it anymore and didn’t like the sluggish feeling it left me with. Prior to us breaking up, she started in on meds and her smoking dropped a bunch, too.
That was probably 2000 or 2001. Over the next 10 years, I took a hit off a joint or pipe four or five times total. Over the last 10 years, I haven’t touched the stuff once. Marijuana hasn’t been part of my life over the last 20 years. There’s been plenty of drama…weed just hasn’t been a player.
So, the other day, I took what I figured to be around 5 milligrams of cotton candy around 4:30 p.m. I wasn’t feeling anything by 5:30, so I took another 5 milligrams. I still wasn’t feeling anything at 6, so I broke off a piece of the candy bar, which I thought was 10, but turned out to be 25 upon inspection the next day. At 7 p.m. I was still not feeling anything, so I took another 5 milligrams of cotton candy.
And then around 7:30, it all hit. In my typical obsessive fashion, instead of taking the 10 to 15 milligrams and being patient, I had to keep adding on until I felt something. By the time I did, I was 40 milligrams in.
My wife knew that I was doing this and even she thought once 7 p.m. rolled around that my body had just changed and the THC wasn’t going to hit me. I was alone watching TV in our bedroom when it did because I just don’t like the Survivor binging kick my wife and son have been on since the pandemic started. I texted her to come in the bedroom and was completely honest, telling her that the sense of intoxication was coming on strong and that I may have gone too far with it, like my friend had warned.
When she came in the bedroom and I started trying to talk to her, I was immediately back at that place of being a 20-year-old kid, holed up in my room in my apartment, unable to put together a real sentence because my thoughts wandered between the start of the sentence and the finish. I felt nothing but shame. This was the bad kind of nostalgia.
Within this moment, there was the recognition that at 22, I never would have told anybody what was happening. The fact I could tell my wife open and honestly without fear is actually a big step. Shame forced me to hide so much in my earlier days. At least with my wife, I clearly was beyond that.
My son went to bed early since he now has a job that kicks his ass he has to be at first thing in the morning. Around 9:30 p.m., my wife needed to go to bed, so I went to the living room and continued watching Everybody Loves Raymond.
I next entered the phase of false enlightenment, when I start to understand the subtext of everything — even if it isn’t there. It usually starts as something stupid, such as recognizing that in Everybody Loves Raymond, the character of Debra is the surrogate for the audience watching, not Raymond. Or, that Michael Scott only plays dumb on The Office and he’s the smartest person there. You know…totally deep stuff. This also comes with a sense of shame because I know come the next day, I won’t find any of this stuff especially interesting, and am embarrassed I do in the moment because I know I shouldn’t be high to begin with.
After that comes the creativity. This surprised me. I spent the next two hours writing a series of disjointed paragraphs that could serve as openings to chapters from a couple different recovery books. I was thinking to myself, “Maybe it’s good I did this because I don’t have the next great idea yet and this is helping me!” But, the next morning I read over this stuff. While it wasn’t incorrect, it wasn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff. Reading it that next morning made me feel like an idiot because I know in the moment I’m writing it, I feel like a Pulitzer Prize, and perhaps even a Nobel Prize, is coming from my fingertips onto the page.
This entire time, though, there were introspective waves of regret for trying the edibles, knowing from the beginning there couldn’t be a happy ending. Sometimes the introspection was about all the mistakes I’ve made in life and others it was about how grateful I am to have what I have despite all of my bad choices and poor treatment of people along the way. I tapped into something in my mind that I hadn’t experienced since I was an addict more than six years ago. It was a level of self-loathing and regret I thought was behind me. I also had lots of jarred memories of being high when I was younger and what my mindset was then, a cross-section of naive optimism and a sense my future was doomed. Introspective waves are the toughest to go through when I’m in this condition. They are what make me feel completely out of control.
Then, it’s just a matter of being tired. This hit me hard around 1 a.m. as the effects of the edibles turned the corner and started easing off. I went to bed about 1:30 a.m., slept like crap and had a headache and dry mouth most of the next day. I also threw away the rest of the edibles. It was an experiment and a big part of me is glad it didn’t work because I don’t want to become a marijuana guy. I know every other person has their dispensary card and perhaps they can handle it better than me, but since kicking alcohol and porn, I don’t need something to extract me from real life. I prefer real life now.
This experience also reminded me that I’m getting older, my body isn’t what it once was, and there isn’t any need for me to seek any kind of medicinal relief because I have it under control. My issues with addiction were always about control and I don’t know if my marijuana use in my early 20s had anything to do with it, since I don’t think I was actually addicted, but with the lack of control it made me feel, I recognized that security is more important to me now than ever and the criteria for making choices as a 44-year-old in recovery is very different than the criteria of a 20-year-old guy who is just trying to navigate early adulthood.
The experience sucked, the lessons I learned were ones I probably already knew, but needed reinforced. It was stupid, but it could have been so much worse.
Remember kids, Just Say No.