When I was around 18, I started mixing with people who became my friends or associates, but who partook liberally of that wacky weed called marriage-ooh-ana (marijhuana). I constantly resisted their efforts to indoctrinate me into their drug-smoking club, just happy to be friends with them instead. A big part of my resistance was my desire to not succumb to peer pressure, to avoid brainwashing and manipulation, to make up my own mind about what I wanted to do. And smoking weed wasn't one of those things I wanted to do.
When I was about 24, I had moved away from those Cheech and Chong wannabes, but had mixed with a bunch of other people who smoked the stuff as well. I just couldn't get away from it, but it was something I accepted. People smoked it, and I didn't want to.
However, one night at a party I attended, there was a pipe and some weed on the kitchen bench. I looked around, but saw no one. The kitchen was empty, except for me and the drugs in front of me. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to try it without any actual peer pressure, and so I decided to do so.
One of my fears which probably helped me stay away from it in front of my peers was the embarrassment of choking on the smoke. I'd seen how much they had hassled those amongst them who choked, coughed, spluttered, etc. As I put the weed into the pipe, held it to my lips and put the flame to the weed, I wondered how it would feel as the smoke went into my lungs. I wondered what it would feel like to be 'wasted'.
Hesitantly, I sucked in the smoke drawn through the pipe, holding it in my lungs and feeling the warmth inside of me, before slowly letting it out. I didn't cough or splutter… in fact, I felt no awkwardness or uncomfortableness that I thought I might, and so I did it again.
I finished the pipefull of weed, and then went outside, telling one of my friends about my experience. He congratulated me, welcoming me to 'the club'. I was feeling happy. I'm not sure if that was because of being 'accepted' or if it was simply because I was 'happy'. I suspect it was the latter.
Since I was now in 'the club', whenever the pipe or the joint was passed around, I had my share and passed it on. It was funny, but for the entire time that I did this, I never actually bought anything myself. I shared only in what others bought. It was probably remiss of me, maybe even rude in the grand scheme of drug-smoking etiquette, but it helped me keep my distance from it, ensuring that while I engaged in the practice of it, I was never fully part of that culture.
One day, while my workmates – who were also my friends and acquaintances – were sitting in the van (this was during my time with Kirby) waiting for someone to finish their demonstration and join us, a rather large joint was passed around. I puffed away on it before passing it on, and maybe even had seconds a few minutes later.
While it was still being passed around I felt even more light-headed than normal. I was starting to feel a little nauseous, and so I got out of the van to get some fresh air. As soon as the fresh air hit my lungs, I started to experience a strange thing. I could hear what sounded like gravel falling on a tin roof, a loud ongoing clatter echoing in my mind. I started to walk around behind the van, but then suddenly my vision changed, so that instead of seeing the normal 3-dimensional, colourful view of the world, I was instead seeing a black and white negative image, before it faded away to just blackness.
I could feel the van at my side, and I continued walking, following it with my fingertips. But I could see nothing, and all I could hear was this clattering of gravel on the tin roof. My vision began returning by the time I had made my way back around the front of the van and next to the passenger door, which I had earlier stepped out from. The sound had disappeared as well, returning me to the reality of a middle-class suburb as the sun had just begun setting, and the birds were chirping in the trees.
While trying to remain nonchalant about the whole thing, and feeling slightly better now that I had some fresh air, I climbed back into the front passenger seat, and realised that everyone was looking at me strangely.
"What?" I said, looking around at them. One of them – there was about 4 of us in total – laughed.
"Man, you looked like you were wasted!" He passed me the joint again. "Here, have another."
"No thanks, I think I've had enough," I replied, declining the offer. Everyone settled back into the normal routine, while I was sitting there wondering what the hell had just happened to me.
That experience, and the realisation that these people were going nowhere in life, made me re-evaluate what I was doing. Shortly after that experience, I decided that I didn't want to be like that, like them, and that I actually wanted more out of life than escaping from it with drugs.
In total, my drug-smoking experiences lasted about 6 months. I haven't touched it since. At all. I've also not been around people who partake of it themselves (or if I have, it's been not more than once. Once is enough to know I don't want to be around them any more), preferring to acquaint myself with people who are 'clean', who prefer to deal with their reality than to escape from it.
It would be quite a few years before I would get an idea about what happened to me with that experience of going blind and hearing gravel, but I would have it once more, from a seemingly unrelated event. I'll be writing about that one shortly though, and in the upcoming post I'll explain more about what I learnt.
In the meantime, I just wanted to share my 'Cheech and Chong days,' where I involved myself in the numbing, mindless escapism of smoking drugs. I was going to say "where I enjoyed the numbing, mindless…." but really, I didn't enjoy it. I experienced it. I got some semblance of greater acceptance from the people around me, but in the end, I realised it wasn't their acceptance of me that was important. It was my acceptance of myself and the reality I was living that was really important. Drugs create a reality that takes you only into nothingness. No hopes, no ideas, and no future. An illusionary calm that only hides the truth.
The truth is, drugs are for those people who are searching for an answer to what life's all about, but it's not the solution. If you let the drugs rule your life, they create a dead end in life rather than simply a stepping stone on the path of life's enlightenment. And that problem only keeps you from experiencing the life you're meant to live.
Many people don't need drugs to understand this. Some need drugs to escape from the pain in their life, while others need drugs to find acceptance. Ultimately, we need to accept ourselves and our experiences in life in order to avoid any dependency on drugs.
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