Last week, I ran into one of my teenage nieces at a trance party. I was just there out of curiosity -- really. "You are the coolest aunt, " she told me.
She has a point. I've lived on a commune, hitchhiked across Europe, marched in demonstrations, have an open mind and love to experience new things.
It was that love of new things that led me to my first experience with pot, back in the '60's.
I was 18 and in my first year of college. My friend, Bill, and I went to his apartment to pick up the rest of our crowd, and a bunch of people were sitting around the table smoking a joint.
Do you want to try it? Bill asked.
Sure, I said. I'm always up for an adventure. Besides, I knew some people who had smoked and nothing terrible had happened to them. And I trusted Bill.
So I sat there and inhaled and coughed -- and coughed some more. I watched as one girl's eyes started turning red. Watched as she started laughing at everything anyone said. She looked like she was having a great time. I wanted to have a great time too, so I kept pulling the stuff into my lungs -- but nothing happened.
The veterans told me that that often happens the first time.
The second time, I did it with my roommate, Shelly. We stuffed a towel into the crack of our dorm room door and lit up.
Wow. I think that's the highest I've ever been. After a few tokes, we started laughing and couldn't stop. I fell back on my bed and suddenly felt like I was on one of those stools that you can spin and it gets higher and higher. Only my stool was sitting on top of the planet and I was spinning off into outer space. Very weird.
We both felt it was more than we had bargained for, so we called our friend David in the dorm next door to help us through it. You'll know how high I was when I tell you that at some point, I was holding his hand and I looked down and thought that I was holding just a hand -- unattached to a body. It was scary.
Over the next year or so, almost all my friends tried it. It was no big deal. We knew it was illegal and we were careful. We knew this one guy who got busted but he dealt. We weren't into that.
So I smoked off and on for a few years and then this funny thing started happening. Actually, I think it was happening all along, but it started to get to me. I would smoke and I would get kind of paranoid.
Like I remember this one time when I was with my boyfriend and my roommate. We had smoked and I had gone to the bathroom. I was looking in the mirror when I heard them laughing in the living room and I was sure they were laughing at me!
That kind of thing kept happening. I felt that marijuana frees up something inside you so that unconscious feelings swim up to the surface and you become aware of them. I was insecure to begin with, but usually managed to keep those feelings at bay. When I was high, I couldn't. There they were in all their glory -- or I should say in all their difficulty and pain. I wasn't into feeling pain.
Later, I started to worry about stuff I'd heard about pot - like that it could affect your short-term memory. I didn't want that to happen to me. My father had lost his memory when he was old and I didn't want to take any chances with mine!
I kept hearing people say that you could get what I got from pot from regular meditation. And you know what - it's true. I've also discovered other ways to get the benefits of pot without polluting my mind and body. That same feeling washes over me when I wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea, when I'm in love, when I manage to plug into the universal creative energy that is both inside and around all of us - then I feel focussed, creative, tuned in - in short -- high.
So despite my early, mostly positive experiences, I would say: DON'T SMOKE MARIJUANA.
One, just like alcohol, marijuana is something you should wait to do (if you do it at all) when you're an adult. It can lead you to all sorts of places that you just aren't ready to deal with. Also, I wouldn't want to take a chance with a body and brain that were still developing. They're the best things you've got and you don't want to risk screwing them up in any way.
Two, for some people it can be dangerous.
I have a very good friend who started smoking daily. It was just a few tokes, she said, to add color to her day. After a month or so, she got high and kind of didn't come down. She thought she was doing great: having lots of realizations, learning about herself, growing up all at once. She said she felt like she was having a growth spurt, like she had just gone through ten years of therapy in a week.
The problem was she was going too fast. During that last week, she hardly ate and barely slept. That Saturday, we had to take her to the emergency room. She started to say really weird things that no one could understand. She wasn't making sense. And we couldn't get through to her. At the hospital, they said she was having a "manic episode", gave her a shot of some kind of strong anti-psychotic drug and a day later she was back to normal. But she got a good scare. The doctor said it was probably the marijuana that did it. He told her it would be a good idea to never smoke again.
And three, depending on where you live, you could get into really big trouble with the law. I know of a girl whose sister got taken away to a foster home because their mother had given her money to buy pot. And the mother got charged with neglect. The sister's been in the foster home for months and the mom is fighting in the courts to get her back. That kind of thing can happen because marijuana is illegal.
One final thought. Although pot is one of the more "gentle" mind altering substances, it is still mind altering. And any time you are not in full control of yourself, you are not in the best shape to deal with things that come you way.
You want to be on top of the situation.
That's really the best way to be on top of the world.