Long story short: A few days before Christmas 2016, I not only ‘flirted with suicide’, I stared long and hard into its eyes.
I was lucky — and walked away alive.
The medication that helped me walk away alive – Lamotrigine – is mainly used as an anti-seizure med for epilepsy sufferers; anecdotal observations suggested it stabilized mood too. That’s what I use it for — and part of my luck was that Lamotrigine worked and works for me as well, as completely and as quickly as it did. One of the unexpected side effects (unexpected becasue there IS no ‘literature’ on my use of this drug. I’m one of the guinea pigs) is that alcohol now leaves a terrible aftertaste in my mouth.
It doesn’t matter how beautifully structured that glass of Zinfandel is, or how inky and taut the tannins are in that Petit Sirah — the aftertaste is so profoundly unpleasant — and so particular — that it simply made drinking anything with alcohol in it cringe-inducing. So, I did the logical thing: I stopped drinking.
I had already turned to cannabis for other things. That I had turned to cannabis at all was a testament to my NEED for cannabis. It was not terribly attractive to me when I was young — it made me too sleepy to be functional. And, back then, I wasn’t having sleep problems. Cannabis was ‘solving a problem’ I didn’t have. So I used other drugs. Alcohol. Cocaine. But mostly alcohol.
Those drugs DID solve my ‘problem’: They made me social when I needed to be, sped me up when I wanted and made me feel like I was Golden. In point of fact, my drugs of choice weren’t ‘solving’ anything; they were making more problems and harming my body — in small ways but significant ways. And the Drug that I chose most often — every day, in fact — three glasses of red pretty much guaranteed — was alcohol.
And I LOVED IT. I adored good red wine. I loved a perfectly made, ice cold gin martini. I loved bourbon and single malt scotch. I loved grappa & calvados.
I loved the whole creative endeavor, the craftsmanship and passion that went into a bottle of ‘fermented, alcoholized fruit’.
The fact that it was legal meant that I could drink as much of that product as I wanted to — even if it made me sick. But — as an adult — that is my right & privilege so long as I harm no one else. This is as it should be and must be.
One of the things I adored about alcohol was ‘Alcohol Culture’ — otherwise known as A PARTY. You arrive at a party, plop down YOUR contribution (a six pack or bottle of something too cheap for YOU to drink) and away you go — merging your drinking rhythm into everyone else’s drinking rhythm.
Funny thing? I never used to know that parties — and partiers — had a ‘drinking rhythm’. That’s because, back then, I was PART of that rhythm. I might have been a BIG part of that rhythm.
And then circumstances stopped me from being part of it — and, instead, made me AN OBSERVER of it instead.
This is not a revelation to anyone who doesn’t drink — but socializes with people who do. Going to a party or a bar — anywhere where other people are slowly surrendering their faculties to alcohol — is a fascinating — but isolating — experience. Literally everyone else in that room is on a journey you are NOT on. And YOU — the person NOT drinking — almost always feel relief about that fact: Who would WANT to act as silly as all those people slowly getting plastered?
I live in California where cannabis is now legal. It is already normalizing (though it still has a long, long way to go — the product was demonized so relentlessly — and so DISHONESTLY — that it will take a while just to strip out all the bullshit from Our Common Knowledge of the product. Disinformation and misinformation are far more prevalent in the culture than actual data on the subject. Our laws reflect that too unfortunately — but we’ll fix it in time.
As more and more people use the product and take it to heart (and mind), the laws will have to catch up — because our experience with it will demand no less.
Yes, cannabis can make you feel awesome. It can take the edge off a bad mood like few things. That includes alcohol. Especially alcohol.
But — and this is several years of actual experience talking (anecdotal experience every last bit of it — but valid as data nonetheless — and even more valid because it’s such consistent data).
I re-considered cannabis as a product four years ago when I needed help sleeping. My experience with OTC sleep meds was poor and I feared anything stronger. Cannabis — indica strains — solved my problem simply, effectively and without breaking the bank. I fell asleep feeling good — slept longer than I was sleeping previously — and awoke just about EVERY MORNING feeling rested. Even if the quantity of my sleep still needed improvement, the QUALITY of that sleep was exactly what I needed.
I learned — as I began to explore different cannabis strains — that sativas and hybrids effect my brain differently than most indicas. I learned from repeated experience that GG4 (a hybrid) and Durban Poison (a sativa) and Dutch Treat (a hybrid) and Trainwreck (another hybrid) and Alaskan Ice (a sativa) and Bertleberry Cheesecake (a sativa) and Chemdawg (a hybrid) — among others — brought not only a sense of ‘well-being’ but discernible CLEAR-HEADEDNESS.
Each and everyone of those strains — when smoked either alone or in concert with each other in various combinations — produced (and produce) a laser-like focus in my mind. Whether I’m working, cleaning my house — or even playing tennis — these strains make me measurably better at whatever I’m doing.
I also discovered strains that, while not focussing me quite so intensely, did make me feel chatty and social. Cannabis, like alcohol, gives one a ‘social high’. But, whereas the social high with alcohol soon devolves — alcohol breaks down prohibitions but also the good sense to NOT break them down when appropriate — cannabis DOESN’T have that effect.
And, as a lot of other people have learned and are learning — if depression has any purchase inside your head? Alcohol is not your friend. Cannabis on the other hand is. It’s not for everyone of course (why, oh WHY does one always have to explain that?) Everyone’s brain chemistry is different. But — if we look at the Big Picture (keeping in mind that even pharmaceuticals can kill you or hurt you) — lots and lots and lots of actual DATA says that cannabis is incredibly efficacious for a wide and widening group of people.
Want to argue with me? Okay. We may argue but we won’t fight (so long as we’re both toking).
You don’t see a lot of fist fights break out among pot smokers the way you do drinkers. That’s brain chemistry at work. And it describes two very different experiences inside our brains. Perversely, we as a LARGER Culture accept what Alcohol Culture does to people (just as we still accept what Tobacco Culture has done to us — WHY is it even remotely acceptable for A SMOKER to toss their butt as if OUR WORLD were THEIR ash tray? How the hell did THAT ever become ‘acceptable’ in the first place?)
Alcohol & Cannabis effect us — who we are, what we do — AND WHY — in two vastly different ways. We need to recognize not only that there ARE differences but WHAT those differences are.
In the meantime — I’m thinking Allen Wrench…