Depression Is Like “Thought Cancer”

Slowly — too slowly — our culture is beginning to understand that depression isn’t just one person feeling blue because their life sucks. It’s a health issue with causes and effects that can be treated and ameliorated. The human brain is, by far, the most complex, complicated organ in our bodies. It’s also the organ we understand the least. Inside our skulls, 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) [are] interconnected by trillions of connections, called synapses. On average, each connection transmits about one signal per second. Some specialized connections send up to 1,000 signals per second. Our synapses work like digital circuits; they’re either open or closed. If they’re open, electrical currents can travel across them — and information moves right along with the current. “Somehow… that’s producing thought,” says Charles Jennings, director of neurotechnology at the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research. As ethereal as our thoughts feel, they probably have a physical form — some kind of encoding sequence “burned into” storage areas of our brains. These storage areas — dispersed across our grey matter — link up as we think associatively — connecting immediate stimuli to memories of similar stimuli.

In a happy world where only happy thoughts filtered into our brains, our brains would (one hopes) process only happiness and happiness is all we’d feel and “know”. Alas, Life doesn’t work that way. Even getting through a morning can produce the full gamut of thought possibilities. Some Life experiences leave behind more than just their physical imprint on our neural networks They leave behind darkness. Depression.

If happy thoughts produce lightness in our heads, depression produces its opposite. And, mind you, just like with cancer, there’s more than one kind of depression. Not all darkness is created equal. What Shakespeare called “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” can leave scars on our bodies and in our minds. I was sexually assaulted twice when I was fourteen by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged outside of Baltimore. The second instance was especially harmful because (having kept the secret that first time), I believed I was therefore responsible for there being a second time. Somehow, this information imprinted deeply into my brain — not just that it happened but that it happened for a complicated reason for which I was responsible. That’s a lot of abstraction spread across various parts of my brain. But, that abstraction became my darkness — and that darkness haunted me even though I denied its existence.

When does a terrible incident transition into depression inside our brains? What causes that depression to “metastasize” from “sad thoughts” into increasingly self-destructive behavior? I treated this memory of being sexually assaulted like a secret only I (and my attacker) would or could know. That’s why there was a second time, remember? Despite being sexually assaulted once, I said nothing, told no one. That must have been the case — from my attacker’s point of view — since he still had a job and wasn’t in jail. As I walked in the door that second time, he knew he was safe — and knew he could do it again. So, he did.

This particular memory — this collection of information plus perspective plus all other associations connected to it — behaved exactly like a slow-moving cancer. Plenty of other bad memories become “cancerous” in that they interfere with your life in potentially fatal ways. Just like our immune system regularly deals with low level cancers all the time, our brains find ways of, if not healing the cancerous thoughts, at least containing them and the damage done. Talk therapy went a long way toward mitigating a lot of the depression caused by my sexual assault. Unfortunately, until I dealt with that cancer directly, I was never going to put my cancer into remission.

In my case, this “thought cancer” destroyed my ability to relate to other people with confidence. It’s not that I didn’t or couldn’t trust them, it’s that I had a secret that they could never know — and if they didn’t know that secret about me, they couldn’t possibly know “me”. This put me on an emotional island I didn’t even know I was on. I had friends but never close friends; that is, they felt closeness to me that I couldn’t feel toward them because, down deep, I couldn’t understand why they’d want to BE my friend when, the dark, dirty truth was, I was undeserving of anyone’s friendship. Because of what I did.

Three days before Christmas 2016 — my cancer suddenly metastasizing at an even more alarming rate — I came within literal inches of killing myself. My darkness, my thought cancer, had blocked out all perspective. I had become convinced that my family and friends — my community — would go on same as it was just fine without me. That would not have been the case at all, certainly not with my wife and kids. But, that’s the insidious thing about “thought cancer”. Like a tumor does, depression becomes part of the architecture. The body starts feeding it blood — like it belonged there. The tumor’s essence flows into you and, like a virus, sets about turning you into it.

In my case, I convinced myself that because I’d been sexually assaulted, I deserved every other rotten thing that happened. Including death. Talk about bullshit.

My path out of the darkness and back up into reality began with talk therapy. Acknowledging the need for help was essential to both getting help and being helped. But, I was still keeping that secret from myself — literally denying that such a thing had ever happened to me. I needed even more help — that was my suicide attempt. I had feared mood stabilizers because of the reasons above: we have a “guestimate” understanding of how our brains work but an even bigger gap in understanding how exactly these drugs work in our individual brains. I grew up in a medical family; my dad was a surgeon. I know the culture. I know that my GP doesn’t have a background in these meds — not their fault. Most likely, they’d prescribe whatever the last Big Pharma rep left behind last time she visited and handed out samples. I wanted to deal with my depression while leaving my hypomania alone mostly (that’s where my creativity resides — I’m bi-polar too) and had found lamotrigine (lamictil). The anecdotal information available while I was Googling back in 2014 and 2015 was scant compared to now. At higher doses (I’ve since researched), lamotrigine can impact one’s hypomania. But, I got lucky.

Boy, did I get lucky. Immediately after my attempt — knowing I needed more help than just talk therapy — I drove straight to my GP and told them everything. I told them what happened — but not why because I didn’t know that yet. I told them I’d researched lamotrigine. My GP (and the head doctor — I got a lot of attention) whipped out their smart phones to look it up for themselves. By that point, they’d asked me three times if perhaps I should be hospitalized. I assured them that if trying medication didn’t help then, yes — I’d agree to be hospitalized. They wrote the script.

I went hope, told my family what I was planning — they signed off on it (they were even more desperate than I was that I get help) and I took my first 25 milligram dose. That’s when luck really kicked in. Within 36 hours at that minimal dose, I levelled. I literally felt the darkness lose its power to control me.

My rage was explosive back then. Though usually self-directed, my rage could just as easily be pointed at something stupid I heard on the radio or LA traffic. I don’t remember what set it off that time but the rage erupted in my gut and began to funnel upward with increasing velocity. I was quite prepared for it to hit my throat and — per usual — explode out of me in waves of angry, vituperative spew. But, this time, just as the rage went to explode, instead, it dissipated like a soap bubble popping. I knew I had felt this incredible anger but, just when I expected to really FEEL it? Nada. It was gone except for the (already) fading memory of it.

This was liberating! After the exact same thing happened again several hours later, I understood exactly how the mood stabilizer was stabilizing my moods.

With my depression no longer in charge — no longer able to derail me and my emotions, I could begin the real process of healing. In my case, I could begin to address the eight thousand kiloton gorilla sitting on my chest: my secret.

Long story short: I did confront my secret and confronting it hurt like a mofo. But, confronting that secret — talking about it finally — took away literally all its power over me. Writing about it was even more healing.

I haven’t removed my darkness, I’ve disempowered it. It still lurks within and it knows the power it has over me. If this was “cancer” cancer, I’d change my diet to keep it at bay or alter my lifestyle as necessary. Thought cancer requires the same pro-active measures.

I don’t think for two seconds that I’ve “beaten” this thought cancer. I’ve just figured out how to live with it — and find happiness while living with it. That’s the good news on the subject: there is hope. Lots and lots of it.

Anthony Bourdain’s Passing – Three Years Ago Today – Reminds Us How Important Our Mental Health Is

Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of killing myself. I was at the deepest point in a decade-long depression. I got lucky in the aftermath. I got well. But, even as I finally got my depression under control — the mood stabilizer I take moderates my emotions which allowed me to get to the root cause of my depression (I’d kept a secret from myself that I was sexually molested twice when I was fourteen by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged) — I understood that my darkness, though being kept at bay, always knew how to get to me. I feel a certain perverse kinship with others driven to such despair. The arguments inside their heads might not be the same as mine in their details, but thematically — we all sang the same song of self-loathing. Our darkness is wrong. It’s lying to us. It doesn’t care that our demise will be its demise. But then, no one ever said depression knew what it was doing.

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide came out of the blue for those of us outside his immediate sphere. I’m sure those closer had a different perspective. His past struggles aside, he was in the middle of shooting an episode for his CNN series when his darkness reached up from deep inside him and took him. That’s some potent darkness. It convinced a person that talented, that loved by other people, that on top of his game that he didn’t belong here anymore. You have to take that kind of persuasion seriously. Only Anthony Bourdain knew his demons the way he knew them. That’s true for all of us. But, we have to hold one essential fact about our demons above all others — whoever we are: our demons lie. Anthony Bourdain’s demons lied to him.

It’s just a stone cold fact: life is hard and living it is filled with hardships and pain. There is beauty, too. And joy. And bliss. I know this to be so because I now walk around in a state of perpetual bliss. Oh, I’m keenly aware of how dire our situation is. Read my blog? What makes my life blissful is knowing that I’ve freed myself from bullshit’s shackles. I call this blog “How To Live Bullshit Free” because that really is my mission in life. I do not want to live another moment in bullshit’s thrall. Other peoples’ bullshit is off limits to me. I only can worry about mine — because I’m really the only person who can call me out on it. Sure, other people can do it but, if you’re like me (and you are), you completely ignore when other people call you out on your bullshit.

There’s no one way to keep one’s demons at bay. Talking about them helps a lot. Medication can help — it can put “breathing room” between you and your emotions. Sometimes, that’s all one needs to begin healing. In my case, medication gave me the chance to confront a terrible truth I’d been denying. But that truth explained a lot of what happened to me — in particular why my bullshit had such a hold on me. Confronting what happened to me when I was fourteen was hard but I was never going to be happy unless I confronted it and stopped holding myself responsible for what an out of control adult did to me.

In the end (long story short), I came to understand Yehuda — my molester. I don’t forgive him. I will never do that. But I now see what he did in its proper context. Perspective. That’s the game changer. Gain it and you get healthier. Lose it and the opposite happens. It hurts when anybody leaves here before their time. It hurts a little bit more when super talented people go ahead of time. They still owed us the full benefit of their being here.

That’s how I feel about Anthony Bourdain. We had not yet gained the full benefit of his being here. We all got cheated. That’s why it’s incumbent on every one of us to live the fullest lives we can. It’s the only shot at cosmic revenge we’ll ever get. Sure, it’s good to live a long life (so long as you’re healthy), but it’s even better to live a rewarding life filled with purpose and passion.

Alcohol On Airplanes Was NEVER A Good Idea Actually; Now, Cannabis, On The Other Hand…

On May 29, American Airlines joined Southwest Airlines in suspending alcohol sales on their aircraft. Southwest did it because its passengers were becoming increasingly abusive over mask issues and when those abusive passengers started drinking… . We live in alcohol culture’s thrall the same way we used to live in Big Tobacco’s thrall. It wasn’t that long ago that people smoked on airplanes. There were “smoking sections” and “non-smoking sections” (as if the smoke could read the damned signs). In retrospect, it sounds even stupider. The non-smokers were lucky to get that — a row or two where the smoke wasn’t directly in their faces and eyes and all over their clothes. I’ve never gotten tobacco’s appeal. It eludes me completely but I appreciate how addictive nicotine is. Addiction will cause the addict to use any justification they can think of no matter how silly. The sky was blue that day so I “had to”. Looking back at old movies, I’m always amazed by who smoked and where and when. Everyone did — and everywhere. Smoking was ubiquitous. Kinda like how drinking is now.

Until I started taking a mood stabilizer to deal with a massive depression, I drank every single day of my life. I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. But, I drank every day of my life. Kinda like an alcoholic. See how I lied to myself? That’s what alcohol does. It encourages you to lie to yourself. Alcohol does not improve anyone’s decision-making just as it doesn’t improve their motor skills. My mood stabilizer gave all alcohol an unpleasant. grapefruit skin-like aftertaste that simply made it unpalatable. Just like that, I stopped drinking. Fortunately, I had cannabis to fall back on — and we all need something to fall back on.

When you no longer drink, you get cut off from a big piece of American culture. A lot of our socializing is built around drinking alcohol together. That’s been the case for a long, long time. I have experienced more exquisite, alcohol-fueled conversations than I can count that rambled from cocktails to red wine to grappa or desert wine or scotch over the course of many, many hours. I wouldn’t trade them in for anything.

Or, would I…?

It used to be habit when I traveled long haul (from LA to the East Coast or out of the country) to anticipate certain alcohol moments: the bloody Mary at the departure lounge bar, the bloody Mary on the airplane followed by the little bottle of crap red wine on the plane followed by whatever liqueur miniatures they might have. The goal was to pass out and sleep as much as one could so as to awaken “fresh” on the other side. I don’t think in my entire life that ever happened — where I drank and drank — then slept — then awoke more focused than a Tiger Mom. That includes the many trips I got to make flying First Class for business. Getting liquored up is even more fun when flying up front where the alcohol is served in actual glass.

The reason I never arrived anywhere in the best shape I could be in was because I drank before and during those flights. I arrived everywhere dehydrated. Dehydrated brains don’t think nearly as well as hydrated brains. In fact, dehydrated bodies don’t do anything better than hydrated bodies. Both flying and alcohol dehydrate you. To do them together is — every which way you look at it — counter-intuitive. It’s not even that the alcohol one drinks on an airplane is great, craft alcohol. So many things are interfering with your ability to accurately taste or smell anything — there just wouldn’t be any point to it. I say that as someone who loved alcohol — and the craft that went into making it.

Using cannabis, for the record, does not dehydrate you like alcohol does. THC works very differently in our brains and on our brain chemistry than alcohol does. In fact, alcohol’s impact and THC’s impact bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever. THC does not diminish one’s motor skills. It just doesn’t. Does it impact your motor skills? Absolutely! It improves them. Now, I can only speak for myself (though other cannabis users will tell you the exact same thing): when I use sativa strains like Durban Poison (instead of, say, indicas like Northern Lights), my motor skills improve appreciably. I use Durban Poison when I play tennis.

Within about a minute or two of smoking a little Durban Poison on the tennis court, I feel my mind slowing down — not in a foggy way but, rather, in a calm way. If I allow myself the opportunity, I can see the spin on the tennis ball coming at me. I can see its fuzz even. My timing improves. My ability to see the ball coming off my opponent’s racket improves as does my ability to track the ball to the exact place where I need to be — attacking that ball — if I want to win the point we’re playing. With Durban Poison in my brain, I become very coachable. I see the mistakes I’m making and grasp the adjustments needed. Now, I’m not a pro athlete. And I’m in my 60”s so I don’t have the energy I had when I was 25 and I do tire a little more quickly. Aside from that? I’m playing far better now than I have in my life.

Part of that is because I’m no longer depressed — thanks to the mood stabilizer. It’s also thanks to the cannabis.

Being depressed and drinking alcohol is a terrible, fraught, perilous combination. Alcohol cannot improve your depression. “In vino veritas”? No, in vino whatever’s in your head right this second. The veritas part is highly debatable. I know for a fact — my wife told me all about it afterwards — that on multiple occasions, liquored to my gills — I went on a tirade that killed a social evening. I couldn’t even tell ;you what “veritas” I was spewing at the time. That doesn’t speak well for it.

While my mood stabilizer has successfully dealt with my depression, I’ve used THC to handle the other part of my bi-polarity, my hypomania.

The inside of my head feels like a “black box theater” (a non-traditional theater space that can be converted into virtually anything with audience and performers virtually anywhere within that space). At any one time, a dozen or so things are being projected onto the walls, flor and ceiling. Lasers of various colors blast this way and that. Holographs come and go amid the music and movie sound tracks and running Marx Brothers routines. It’s exquisite chaos. But, trying to work with all that going on can be challenging even to an experienced hypomaniac. Cannabis, again, works wonders. And, again, Durban Poison epitomizes what cannabis can and does do for me. All cannabis has the effect of dropping scrims in front of most of that sound and fury. Sativa, hybrid or indica, cannabis has the effect of bringing a pervasive sense of calm and control. While indicas will slowly develop a feeling of sleepiness, sativas will (more quickly) evoke a feeling of mental focus. In the midst of the calm, I see more, hear more, taste more. And I think more.

Our thoughts occur as electricity moves from synapse to synapse inside our brains. Our synapses operate a lot like digital circuits: they’re either open or closed. THC causes more of our digital circuitry to be “open”. We process more information, more input, more thought. That’s why food tastes so good when you’re “high”. You literally are tasting the food more. That’s my music sounds soooooo good when you’ve got THC in you. That’s why things seem funnier. In a way, you’re seeing how much funnier things really are. It’s also why some people get paranoid on strong pot: they, too, are processing more information. They’re thinking more deeply about it all, too. That crush of information can create feelings of paranoia.

Is cannabis right for everyone? Hell no! But then, neither is alcohol.

No one gets violent on marijuana. That was the most perverse part of “reefer madness” — it portrayed cannabis users in exactly the opposite way that cannabis was causing them to feel or act. It was screamingly uninformed.

If, for example, they stopped serving beer at sporting events and, instead, served cannabis, no one would erupt in violence at the end of a soccer match or football game. Rather, people would be hugging or high-fiving each other, saying “great game, dude!” Some (in the stands) would probably be asleep — not drunk off their asses, just asleep. Easily roused and sent on their way, too.

Out in the streets beyond the sports stadium? No one would burn a storefront or overturn a car. They’d be too mellow — because that’s what cannabis does.

Now, imagine for a second, that we let people (or, better, ENCOURAGED people) to use cannabis. Its understood we can’t have people smoking their dope at the airport. That means we’ll have to get much better at dosing ourselves with edibles. But that ain’t rocket science, is it?

I’ve flown stoned. It’s wonderful. You put in your ear buds, crank up the tunes and nothing bothers you. You’re entirely compliant (going along to get along) and happy as can be when the plane finally lands and you get to move on with your life. It’s a pleasure, actually — and no one knows you’re doing it. Unless someone uses too much of an edible, it’s pretty hard to overdose on pot. You certainly can’t poison yourself as you can with alcohol.

No college students ever die from a hazing incident where they got too stoned and fell asleep.

No one on an airplane (and, trust me, I’m not the only one flying with loads of THC in me) has ever gotten rowdy because they had THC in them.

They got to their destination and got on with their lives. Had they been drinking the whole flight? They would have done the same thing — but, oh, the headache that would have accompanied it.

Never Mind Walking A Mile In Someone Else’s Shoes, Try Seeing The World Through Their Eyes

The reason organizations like the ASPCA use pleading, wide-eyed dogs in their fundraising appeals is because they work. Maybe those people who fear photography captures something of their souls are on to something. Even a photo of a pleading animal’s eyes touches us deeply (as compared to the actual animal itself, pleading directly to it with its eyes). Something of us flows from our orbs. Look deeply enough into them and you’ll even see past any attempts to deceive about who or what we really “are” to “us” — the real, honest-to-goodness US.

An honest-to-goodness “us” really exists inside each of us. It’s that entity behind our eyes that we spy in the bathroom mirror whenever we take a moment to acknowledge that it’s there. That is what we all do when we gaze past our reflection and into our reflection’s eyes — we acknowledge the stone cold fact that there really is a presence inside our heads that knows us even better than we know ourselves. Its voice sounds like ours. Its habits and peccadilloes — ours. In every way imaginable, it’s us! And yet, as we gaze at it — as we converse with it even — we can’t get past the weird sensation that as much as we know that “it’s us”, it’s also a weird sort of “separate us”.

It is bloody hard being a sentient creature, isn’t it? Thinking is exhausting. Even more so when your brain sees everything as a problem to be solved. More so still when the problem to be solved is “why me?”

We know what we know about us. We know where our bodies are buried — somewhere between us and the person staring back at us in the mirror. Not only does that person staring back “know what we know” about us, that person knows what we know about the world beyond the mirror.

Add a layer of complication: we honestly have no idea how it works — how the electrical activity flashing through our grey matter — does its “perception thing” and creates the thoughts we’re having about ourselves (or about anything else). We know we have feelings. We know that chemicals in our brains cause our feelings (or the feeling that we’re having a feeing) to ebb and flow. We don’t know where our feelings “live” when we’re not feeling them. I don’t know why I feel the way I do and I don’t know why you feel the way you do. While I can empathize with how things feel to your body, I can never know how they feel. I can only know how things feel to my body.

Same goes for pain. We all experience it differently. It is pure arrogance on my part to assume how pain effects me is prototypical, as if my tolerance were some sort of standard that should apply to everyone else; it absolutely isn’t.

One of the things I find interesting about cannabis is the pure subjectivity of the experience. My experience will differ from yours because our brain chemistries are different. It’s only by comparing notes with each other about that experience that we can adjudge 1) how cannabis works on our minds to begin with and 2) how any particular strain, with its own terpene profile and THC/CBD matrix works on our minds. If my experience with the classic sativa Durban Poison is similar enough to yours (a solid, warm, consistent beam of delicious mental focus), then we can agree that smoking Durban Poison will probably produce that particular effect inside a smoker’s head.

For a decade and a half, I struggled with a deepening depression related to an event in my past that I’d suppressed — I was sexually molested twice when I was 14 by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged. For the 45 years that I kept that secret from myself (meaning — I knew this thing had happened to me but I refused to acknowledge that it had happened to me), I looked out at the world with this little detail as part of how I saw the world. Having a terrible secret puts you on an island inhabited by just you and your molester. If no one else knows this terrible secret about you, then obviously, they don’t know YOU. How could they? They only “think” they know who you are.

Having survived a suicidal depression, I know for a fact that I saw the world differently than anyone else around me. I understood (well, on some deep, abstract-thinking level) why silly, seemly insignificant things set me off into a volcanic, self-directed rage. My wife and kids would look at me during those moments as if I was a Martian who did things for no understandable reason. Ah, if only they could have understood me the way I understood me — and saw the world through my eyes.

It wasn’t possible for my wife and kids to see my pain my way in part because even I didn’t see the pain correctly. Once I did, I was able to articulate my pain. That helped. A lot.

Now, I have a certain advantage here because I could articulate my pain once I understood it — and that helped me recover from it. Being able to express my pain, what was behind it — liberated me because I no longer had to bear its burden alone. When anyone gets to express their pain, it’s liberating. Sometimes people have to be coaxed though. That’s when they look out at the world in silent desperation. Maybe they’ve surrendered already and given up hope than anyone else will see their pain. Maybe they feel unworthy. They’re not. Maybe they fear being judged.

I have no idea what it “feels like” to be LGBTQ. No one gets a choice about what kind of brain chemistry they’ll have. We don’t stand there as sperm and egg fuse and our two sets of DNA begin to dance with each other. We don’t get to sort among our dominant or recessive genes or snag a predecessor’s skill set. What comes to us comes to us. It makes us who and what we are before we even “are”. And our genome isn’t “perfect”. It’s malleable and fluid and error prone. And that’s just the parts we’ve figured out. There’s plenty we haven’t yet. I know people who were born with external male characteristics but the overwhelming feeling that they were female. That’s not them being “dramatic” of course; it’s how they actually feel inside their heads — because their biochemistry is at war with itself.

I wonder: do judgy Christians judge a lupus sufferer whose immune system is at war with them the way they judge a person whose sexual identity is at war with their biochemistry? Christians are a particularly judge-y lot. That’s ironic considering as the religion’s founder was all about “judge not lest ye be judged”.

Why does sexual repression slow dance with religious fervor? Why do deities inspire all sorts of sexual peccadilloes? Why can’t people who insist their deity connects them to other people, appreciate the people that deity supposedly connects them to?

Sigh… I guess if I could see the world through their eyes? I’d know…

Alcohol + A Pandemic = Terrible Decision-Making

I stopped drinking alcohol just over four years ago. I didn’t “have to” per se, but the mood stabilizer I started taking gives all alcohol a grapefruit skin-like aftertaste making it completely unpalatable. Given a choice between drinking and not being depressed, I’ll take the latter, thanks. And anyway — it’s not like consuming alcohol does one’s depression any favors. Alcohol might just be the worst thing for a depression. That’s why no matter how much we drink, we can’t get ourselves out of the dark, frustrating vicious circle the pandemic has us running on like hamsters on a demonic exercise wheel.

Alcohol itself isn’t our problem. Our attitude toward alcohol is. Because we treat it as a vice — like sex — we get squeamish talking about it. Oh, we’re happy to brag about our prowess or relate countless funny stories about drinking and cringeworthy results, but we dare not discuss what alcohol does to our judgment. How many drinking stories have you heard in your life where alcohol caused someone to do the right thing instead of the stupid?

Do I miss alcohol? Occasionally. I’ll be with someone who’s enjoying a glass of something so inky and dense that you can practically see its tannin structure. My mood stabilizer hasn’t hurt my ability to smell any. In a way, that makes the impact it has on my taste buds even more cruel. One of the best parts of a great wine is its long, complex aftertaste. It’s a little like knowing the great meal you’re about to eat will absolutely end with food poisoning. Really, it’s just not worth it.

Though alcohol abuse wasn’t my specific problem, it was a problem for me; I know that now. That’s part of alcohol’s hold on us. Even if you think you have a problem with alcohol, alcohol convinces you it isn’t that big of a problem. And anyway, what would you do if you couldn’t drink — or, worse, go out drinking with your friends? If you’re like most of America, apparently, you obsess over it endlessly.

Though I no longer drink alcohol, I do consume a lot of marijuana. I have a prescription. I don’t need one to purchase cannabis here in California though having one does save me some of the sales tax. That’s not why I keep my prescription active; I do that because THC is the other chemical in my mental health regimen. I use THC to moderate my hypomania (while my mood stabilizer handles the depression). As I’ve written here before, I use cannabis from the start of my day to the very end of it. I wake & bake using a variety of sativas, I chill in the early evening with hybrids and I use indicas to give me a fabulous night’s seep.

In my past, I’ve tricked myself into thinking alcohol and cocaine could add to my productivity. Talk about bullshit! Neither can do that.

As I’ve also talked about here, cannabis is completely unlike alcohol (and cocaine of course). Whereas alcohol is a depressant, cannabis isn’t. Depending on strain, THC content, terpene structure and a few other variables, a hit of THC can focus your mind even as you settle into the couch. Our brains like cannabinoids. A lot. There’s a reason musicians like Louis Armstrong self medicated with marijuana while inventing jazz in New Orleans in the early twentieth century. Alcohol dulls the senses. Opium wipes them out completely. Cannabis, on the other hand, floods your brain with information. That’s, in essence, what THC does. If you think of our synapses as digital circuits — either opened or closed — THC causes more of them to be “open”, receptive to information. The reason music feels richer, colors seem more vibrant and food tastes better on dope is because your brain is processing more of that sensory information in real time. It’s not that the food “tastes better”, it’s that THC allows you to taste the food “more”.

Among the enduring images from our pandemic hellscape is maskless people partying — bleary-eyed and shit-faced past caring. It’s like watching a tragedy take shape in slow motion. Think about how much money Big Alcohol spends on advertising to get people to do something they already like doing. Big Alcohol can’t be happy, it seems, until every single American is plastered out of their mind. If we were capable of making good decisions, the first one we’d make is to stop listening to what Big Alcohol says.

Humans are social creatures and alcohol makes us more social. One plus one equals two. But, when people keep drinking, two plus two equals four — and the next thing you know, the tipsy happiness produced by the first cocktail becomes slurred decision-making by the time cocktail number two gets consumed. Drinkers — even if they’ve been drinking all their lives — seem to forget (once they start drinking) that there’s about a twenty minute lag between the alcohol passing their lips and that specific alcohol’s impact on their brain. It’s the lag that causes most people to drink more and drink more quickly.

And get wasted more quickly.

That’s the strangest experience of all. Back before the pandemic closed bars and made parties verboten, I got to watch my wife and friends (on numerous occasions) morph over the course of a few hours from sensible, moderate people enjoying each others’ company to a bunch of happy, but loud, partiers

What scares me most about watching people drink to excess in the middle of a pandemic is my own experiences drinking. I kept drinking though I knew it was doing me way more harm than good. People who feel compelled to go out and drink socially with friends are answering a call deep inside their heads and livers. It’s hard to deny that call; I know.

But that call is the voice of bullshit. I know — I’m pissing into the wind here. We’re not going to start talking about our drinking problem just because a former drinker has seen the light. But, we should. Also, we should “teach” young people “how to drink”. I don’t mean get them drunk and teach them how to get drunk faster, I mean teach them HOW to drink like responsible people and not like teenagers on a bender.

Drinking responsibly means understanding your own bio-chemistry, your own limits. It means knowing how alcohol changes YOU and your behavior. It means telling yourself “no” a lot more than “yes”. It means owning that alcohol owns you and not you it.

I am absolutely not casting judgment. Been there, done that, guilty as charged. But, the problem with alcohol is it lies to us. It insists we can handle “one more for the road”. Even if we manage to get home safely, that was as much luck as anything else.

Look – there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with drinking. There’s plenty wrong with drinking irresponsibly. Unfortunately, ours is a culture where drinking alcohol to excess is considered both a birthright and a right of passage. But then again, we don’t attach any responsibility to being citizens (we want it to be a non-stop grab bag of goodies). Why would we attach any responsibility to something citizens do to excess?

Dear American News Media — The Way You Deal With A LIAR Is The Same Way You Deal With A DRUNK — You REFUSE To Argue With Em…

I stopped drinking alcohol about two years ago. I didn’t have to but the mood stabilizer I’m on gives alcohol a terrible aftertaste. It was an unexpected side effect — and, frankly, I’m grateful for it.

When I say I didn’t “have to” stop drinking, what I mean is, I didn’t stop because I perceived I had an alcohol problem. I did — I just didn’t perceive it. Ironically, alcohol (and my denial that I had a problem with it) contributed significantly to the depression that drove me to within literal inches of killing myself. Alcohol’s pretty powerful that way. It gives bullshit crazy power over you.

Not drinking, I’m cut out of a big part of what we think of as a “social life’. I go out with my wife and friends to bars or parties — where nearly everyone but me drinks. Over the course of an evening, conversation goes from crisp and sparkling to… well, a little less crisp. A lot less sparkling. The irony (there’s loads of irony) — when you’re drinking, you’re convinced that the alcohol is making everything crisper and more sparkling.

That’s alcohol lying to you.

Over this past weekend — just before California and Washington State and lots of other places started calling states of emergency because of the coronavirus — alcohol turned a casual conversation about masks into an argument that nearly ended a friendship.

A friend was talking to their college-going son about masks. He was relating how he’d told his son to run to CVS to buy masks.

“Don’t bother,” I said. They’re sold out. Everyone’s sold out. CVS, Target, Amazon… “And anyway,” I said, “The masks in question won’t do anything to stop the virus”.

That wasn’t the point to my friend — who was halfway through his third glass of wine. The point was his kid had anxiety issues and wearing the mask would help them.

I started to tell him that — just for clarity’s sake — the mask was only useful if you had the virus and wanted to minimize the chances of infecting others. BUT — this was the crux of my point — there were more PRO-ACTIVE things even someone feeling anxious could do…

I never got there. My drunk friend had grabbed onto “MASKS” with both hands and was not going to let go. For the next ten minutes, we argued about masks and the relative value of thinking you’re protected when, in fact, you are not. I pointed out that not telling his son the stone cold truth about masks could reverberate negatively when his son learned the truth — and also learned that he’d been lied to about the masks’ efficacy. By his dad.

My friend got louder because louder means more right when you’re drunk. That’s alcohol lying to the drinker again.

Alcohol convinces you that the emotion you’re feeling right that second is the most intense, most valid feeling you’ve ever experienced. That’s why people who’ve been drinking argue like obsessives. They can see their one point and literally nothing else. The truth is, they can’t even “see” their one point. They can repeat the point endlessly — their form of “arguing”, but they can’t actually articulate it.

When I caught myself pitching deeper into the rabbit hole, I bailed. I told my friend three times that I was not going to continue arguing with someone who’d had too much to drink. Like a cliched person who had too much to drink, my friend got all insulted about my calling out their drinking. They insisted — slurring their words — that they were not, in fact, slurring their words.

It got heated and then it ended. My friend said he didn’t want to talk about it any more — and maybe he didn’t want to talk about anything with me ever again.

That stung. But I knew one thing — and, the next morning, when my friend called to apologize, I brought it up immediately. The first thing he said as we started talking was “I think I’ve had too much to drink…”.

“I agree with you,” I told my friend. “You had too much to drink”. As far as I was concerned, nothing else happened after that. Nothing that mattered — not to me anyway. My friend needed to look closely at their drinking. That was my takeaway.

By the end of the day, my friend had come around. They were still pissed at me (no one likes to be called out for drinking too much; I know this from experience) but they didn’t drink that evening. The next morning, we talked it through. I wasn’t calling my friend an “alcoholic”. I was simply telling him that when he drank too much, it altered his personality in troubling ways. What he did about that was his deal, not mine.

And then my friend and I “kissed and made up”. It seemed ludicrous to let an argument begun while one of the two arguers was drinking to undo a good, solid friendship. Irony? Within 36 hours, it was common knowledge that wearing a mask would protect you from nothing. My friend’s whole reason for now questioning our friendship was blown up by a news cycle.

In the same way that it’s madness to chase an alcoholic’s argument down a rabbit hole, it’s equally mad to chase a liar’s argument. It’s hard to throw facts at something that has no basis in reality. Watching our news media chase Donald Trump down HIS rabbit holes is especially depressing. They’re so obviously bullshit, concocted on the fly in order to deal with the crisis of the moment. That’s a crisis of Trump’s own making.

To argue with bullshit & bullshitters is to give bullshit & bullshitter credence. “Okay,” you’re saying, “What if bullshit “WERE” true?

Problem is, bullshit is NEVER true. It’s a nonsensical question but — because you asked it — you gave credence to something that did not earn it or deserve it. You engaged with bullshit on its terms — and nothing good can ever come of that.

The time has come (it passed eons ago actually) to stop accepting a liar’s words as true first. No, liars should be told to back up everything they say — or it’s bullshit. The press needs to stop respecting a POTUS who has no respect for them, the office of the president, the rule of law, the Constitution — any of it. They need to refuse to accept anything he says without his providing receipts.

No receipts? YOU DON’T REPEAT IT. Who cares if “the president said it’? The president is a LIAR.

Imagine that first time journalists refused to engage with Trump’s lies. What if instead of repeating it verbatim they shook their heads and said “No. Not going to report that. It’s bullshit”? What if the White House Press Corps demanded truth from the White House — and if they don’t get it? THEY DON’T REPORT WHAT POTUS SAYS.

Trust me, CNN & MSNBC, Donald Trump needs YOU waaaaaaaaaay more than you need him. You just need to trust that fact — it’s true.

It’s time for all of sane Washington to hold an intervention for Trump & the whole GOP. Drinking and lying aren’t that far apart as vices go.

What Being Deeply Depressed Taught Me About Life — And Being Happy

Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of harming myself, perhaps fatally. It was pure impulse — a flash of self-directed anger that I’d been building toward for a decade. Oh, the irony… even as I plotted to off myself, I didn’t know (or admit to myself) WHY I felt this terrible compulsion.

In my case, I’d been keeping a secret from myself: I was sexually molested — twice — when I was 14 by the religious director at the northwest Baltimore synagogue where my family belonged while I was growing up. For 45 years, I kept that bit of personal history boxed up deep in my psyche. I always knew this “thing” was there. I simply refused to acknowledge it.

More irony — it wasn’t until after I tried to kill myself — and sought treatment — that I had the emotional strength to face the fact of what happened to me. The night I came clean with myself — to myself — was the longest, loneliest night of my life. I understood myself in a way I never had before. I understood my inability to bond with other people the way everyone else seemed to bond with each other.

I understood why I felt so much emotional distance from the world. Why I felt like I lived, by myself, on an island from which I could never escape: if you didn’t know this terrible secret about me, you couldn’t possibly “know” me. Only two people knew the secret: me and Yehuda Dickstein, the man who molested me. Perversely, I kept our secret — kinda like Yehuda knew I would. He molested me twice — so, he knew for a fact that I never told anyone about the first time.

That’s the hook on which I hung myself for 45 years — the fact that I never told anyone — and then it happened again.

Like lots of victims, I blamed myself. I couldn’t rationalize the first time. That made absolutely no sense to me. It was too surreal. But the second time — I helped manufacture it by not saying anything — convincing myself even that it couldn’t possibly have happened. Then I walked in the door to the place where Yehuda awaited me — and I instantly knew: yes, it HAD happened and it was about to happen again.

We all have varying degrees of darkness inside of us. Comes with being a sentient being with intrinsic knowledge of our vulnerabilities. When healthy, we see the world with a high degree of perspective. We understand when we’re at fault and when we’re not. But depression allows our darkness to take the wheel. The more control our darkness has, the more perspective we lose until, finally, we see everything though a vary narrow, very dark lens.

Though I had lived a very good, successful life, something inside was holding me back. My inability to bond — like a time bomb — ticked away steadily. Worse, my secret was the silent foundation for feelings of incredibly low self esteem. I believed my work was good — but I had no belief in myself whatsoever. And when things started to turn — because life has its ups and downs — I took those reversals of fortune as my due.

My secret had convinced me that I absolutely deserved everything bad that happened to me. In fact, I deserved worse. My darkness’s naked cynicism became a kind of mantra.

I knew I was in trouble. I was in therapy — and that was working up to a point.

But there was great white shark swimming just below the surface. I was afraid of medication, having read and heard more horror stories than success stories. Having grown up in the medical culture (my dad was a surgeon), I understood that the most my GP probably knew about the mood stabilizers I was asking about was whatever the last pharmaceutical rep told her as he slipped a package of samples from her briefcase.

And even if the mood stabilizer might work for me, it would be six to eight weeks before we’d have an inkling of whether it would or not — and there was the distinct possibility that this mood stabilizer would make my depression worse. Add to the mix — I wanted the medication to deal with the darkness while leaving my hypomania alone (I’m bi-polar, you see). My creativity resides in my hypomania — and the thought of losing my mojo — that sounded like a shortcut right back to suicide.

I had done research and identified a drug — lamotrigine (lamictil) that could work for me. After my near run-in with mortality, I drove straight to my doctor’s office and told them what happened. Great life hack? If you want really quick medical service, tell your health care professionals you just tried to hurt yourself.

I got not only my GP (a terrific doctor) but one of the two HEAD doctors. They got from the look in my eyes that I was deadly serious. They asked me three times if perhaps to consider hospitalization. In said no — I was there to try and help myself; but, first, they needed to write me this prescription. My two GP’s whipped out their smart phones and looked up the drug. They agreed to write the script.

Then I got really lucky — even luckier than I realized in fact.

Whereas one normally has to wait six to eight weeks to see if a mood stabilizer works or not, I leveled within 36 hours. I felt the lamotrigine’s impact: I triggered.

I can’t remember why anymore but something caused the rage that had been living rent free in my gut to ignite. I felt it rising like a lava plume rushing upward toward my head and my mouth — and just as it got there — just as I would normally speed up, lose my cool and become utterly irrational — the rage vanished — poof! — like a soap bubble popping. I knew I had felt all that rage and yet… now I felt nothing. The rage was gone before it could take flight and overwhelm me.

I’ve never taken more than the 25 milligram minimum dose since. And my depression has been kept completely at arm’s length. Here’s where the extra bit of luck kicked in. My research? It wasn’t complete. Yes, there was anecdotal data that lamotrigine wouldn’t impact my hypomania. There’s way more anecdotal data (no one’s ever tested lamotrigine as a mood stabilizer; it’s used mostly as an anti-seizure medication) that says it absolutely would impact my hypomania — at higher doses.

That bit of luck aside, the first lesson my depression taught me was that until you finally stand up to your darkness, it will own you. And it knows it.

Look — standing up to your darkness is hard. There are no easy answers here. Terrible things put you where you are emotionally. The thing about standing up to your darkness though is it requires help. To beat your darkness you must reach outside yourself. Seeking therapy is essential of course. But it’s important that you actively engage with your therapy — that you see therapy (the act of seeking help) as you being pro-active. It’s not just a good thing, it’s a great thing. But the real work of getting healthy remains ahead of you.

There’s no certainty in this. We’re not talking about concrete, we’re talking about the human mind — and we don’t really understand how we even “have” thoughts. And everyone’s darkness is a little bit different — because we are all a little bit different.

The goal always is happiness. The absence of suffering and emotional pain. The goal is to be the master of your darkness and not the other way around.

I’m a “devout atheist” to my core but I know exactly what born again Christians are talking about. Being able to see my darkness in its proper perspective — understanding WHY there was that darkness to begin with and WHY it had held so much power over me — liberated me. It can’t make the memory of that event go away. It can’t undo the broken relationships and poor choices. It can’t bring back all the time I lost to being depressed and having zero faith in myself.

But I can see that period of my life for what it was. And I can see my present for what it is and, more importantly, my future for what it could be — if only I pursue it. That’s the nature of hope — of believing in a future where happiness can blossom in its fullness.

That’s the biggest lesson my depression taught me. Happiness is absolutely possible.

Each & Every One Of Us Is Making It Up As We Go Along — Every Day; Why Not Own It?

I’ve told this story here before. Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within inches of bullshitting myself to death.

That’s how I thought of it not long afterward — after driving straight to my doctor’s office and pretty much demanding that he write me a prescription for the mood stabilizer I had researched and thought would be my shot at salvation. See, darkness and depression rob you of perspective. I’d lost so much perspective that I believed insurance money would eventually assuage the deep psychic pain I’d cause my family.

That there, friends, is some serious-assed bullshit. That’s why this blog is called what it’s called. I got very lucky with my mood stabilizer. I leveled at the lowest dose within 36 hours and stopped wanting to hurt myself. With the darkness now held at bay — and aware of how close bullshit came to killing me, I began to realize how my bullshit (and most of it was mine but some was the culture’s) had built up in my life like plaque in a vein.

Even though killing myself was off the table, bullshit still outweighed every other component of my waking life. Most of my bullshit was either incidental bullshit or tolerable bullshit — the stuff we do to get through a day. But some was capable of metastasizing. That’s the stuff I turned my focus on.

As I said, depression (very much like bullshit) robs you of perspective. Perspective by the same token is like kryptonite to bullshit — and depression. Regaining perspective put a whole new set of lenses in my hands. Being able now to pull the camera back as far as I could, that was liberating! The first thing I saw with absolute clarity — dealing with my own bullshit was going to be a full time gig. Like it or not, I was going to have to let everyone else’s bullshit go.

The second thing I saw — again, with absolute clarity — the only way to fully negate bullshit’s impact was brutal honesty (to myself about myself within myself). Think of it as confession except you’re the church, the confession booth and the priest. You know where all your bodies are buried — FFS, YOU’RE THE ONE WHO BURIED THEM.

The third thing I saw — clearest of all: I had the power, within me, to overcome virtually every last bit of bullshit’s hold on me. All I had to do was want it. And be willing to work at it every single day.

We live in dark times. Dark forces are actively working to create a permanent state of darkness. That’s not hyperbole unfortunately.

Human beings thinking innovatively is a very recent phenomenon. For thousands of years, human armies fought pretty much the exact same way with very little improvement in technology. Even gunpowder didn’t really change the close-at-hand, colliding walls of humans battlefield strategy that persisted through World War I.

In his excellent book Sapiens, Juval Harrari points out how it really wasn’t until the industrial age that humans even imagined that tomorrow could be better than today. Up until technology became an instrument of commerce, it was generally understood that human beings were living in the fading afterglow of a long ago golden age. No one aspired to be anything other than what they were born as. What was the point?

And then humans realized — slowly — that that way of thinking was wrong. It wasn’t based on anything other than false perception and groupthink. Groupthink that went on for thousands of years.

Think of a subject like marijuana — and how our whole way of thinking of it was colored not by the truth, but by one man’s racist intent. We made up laws to punish people for reasons the people crafting the laws knew wasn’t true. That’s all very deliberate — and every last bit of it is bullshit.

In places like California and Oregon and Colorado, we consciously decided to stop thinking one way and start thinking a different way.

The Rule Of Law isn’t just under assault in America, it needs an armed guard to piss in the middle of the night. The Republican Party — especially Mitch McConnell — stopped playing by any such “rules” years ago in pursuit of a project determined to install permanent minority rule. Meanwhile the Democrats have made themselves prisoners of the Rule Of Law.

That’s the fatal flaw at the Rule Of Law’s heart — those who follow it will always be prisoners of those bent on perverting it. Yes, we can prosecute rule-breakers, but when the people charged with creating and enforcing the rules are the ones most intent on breaking them — not much good can come of it.

In my daily life — wanting to get healthy — I cut bullshit from my diet as much as I can. I feel better for it — for real. I walk around most of the time in a perpetual state of bliss. It ain’t the limotrigine, the therapy or the THC doing that — it’s the minimalization of bullshit in my daily diet.

The same way we can set ourselves up for failure, we can set ourselves up for success. It’s all a matter of how you look at it. But you do have to look at it.

Notes From A Former Drinker — Drinking Culture Is Really, Really, REALLY Stupid

Perspective is the damnedest thing. For the overwhelming majority of my adult life, I was a drinker. I never thought of myself as an alcoholic though I drank at least 2 glasses of wine every day. Religiously.

I prided myself on making not merely a good martini but a great one (I still do as my wife can attest). I savored the creative output that some craftsperson spent years probably putting into whatever bottle I had just cracked. I actually pitied anyone who didn’t drink.

Oy.

Meanwhile, alcohol fed my depression. Theirs was a sick, co-dependent relationship with me caught in the middle. Toward the end, it’s not like I was drinking great stuff anyway — I couldn’t afford great stuff anymore (though I still had some pretty great stuff in my dwindling “wine cellar” including some Chateau Lafitte Rothschild and some Opus One). Even after I came within inches of killing myself, it still didn’t occur to me to look at my 2+ glasses of red wine every night as a possible co-conspirator.

I owe a small debt to lamotrigine, the mood stabilizer I now take every day to keep my darkness in check. I owe an even bigger debt to a great therapist and a smaller but not insignificant debt to cannabis — the other part of my mental health regime. There are no specific warnings about taking lamotrigine and drinking alcohol. And, at first, when I started my regimen, I continued right on pounding down my two plus glasses of red.

But then a strange thing happened. I noticed it about a week in to taking the lamotrigine (I got very, VERY lucky by the way; I leveled within 36 hours at the minimal dose, 25 milligrams). All alcohol suddenly had an aftertaste. All of it. Beer, wine, cocktails… A lovely glass of Zinfandel or Petit Sirah (I loved em big & inky) would start perfectly from the nose to the first blast of fruit on the palate then start to settle in for the aftertaste when — kapow! A flavor like grapefruit rind took over everything. And it didn’t go away quickly.

As I was already deep into cannabis, I figured “what the hell” — that would be my “cocktail” of choice from now on. Funny thing? I have not missed alcohol for two seconds. Not even one.

Now, I do take my marijuana with me. I’ve got a little traveling pouch with an unbreakable silicone pipe and three or four pre-ground flower strains (sativas and hybrids) in 10 dram glass containers. I may not go drink for drink when I go out socializing, but I’m not relying solely on my fizzy water, ginger beer or overpriced mocktail for a thrill.

For the record, I do not get high. Ever. I’m not interested in being high. To me, cannabis is for sleeping, working or relaxing. When relaxing (think strains like Cherry Pie, GSC or Bruce Banner), I want to be mellowed a bit but social. I want the warm, friendly euphoria to keep my hypomania at bay. So — even when I go to a party at someone’s house, in no way am I “keeping up” with everyone else around me who’s drinking.

Watching other people drink from a place of alcohol sobriety is almost always eye-opening. I’ve watched friends slowly get silly over the course of an evening. I’ve watched the quality of the conversations descend from heights of great repartee to meandering repetitiveness — all within an hour or two. People getting soused by the way have no idea that they’re not being witty any more.

Also remarkable — the amount of planning that has to go into drinking. I can make a few grams of my favorite strains last for a month. A bottle once cracked will probably disappear within an hour if shared. While most restaurants have liquor licenses, I have been part of dining decisions made where we overlooked a place’s inferior food because the cocktails were special. When the cocktail is the point, nothing else matters.

A group of people drinking and a group of people smoking marijuana have very little in common — even though our perception might be that they’re all self-medicating. Because of the way marijuana was demonized and falsely mythologized, we have it in our heads that marijuana and alcohol do the same things to us. That’s absolutely not the case.

I do some work occasionally for a marijuana tour company here in Los Angeles. The tours start out at a dispensary where (after lots of good, quality information about legal pot), the tour goers buy lots of marijuana. The next stop — a house (owned by the company) where the tour goers can smoke the pot they just bought. That part of the tour lasts about 45 minutes.

Then we take this dozen or so people of varying ages (all over 21 of course) to a glass blowing factory where they can see how bongs are made (it’s very cool actually). Then the tour takes them to a glass warehouse. Now — here’s where the difference between drinkers & pot smokers is most pronounced. This group of people who’ve just spent 45 minutes smoking pot walk into a glass warehouse… and nothing breaks.

Think about it — would you dare take a dozen people who’d been drinking beer for an hour into a glass warehouse? Does that sound like a good idea? Of course not — because people who’ve been drinking lose motor control whereas people who’ve been smoking marijuana GAIN motor control. Fine motor control even.

I’ve watched people I know for a FACT are “high as kites” pick up beautiful, delicate glass bongs — works of art, some of them — like surgeons doing microsurgery. Smoke a lot of strong indica and, yeah, you can get “dopey”. But — because marijuana actually makes your brain “think more” (it causes more of your synapses to open so you process more information — the reason some people feel paranoid), most users can pull out of a cannabis high and think clearly; if you really want them to think clearly, feed them a little CBD; it will mitigate the THC’s effects almost instantaneously.

And, another huge difference, though pot smokers can get loud — they do laugh a lot — they never get violent (contrary to the mythology first drug czar Harry Anslinger invented to scare white people).

Imagine if sports fans smoked pot instead of drinking beer. There would never be violence at the end of a sporting event — though there might be lots of hugging (“You played great, dude!” “But you played better — ya won!”) and a few people happily sleeping or dealing with a severe case of the munchies.

Violence wouldn’t spill from the stadium onto the city streets. That’s for damned sure.

From time to time, I do miss some of the rituals around drinking. I like the process of making a martini. I loved the theater surrounding absinthe and the way a good bottle of red opens up as the tannins oxidize over the course of an hour.

But then I tap a little Durban Poison into my regular glass piece — and, as my mind focuses and the world comes into sharp relief — I could almost forget alcohol ever existed.

We Live In A “Golden Age Of Bullshit” – And Its Patron Saint — Donald Trump — Is Killing Us

If ever one word captured the age we live in — it’s “bullshit”. And could a man embody & epitomize bullshit any better than Donald Trump?

Shameless plug first — I just finished (and I’m agent-shopping) a book: How To Live Bullshit Free (And Other Showbiz Tales). It’s a painfully funny, brutally honest, name-dropping Hollywood memoir. I’ve had an unusual career (you can IMDb me here) that’s given me the chance to work with some of the most talented people in The Business. It’s also a “why you shouldn’t kill yourself” book (I came within inches of committing suicide three days before Christmas 2016 — or, as I like to think of it, I came within literal inches of bullshitting myself to death.

As I began to healthy in the aftermath (thanks to a great therapist, a mood stabilizer to cage the depression — it all flowed from a sexual assault at 14 I had buried — and loads of THC to mitigate my hypomania), I saw the myriad ways bullshit was still kicking my ass on a daily basis.

The first thing you have to do — to get bullshit out of your life — is to acknowledge all your own bullshit first (you have to deal with yours before you can even think of dealing with anyone else’s). And the first thing you’ll find, when you begin to deal with your bullshit, is how completely bullshit has destroyed your perspective. Bullshit, like depression, reduces your view of the world to an extreme telephoto lens — dialed in on one thing (how much you hate yourself, say) to the exclusion of everything else. Both destroy perspective until all you can see is your bullshit — and your bullshit is lying to you.

So — what can one do to become the alpha dog in one’s relationship with one’s ownb bullshit? Understand — calling out the bullshit in your life is not a one-n-done project.  Bullshit is like herpes.  It never really goes away.  You manage it at best.  But you have to manage it.  Every day – or it’ll metastasize from herpes into something a hell of a lot worse. 

HOW TO LIVE BULLSHIT FREE: THE DAILY 7 STEP ‘TO DO’ LIST

1 Get Perspective

2 Be Clear on What Is and What Isn’t

3 Keep Perspective

4 Refuse to Engage With Bullshit (It’s Pointless)

5 Own Your Own Bullshit First (Own It All Every Day)

6 Maintain Perspective

7 Wake Up Tomorrow and Repeat

If you look at how the list is structured, one thing kind of leads to another.  Nothing on it is intrinsically difficult – unless you try it in isolation.  The daily hunting and pecking at bullshit is a grind.  You see a lot of familiar faces: your bad habits for instance – they’re bullshit.  Bad habits you know you can break (and should) are bullshit on steroids.  Those are the ones that trip easily into Red Flag Warning territory.  There’s a reason they’re habits despite the fact that they’re bad. 

The getting, keeping and maintaining of perspective are all a matter of pulling ‘the camera’ back as far as you possibly can.  Are you seeing the biggest picture?  Sure you can’t pull it back just a little bit more?  Remember – bullshit eats perspective. 

If you can master that – seeing your circumstances in their fullest context – it may not make you happier, but you’ll know exactly what stands between you and happiness.  You will always know where the bullshit is in your life – and which bullshit you can live with and which you can’t.