Drinking Culture Vs Cannabis Culture: We’ve Got It COMPLETELY Upside Down…

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…

 

 

Suicide Is Just ‘Bullshit’ Claiming Another Victim

Tough week if you’re in the Suicide Prevention Business.

Kate Spade… Anthony Bourdain — and those are just the famous suicides.  I bet there are ‘a few more’ suicides out there — you’ve just never heard the names before.

After Donald Trump was ‘elected’ (he was not elected — you don’t get to literally STEAL an election and call yourself ‘elected’ but — another conversation), the Therapy Business boomed.  So did the Suicide Prevention Business.

My own Therapist told me that.

Three days before Christmas 2016, I knew sat in a exam room at my doctor’s office facing TWO doctors — mine and the office’s ‘Head Doctor’.  The Boss Doctor.

They had already asked me TWICE if I thought I should be hospitalized because I so desperately wanted to harm myself.

By the third time, I think they really meant it.  I guess that’s why they asked a THIRD TIME…

I swore to my increasingly alarmed GPs that I wasn’t going to hurt myself three days before Christmas (my plan was to harm ME, not Christmas for my family forever).

I was there, I said, because I wanted to take a ‘stab’ at medication (I did make that very bad joke on the day; I may have been miserable but I could still make a bad joke).  The depression that was consuming me was ten years in the making (longer actually, much longer – built on events and episodes from the past that I thought were unrelated to my present and future.  Like Rick going to Casablanca for the waters – ‘I was misinformed’.

Medication was my ‘Niagara Falls’ (if you know that old Three Stooges sketch).  It was The Thing I feared almost as much as the depression itself (now that I knew enough to fear it).  As much as I wanted to lift the darkness that was consuming me, I was even more worried what would happen if whatever medication I took impacted my manic side – my creativity.

My therapist and a County Psychiatrist had diagnosed me as Manic Depressive – Bi-Polar with strong episodes of hyper-mania; as depressed as I was, I still sat down to work, every day, regardless of whether I actually had work to do.

Deep, dark mental health issues were not me.  That was what I absolutely believed about myself.

Sure, I was unhappy about things.  We were losing our house.  I hadn’t really worked in 8 years (of course I WORKED – I just didn’t get paid for most of my work or wasn’t paid what had been promised and agreed to) – the result of a variety of factors, some in my control (and therefore my fault), some not.  Financial problems – with interludes of thinking we were ‘saved’ because the ‘bank’ had let us refinance the house yet again… Saved?  Doomed even more completely than before was more like it.

And doomed was exactly how I had been feeling.  And it made me angry – at the world but much, much more at myself.  Financial ruin sucked.  But it wasn’t the lack of money, really, that was causing me to rage.

It wasn’t ‘lack of money’ that made me explode because I dropped something or missed a freeway exit.  Or throw my tennis racket like a petulant 10-year-old.  My immediate circumstances weren’t the real cause of my self-loathing – rather, my self-loathing had taken me to a place where I was completely at the mercy of my immediate circumstances.

I had stopped acting on things and had spent nearly a decade reacting instead.

Worst of all – I had come to believe that I had run out of stories to tell.   My own story was uninteresting and my capacity to tell other peoples’ stories seemed (to me) to have run its course.

My family, I had convinced myself, would really be better off without me.  There was insurance money.  A lot.  In time, I told myself, money would smooth over everything.  In time, I told myself, they might even forgive me enough to actually enjoy the money…

I began thinking of how I might do it.  I needed to be sensitive to my family (imagine!)  I didn’t want to leave a bloody mess in the house.  I didn’t want to be found anywhere really.  I wanted to disappear.  Get in my car maybe and drive into the desert until I ran out of gas.  Then walk until I couldn’t walk any more… then sit… then wait for what was coming to me… what I deserved…

And, I told myself, I could do this – vanish from the lives of my wife, kids, family, community – and do it with a bare minimum of disruption.  Why, it’d be a ‘piffle’.  A wrinkle easily ironed.  A cinch.

It was bullshit of course.  Absolute bullshit.  Not an iota of Truth to it.

To kill yourself is to LITERALLY ‘Bullshit Yourself To Death’.

Not pretty.  But True.

We have a collective disease.  We have allowed BULLSHIT to become like oxygen to us. Like Food & Drink.

And Bullshit CAN be fatal.

But YOU cannot cure someone else of THEIR bullshit.  You can only cure yourself.  And that’s where it has to start.  We all are responsible for recognizing and dealing with our own Bullshit first (before dealing with other peoples’ bullshit).

It’s a hard addiction to break.  The evilest monkey you’ll ever get off your back.  But doing it is essential — and NOT just for those whose bullshit has them on the brink of self destruction.