Since I Stopped Drinking Alcohol, I've Come To See Clearly — America Has A Problem With Alcohol

Want to know if Americans drink too much alcohol? Quit drinking for a day. Better yet a week — or a month. Better yet, quit drinking entirely. I wasn’t forced to quit drinking by the mood stabilizer that saved my life. Alcohol can increase the intensity of any side effects the lamictil causes but, by itself, it can’t hurt you. What I found lamictil does to alcohol is give it a terrible aftertaste that ruins the whole experience.

It doesn’t matter whether the alcohol’s in a glass of wine, a bottle of beer or in a martini — just when you expect the glorious aftertaste of whatever you’re drinking to carry on, instead you get grapefruit skin and lots of it. I was cooking clams al vongele the other day. It’s basically clams, parsley, garlic and a bottle of wine (I like to add a little celery and some Pernod to kick up the licorice qualities). I poured in the wine and Pernod — got the sauce back to a simmer and sampled it, expecting exquisiteness.

Instead, I got grapefruit skin. A bottle of wine is a bottle of wine whether it’s in your glass or simmering away in a sauce. It takes a lot longer than you think to burn off alcohol as you cook with it. I forgot that basic fact at first — then wondered why the sauce tasted so awful.

When I was growing up, my dad collected wines — French reds. He and his friends would buy Bordeaux futures — as yet unharvested (ungrown even) grapes in the expectation that they’d become great, age-worthy vintages like 1970 or 1971. When I say my dad “taught me” how to drink, I mean he taught me to appreciate the thing I was guzzling like it was bug juice at summer camp.

I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a responsible drinker — same as there’s no such thing as a responsible gun owner. 99% of the time — absolutely — most people behave responsibly toward both alcohol and guns. It only takes one slip up however to produce tragedy — one half glass of wine too many that resulted in an accident or traffic fatality or a gun that wasn’t locked up properly in its gun safe — and became a murder weapon.

In both instances, “responsible” becomes “irresponsible” just like that.

I was a lot less responsible than I gave myself credit for being. I’ve no doubt I drove while over the limit on multiple occasions. I know for a fact that I dodged a bullet or two or three where alcohol and driving are concerned. I know for a fact that I am hardly alone having that in my past. Sometimes I marvel that any of us are actually still here and walking (or driving) around.

Before lamictil made alcohol taste like shit, I LOVED drinking. I adored it. I marveled at the craftsmanship that went into a great scotch or a complex bottle of Petit Sirah (I loved em big and inky). I drank every single day — usually two glasses of red wine, sometimes a third glass. On rare occasion a fourth.

I was kinda known for getting even more opinionated than I already am. That’s a lot of “opinionated” to drunkenly throw at people. I don’t recall ever being drunk. I don’t recall ever being wasted or shit-faced or rat-arsed. But then, I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t watching me.

These days, when I go to a party or a bar with my wife and/or friends, I’m the lone teetotaler. When the bartender or wait-person turns to me for my order, most of the time I don’t have one: I’ll have water, I say. Their face always betrays them. My beverage will not benefit their tip. I might as well be dead, as far as they’re concerned.

It’s strange to watch your friends as alcohol takes them over. That’s what alcohol does. It changes how people act. While making them feel good for a bit, it also undermines their motor skills and slowly destroys their capacity to make good decisions. I’ve never seen my friends get out-of-their-heads crazy from drinking. But I have seen them get loud, belligerent, unreasonable, disrespectful and downright unpleasant.

When my kids went off to college, I feared for them as they encountered the drinking cultures on their respective college campuses; I worried especially for my daughter since campus rape culture (like campus fraternity culture) is tied to campus alcohol culture. I was grateful to learn that she and her friends prefer marijuana to alcohol. No one has ever died from marijuana poisoning as they have from alcohol poisoning.

I feel almost blasphemous saying this: alcohol prohibitionists weren’t wrong. They wanted to accomplish something impossible in a free society — prohibition of a product the people want. Prohibition didn’t just make alcohol illegal, it criminalized virtually the entire population while giving organized criminals a nearly perfect product to sell. Prohibitionists used the wrong methodology though their insights were rock solid. Alcohol is far too easily abused. And alcohol abuse causes far too much long-lasting social and personal harm to too many people.

Ads for alcohol are aimed (alarmingly) toward young people. Hell, alcohol products themselves are aimed alarmingly at young people. If you have to fruit flavor alcohol up to make it palatable, maybe you aren’t really ready to drink alcohol. That may look like an umbrella in your drink, it’s not; it’s training wheels. And if you really need training wheels on your alcohol, maybe you shouldn’t ought to be drinking alcohol.

My suggestion? Pick up a gram of top quality sativa or hybrid instead (unless of course you want to go to sleep then pick up a gram or two of indica). As self-medcations go, cannabis blows alcohol clear out of the water. It’s so much more versatile (you cannot work with alcohol in your system just like you can’t drive with it or do athletic things with it because of how profoundly it impacts your motor skills).

Having switched from alcohol to cannabis, I’ve also come to see that America has a cannabis problem too. We don’t smoke anywhere near enough of it.

The Cannabis Lifestyle: “Platforming” Vs “Cocktailing”

First hit of the day…

My day begins with cannabis and it ends with cannabis. That’s not hyperbole.

Medically (and I keep up my prescription because — even though I do recreate with cannabis — it is, to me, first and foremost a legitimate “medicine” that successfully treats a host of very real physical and mental ailments. Consequently, I’m very strain specific. I’ve ID’d a number of very specific strains that produce very specific (and — most importantly — repeatable) effects in my brain. There are differences in intensity of effect (THC levels differ naturally from growth to growth or even plant to plant) but the nature of the “high” remains constant.

I bump on the word “high”. To a degree, I guess, that’s because I don’t often smoke cannabis to “get high”. I want every last bit of cannabis’ psycho-activity. But I want them focused toward my particular need at a particular moment.

That’s the real takeaway here: it turns out cannabis not only fits into lots of “particular moments” in my day, cannabis makes those moments appreciably better. Sativas focus my brain. That doesn’t mean I can’t focus without it. I’d compare it to an eye test where you think the letter floating in front of your eyes is “in focus” and then they drop another lens in — and you realize how much more “focus” there was to be had.

Durban Poison – my go-to go-to.

Being a 100% subjective experience (no two peoples’ “highs” are exactly alike because their brains aren’t exactly alike), it’s hard to say definitively that cannabis will focus everyone else’s mind like it focuses mine. But — I know I ain’t alone in this. A solid hit of Durban Poison creates a feeling inside my brain as if that other lens had just dropped into position. I hear voices more clearly — that is, I hear nuance in voices more clearly. I SEE nuance more clearly — in the abstract. THC (even indicas) never diffuses my thinking; it always focuses it (even if it’s making me deliciously drowsy).

I’ve had repeatedly had this experience: I’ve taken my two big hits of indica just before bedtime (I like to mix n match a variety of strains — Skywalker, Paris, Diamond, LA Confidential, Afghan, Kosher Kush among others) and, just as that exquisite wooziness makes closing one’s eyes and succumbing to sleep imminent — an idea floats to the surface (something I’m working on usually). Next thing I know? Five minutes have gone by, I’ve made extensive notes, having resolved the “problem”. Pencil and pad go back onto desk and I’m between the sheets and fast asleep.

And the quality of sleep cannabis produces? Nothing Big Pharma makes can touch it.

Cannabis’ biggest revelation in my life was the mental focus it delivers — regardless of whether we’re talking sativas, indicas or hybrids. I’m hypomanic. My brain goes a kajillion miles an hour.

I need a few of those kajillion miles an hour to fuel my creative endeavors. The rest however can be a problem. They all want to compete for my attention but there are only so many hours in a day. Cannabis does two things at once inside my brain. It makes me think more (because that’s what THC actually does — it causes more of your synapses to fire so you really do “experience” more thoughts, more sensual input, more outside data; it’s why some people feel paranoid) and it slows me down.

The inside of my head is like a black box theater (think a shoebox turned over, its insides painted black. Anything can happen inside that space. Anything. Most of the time, that space is alive with a dozen different things being projected on the walls, the ceiling, the floor. They’re in color, black & white, sepia. Holograms float here and there. Music and sound come and go. The THC acts like scrims dropping down, muting most of the images and sounds, allowing me to focus on two or three.

And those two or three that I can now focus on? I can really focus on em…

I like to ease into my day (around 5 am) with a hybrid like GG4 or Dutch Treat (which I wish was more reliably available — hint, hint, LA dispensaries). Sometimes though, I like to “cocktail” that first hit with a little sativa — Durban Poison or one of the other sativas I keep in my “rotation”.

I use anywhere between five and eight different cannabis strains every day. As I said — I discern very distinct qualities between different strains. What makes Durban Poison such a go-to strain is the evenness of its focus.

By contrast, strains like Jack The Ripper, Casey Jones or XJ-13 have a little more of an “edge” to them. The mental energy has a touch more “energy”.

Throw a little coffee into the mix, we’re talking literal transcendence.

I also use Durban Poison when I play tennis. Just as it does with my creativity, DP both slows the game down (I can see the spin on the ball — for real) and focuses my thoughts: I can execute the step-by-step of hitting the ball how I want to where I want to with remarkable precision.

DP makes me a better tennis player. I’ve tried other sativas. They all work to varying degrees but it’s DP’s reliable evenness that pairs best with tennis’ mental requirements.

As I said — I love cannabis because I can use it to match a particular strain to a particular need.

So — platforming vs cocktailing.

In essence, anyone buying “shake” is buying a cannabis “cocktail” being an unknown mixture of “leftovers” of stuff that “fell to the bottom”. Lots of big cannabis companies make “effects” products that should produce “creativity” or “calm” or “sleep”. What’s in em?

What’s in a jug wine? Grapes. If that’s all that matters, you’re a cannabis cocktail person. But what if you’re a gin drinker? That’s where strain specificity gets fun…

I find there’s a perceptible experiential difference between mixing two cannabis strains together in one bowl and smoking them versus smoking one of those strains, allowing its effect to initiate, and then smoking the second strain so as to add its effects atop the first strain’s.

GG4 all by itself at the start of my day produces a slowly building sense of focus and well-being.

Mixing Durban Poison and GG4 together and smoking it brings that focus on more quickly and makes the focus more central to the feeling than the euphoria. It doesn’t negate the euphoria, it just moves it to the background — where I want it.

If I smoke GG4 and THEN the DP, I get that “lens effect”. The GG4’s focus was lovely. Layering the Durban Poison’s focus atop the GG4’s produces a slightly more intense focus that lasts a good hour or so before gently fading. If I use a sativa like Casey Jones, that focus is even sharper but doesn’t last quite as long — that’s some of the perceived “evenness”.

So — here I’ve gone and asked a question to which I don’t have a particular answer. To platform or to cocktail.

I think I need to smoke on it a bit…

Cannabis & Sports Go Together Better Than You Think

I started using cannabis to play tennis about 2 years ago. I wish I had started way sooner. I bet I would have enjoyed tennis a hell of a lot more.

I don’t mean because I’d be playing high. I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that. I don’t use cannabis to get “high” anyway — at least, not in the sense that most people use the word. My writing day starts around 5 a.m. with a mug of strong, dark coffee (I’m especially fond of Trader Joe’s Cafe Pajaro blend) and my first cannabis bowl of the day — usually a blend of GG4 & Durban Poison.

The GG4 in the mix brings a lovely, wide beam of euphoria and energy. The Durban Poison brings clear, steady focus. The combination is exquisite. My next bowl moves completely into sativas — I have four or five I use as my go-to daytime strains. Presently — Durban Poison, XJ-13, Clementine and Cat Piss. In the past, Jack-the-Ripper, Alaskan Ice and Strawberry Durban Diesel have all been in the mix too.

Just as Durban Poison is a great strain for working — the focus and mental energy it produces is outstanding — it’s a great strain for sports. A good hit taken just before I step onto the court slows the ball down — slows everything down — just enough so that I can actually see the ball’s spin. My timing gets more precise. My decision-making, too. I see the whole court better. I strategize better. I seem to get across the court faster and anticipate my opponent better.

It doesn’t make me perfect (nothing could possibly do that) but it makes me more consistent — and my whole tennis experience just “feels” more fun. Playing better can have that effect.

And, of course, there’s the simple fact that cannabis just makes you feel better. I’ve no doubt that contributes to the positives.

But it isn’t feeling good that produces an improved ground stroke or serve. It’s focus.