It was April 21st, a Tuesday evening. I ate the dark chocolate square at 7:30. In about an hour and 10 minutes it will start to kick in. I check the clock. By 8:40 I should start to notice a subtle shift in the way my thoughts flow.
Before eating the square, I hesitated, maybe tonight’s not a good night for this.
Ugh. The problems I was having with Marianne, the next door neighbor of my house in Austin, were weighing heavily on my mind. Over a month had passed since coronavirus cancellations wiped our calendar clean of guests and Marianne was agitating to be paid. Paid for what?! There were no guests. I understood Covid was wreaking havoc on Marianne’s expectations of income and she was stressing out. Now her texts to me were stressing me out. It got bad, too. She would send me streams of texts throughout the day, each one more demanding than the last. My phone was blowing up and my stomach was in knots.
One week prior to the 21st I’d eaten the same amount of chocolate edible and had an interesting thought while lying in bed, lights out. I pondered what I should do about my house in Austin. Things were headed south with Marianne, I could feel it, but at that point didn’t know just how bad it would eventually get. From somewhere in my brain emerged a truth. The right answer was for me to sell my house. All my insanely deep emotional ties to this wonderful house I’d owned for 32 years remained intact, but those emotions sat next to that truth….they didn’t sit on top of it. That was the cannabis effect.
Here I am a week later and spending another evening with this strange new (to me) organic compound. The situation with Marianne has worsened and I’m in need of answers. What truths will emerge this night as the cannabis sprinkles my mind with fairy-dust?
Where I began and where I ended that evening are miles apart. With cannabis’ silent influence, one thought led to three, then three to a dozen more. The avalanche had begun….
The “Stoner” Brain
One loose-end I still want tied up relates to the part about cannabis getting you lost in thought. No joke, it can be great if you’re doing some mundane chore like cleaning the house or folding laundry, but…. well, it’s all good until it’s not, right? If you are cooking dinner and need to somewhat stay on task, getting lost in thought about why holes in the bottom of the strainer have that particular pattern, may not be what you need at that moment. This is where the term “stoner” enters the conversation.
If you’ve ever dealt with someone while they are truly stoned, you might quickly conclude pot is making them dumb. This is not actually what is happening. They are still as smart (or smarter) than ever, they simply cannot corral their thoughts enough to be relatable during a normal conversation.
When lost in thought, you might forget you left the water running, or that you walked away from the cash register with your cell phone still on the counter. As dosage in your system increases, the faster you will think, the more things you will notice, and the more lost in thought you will become, until a threshold is reached where functioning in the everyday world becomes a “challenge.” If you can’t keep your own thoughts in order, navigating moderately complicated tasks can take on a comical tone. I do not wish to imply it’s a bad or harmful state of mind to be in. One simply needs to be choosy about when and where it’s okay to let yourself “spin out,” a term I think is way more descriptive than getting “stoned.”
For me this is one of the biggest busted myths about cannabis. Based on all of the movies, sitcoms, stand-up routines and personal anecdotes, of course one would conclude it turns your mind into potato salad. The reality is your mind becomes a smorgasbord of thoughts and it’s hard to know which to eat first.
I know many of my friends are already on-board the cannabis train (and several cars ahead of me, too), but just as many are not. Will any of my friends read my account and begin to reconsider their own view of cannabis? And what of the blogosphere I am now a part of? It’s a big place and perhaps one of those 100 million anti-marijuana souls out there will stumble upon this post (plus Parts I and II) and think about cannabis just a few degrees differently than before.
There is also a completely different group of people who I would like my story to reach. It’s all the party people that have never considered cannabis an intellectual catalyst. Maybe it was years ago when they last smoked out, got stoned, ate a bunch of snacks, and had Good Times! If that was you, I bet you missed out on the kind of perspective-shifting benefit cannabis offers and that I have now described at great length.
Or, maybe you are like Yrag the alien was….and become a late-bloomer.
Where is young three years ago Yrag? Wait! I see him over there in a bath of unadulterated chocolate bars. “Yrag! Come, let’s talk a bit more.”
“I need you to listen carefully. You’ve been carrying around a whole lot of misconceptions about marijuana for too long already. It’s high time we pry you out of your rut. When you’re truly ready, here’s how to derive the most benefit from introducing cannabis into your life.”
“It sounds like you want me to join a cult,” says Yrag. “But I’m willing to hear you out.”
“That’s good enough for me,” I tell him. “First, go with an edible. From everything I’ve heard and read, edibles have more of that perspective-shifting potential than smoked weed does. It’s also very easy to manage your dosage”
“Okay….edibles. I’m ready.”
“Dude, you won’t be ready for another few years.”
“Whatever. Just tell me what I need to know.” If not impatient, Yrag seems genuinely curious.
“Okay, start with a very small amount, like 3-4 mgs. Do it in the evening when you don’t have much else going on. You don’t have children or other immovable obligations like the majority of people do, but even if you did it wouldn’t matter. Such a small amount will not alter your ability to do anything you normally would.”
‘Next thing… lower your expectations. As we talked about around the dinner table in Part II, you’re unlikely to “feel” anything at those small doses, but trust me, it will be there. The influence of cannabis is so dang subtle. Simply go about your business and see what comes from the experience. You may end up saying, Well, that was a big nothing burger….but I bet you’ll still find you’ve had a productive evening.”
Yrag says exactly what I expect him to, “This idea that you can take a drug but don’t feel anything, still seems strange to me.” He’s such a hard head.
“That’s why I’m telling you, because it’s a common misperception. Okay, last thing and probably the most important… Be patient. It took me 2 ½ years to finally come to an understanding of what pot is and isn’t. Pot is not an earthquake; it’s not one and done. The benefits it offers come slowly over time as small shifts to your way of thinking begin to accumulate; and your mind steadily expands.”
Yrag nods in understanding. “Okay, bro. I appreciate someone trying to explain it like that. But I have one more question…”
“Go for it.”
“Is this one of those things where you can learn about it all day long, but really….you have to live it to get it?”
“Yes it is, young Yrag. Yes it is.”
With that last word, Yrag thanked me, and turned away. In this misty blog-world of time travel and made-up conversations, Yrag was unable to see the purple parrot beneath his next step. He stumbled comically and fell to the ground, hitting his head on a garden gnome. The knock to his noggin did not kill him outright but was just hard enough to make him forgot everything I’d said. [Sigh]
I will end this epic 3-parter with a roughly transcribed quote I heard in a podcast just a couple of weeks after the night of the avalanche. When I heard it, I thought, That’s exactly what happened to me!! It was awesome validation of what I intuitively knew at that point but could not have summarized as well as it’s done here:
Cannabis allows people to gain a greater perspective…gives them the opportunity to step outside the momentum of their own lives and look at things with fresh eyes… and make clearer decisions. This is one of the best things that drugs provide, an escape from the momentum of this life that you’ve created….or found yourself a part of. It’s very difficult for people to stop behavior patterns, to look at themselves objectively, and rethink, regroup, reassess. This is one of the best things about cannabis and a lot of these other drugs. They give you a new-found perspective that allows you to reconsider everything.
Next up, let’s not board this train made of money and politics. It’s going in the wrong direction.