Several years ago, mid-morning on a Monday, I receive a text from my friend Ernie. Hey dude, I’m at the hospital. I had to go to the emergency room last night.
Ernie is in his mid-forties and in reasonable shape. But as the doctor explained to him after performing a heart exam, his heart looked like it was in its mid-seventies and not in shape. After this incident, Ernie made some lifestyle changes and he’s fine today.
One interesting little thing from this episode that we laughed about later was what happened at the hospital when they asked him if he smoked, a very relevant question for someone in the emergency room with chest pain.
Cigarettes, no. But Ernie does regularly smoke the devil’s lettuce. And decriminalized or not, we were all living in Texas where pot is illegal. So, when Ernie was in the emergency room bed and a nurse was asking him a checklist of questions, Ernie starts worrying about whether or not he should say that he smoke’s pot or not. He knows at some point that question will be asked. Its not legal, remember.
Towards the end of a substantially long health questionnaire the nurse asks, Do you drink? Ernie tells her yes. How many per week? “Like 2 or 3,” he says. Next question, Do you smoke? He knew the question was referring to cigarettes, but if he needed to tell her about his pot usage, this might be the time. After one last debate in his head, he makes a face like he’s doesn’t want get smacked and confesses, “I smoke weed.”
Ernie has never been in this situation before. His own personal usage is far removed from doctors and hospitals, and authority figures of any kind. Pot is illegal. ILLEGAL! The nurse looks at him and asks a follow-up question, How often? Like a little kid who doesn’t want to get into trouble but thinks he might, Ernie says slowly with his voice rising at the end, “Ev-ery-day..?
The nurse glances at him quickly and does this quick mini-shrug. She doesn’t even add a note to the questionnaire.
The mystery still hanging in the air today is… if it didn’t even matter, why did she want to know how often?
My Honey Is EXTRA Suweet 😉
2017-2018 were a couple of rough years for me and sleep – falling asleep, staying asleep, sleeping long enough into the next morning -none of these things were happening. In the days, weeks, and months after the break-up, I’m pretty sure what I was going through was normal under the circumstances. It was a 10 year relationship that had ended. We were a great couple in many ways; we’d even gone around the world together. It didn’t matter to my grieving that I initiated our break-up. The emotional path of living through such intense adult themes runs through a dark valley, regardless of how you got there.
I have this one friend in Austin that is known for her superb knowledge of “herbal” remedies, if you know what I’m saying. In 2017, I personally had zero practical experience with marijuana. It was just another one of those things tons of people do that I historically (see previous post) resisted. But since I was having such trouble sleeping and I’ve heard many people use cannabis to help them sleep, I asked my friend what she might suggest to help me.
I tell her that in past rough periods of my life when I’ve had trouble falling asleep, I would drink some Sleepy-Time Tea- the one in the green box that has the bear falling asleep in front of the fireplace. My friend thinks on it for two seconds and comes up with the perfect solution. I leave her place with a jar of honey.
That evening around 9:30 PM, after the water has come to a boil and the grassy-leaved tea bag has soaked for 5-7 minutes, I twist open the jar of honey I’d paid $20 for. It looks just like any other honey, though its scent includes a few molecules of cannabis oil. My friend suggested one teaspoon stirred into my tea so that’s what I did.
I got better sleep that night. And the next night, too.
Drinking the Sleepy-Time Tea before bedtime is as much about the ritual, as it is about any actual effect chamomile and lemongrass has on the mind or body. [me whispering: that’s what Sleepy-Time Tea is- chamomile and lemongrass.] When I begin preparing the tea, I am signaling to my body that bedtime is coming soon. When I drink the tea I am in a comfortable chair. It’s dark except for the light still on in the kitchen; more notes to my body that I am winding down. Adding a teaspoon of cannabis-infused honey to my ritual was simply giving me the extra help that I needed to fall asleep during this challenging post-breakup time in my life.
The mental prohibition against using cannabis I carried into my 50’s was similar to the one I’d had against alcohol up until my 40th birthday. I was the 40 year old alcohol virgin! Let that sink in for a second. In my teens, my 20’s, my 30’s, I never touched alcohol. I didn’t. I wouldn’t. I deferred a thousand times simply saying, “I don’t drink.” A granite conclusion was formed in my head long ago that alcohol was more bad than good, so I wouldn’t drink it. And so I didn’t.
Forty is a threshold-year for birthdays and a natural time for reflection. When I reflected on my reasons for not drinking, the reasons I told myself, at least, all those reasons came back N/A. This was a slight bit of “progress” in my changing and growing as a person, but nothing equal to the transformative moment I am living through now and blogging about today. At forty plus one day, I was still marching down the same corridor as always; this time I was willing to have a drink in my hand.
As the challenging months of 2017 trudged on, I returned to my herbal remedy friend several more times for the jars of honey that were helping me heal by helping me sleep. One day, probably because she was out of honey, my friend suggested I try cannabis in “tincture” form- a tiny bottle of liquid cannabis extract with an eye-dropper for a cap. She warned me it didn’t taste “sweet as honey,” but I took it anyway. On the October day of 2017 when I departed Austin to begin my Reboot, a full mini-bottle of tincture was packed in with the rest of my toiletry items.
Physics 102 and Baby Steps
While living with my friend in Modesto, I took a college-level physics course. Why? I’ve always been very science-minded, and solidly regret not pursuing one of the sciences as my chosen field of study. Become an accountant and you’ll always have a job, is what I heard over and over. They didn’t tell me I’d be miserable and that choosing a course of study out of fear was a bad idea. You hear me people?! NEVER MAKE A LIFE CHOICE OUT OF FEAR!
The two college-level Intro to Physics courses are Physics 101- Motion, and Physics 102- Electromagnetism. I had taken the course on motion roughly 10 years prior and thoroughly geeked-out on it. With my heart set on getting into solar, the time was right for me to tackle electromagnetism, which is essentially the study of electricity.
Here’s really why I’m telling you this. Understanding physics (for me, at least) is a brain buster. It’s the world of atoms, invisible force fields, and the conductivity of everyday substances. To grasp the concepts, I had to mentally dive deep into the material. I was taking a no-joke online physics course taught by a highly sought-after Physics Professor from Rice University. I would spend hours inside the Modesto Junior College library studying my physics course with crazed determination. At night I would wind down for sleep but still be doing mental battles with some of the more challenging homework problems.
At this point in time, my hard break-up happened nearly a year earlier. Even so, I was still not standing on enough firm ground and hadn’t fully regained my ability to sleep like a normal person. Thankfully, my cannabis extract, in the form of that little bottle of tincture, was still there to help. The bottle I’d left Austin with was almost finished, but…being in California where marijuana is legal, I could easily get more. It lasted quite a while with me because I was only taking half an eye-dropper every 3 or 4 days.
Since I was virtually always studying, the nights I fell asleep with the aid of cannabis were the same nights I’d worked through a good deal of physics homework problems. What I noticed was that on cannabis-nights my falling asleep mind was creating wonderful visualizations of the microscopic world. Electrons, for example, could ricochet down a copper wire, knocked off their host atoms by the repulsive forces of electromagnetic energy. I was ever so slowly, so cautiously, so carefully, beginning to experience a small sliver of marijuana’s potential.
Baby steps indeed.
My slow trek down Pot Lane that began with the addition of cannabis-infused honey to my Sleepy-Time Tea, was actually predated by three other late-in-life cannabis experiences. Because no one could explain to me how to approach pot, I made the classic mistake of doing too much and only became more confused than ever about why anyone would want to do pot in the first place. Just like on my 40th birthday, when I relaxed my prohibition against alcohol, I did the same with pot on my 50th. Since I wasn’t even close to overcoming my aversion [see Smoke ‘em If You Want To Live] to smoking a burning anything, I ate a bit of some dessert-type treat with cannabis oil as one of the ingredients.
We reserved two bowling lanes at Speakeasy’s in downtown Austin. Make no mistake, Speakeasy’s in not a bowling alley, it’s a bar. They just happen to have 4 bowling lanes on the second floor just for funzies. The whole set-up is a throw-back to the roaring 20’s, so it makes sense that the bowling lanes do not have electronic scoring; you have to keep score on your own.
We are on the third frame when the edible starts really kicking in. Having no prior experience with pot, all I know is that I start “feeling funny.” It’s my turn to bowl and I become acutely aware that things are different. I throw my next ball down the alley and don’t get a lot of pins. I’m not much of a bowler anyway so this isn’t unusual. But my mind starts rapidly questioning my actions. Did I only hit 3 pins because of the pot? Is the ball taking forever come back to the ball-return, or is it just me? Am I acting weird? After hitting a couple more pins on my second throw, I try to add up my score. But I can’t. I keep losing track and second-guessing my ability to add simple numbers. Someone steps in and I go back to the chairs. Is it getting warm? I tell the friends around me that I may need to skip my turn the next time around.
I leave the cluster of chairs at the end of the alley and find a nearby couch. It’s getting still warmer. Sweat starts accumulating on my forehead. I need to be still. My girlfriend and others are checking on me, the birthday boy. Someone touches my arm. “Whoa, you’re really clammy.” I tell them I am feeling nauseous. Seconds later someone hands me a glass of water. I take a couple of swallows. What is happening? My 50th birthday was supposed to be extra great because I was doing pot for the first time. Instead, it just got weird and awkward for everyone.
One of my two friends that has the most experience with pot suggests I “go get some air.” I walk with both of them, one in front, the other behind, as we wind our way through the night-time crowd of people, down one flight of stairs, into and out of more people, past the two overweight bouncers at the entrance, until we are outside in the cool night air. Once on the street we find a bench to sit on. I feel flushed and discombobulated; the fresh air helps. When I speak, I am in no way incoherent. So, to my pothead friends there to the right of me on that Congress Avenue bench, I say, “I don’t understand why you guys like this stuff.”
If only I knew then what I do now. Cannabis for an Alien, Part II is coming soon.