Down in Smoke
While gathering stories for our feature on cannabis in NH, one source suggested I find someone whose life had been ruined by pot. I was having no luck when someone I once knew well came to mind.
Between the time I was 16 and 32, I was your classic pothead. My friends and I spent every day we could getting high and when we ran out of weed we’d start looking for more. It wasn’t something we thought about a lot, to be honest. It was just ordinary life for the folks we now call “stoners.”
And it was fun. We had great adventures, intense conversations, created art and music, and forged bonds and memories that linger to this day, but my ambitions never really extended beyond that kind of fun. I dropped out of high school (finished with a GED) and college (went to trade school), and while I helped my family build a restaurant (that nearly killed us all before it closed), I always was happiest just getting high and watching TV with the sound off and the stereo playing something by Pink Floyd or Frank Zappa.
I had friends who smoked who could also hold down jobs, do well in school, and see projects through to completion, but when the 1980s came around, I found myself living with a roommate in Atlanta, working on a loading dock, and coming home every night to get high and watch MTV (which, at the time, was quite a lot like watching TV with the sound off and the record player going).
After turning 30, I had a feeling that this had to change. Change came to me in a big way with a religious conversion and a wholesale reassessment of my life. I gave up many of my wild and wicked ways, including weed.
And my life got immeasurably better and more fulfilling. I got promoted from the loading dock to an administrative position where I felt confident enough to ask out the pretty lady who was sales manager at our company. She soon became my wife, and we moved to the state where she had been born and to the house where we still live today.
So, was my life really ruined by pot?
No, but I’m sure that if I’d continued as a pot smoker, I would not be here today. Before I stopped smoking, I always told people I was a writer. After I stopped, I started to actually write. Before: I was a romantic goofball. After: I was happily married. Before: I had dreams galore. After: I started achieving a few of them. I know others who were like me and didn’t stop who now seem trapped in the past.
Those with the biggest problems had more going on than just weed. They had mental challenges, family issues or sometimes just bad fortune but, for most, smoking grass was a huge part of that matrix. It made all the rest of life click or made the worst of it tolerable. That’s why it was so hard to quit.
I’ve been out of that “inner circle” of pot use for more than half my life now, but I’m sure that the new weed is still leaving some percentage of young people wasted in indolence and others on a path to nowhere in particular.
It seems everything that brings pleasure, from whiskey to rock climbing, also comes with risk. In a free society we allow adults to make such choices, but we also do what’s needed to protect the youngest and most vulnerable among us. I hope whatever happens with the legalization of cannabis that we keep our kids and their fragile futures in mind.
That said, even when I was determined to quit weed and make something of myself, I assumed marijuana would one day soon (hah) be legal, and thought something that brightened up life, increased enjoyment of food and music and then lulled you to sleep might be a net positive for folks in their retirement years.
Now, a generation later, I guess we’ll all find out together.