Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Have You Considered Marijuana?

I posted a brief conversation I had about weed about two years ago that is similar to this one I had recently:

Him: So, John...have you thought about smoking weed?
Me: Yeah, I shouldn't.
Him: I mean after you're off probation. I get why you don't now...
Me: Two things happen when I smoke weed. First, it makes me acutely aware of all of my past failures in life all at once, and I become full of anxiety and uncomfortable as hell.
Him: Yikes.
Me: And the second thing? It makes me want to do heroin again.
Him: ...probably shouldn't smoke pot, then.
Me: You think so? That's too bad.

At your next national pothead convention, you guys should really reconsider who you send out as spokespeople and recruiters. Really...I'm 40 years old and I have lived in Austin for about 15 years. Asking me if I've considered weed is right up there with asking me, "Have you heard about Jesus Christ?" Yeah, thanks, I've heard the name. I have been around the pot once or twice.

Let me make it clear that I think it is ridiculous that marijuana is illegal. However, I am very much a supporter of legalizing it because I just want people to shut up about how pot should be legal and how great it is.

"It grows naturally on this planet!" Yes. Yes it does. You then naturally harvest the bud, naturally break it up and roll it with paper, naturally set it on fire and naturally inhale the smoke. Then you naturally sit back and watch Adult Swim before naturally running to Jack in the Box.

You may notice heroin addicts don't argue about how poppies grow naturally on this planet, too. Granted, that's because they're usually too busy making a mental note of all your valuables in case they get into a bind later, but still. Also, there is no Heroin Times magazine with centerfolds of black tar. This is more than likely due to the publishers nodding off and missing deadline after deadline...but that's beside the point. I guess I just find some potheads to be a bit obsessive and annoying.

Sorry. I am getting off subject. I'm aware there are many of you who smoke weed and don't mention 420 via Twitter and Facebook every day.

What I would like to focus on in this blog entry is the concept of smoking weed in recovery...as in, an alcoholic or heroin/meth/cocaine addict using "marijuana maintenance." I have been asked several times, "What do you think about smoking weed as part of recovery?" My short answer is, "I think it's a bad idea."

BUT...I can't go with the short answer, because it goes against my belief that everybody has to follow their own path and not to be completely dissuaded by "it can't be done" in your life. Maybe you're the one that "can do it." So let's go with the long answer.

I know several people who had severe addiction issues that they have overcome and now just smoke pot. I also have met many individuals in treatment centers and sober houses that tried to just smoke weed, and they relapsed big time. Pot did not help me, that's for sure.

Many of us addicts have legal issues...and we're on probation and/or being monitored and drug tested. Smoking while on probation is stupid. It's very very stupid, and you are risking getting your ass handed to you by the county and getting locked up. You shouldn't even consider it until you are off paper.

The main reason I would tell someone not to try weed if they asked me is this...if you are hesitating in doing it, you may have already made it a big deal in your head. You may mindfuck yourself into a position where you handle being high on weed, and then you think, "fuck it, I can drink." Then you're racing off to hitting a new bottom. Marijuana may be "natural", but it's still altering your perception, reason and decision-making...and if you're prone to saying "fuck it" as I have been, weakening your resolve naturally or unnaturally is probably a bad idea.

In my opinion, the people I know on the marijuana maintenance trip successfully do so because it's not a big deal to them at all. They worked on themselves and fought to get their lives back, and the question "should I smoke pot" probably never came up...and if it did, it was probably met with, "why wouldn't I?" If it's not a big deal in their heads, it doesn't rule their thinking and their lives...and they make it work. I could be completely wrong about that, but that's what I think.

Here's the deal. For me at least, only a small part of recovery is being clean and sober. Recovery for me was changing my life...finding a reason to live and to care and working to change everything that my self-destruction and self centeredness turned to shit. I can't change if I'm wasted. I stay sober so I can keep working on me.

AA people have a term called "dry drunk." Essentially, it's someone who uses personal willpower to stop drinking but doesn't do anything else to better themselves. Their desire and thoughts are still at the bar or the liquor store, so they just go through their lives miserable people. Unfortunately, hardcore AA people throw this term around too much, sometimes labeling people who quit drinking outside of a 12-step program a dry drunk when they are not. That doesn't mean it's bullshit. I've seen it...miserable bastards who honestly would be better off if they just started drinking or using again because they were making everybody around them miserable too.

I think a lot of addicts can't just stop doing their drug of choice. They need to change, repair damage, and find life again. Some don't, and instead they replace their addiction with something else, never addressing the real problem...why were they escaping reality in the first place? Many replace that addiction with one to AA or NA. Some become obsessed with a hobby or with fitness. I think switching to weed from their drug of choice will do the same thing...it's a nice temporary fix...until something big comes along that their new "thing" doesn't help them deal with, then it's "fuck it" and back to what has previously helped escape reality in the past. (My "new thing" in the past was codependency.)

Someone close to me said that they didn't have a problem with weed at all. It makes them enjoy cartoons and sleep. However, they are working on themselves and find that getting high deters them from doing what they need to do on a daily basis to remain alcohol free, healthy and happy. That's their path.

If you have addiction issues, maybe your path involves marijuana, maybe it doesn't. I think you truthfully know whether you can smoke or not. If you have to question whether it's a good idea or not, it probably isn't.

I can't. Period. So stop bringing it up to me, ya hippies.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Romper Stompee

The worst physical damage that's happened to me in a single night of drinking occurred the Saturday before Easter, 2005. I had consumed 2 whole sips of a cup of keg beer.

I worked that day, and I ran some errands as the sun set. I decided not to go downtown for my typical Jackalope/Cucaracha ritual, as I wasn't in the mood to deal with the weekenders and frat people. I think I wanted to take a break as well. I had been out for a few nights in a row.

I stopped at the 7 Eleven on North Lamar for smokes, and I ran into a couple of my bar friends. Punk rockers, of course. They told me there was a big party going on down the street just two blocks away and that "everybody will be there." I said, "Nah, that's okay. I still have that breathalizer on my truck." (I was finishing up two years probation for DWI #'s 1 and 2.)

Them: "Dude, you can crash at the house. Most of us are. Also, they have a keg of Lone Star and tons in cans."

Free beer. Place to crash. My gut told me to go home. But free beer told my gut to suck it. I went.

They were right. It was like a packed night at Cucaracha but in somebody's house. Every person with multiple tattoos, piercings, leather and attitude that I knew was there. They had obviously been going at it a while, so I told myself I needed to catch up. I made my rounds saying hi as I worked my way to the backyard to locate the keg. My friend Sarah was headed to the bathroom and asked me to get her a cup as well. Sure, no problem.

The next thing I remembered, there were blurry people in white with surgical masks hovering over me. The main blur said to me sternly, "Sir! You need to quit trying to talk! I'm trying to sew your lip back on."

Well, that's unsettling.

I attempted the best "what happened" without an intact bottom lip I could. The blur assisting the main blur said, "Someone beat you up. You have a concussion. Please relax." They had no further information for me.

Turns out that main blur was a plastic surgeon...and kind of a cocky asshole. I was lucky because he was available for surgery that evening, and he was a cocky asshole because he was really good. Despite being condescending, he successfully lined everything up and made sure I didn't end up a deformed jackass. I then spent several hours recovering in a hospital bed with staff keeping me awake and under observation.

They released me around noon Easter Sunday. The doctor had said, "We'll check your stitches in a couple of weeks. You'll be lucky if you can afford my bill." I replied, "You'll be lucky if I pay you at all. Cheers."

I walked out of the hospital into the brightest sun that I can remember. My head was killing me. I put on my sunglasses, and I slipped a cigarette into the side of my mouth as far away from my stitched up wound as I could. I looked up to see some families arriving at the hospital with "Get Well Soon" balloons and flowers only to reel in horror at the sight of me as they hurried past. I was wearing my black spray-painted cowboy hat, black pearl-snap western shirt, black jeans, black leather jacket and my lizard skin boots with black duct tape on them (because it was cheaper to buy new ones than get the holes in the them repaired). Also, I was covered from head to toe in dried mud and blood. I looked like death as I exhaled smoke out of my mangled face. Happy Easter, kids. Boo.

photo by SLS Photo (Steph Swope!)

I walked into the parking lot and it hit me that I didn't fucking drive here. I also didn't know where "here" was. I realized later I could have just walked back into the hospital and asked where I was, but I exited with such a good comeback that it would be awkward to go back in there. Also, it's 2005, so no GPS or Google Maps.So I called my housemate Shane.

Shane: "Hello?"
John: "Hey. I just got out of the hospital...but I have no idea where I am, and I don't have my truck here."
Shane: "What do you see near the hospital?"
John: "Shit man, I dunno...there's a highway I think...oh, across it I see 'Corvette Country'."
Shane: "I know where that is. Be there shortly." (click)

About 15 minutes later, he pulled up and I got into his car. He glanced at me, expressionless, and said, "Hey." He began driving back to the house. I stared at him. He said nothing. Shane was a quiet roommate and all around chill guy, but this was ridiculous. After a long silence, I spoke. "Aren't you going to ask me what happened or why I look like hell?"

"Well, I figured you'd tell me at some point." That's Shane at his most Shane-ness.

I spent the rest of the day sleeping on the couch. My head had cleared a bit, and I just couldn't figure out why anyone would attack me. I didn't remember drinking anything, so I didn't think I had become mouthy...or mouthier than normal, at least. And while there were emotionally unstable drunk punks, they (we) typically only get into it with fratty douchebags, not each other. I texted and called some friends to see if they had heard anything. The problem was they and I did not really have the numbers of bar friends/acquaintances...we just see them at the bar.

One call I remember was with Jen T, who said that she thought it was strange that somebody would actually kick my ass. "I'm sure people want to, but nobody ever does because, I'm sorry, but you're not very threatening."

Me: "I...talk a big game though."
Jen T: "Yes, unfortunately, you do."

She was right. Nobody at that party would literally split my lip based on me being drunk and mouthy. And definitely not if I was sober, which I was becoming sure I was. I was going to have to wait until I went to Jackalope/Cucaracha the next day.

After sleeping a ridiculously long time then retrieving my truck, I went to 6th Street. The very first person I saw was Brad working the door. He was at the party. He, incidentally, also saw the whole thing...and he filled me in all right.

It rained buckets and buckets on Good Friday. Half of the backyard at that party was a big messy mud pit. Some brain trust decided to set the keg up right in the middle of the mud puddle. Imagine walking through wet grass and mud in boots that are covered in duct tape. Brad told me I filled up two cups of beer, took a couple of drinks from one, refilled it, and then made my way back to the back porch and concrete slab. "Careful..." he said, and immediately afterward I slipped and landed face first on the corner of the concrete slab. He told me it was impressive because I held up both cups of beer as I fell as to not spill them, which is why my face broke my fall. He busted out laughing when he saw me fall, but then he stopped when I attempted to get up and blood gushed everywhere. He said his reaction was: "Haha--oh SHIT!"

Anybody remember the bad guy from "Blade 2"? How his mouth kind of opened up on the bottom? Yeah, that's what happened. My lip had split and was hanging. Ugh, creeps me out even now.

The problem was, everybody was drunk. So people had to decide either who was the least drunk or cared the least that they were drunk. A guy named James drove me to the hospital.

Me: "The doctor told me I got jumped."
Brad: "Oh yeah. James came back and said that he didn't know if you had health insurance or not, so he was under the impression that if you were attacked they would treat you as opposed to falling on your own. So he said that then split, fast."
Me: "That's doesn't make any sense."
Brad: "Well, James is a fucking idiot, man...what can you do?"

I stood there for a minute and said nothing.

Me: "So...I curb checked myself."
Brad: "Haha, yeah, you did."

All I'm saying is that one reason for universal health care in this country is that some of us do really dumb shit and/or have really dumb shit happen to them...and we could use legit coverage and not a "somebody beat his ass" policy.