I Joined the Club
photo by Andrew Neel on unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@andrewtneel
I’d smoked weed one time a couple years back, when I was 12. I didn’t get high from it as I only smoked one toke. But, I crossed a line that day.
Now I was 14. And I was ready to leap over that line.
My cool friend who’d moved into our neighborhood from London knew what was what when it come to marijuana. He had an older sister and she’d taught him the ropes.
He managed to get ahold of some, and there was a plan for a small gathering in the woods one night. We frequently hung out at this spot, smoking cigarettes and making a fire.
So, for me to turn up there was not unusual.
But when I said I wanted to smoke the weed, I got pushback because that meant less for the experienced users.
I made it clear. I was all in.
I got high, we had a fire. Life went on.
I began looking for opportunities to get high.
They were easily found in the ’70’s.
Pot was ubiquitous.
In short order, flavored vodka showed up. Pills showed up. Beer was invited.
Each of us found our likes and dislikes, what made us puke, what kind of high or drunk or combination we preferred.
The experimentation phase lasted far longer for some of us than others.
Me, it lasted way too long. Years and years too long.
When I think back to that first real step into using drugs and joining the crowd, I go back to my 14-year-old mind. I wanted to be “bad.” I’d tried so damn hard to be good all the time, and I wanted to adopt another side of my persona. I wanted the experience of doing something I wasn’t supposed to do.
It’s a natural rite of passage for teenagers.
I could not foresee what was ahead for me.
I know that marijuana is and has been, for many people, a beginning and an end.
From my perspective, however, I’d have a hard time arguing that it’s not often a gateway drug. It operated exactly as such in my life, and in the lives of many of my friends.
I know there is no going back. Even if I could, I don’t know what I would say to 14-year-old me. I don’t know that I would have listened to anything. I wanted to find out for myself.
That journey of mine was dangerous. I had no idea how dangerous it was until I got clean and looked back over my past.
I jumped in with both feet to the drug world. I survived. I’m grateful.
I have a hard-won perspective, and with it a profound love and appreciation of every day.
I would even state that I’m grateful for it all. Without that journey, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
But, I can only say that to you today because I survived. The odds were against me.
On second thought, what I would say to 14-year-old me is this: “You have no idea of the road that you want to set out on. It looks exciting and adventurous. But you’re no different than anyone else. If you’ve got the addict gene in you, you’re going to stare death in the face, and you don’t want that. So be cool and work hard and dream big.”
I don’t know if I would have listened, but from this vantage point, I’d have to say it.
Be cool and work hard and dream big, you lovely people out there.