I used pot to kick cocaine

To me, weed is pretty harmless -- and can even do some good

Published June 11, 2010 12:20AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I wanted to share my story of marijuana use because I believe that there are positive aspects to smoking pot. At 16 I started smoking because I was the new kid in town, feeling isolated and wanting to fit in. This was in the mid 1970s and I'm sure it is a very standard story. We would have fit in perfectly in a scene from the movie "Dazed and Confused." From then on I was a casual user at parties and on weekends. I went to college as a science major and I'm pretty sure that smoking pot did not greatly affect my grades or life in any negative way. It was in the early 1980s that I was dating a guy who started selling cocaine and I started to use it often. It was my last year of college and my grades definitely showed a serious decline. After more than a year of heavy use and weekends of very little sleep I started to realize that I had a problem. I broke up with the boyfriend due to cocaine primarily but still hung out with my coke buddies and wasted huge amounts of money in student loans and pay. I was in the thick of addiction but managed to graduate and get a good lab job and so I was very lucky in that respect.

So here is my story of pot to the rescue. I was struggling mightily with my urges to go out to the bar at night where I knew I could score, and sometimes I failed to resist, but the best way for me to stay home and avoid temptation was to simply smoke pot until all I wanted to do was sit in front of the TV. By smoking a lot of pot I was able to cut out coke entirely. Eventually I gave up pot for years but I see no real danger in the casual use of it.

I just wish that people would quit lumping marijuana and hard drugs like cocaine and heroin together. Hopefully, a massive education campaign will do the trick. I applaud the work that you do and I get an immense spiritual lift from reading your column and am very grateful to have no problem to present you.

The Pot Booster

Dear Pot Booster,

Thank you for that. It sounds like your use of pot was medicinal. You used it as a sedative. Perhaps it also served as a replacement drug for getting through withdrawal.

For me, your story is a trigger -- not for drug use, but for memory. I do not really have a desire to use drugs today. I have a desire to understand. As in your case, my early drug use had to do with a desire to belong, to establish myself as -- in my case -- a man, as fearless, as a member of the tribe. It was about cementing membership in a social group and also about expanding that social group by connecting with others -- to smoke a joint with a stranger at a rock festival or at a bus station in some forgotten town, to slip out back of the bar and share a smoke, to light up in the car with a congenial hitchhiker, to pass a joint around the table after a good meal, to share a little weed while playing music or standing in the audience: These were ways for a young man to experience connection and belonging.

What this implies is that the culture we were living in was deficient in such opportunities. That simple fact lies at the heart of a great deal.

Wow, it just hit me: The first time I used cocaine I shot it up. It makes my heart pound to remember. But yes, this is true: I came back to my little suburban Florida town after a brief stint at a junior college up state, and my best friend and traveling buddy had got ahold of some cocaine. Gee, this is amazing, I haven't thought of this in ages. He called me up and was very secretive. I remember answering the phone in the living room and looking around at my mom. He wouldn't tell me what was up. It was kind of a dare, an adventure. So I drove out to his house without telling anyone where I was going. I was into yoga, fasting and chanting at the time. I drove out to his house and he and another friend were there, and he said he had a surprise. So he brought out the cocaine and the needles and cooked it up and sterilized the needle and tied me off and shot me up with cocaine.

I felt the most enormous rush.

I took off my clothes, stood on my head yoga style and started chanting.

Wow, talk about an embarrassing recollection. OK, so there you have it. I was one of these crazy hippie earth kids. I felt I was getting in touch with the gods.

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By Cary Tennis

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