My relationship with weed has lasted longer than any of my partners, and for that matter, most of of my friends. Our shared history is a fractious one, and to this day remains based on a love/hate dynamic. It is the one thing that is always there for me, yet it is the one thing that I allow to control me and hold me back. It’s kind of like I’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship with my bong for the past 15 years. For every positive that comes with the drug is a heavily loaded negative.
Weed has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother, a peace-loving, wannabe-hippie type, has smoked every single day since she was 19 years old. She had me quite young, at 22, and wasn’t really ready to be a wife and mother. She resented my father for working away in the mines and divorced him before I was out of nappies. So for most of my childhood it was just me, her, and weed. Her ever-present green companion.
I was aware of her habit from a young age. It wasn’t always just pot, either. I remember, when I was around four years old, she had this boyfriend that ended up going to a low-security prison farm for drug trafficking. We used to go visit him at the prison every weekend, and I would hang out and run around with the other prison kids while mum and her boyfriend kissed and smoked cigarettes and acted giggly and silly. When I was older mum divulged to me that during these visits she would usually show up with two ecstasy tablets hidden under her tongue, and upon arrival she would kiss the prison boyfriend and transfer one of the pills to his mouth. They would then proceed to bliss out for the next few hours while us kids played ignorantly in the distance.
One time, when I was about 7, I had one of the neighborhood girls, Hailey, over and we were playing outside. My dog Sammy ran into the garden and Hailey chased after her. A moment later, she was calling out to me. “Look at these plants! I’m pretty sure these are marijuana!” Hailey declared. I just stared at her blankly. “Drug plants,” she clarified, pointing to a pair of pointy-leaved plants in the garden. Naturally I was horrified by the implication that my mum would be involved with any ‘drug plants’. I ran into the house screaming. “Mum! MUM! Hailey’s saying you have drug plants in the garden!” My mum just laughed dismissively and raised her hands, shushing us. “Girls! Calm down,” she chuckled. “You know I’m a florist, right?” We nodded, this was true. “Well,”‘she continued, “those plants you’re talking about are called ‘mari-fern’, and they do indeed resemble the marijuana plant.”
“See,” I gloated to Hailey, poking my tongue out. “Told you!”
“And while it may look like marijuana, it’s just harmless greenery that I use in my flower arrangements,” my mother explained, convincingly closing the case.
For years I believed this to be true, and didn’t question the ‘Mari-ferns’ that seemed to crop up from house to house.
Around 9 was when I became totally aware that mum smoked a different kind of cigarette than other people. By this time she had a new boyfriend who was poised to become my step-father and they were very open about their pot habit. Not only did they smoke the thin hand-rolled ‘special cigarettes’ but they were also constantly taking hits from a glass water pipe I eventually came to know as ‘the billy’. Initially, their pot-smoking ways became horrifying to me, and I used to sit in my room crying about it, imagining them going to jail for being druggies, and wishing they would just be normal parents.
This was the age when the insomnia and anxiety started. I used to lie awake every night for hours, absolutely terrified of everything. I would imagine the neighbour’s big Rottweilers hiding in the bushes outside my window, just waiting to burst through, showering me with broken glass, and maul me to death. I pictured snipers lying in the grass, taking aim at me with invisible laser pointers, poised to shoot me in the head at any moment. Rapists and robbers and bikers and evil clowns were probably all lurking in the yard, just waiting for their chance to kidnap and have their wicked ways with me.
It was that thought alone that made me too terrified, even to this day, to sleep naked. Being kidnapped in your sleep would be bad enough, let alone getting kidnapped while completely fucking starkers! No Sir, No Thanks, pyjamas for life for me.
Nobody had any clue where all these irrational thoughts and fears had come from. I certainly hadn’t had a violent upbringing, and while my childhood had its share of unsavoury moments, rape or molestation thankfully did not feature in any of them. While I didn’t watch a lot of television, I devoured books and magazines, so maybe that’s where my overactive and often crude imagination came from. At any rate, my mother quickly got sick of me coming into her room at all hours of the night, sobbing and scared shitless of some nonexistent foe, so she bought me a journal and told me to write my thoughts and feelings down instead of constantly bothering her with them; thus spawning my propensity to write. It helped to some extent, but I still spent the majority of the next few years plagued with sleepless nights and inexplicable anxiety.
At 12 years old, I properly discovered weed. Obviously it had always been lurking in the periphery of my life, but because I’d spent so much time being appalled by my parents liberal use of it, I had never actually taken a moment to be curious about it. This all changed in the first term of my first year of high school.
Despite being terribly anxiety-ridden during my last few years of primary school, I had still managed to develop some level of respect and popularity amongst my peers. My constant nervous energy propelled me into doing sports, and I was a very successful endurance runner and netball player. Participating, and then excelling, in these activities had given me an in-built network of friends and a degree of notoriety among my classmates. However, when I started high school, I realized that my primary school popularity didn’t count for shit, and now I was merely a tiny, insignificant fish in a big-ass scary pond.
When I was offered weed for the first time, through a poorly-made can-bong, while wagging last period out in the bush with a bunch of kids I’d just met, a million thoughts raced through my mind. Would this make me popular? Will my parents find out? Will the principal find out and expel me? Will this help with my fears? Will it make me dumb? Will I die? But before I knew what was happening or could object, I was breathing in the thick pungent smoke from the can that was thrust into my face, and moments later all the thoughts in my head just melted down into one word: cool. Everything was cool. Ain’t got nothing to worry ’bout round here, round anywhere actually. Life, the world, it was all cool as fuck.
My worries didn’t ‘disappear’ as such, but rather burrowed themselves away into a thickly cocooned corner of my mind where they didn’t matter. Everything felt like a shiny daydream. All that mattered was laughing at the nonsensical things my new stoned friends were saying, the feeling of the warm sun on my skin and the crunchiness of the leaves under my feet, and the intoxicating rush of doing something illicit and getting away with it.
The effects of that first bong lasted for hours, and when I eventually went to bed, I lay awake for just a few minutes thinking about unicorns and various other happy things, and then dropped off easily into a peaceful sleep wrapped in rainbows. No fretting about the events of the day, no over-analyzing every conversation I’d had with my peers, no questioning if my friends really liked me, no violent rape and murder scenarios, no fear, just peace and quiet. The old cranium had actually learned to shut the fuck up for a moment. That, to me, was the most beautiful gift. And weed had given it to me.
To Be Continued…