Back to the ‘bis

I know it’s not much of a stretch to put Dad Rock Dad in one square and see where it connects to the cannabis square. This isn’t an article of opinion in one way or another. After many years of life without cannabis, I decided to try it again, but this time, with purpose.

It was 1987, that first time I got stoned. But my life with cannabis started much earlier and many years before I would first try it. I’ve fondly mentioned the influence of having an older brother and this story, like others begins there. Before I accidentally slander my brother as a teen lumber jacket-wearing pothead, he was anything but. He was a pretty (and) normal jock who didn’t touch any drugs throughout his teens, unlike your author. But he had properly skewed tastes in music, comedy, magazines and movies, and he didn’t bogart them. He helped raise me on a steady diet of Cheech and Chong movies and records, Heavy Metal and National Lampoon magazines, and reggae and prog music. Really, from the age of 12 on, I was just waiting to be offered my first joint. It didn’t happen until years later. But it didn’t happen. I tried smoking marijuana again and again but I never felt anything. Until one night, at a park party after a school dance, I bumped into an old soccer teammate of my unstoned brother, who sold me what he assured was ‘straight from Amsterdam’. Wrapped in a piece of foil was a sticky, stinky twig of bud that I saved for a friend’s house party the next weekend. A well-tuned in friend at that party showed me how to roll it up and shortly after, I was hit. Hard.

I sailed that night, through laughter and conversations, hearing music and tasting food through newly filtered ears and tastebuds. I soared on a euphoric wave to come to the conclusion, “So THIS is what it’s all about”. I remember staring up at the sky and taking a deep breath in its awe as my teenage ego shrank a fraction under the awareness that there was more to perception than what is seen by the eye. That early summer night lead me on three decades of cannabis use that was rarely ever for a purpose that wasn’t habitual. It became totally enmeshed with my life and my day. Luckily, I kept it to after the sun went down, minimizing the habit.

Jump 30 years to the realization that I’ve noted in previous posts, especially this one. When I gave up alcohol, I didn’t really intend to stop smoking pot. It just got lumped in with the behaviours I wanted to drop. And to be honest, I really didn’t think about it again until Canada legalized recreational use of cannabis on October 17, 2018, a date that coincidentally was the 4th anniversary of my sobriety. While not tempted, I found it interesting to look at legal retail options being offered. As a consumer and a designer, the OCS website didn’t exactly dazzle. Jump ahead a bit to March of 2019, while recovering from ear and nose surgery, my wife recommended that I order some cannabis oil pills to try instead of the opioids that the doctor was surely going to prescribe. I thought it was a good idea, and I was a little intrigued to try it out. Well, the pain wasn’t bad enough to remain on the drugs I was given for more than a couple of days, but I decided to pop a pill to see if it took some of the edge off. It didn’t, but it did make me sleepy, which I liked.

Jump ahead a year, the coronavirus pandemic hits and like we all need(ed) to do, I was sheltering at home along with my family. For my wife and I, we were actually busier with our day jobs than we had been in a while. Combine a busy workday with kids schooling at home, or in the case of my kids, not schooling at home, everything to do with running a household being harder, the fear, paranoia and uncertainty of a pandemic and a seated depression that existed before the pandemic, I was not at my best from a mental health standpoint. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was depressed and I wasn’t in a good place. I knew that if I could tackle the first issue, the others might at least improve a bit. The one thing I had in the house that could help me sleep better than Sleepytime tea were those old oil pills. So, I popped one a couple of hours before bedtime and found that I drifted off to sleep better and stayed that way. I also found that for those awake hours before sleep took me, I was in a better mood. I found some medicine that was working for me. But what about my cherished sobriety? I felt a bit sad that my record ended. But knowing that while I didn’t mind the mushy warm bath of a mild cannabis high, it was ultimately helping. Plus, I knew that my use wouldn’t go back to what it may have been previously. And certainly, alcohol was where my concerns lay. However, it did become a bit habitual – the workday would end and I would pop a pill and wait for it to hit a bit. I found myself looking forward to it and not just because it was helping me fall and stay asleep. So, after a few months of taking cannabis 3-5 times a week, I stopped. It coincided with summer, so being able to go outside and spend time in the sun and air was the tonic that was needed. I didn’t take any cannabis for the summer. Now that summer is a speck in the rearview mirror, I also have found myself not just back to having sleep issues, I was diagnosed with an arthritic shoulder which causes me a lot of chronic pain and wakes me up frequently. Again, I could eat a handful of ibuprofen each day to dim the pain a bit, but I know that it’s not worth it. So, I am back to dosing with both THC and CBD oil. Some that I have purchased, but as a DIYer, also some that I have made. In early spring, we were gifted with a couple of little pot plants. We raised them over the summer and harvested more than we can use, but I did find some recipes to make homemade cannabis oil. I have a mason jar of it in my fridge and have told the kids it’s not to be messed with. They seem entirely uninterested apart from making jokes about it.

And that leads me to where I wanted to go with this, the discussions we’ve had about cannabis with our kids. We first started talking with our son, as he’s now in his second year of high school. Coupled with his age and federal legalization, we’ve had open chats about our use and our expectations of his. Like many kids, he’s curious but has agreed to not touch any drug until he’s 21 to ensure he doesn’t harm his developing brain. And with the gardening we’ve done, they’ve both seen the plant up close enough for it to be demystified. Because I take cannabis as medicine, I am very upfront about it as such. Not as the thing you use to make a concert more thrilling, despite that being a very valid recreational use. But it has made me think about the stigmas that exist, even in someone who is generally positive around cannabis. I have seen both sides of it, someone like me who uses it therapeutically and usually doesn’t mind the mild high that comes along with it to someone for whom daily or bi-hourly use has been the norm for many years. I’m glad I’m not in the latter group, because I’ve always known that daily cannabis use can lead to habitual use. I don’t ever want to have to take something repeatedly to ‘feel normal.’ But I know that feeling exists for some people who take cannabis just as it does for other habitual drug users. This, to me, is the singular point I need to keep in mind when discussing drug use with my kids. Whether they do or they don’t, ultimately is up to them. I can’t be with them every second of every day, even now, but I can arm them with information, opinion and experience. I can tell them what my concerns are and help them see through to the end, something I try to teach with everything. Choose when to live in the moment and when to retreat for education, but do so by trying to see to the end of an action to estimate the result. This is a common shortcoming of youth, a product of wisdom and experience.

That is what I want to teach my kids about many things that don’t have to do with drug use. Most of us learned that it was easier to say yes than to say no. So, instead, I say ‘just think it through’. Maybe that’s what we really need to say.

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Aron Harris

Dad blogger in Toronto who thinks he's funny. Digs: photography, music, veg food, cooking, writing and of course, my family.

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