It began with a cream. Cannabidiol. This is a compound found in marijuana plants that relieves pain, reduces anxiety, and helps sleep. The product I use comes in a small white canister with a dial on the bottom the lifts the cream to the surface much like a roll-on deodorant. And it works. Not as much as I’d like – it doesn’t get rid of the pain entirely – but there is a significant reduction in the pain, which is a nagging case of arthritis in my right arm, exacerbated by dislocating my shoulder after a fall over two years ago. I rub the cream on my shoulder and biceps right after stepping out of the shower to maximize its effects. The skin pores are more porous after a hot shower. Within several minutes I can feel the effect of the cream, cooling and soothing the pain. The real benefit, however, is how the cream makes me feel once it has been absorbed into my bloodstream. It relaxes me. It gives me a pleasant, overall sense of well-being. It helps me sleep. It helps me write. It helps me read. And listen to music and gaze at the wall and a million other things as our planet and its once teeming life glides distressingly into the sixth mass extinction.
And so began an exploration of other marijuana products.
Marijuana was my least favorite drug in the sixties. It made me paranoid. My heart would beat so fast and so intensely that I was sure I was about to have a heart attack. The simplest, most banal and ordinary statement that anyone made would be wrapped in an enigma with slightly sinister overtones. I read omens and prophecies in everything, most of them bad. It was exhausting. How could anyone get high on this shit?
But most everyone did. Almost without exception the people around me were having a good time. There was laughter and brilliance and flashes of wit. Conversation would often turn toward wildly speculative and colorful topics: extraterrestrials, metaphysics, the occult. Even when the conjectures seemed a little paranoid no one seemed particularly paranoid. Except me. Catastrophes of all sort seemed imminent. I would have to contrive expedients to calm myself down. “Just ride it out,” I would tell myself, “if you can stay calm a few more minutes the murk will settle to the bottom and I will see things clearly once again.”
Which was true. The panic never lasted long. A few minutes later I’d be right as rain.
Years later I would discover that I suffered a condition called GAD: Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s important to know this about oneself because marijuana – like all the hallucinogens, of which weed is the mildest – don’t provide a buffer from your feelings the way alcohol and the benzodiazepines do. Au contraire: they will increase your awareness of them. They will, however, also alter your relationship to them, which makes them so valuable therapeutically. You can distance yourself from the emotion and ponder it reflectively, as if it were an item of curiosity, a strangely gnarled root or the shell of a Florida crown conch. Your emotional life and consequent perspectives become a cabinet of wonders. Goofy, engrossing, a little less threatening and tyrannical. You begin to realize that it’s all about being alive and experiencing things and not being able to make your mind up right away. One’s judgements become as intriguing as they are suspect. Most everything unpleasant is ego-driven. Diminish the ego a little and feelings of isolation and alienation recede like a red tide. Blake was right: when the doors of perception are cleansed, everything becomes infinite. Infinite in perspective, infinite in aspect.
Now that marijuana is legal in the state of Washington, you can choose a variety of tinctures whose intensity can be controlled. Indica, for example, is extremely mild. I’m glad that you no longer have to smoke it. I quit smoking cigarettes 27 years ago. I don’t want that habit rearing its ugly head again. The tincture is applied by dropper. The CBD tincture tastes awful, but the THC Indica has a very sweet and pleasant taste. It kicks in almost immediately: a heightened awareness accompanied by a feeling of light-headed glee.
Another product I like is Deeper Sleep capsules. These are gel caps that come in a blister pack. They contain Indica cannabis concentrate oil, myrcene and linalool terpenes (a terpene is an aromatic organic hydrocarbon derived from isopentenyl phosphate), ashwagandha, theanine, passion flower, white peony, magnolia bark, chamomile and coconut flakes. It takes about 30 minutes to kick in. The effect is a highly relaxing sense of well-being accompanied by a heightened response to color and music. The Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio show is particularly fun to listen to.
Until last September of this year, I’ve been able to tell people that I have 28 years of sobriety. Not that that comes up in conversation very often. It does not. But it is strange that this development has occurred with so little feeling about it on my part. Using THC recreationally with the deliberate intent of getting high (whatever “getting high” means) is not the same as getting drunk. Alcohol numbs. Marijuana sensitizes. They are two vastly different experiences. Alcohol will probably always continue to pose a threat to me. It still has a powerful allure. But I feel completely safe with marijuana. It doesn’t give me a hangover. I wake up the next day feeling better.