I might as well start off with disappointing you, dear readers: My experiences with illegal drugs are relatively few, and not very juicy. A few years ago, I tried cocaine for the first time. I tried it again maybe twice after that. I was not a fan. I used marijuana infrequently to semi-regularly for a few years in college, and for some years since college. I was a fan. (Many of the times with pot were legal, actually. Because, well, San Francisco.) That's it.
As far as legal drugs, you can read about my past favorite- alcohol- here. I've also had periods in my life where I was an infrequent social smoker of cigarettes. In periods of stress, it sometimes was as frequent as weekly. I've taken a different prescribed medication off and on (mostly on) since I was 15, for anxiety and depression. And I used caffeine in the form of black or green tea a few times a month, starting when I was a tween. My first year of teaching, I had a brief abusive romance with refined sugar. Usually in the form of donuts (plural) nearly every morning or ice cream most evenings.
I used drugs for the same reasons as many folks. To have fun. To experience an expansive, altered state. (Something that folks all around the world desire as early as childhood. Hence the dizzy bat and choking games). For respite from the ruminating and worrying and heart-racing anxiety. To feel even more connected to those around me. To forget that I didn't really feel safe and connected to those around me. To rebel. To indulge. To reward myself and to take a load off after over-working. To feel cool and fun and part of the group. To stay awake. To fall asleep. Because it seemed like a normal and essential part of celebrating. Because it seemed like a normal and essential part of mourning. Because drunkenness. And because drugs can be delicious.
So, that's my drug past. What about now?
Currently, I take Selegiline each morning, which is an anti-Parkinsons medication, prescribed to me by my psychiatrist, for the off-label use of anxiety prevention and management. I also have a small bottle of Ativan that she prescribed to me to use as-needed in the case of severe panic attacks, but I haven't touched it in about a year. I take a couple herbal supplements (melatonin and a cortisol manager) in the evening. I drink matcha green tea on weekday mornings. Every couple of months or so, I might have an earl grey or black tea. I eat refined sugar in pretty small amounts, and less and less often. That's it. I haven't had a drink or a smoke or an edible for about eight months now. Am I proud? Sure, I am. More than proud, I am HAPPY. Being a teetotaler has been a choice to thrive, not to deprive (™ ).Pride and happiness in this decision for myself does not mean that I think that abstinence is the path to health for everyone. There are all kinds of ways to have healthy relationships with substances. That being said, there are also all kinds of ways to get high in life, and for me right now, I'm finding getting high without substances to be much achievable, fulfilling, and lasting.
As far as the future, I don't have any plans to use substances other than the tea I drink and the prescription and supplements I already swallow each day. Maybe in the future I could see myself being open to considering singular, well-planned experiences with non-habit forming psychedelics like mushrooms or peyote. I don't know. As I mentioned in my post about alcohol, with substances and all things, I've found it's true that it is good to take things one day at a time rather than say "never ever". It is also good to make resolute decisions on what I want to do with my body and mind, and each day right now, I decide again that I want to be sober. It's working wonders for my life.
Apart from my own use, another factor in my relationship with substances is my family and friends' use. (And regarding family and friend substance use, I must admit that though I easily can say that addiction is a medical issue and not a crime, and that I have great compassion for addicts, it is much harder to concentrate on that compassion when someone is right in front of your face, screaming obscenities at you, or throwing up in your car, or stealing from your grandpa.) Most of my friends use alcohol, and most use pot, at least sometimes. I haven't had many friends that I know of who use harder stuff, other than once a year or once every two years using mushrooms, LSD, or ecstasy at a concert or when traveling in the wilderness. So while I've had to deal with quite a few drunken incidents with my friends (no more than they had to deal with with me), I haven't really had to deal with friends having bad trips or life-threatening overdoses.
However, family is a different story. Drug abuse has greatly affected my small family. I won't go into depth on the details, because, though my family members are more open about it now that the remaining members are in recovery (as of the summer of 2016! what a relief!), those are their stories to tell. I will say a few words about it to illustrate a bit of its effect on me. My family- other than my parents and brother- was pretty much my grandparents, my mom's two sisters, my uncles by marriage, and my five first cousins. Of those folks, three of my five cousins, both of my aunts, and one of my uncles have had severe addictions to various substances, including heroin, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, and pain pills like Percocet and Oxycontin. (The other uncle is a recovering alcoholic). My family all still live in Ohio, and if you've been paying attention at all to the news of the past few years, you know that these problems are all too common there. In my small family, there have been accidents. Life threatening incidents. Long, scary hospital stays. Fights. Lies. Harassment and severe stress on my grandparents. Arrests and prison terms for possession, sale, burglary, check fraud, and probation violation. Multiple rounds of rehab. Years of estrangement. And just a few years ago, my uncle died of complications of drug use. Not long after that, my aunt- my mom's youngest sister- died of an overdose of Fentanyl. Though in many ways I felt I'd lost my aunt long before that, it was still something utterly painful. Even harder on my mom and my other aunt. Harder on my aunt's two children. Hardest, of course, on my grandmother. All of the family drug issues, in fact, weighed hardest on my grandma, the stoic and selfless matriarch of our family, who always took on the problems of all of us as her own. Before I lost my dear grandma this past November, I can say that I think she did find some healing in the fact that the latest rounds of rehab for my family members (coupled with the tragic lessons of death, and a few better programs for those with addiction problems in Ohio) seem to be finally having a lasting effect.
This is the part where I tell you what drugs you should and should not use if you want to be happy and healthy for a long time…Siiiiiiike! (Checks "use 'sike' in a blog post" off bucket list). I don't know the first thing about your life and what relationship you have to substances, nor what health conditions you have. I do have some universal "shoulds", though, that are much more general. In fact, the list below is true about most topics, not just drugs. (Some of these ideas are from the Weil and Rosen book that I mention below).
I wrote a little bit about the importance of truth and openness in my post about alcohol. That applies here as well, of course. We know now that however tempting and well-intentioned lies and scare tactics may be, they DO NOT WORK. Louis C.K. has a great discussion with Terry Gross on Fresh Air about what are good and bad ideas for preventing your kids from doing drugs. At one point, he talks about the danger of telling your kids that only mean losers are drug dealers. Basically, the first time someone who is cool and kind and who makes them feel safe and talks to them like a real person tries to sell them drugs, they'll realize you were lying. And they'll throw everything else you said about drugs- true or not- out the window. Same goes if you are a teacher and tell a bunch of teens that pot is a gateway drug that will lead to harder drugs, and they later find out that virtually everyone they know has smoked marijuana, and almost none of those folks does crack or heroin.
For teachers, I recommend checking out some documents I developed to help folks with framing their drug curriculum and about how to make the prospect of sharing middle and high school classroom circle discussions about drugs and harm reduction, less frightening. For parents and caregivers, don't miss the amazing publications like Safety First from Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum and the other folks at Drug Policy Alliance, that help you with the topic you dread most when talking with your kiddos, behind the birds and the bees (more on that one soon!). And remember, young people WILL hear about these topics from friends, in the media, and in the street long before you feel ready and excited to talk to them about it. So, you know. Get on it.
Take care, all.
is a health-seeker and health educator living in the US in San Francisco, California. She is also a former (and maybe future) high school English teacher, and she loves words. Maybe health seeker looks better with a hyphen, or maybe it doesn't. You should just get over it. Even if she cannot.