Because I Got High

We came back inside after getting high together and sat across from each other at the table. Everything was hilarious; we laughed way more than we should have. We kept meeting eyes and laughing all the more... but there was more to the look; we were sharing something together... nobody else at that moment was sharing what we were sharing.

I came outside of the cottage to find him on the deck, arms wrapped around his knees, head planted in his forearms. His latest beer sat partially empty beside him. I held on to mine as a sat beside him, I thought he might need someone close to him right now. I stayed and we talked and as he shared what he was feeling and the thoughts that were competing for space in his head, the tears started to fall... I don't think I had ever seen him cry before and we had been friends since we were little kids.

These two memories are from my teenage years, both with the same friend. There are a number of similarities in these stories. Both were moments where my friend and I connected. In both moments we shared something with just the two of us. Both moments brought us closer together, at least from my perspective, that's why I remember both vividly. Both moments included letting someone else into a personal moment, in one case a fun moment, in the other a moment of pain. Both moments involved not being sober.

I want to just clarify something. The fact that my friend and I were high in the first memory and had been drinking (and maybe high) for the second, doesn't make them less significant moments to me. I do think however, that all too often, we need an excuse to get vulnerable with one another. Too many of us can get trapped in places of fear where we don't let ourselves just be silly with people or share our heart with people.

Getting high or getting drunk often serves as the excuse that we need to finally let ourselves open up. We can be silly or stupid and make strange choices. I remember shortly after I turned 15 I was at a party. However it happened, I remember being intoxicated, on a roof, with a mask on, chucking Christmas lights down to the road where they would explode on the pavement. It was a lot of fun... The reality is, that is something that I totally would love to do sober, but it's like you can't get away with that level of stupid without the excuse "I was drunk."... and there's a whole lot of worse things that people use that excuse for.

Similarly, many people reach a moment of breakdown under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Just like chucking Christmas lights, I think it gives people the permission of reckless abandonment that they can finally let go of things buried inside.

Now before some might think this is starting to sound like getting drunk or high is a good idea, that is NOT what I am trying to convey.

We don't need the intermediary... the pot or the booze... to allow ourselves to 'let go' of what is bursting inside of us to get out.

This also ties to the reality of social addiction. I have met many youth who are TERRIFIED of trying to quit drinking or smoking pot or even smoking cigarettes because it has become a foundation of their friendships. I have heard it from a young lady in grade 8, all the way up to a 5th-year of high school football jock; they used different words, but the message was the same, "I'm afraid that if I don't smoke weed, I'll lose my friends." Our substance use can become habitually tied to the experience of connecting with our friends. Especially when we only allow ourselves to be vulnerable and let lose when drinking or getting high together.

But it isn't the substance. We are wired for connection with one another, for community, for relationship... It is fear getting in the way of us loving each other well. The substances become a crutch, a coping mechanism for pushing through the fear... eventually we need to learn to walk on our own.

Another disclaimer; there are all kinds of reasons that people can't quit drinking or smoking or getting high, including physical addiction, this present discussion is just something that I observed in my teenaged life and something that I continue to witness.

Heading into Grade 9 there is a huge increase in the percentage of students who use tobacco or marijuana (at least in Ontario), and this is no great mystery. Heading into high school, youth have stress and anxiety about navigating a whole new social situation.  Smoking cigarettes and marijuana in MANY cases becomes a sub-conscious 'acceptance strategy'. However, the strong danger that I'm really speaking about here is that our acceptance becomes tied to these behaviours and it can become very difficult to untangle them.

We can start to believe...

Because I got high I made many new friends.

Because I got high I was able to connect on a 'higher' level.

Because I got high...

You can read my other blog about the courage of my little sister who was able to quit getting high while still in high school. For me, I wasn't able to quit until I found myself mainly in a new social network. I must confess, some of my choices of change did result in certain 'friendships'  revealing that they weren't friendships at all.  Friendship is more that getting high together, it's more than merely being around someone a lot and participating in the same activities... true friendship requires connection. Those friendships that had experienced true connection lasted. Those friendships were never about the smoking or drinking or drugs... that was only an excuse.

It wasn't because I got high, it was because I needed connection, I needed community, I still do.

The friend that I was talking about at the beginning is still one of my best friends, but the relationship matured over the years. It's one of the great ones... no bullshit. Honesty, trust, mutual respect, not having to make things sound better than they are, knowing each other (the good and the bad).

I discovered who were my friends because I got high and who were my friends and we got high.  There is a big difference between the two and we need friends who will be friends when the party is over.

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