As I chronicled in this space last week, my introductory experience with cannabis was a happening laden with feminine energy – just me, a few older schoolmates, and a pipe. Fast forward a couple of decades, and my next first smoke session took on a different character. There were no pretty girls there this time. It was a very manly affair that included myself, my brother, several uncles, and a couple of family friends, all of whom were spending an evening around a bonfire to mark the final evening before my brother embarked on his journey to live on the West Coast.
I had been sober for seven years after a period spent testing the limits of my liver and my sanity, a time that had, predictably, not gone very well. My family story on both sides contains a more-than-fair dose of things like cirrhosis, arrests, varied institutionalizations, dissolutions of relationships, a transplant, and other dramas that seem to find their ends in either church basements or morgues. I chose the former, made a new group of friends, collected a bunch of AA coins, and moved on with my life.
Marijuana was not my “problem,” per se, but I had reached a point in my life where I was reaching for whatever substance was nearby with little thought beyond changing the baseline for what had become a pretty drab daily existence. It was time to face life without any chemical crutches.
Several family members had walked this road before, and I learned of the benefits of life on the wagon by observing the changes that they made, and in turn, how people changed as they made them. During this time, I met and married my wife, went back to school, and resolved much of the wreckage caused by the wild years of my late teens and early twenties. It was a peaceful period.
So, there we were, a bunch of us in the woods, on a mountain, around a bonfire. A bowl was lit and passed, and I said to myself, “Why not?” This time, the pipe was packed with White Widow, an old school Dutch hybrid that was definitely not the Mexican brick weed that I remembered from my younger days. I had sampled what was known as “kind bud” here and there in the early ’90s, but this was my real introduction to the one hit wonder era of cannabis strains.
As my soul or spirit – or whatever name we give to that consciousness vehicle inside each of us – rose like a geyser toward the heavens, I knew instantly that I was back on the ganja train, the one that had brought me to the projects of Hartford, Connecticut, with backpacks full of cash that I exchanged for hockey bags full of brick weed, and then to Nine Mile, St. Ann, Jamaica on a pilgrimage to Bob Marley’s tomb, where I communed with Rastas in a language that my girlfriend said was not English, but we nonetheless understood each other perfectly. It took me to every corner of the galaxy in order to gain the understanding that no matter what seems to separate us in this life – the surface circumstances of history, sociology, or politics – it’s all unimportant. We are, each of us, the residue of star-stuff from the beginning of time, and everything else is part of the group of strictly human mind constructs that seeks to classify and divide for strictly human purposes.
Why do we use substances? At the place of best practices, it is to glean the understanding contained in them – the universal wisdom of a mushroom, the freedom from pain contained in a poppy – and cannabis has been the greatest guide I have walked with during this go-round on planet Earth. That seven year span without substances was worthwhile – even necessary at the time – but I am eternally grateful for what cannabis has given me: a softness of perspective, the ability to look into and through things that seem difficult, and to approach them with help from a plant that has grown stalk-by-leg with our species through evolutionary eons longer than my rational mind can conceive. It has also given me a faith and understanding that there is a time and a place for everything, even if I don’t understand it in the moment. That understanding will come – all I need to do is breathe and relax.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].