OK here we go

Focus on the actual issue

For the Grace of God

I know what my personal answer to that would be - I was pretty damned lucky.

My experience with drugs began in high school in the 70s. As teenagers are wont to do, I experimented with a couple of tokes at the pond across from the high school during lunch break. At the time, it didn't do a thing for me but make me cough. Within a year, I was getting high on a regular basis; and I mean high in the sense that I could feel the basic energy of the universe carousing through the sofa cushions I was too stoned to move off of while Bob Dylan, sounding like the God of the Old Testament, whined about being "Tangled Up In Blue". It sounds impressive and enlightening, doesn't it? I'm afraid it wears off after awhile though and whatever neural pathways I had pioneered through became well-worn and unexciting expressways. What had first seemed to make me feel alive and alert made me numb and slow in a couple of years. I really wasn't enjoying it anymore; I was simply doing it so I didn't have to feel things as sharply.

Drugs, after the first flash of brilliance, are really good for that. Drop out, tune in, turn on.

Turn off.

The 70s and the early 80s were one big party for a lot of us. We smoked weed and drank and did harder drugs if we were "lucky" enough to find any and worked at jobs we hated so we could afford the partying we loved. It was a time of generational irresponsibility for the Late Baby Boomers - it was ridiculously simple to surround oneself with no one but friends that partied with you. There was no dealing with strangers on dark street corners for our drugs - no, we bought them from people we'd gone to high school with, who we knew were "cool" and knew we were "cool". Narcs were totally unknown as we didn't sell to strangers and we weren't trying to make a living from it. We just wanted to keep the party going, you know?

A couple of times, I found myself in Situations. I was walking down the road near my parent's house and a cop pulled over and called me by a name I didn't recognize. He seemed to be very interested in this person and what he had been doing lately. I showed him my driver's license and politely told him that he was mistaken. He accepted this and drove away. This was good, as I had a half ounce of good pot in my pocket and was hoping like hell the plastic baggie wasn't showing.

Another time, I was on the road in Winnemucca, Nevada and due to total unfamiliarity with the town and a van parked so it blocked my view of the stop sign, I failed to stop and ran into a crossing car. Oops. I had a gram of hash in my pocket and I understand that at the time that would have been good for 5 years in prison there. Double oops. I was polite to the officer, admitted that I just hadn't seen the sign and it was my fault and meekly accepted the ticket. No one was hurt except my radiator.

Bob Dylan only had it half right - to be an outlaw, you not only have to live honestly but you have to be polite.

The party got ugly during the mid-80s. Crack hit the streets and the suburbs. Suddenly, it seemed like half the people I knew were doing it, including the girlfriend I was living with. One of the things I had liked about her is that she liked to smoke dope and party. Within a few years, it became something I hated about her, as she and a circle of dedicated friends were busy smoking crack - too busy at times, to go to work or worry about the bills or any of that unfun stuff.

One time, she finally got me to try it. It felt real good at first and then made me feel dizzy and sick to my stomach. I had to lay down for an hour to get over it, and swore to myself that this sure as hell wasn't any fun and I sure wasn't going to do anymore. She claimed that I had swallowed the smoke instead of inhaling it and that I needed to try it the right way.

Time went on - her friends lost jobs, spouses, children, homes and she herself stole $21,000 dollars from her post office job to support a habit that a $45,000 annual salary couldn't pay for. She was fired, arrested and convicted. She got to hang around the house for 6 months with a funny plastic bracelet on her ankle that wouldn't let her go anywhere. I supported us with a lousy gas station job. What a party, eh?

Conclusion? I was lucky. I could have been busted a few times but wasn't. I could have wrapped my car around a tree a few times because I was too drunk to control it, but didn't. I could have liked that first hit of crack too much, like many others did, and gotten myself addicted. And, yeah, after 20 years of smoking pot, I could have found it impossible to quit. I was a snarly bastard for awhile but I managed.

I guess my weaknesses weren't quite weak enough - but they could have been. One never knows ...

So, prohibitionists - do we throw the book at people because they're weak? How do we know that our spouses, our children or ourselves won't have that nice little glass of wine that turns into a nice 20 year journey through alcoholism? Do we throw the book at them because they're in mental or physical pain and either medicate themselves or get medicated by a doctor and end up hooked? How's your back? If you need surgery and they give you Vicodin during your recovery, are you going to be able to stop taking it? I was; it seemed like a rather dull drug and I didn't even finish the bottle. But I feel no sense of moral superiority over that. Again, I was just lucky.

Damn, but people break so damned easily, especially if they're already somewhat cracked. Is that the role of our society - to break them further by throwing them in prison?

I don't think so. It could have been me and it could have been you. Instead it was the wino in the gutter, the crackwhore on the corner and Rush Limbaugh.

There but for the Grace of God, go us.