Kid #2

The Substances

Substances are, for myself and the people I went to high school with, primarily a social thing. That’s one of the big reasons I’ve become so disillusioned with weed. I haven’t been at college long enough to figure it out yet, and Smith is the opposite of a “party school,” but I’d be surprised if it turned out to be much different here than it was at Casco Bay.

I’m taking a sociology class this semester, and we read a piece by journalist Johann Hari titled, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think.” Hari argues that addiction isn’t nearly as much about chemical reactions as previously thought; it has much more to do with seeking a connection. For people cast out from society, or otherwise isolated and alone, this makes a lot of sense. We know humans need connection, we crave it, so those who can’t find it with other people will turn to other means.

You can have an interaction with drugs, a conversation almost. They can stimulate you and respond to you. But they also dull you and can keep you from seeing the real connections you can make.

Looking at my life through this lens, a lot of things start to fall into place. The kids I wrote about in my July column who, I feel, abuse weed, abuse nicotine, as well. It’s said that weed isn’t addictive, but Hari’s lens helps us understand why people still find it so hard to quit smoking it.

I’ll use those kids as an example. They were never a particularly social bunch, never seemed much interested in conversation or doing much else, really, besides being high. They’d rip a fatty cloud every couple of minutes. These were the kids you’d hit up if you wanted to do bong hits and play old Tony Hawk games, maybe score a dab cartridge too. They were good guys — just didn’t appear to have a lot going on behind the eyes. Nice to be around, in small doses.

Because how long can you do nothing? The answer is, a lot longer high than sober. And for these guys, weed and nicotine formed the basis of their friendship. How can you stop when that’s not only your entire life, but your whole social life, as well?

This lens also explains why it was so much easier for me to quit than I thought it would be. I started smoking weed my freshman year of high school, but didn’t really get into it until my sophomore year. I had lived in Portland for 16 years and was running out of things to do. I also liked (and still do) to play it pretty safe, so smoking weed sounded a lot better to me than jumping off rope swings.

I quit towards the end of my junior year. I had a bigger, more solid group of friends, was more committed to school and extracurriculars. I didn’t need drugs socially anymore. And I also found myself not liking being high, even a little. The last time I got high, I hadn’t smoked for several months. But I was at a party, and my good friends hadn’t shown yet, and the alcohol was gone for the time being. So I hit a dab pen.

I’ve had some pretty monster experiences with too much weed, especially since I really hate being out of control, but this wasn’t one of those. Feeling really high, but only slightly out of control, I sat myself down on a couch, set a stopwatch, and waited to be sober again.

It took two hours. I haven’t smoked since.

I started Juuling my junior year, not too long after that last weed experience. Someone left one at my house, and there I was. I missed only the smoking of weed, not the being high, and felt I needed to almost compensate for the fact I didn’t get high anymore. Certainly my coolness had taken a hit once I quit.

So I started Juuling. And I got slightly emotionally addicted. It’s like snacking: if there’s a bag of chips in front of you, you’re probably gonna eat them. I got excellent at vape tricks.

But it was a drain on my bank account, and my friends were worried, and really, after I got immune to the head rushes, all that was left for me was to look cool, and maybe get a little crossed when I drank. I was also determined to prove I was above it, that I wasn’t addicted despite what my friends thought. So almost exactly a year after I found the Juul, I threw it into the ocean.

I didn’t go through withdrawal, I never craved it, but I was emotionally attached. I think about it now sometimes. I miss vape tricks, and the taste, and pulling it out when I was bored or at a party. It was, like Hari says, a form of connection.