“The power of suggestion can be greater than cause and conviction,” I wrote some thirteen years ago.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was happening to me right then.
The cool kids were doing it. I resolved never to. I was stronger than them, and despite my desire to please everyone, I had drawn the line. I would never try it.
It was fun to make light of it, though. It was a slacker label in high school. In college, it was just a part of the norm. If you went to classes sober, then there was something wrong with you. If you were still doing it well into your twenties, it was fine, but if you were older than forty and still doing it, man, dude, you were a sad hippy, man. And probably unemployed or something.
It was a gateway to a lesser life. That’s what I believed.
But time weakened my resolve. By my early mid-20s, all of my friends were doing it. It seemed a normal part of life for them, and slowly I began to think there was nothing bad about it.
What the schools don’t teach is that peer pressure never has to come as a direct push. Sometimes it’s a slow burn.
The power of suggestion had become greater than my cause and conviction.
I tried it and felt nothing, but by all accounts, I should have felt something.
Another day, I tried it again. Still nothing. I must be doing something wrong.
It was the third time, right before work one day, when I finally did feel something. I was convinced I wouldn’t feel anything this time and so it was safe. I was so wrong.
It was the one and only time I ever did it before work again. I walked through the motions in a daze and was convinced someone would know. It was the biggest buzz kill.
But I was hooked. I was in a dark place, and my demons were screaming in my head every day. They threatened to consume me, and this drowned them out.
The power of suggestion had destroyed my cause and conviction.
I went the whole package. I bought a pipe. I bought an ironic lighter. I bought a big glass bowl.
Every day, I would get home from work and partake. Once, twice, sometimes three times a day.
I started talking about it as casually as you would talk about getting drunk. I had one rule. Not before work. Never before work. I kept that promise.
It was two years later when I realized it was affecting me. My memory was terrible, when I had had an elephant brain before. I was angry all the time. But mostly, I heard the voice in my head talking about trying other things. That if I had been wrong about this, maybe I was wrong about so much else.
On that day, my cause and conviction won.
I stopped. Cold turkey. I never touched it again. I never turned back.
I gave it up to be myself again. I can now say with conviction: in my early mid-20s I was pothead. I’m not proud of it, but I’m so glad it never got any worse than that.
But the burning question I have is am I a better person for having experienced it?