Why I’m Glad I Dabbled in Drugs…
At first glance I seem a responsible, successful and happy mum. But beneath that shiny veneer lies – shock horror – a teenage past full of mad moments of insecurity, rebellion, naivety and uncalculated risk taking. I wouldn’t change a thing, but there is one escapade which stands out as brightly as the beacon on the end of a spliff…
The day I collapsed at the bottom of the escalators in a department store.
Far from a pretty sight. I thought I was dying. Time up. All over. When the store manager scooped me up (as my very angry friend watched in disbelief, no doubt playing out the expression on her parents’ faces when her squeaky clean self would later be reprimanded) I kind of wished I had died. Because the shame and embarrassment to come… not to mention the panic attacks…were going to be a lot worse.
But let’s re-wind, because you’re probably wondering how I got into this state?
Or possibly not. Let’s face it, many of you will have been in a similar predicament under your chosen influence(s) yourselves! Two words: Peer Pressure. That was what turned me from a good girl to one that was slumped at the foot of the escalators.
During my first year at college I got in with the wrong crowd. Growing up in one of the most infamous drug towns of the UK, this was (and still is!) hardly surprising, but it was still something that gave my parents hideous nightmares. Our select posse would meet at the flat of one of the town’s twenty-something drop outs and smoke dope. Well, I pretended to, to fit in…I guess. It wasn’t a road I was passionate about going down, but when you’re 17 and you fancy quite a number of the cool boys which the ‘ring leader’ can hook you up with, common sense goes out the window.
Eventually I got caught out.
It was always going to happen! A group of cannabis pros, no matter how spun out they are, can sniff out a cheat a mile off. Let me promise you. And that’s when one of the good looking guys set myself and my friend a ‘challenge’.
‘If you can’t inhale it, eat it…‘
Several guffaws flew around the room. I knew it was a bad idea, a very bad idea, but I wanted so desperately to prove I wasn’t the misfit of my school years. I wanted so desperately to feel that sense of belonging, to feel cool, accepted. And I had never been a hit with the boys at high school. These guys from the opposite town, well, they didn’t know about my zero snog history at school. I didn’t have that tattooed across my forehead as I seemed to with my natives. It was a no-brainer. Literally.
Twelve Shiny Pieces of ‘Squidgy Black’
That’s what the little wolves in sheep’s clothing were called. The small chunks of resin looked harmless enough, and where better for me and my eager beaver friend to consume them than on a bus trip to the city listening to Pink Fluffy Clouds by The Orb as we drove along the hills? I’ve walked out of many a room on hearing the first few beats of that psychedelia since…
Why we didn’t eat just one and wait half an hour to see what the effects of the first hit would be, I’ve no idea. No, quite the contrary, we thought it would be a great idea to guzzle the lot in one fell swoop like our not-so-long ago innocent early teenage selves would have done during an undercover midnight feast.
Oh you stupid girl.
With that volume of drugs in our bloodstreams it definitely didn’t take long for this particularly high potency hashish to have an effect. And I wasn’t much liking it. My friend on the other hand… she was having a whale of a time. Giggling, raving her hands about as if she was in Ibiza, giggling, giggling again. Me? Paranoia. Complete feeling of being out of control. Utterly out of control.
And then I really knew it, my legs were like jelly. I have no memory whatsoever of how I physically made it from one end of the city, and the bus station we’d just been dumped at, to the department store. Which in retrospect may seem like a bit of a daft escapade. It probably was. But we had the ‘genius idea’ that we’d sleep this off in the toilets on the top floor, because of course nobody would figure there was something pretty strange when two of the five cubicles remained locked for the entirety of the day.
So close yet so far.
I will never forget the hatred in my friend’s eyes as she watched my limbs helplessly give way beneath me in slow motion and I collapsed at the bottom of the escalators. I just couldn’t go on. Hoards of people blurred into one massive scornful decoupage of expressions. Beards morphed into HD eyebrows. And they morphed into sensibly permed grannies. And they morphed into snooty men in suits. And they morphed into startled, wailing babies. And finally I felt myself being hauled onto a chair by a store worker, like a mannequin that had fallen spectacularly out of a ventriloquist’s capable hand. The people stared and they stared and I had no idea who they were or from which direction they were coming.
Did any of them know me? I couldn’t have deciphered a single character. Just this giant glare of pity as they engulfed me and I cried, willing the floor to open up and swallow me into the abyss. All the while ‘What have you done? What have you done? Mum and Dad are gonna kill me! There was no need for this!’ echoed from my friend, who quite clearly didn’t think I was as close to death as I did.
The paramedics seemed to take an age to arrive but in truth they were amazing… probably with us within minutes. All I remember is a haze of reprimand, tuts and leaflets being dished out to us as my friend and I were carted off to A & E. The flurry of looks you might give to somebody who had crawled out from under a stone. And I could hardly blame them. I had taken up their time and resources when somebody else who hadn’t self-inflicted harm to their body was in real need.
Did somebody else die that day because of my stupidity? I will never really know. We were the lucky ones. We narrowly avoided having our stomachs pumped… I remember nibbling on triangular tuna sandwiches, head down as I spotted the solemn faces of my mum, dad and sister. We never talked about it again. I think they knew that I’d frightened myself the most.
Hash may seem innocent.
But for me it was a wake-up call to my body’s limitations. My drink I can handle. I know when to stop. My drugs I cannot. I scared myself in such a way that I never went near drugs or hung out with their experimenters ever again. I lost my street cred at college. As for my former friend, she went on to speed, LSD and all the rest. Finally making it to those much coveted raves in Ibiza. I had to start from scratch – outcast from my circle at a time when everybody else had already firmly established their college buddies.
This was a harsh lesson in learning the importance of taking my own path, following my gut instinct and relying on my intuition. At one point I recall I felt so lonely that I would eat my lunch in the toilets. Disgusting, yes, but I preferred the four walls of a cubicle to the taunts about the way I had almost ‘grassed up’ my former friend from the college common room. Isn’t it just the way? Her parents never did question the food poisoning story she fed them.
A happy ending.
Well of course I found my feet again. Slowly but surely new friends came my way. We stuck to Cinzano, cider and vodka at the weekends. No, I’m not saying any or all three of these are any better, each still a potential addiction. Each potentially lethal in their own way. But at least they had a label on their bottles. Who knew what else was lurking in our special batch of pot that day? But to get my happy ending I am truly glad I lost control. No, not at the time, not even remotely for years after.
But the bump in the road that was my one and only drugs escapade gave me two things:
1) The courage to quit caving into the demand to be a sheep; from that day forth I made my own decisions instead… which has led to the wonderful life I live now in my thirties.
2) A tale to tell my children. Not to be proud of it. Not to ram it down their throats: ‘Don’t do this or you’ll end up in hospital!‘ but to explain to them that they do have a choice. When, not if, they are offered illegal (and in the case of marijuana, in many countries, legal) substances that will induce a mind altering effect, they don’t have to say ‘yes’. They don’t have to say ‘no’ either. And of course I hope that they will! But sometimes, as much as we as parents hate to let go, the only way our children do learn what’s best for them is through experimentation. I’d like to think that mine won’t even bother, swayed away from emulating their ‘Mum The Bum’ by learning through my mistake.
I’m not an anti marijuana mummy.
I’m a holistic mamma – I know it does good stuff too and I know it’s the uneducated who give it a bad press. It is however a most powerful thing. Taken the wrong way it’s a recipe for disaster… I still suffer from panic attacks now. Marijuana, coupled perhaps with the precise experience I went through in a very social situation – I mean can it get any more public than paramedics and a large department store full of crowds of shoppers? – have rendered me agoraphobic. It’s something I live with. I have tried a number of therapies, but that fear of making an idiot of myself by passing out in a public place is something I take with me to airports, supermarkets (I have been known to abandon my shopping basket at the till and just run out!), anywhere with a large crowd, as well as wide open spaces where I have nowhere to hide.
So think about it – and other substances carefully before you use them – because their effects are not always as cut and dried as a few hours of being ‘out of it’ followed by the munchies.
So that was me! What about you?
Don’t claim to be all sweetness and light! We all have those teenage rebellion stories lurking in our closets. And while I would never suggest it’s good to dwell for long on the past, I do know that out of negatives come positives. When the time is right tell your children, and tell them why you think it happened too, then get behind the psychology of you. Explain how you were feeling at the time…
What led you to do what you did? Don’t worry about ruining your picture postcard parenting profile. That happened in their eyes years ago anyway! You’ll surprise yourself at how much respect you’ll garner for being open and honest, and you’ll be far more likely to see your kids making the right decisions all round when they are informed. There’s nothing like talking to someone who has been there, done that and worn the hemp T shirt to make you realise that the grass isn’t always greener…