What Makes An Addict?

Jenni and I have been discussing addiction the last few days. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit following a discussion with one of my cousins about cutting off his dreadlocks.

His family had been pushing him to cut them for years since they never really bought into the Rasta lifestyle. What finally brought him around was his court date after the police raided his grow houses.

So he’s all cleaned up now and attending narcotics anonymous meetings. It’s been about three months since everything went down and he’s still waiting to find out what exactly the government is planning on doing.

One of the things he has working in his favor is the near complete lack of money. He had a friend who had an idea for a raw foods vegan grocery and he lent the guy pretty much all his money and cosigned on the lease for a building.

The grocery has since failed, taking with it any profits from his growing.

He has a social problem in that his parents don’t agree with his lifestyle and want him to shape up into something they respect more. He has a legal problem in that the government doesn’t like the plant that he enjoys growing. What I am not really convinced of is that he has a moral problem.

Listening to him discuss growing was like listening to an artist. Getting high is a religious ceremony for Rastafarians. They refer to marijuana as their sacrament.

I understand how this seems strange to many people, particularly in our culture that glosses over and equates all forms of “intoxication.” One of the more comprehensive reviews of marijuana’s affects on the user that I’ve seen is from Tart’s Altered States of Consciousness.

It is also important to understand that the nature of the experience is very much dependent on the mindset of the individual going into it.

I went to a party one time where an unskilled baker had accidentally produced an enormously potent batch of pot cookies. While it isn’t possible to die nor are there any known long-term health effects from consuming massive amounts of THC, it certainly does have some pretty serious mental consequences.

I sat at the kitchen table and wrote a long letter to my sober self trying to explain that so much of my sense of disconnection from my everyday life comes from being unwilling to accept the thousands of possibilities that I cut off with every decision that I make.

A choice for one thing means no choice for something else.

I sat and experienced a state where all the possibilities of all the choices in each moment branched out and existed somewhere in alternate sometimes. That I could see not only the one little branch that I actively lived in this massive infinite dimensional tree, but that I could sense the tree as a whole.

It gave me an amazing sense of control and choice in my life. That every moment was something I chose to be.

I was the only person who this happened to. Everyone else was violently ill and spent a couple hours puking. If I didn’t have a couple years of meditation practice under my belt to help me fight the impulse to prevent the world from splintering into a thousand iridescent shards, I have little doubt I would have spent my time ralphing as well.

So it matters that my cousin thinks he has a relationship with this plant. That he goes into the experience looking for those Rastafarian values of peace and human dignity. Those expectations shape the sort of experience that he has.

When I talked to him about cleaning up, he talked about those social and legal issues, but he never talked about having a personal problem with what he was doing. I asked him if he thought that the weed was damaging his ability to think and he said he did think he’d seen a decrease in his analytical abilities, but he didn’t seem particularly broken up about it.

The most disturbing thing was actually talking to him about growing. He talked about the relationships he had with his plants and the unique sorts of experiences that he attempted to cultivate. He talked about the pleasure that he felt when someone would describe having a journey consuming a plant that he’d grown.

I say it was disturbing not because of my exposure to the seedy underbelly of the drug culture, but because he really seemed to love it. He had a passion for it beyond what most people have in their 9-5 and he was good at it. Other than the opinions of the world around him he could live a perfectly happy life growing his plants and wandering around stoned all the time.

I guess the whole question for me comes down to a philosophical one. How much of a right do we have to tell each other whether the passions that we feel are proper or not? I’m all about keeping rapists, thieves and pedophiles from doing what they might like to do. My cousin though? He is one of the most peace loving people I know. He was almost certainly a less focused member of society for the continual high he maintained, but he was happy and not hurting anyone, so who am I to judge?

At this point in time I consider it my moral duty to him to try to provide him with an accurate and realistic picture of the world that I can. He has to understand that not hurting anyone else is not enough to keep a person out of jail in America right now. Ultimately though, there has to come a point that he takes in all the information and lives his own life.

I really hope that things work out for him. I strongly suspect the government is going to lock him up for at least a while. They’ve done so to more benign offenders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *