On Smoking

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic
Just a short bit of writing on my life situation.

Submitted: December 18, 2011

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Submitted: December 18, 2011

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I am a senior in San Marcos, California. I am currently facing expulsion charges for coming to school high on marijuana. The school believes that I am a danger to others in the school, and that the illegality of the drug necessitates my immediate removal. Expulsion is the most serious thing I've ever had to face down on my own, and as the hearing is happening after the winter break, the anticipation and anxiety leading into it is extremely trying. I can't honestly say that I am innocent of the charges assigned to me, and if it is only a matter of legality and policy I have no argument that will cover my behavior. However, I am both offended at the accusation that I am a danger to others, and worried about the thought mode of the school I attend for treating marijuana users in this fashion. Marijuana is the only reason I have ever managed to pull together decent grades as a student, and it is also what drove me to overcome the social anxiety and disaffection that dominated my first two years of high school.
My educational history is one of repeated failure for many years, and social alienation for the same duration. I'll start my narrative in freshman year of high school, but it's important to understand that the underlying problems are much more far-reaching in their implications. When I joined high school, I was tall (6' 4" then, 6'7" now), awkward, and found social interaction forced and difficult. I wasn't able to make connections with the people around me, and I felt as if my fellow students, even my friends, were part of some body of people that included everyone but me, and didn't care to have me among them. When I talked to people, I was for a long time only capable of shallow small talk and situational humor to keep myself afloat with others socially. I became pretty good at making puns and witty observations on the fly, and it's still what most people expect of me, not knowing that the behavior is a safety net to prevent any deeper interaction, of which I was terrified.
I didn't make any true friends for the first couple of years in high school, and instead I only had people who enjoyed my cartoonish humor and antics. Knowing that people only enjoyed my company for the act I put on to protect myself was devastating, but I kept it up because I had nobody to explain myself to. I became more and more mired in a sense of not belonging, and felt so alienated from my peers that I felt physically ill from being in a room with all of them, to the extent where I had a major anxiety attack on a school bus, returning from Six Flags. I sat in my chair for two and a half hours, over-ear headphones blaring, hating everyone around me and myself for my own weakness. It still stands out as one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. A lot of people noticed, but none of them understood the underlying issue, and they thought I must just be sick, and avoided talking or even looking at me. To this day, there are people I distrust because of how they reacted to me, even though I know how irrational it is to base my assumptions off of that.
In school, I was a failing student who had the capacity to do all the work. When I came to school, I was always miserable, although never on the outside. My teachers recognized that I was intelligent, mostly through written work and projects where I had a chance to innovate, and it must have been challenging watching those occasional sparks buried under a miasma of indolence and apparent disdain. If any of them manage to read this, I apologize from behind my anonymity, and I pledge that none of my refusal to work stemmed from them. I got my world education from the Internet and news, and as I was often home immediately after school since I had nothing else to do, I learned a lot. I knew more about the trials of war, poverty, and disease from my safe suburban bubble at home than most of my teachers, and it burned me up. Knowing how miserable the world seemed to be, I had no idea how people could be happy living in it, or what kind of terrible person could decide it was a fit place for a child. Even the rich and fortunate, I assumed, must have felt burdened by the overwhelming suffering in the world. For most of my life, that was all I knew about the world, and I honestly didn't want to live in it anymore. At school, I felt useless and hopeless, as if I were being primed to be the perfect citizen of the world of my own nightmares, which retrospectively were delusions of the media hysteria I soaked up every day. I didn't care about the coursework, or my grades, or much anything else for that matter, because I didn't want to live in the world I was in. I felt separate from everyone I knew, and I knew that outside of the security of suburbia there lied many horrors that I could never overcome, and the world was apathetic to.
Feeling so miserable in the suburbs made me believe myself to be nothing more than a weak-spirited idiot, and for a long time I questioned whether I deserved to live in this world. For a couple months of my life, I stayed up all night, motionless in my room, overcome and incapacitated in a miasma of self-loathing and unwarranted grief at what I perceived to be my own inferiority. For two months, I was extremely close to committing suicide. At one point, it came to a head. I had previously stripped wires that I had bought from a local hardware store, and planned to electrocute myself with them. I have, all my life, had an occasional heart arrhythmia that makes my heart beat wildly and painfully at little provocation, but very rarely. My hope was that electrocuting myself would throw the problem into overdrive, and I would die immediately of cardiac arrest with no chance of failure. The only reason I am still alive is because of a faulty surge protector that shortly sparked before not working anymore. If I had known that would happen, at that point in my life I would've used a wall socket. I look back at those times as the darkest part of my life, and I am more glad than anything that they are behind me. But although I have undergone a great spiritual and emotional overhaul, it was not myself alone that managed to beat my own depression. Enter marijuana.
My brother introduced me to the stuff in November of my junior year, when I was staying at his dorm while my parents were in a nearby hotel. We were visiting his university, and it seemed to me to be a perfect opportunity to try this. I actually didn't get high the first time I smoked, nor when I tried again the next day, but I saw how stoned my brother and his friends were, and how happy they seemed, and kept going for it. It didn't happen the whole time I was up there, but when I got back, I spent $80 on a bubbler and $40 on weed, all the money I had at the time. I went out with a couple of my friends to a nature reserve, and smoked in my friend's car. It was, simply put, amazing. I felt great for the first time in a long time, and even better than I had then. I loved the music I was listening to, the place I was at, and, for the very first time, my friends. For the first time in my life, I felt secure and comfortable around my friends, and not all of our interactions were shallow snark. I went for a walk, and talked with my friends about my life, what I liked and disliked, who I was as a person. The removal of inhibition and will to be happy was the greatest thing I had ever experienced socially, and I still remember that day over a year later.
After getting high once, I did as often as possible. I left the house to smoke with my buddies whenever I could, and bought weed in equal regard. My friends were finally people I loved to be with, and people who I knew more about than the surface, and it was unbelievable to me that they reciprocated the understanding. Some of the kindest things ever said to me have been said to me by people who were high, and I take no less joy out of it for that reason. People, I found, weren't as alien as I had once believed, and as I heard about their triumphs, struggles, insecurities, everything down to their favorite music, I actually began to connect with people. I used to have fun with friends, but there was always a layer of detachment and indifference that I felt. With my stoner friends, I didn't feel that for the most part. Not everyone was as great as I am describing, but everyone who was smoked with me a lot. I discovered new music (there isn't a genre I entirely hate now) and found new joy in things like astronomy and theology, as shown to me by Sagan and Hitchens. It was an amazing transformation.
Even in school, the effects were felt. I was genuinely interested in some of my topics now, and my grade shot up in biology, which I found fascinating, and English, which I had a slight edge in due to minor writing ability. Other classes I still was behind in, as I was still becoming a happier person, and still wasn't sure of a lot of what was asked of me, and I had a rubbish math teacher besides. In some ways, I still questioned whether my happiness was deserved or not, as I still knew of all the injustice in the world, and I wasn't sure that I had really earned happiness until I had changed something. But the fact that changing the world instead of fleeing from it became my goal is something I am still proud of, and still try to maintain to this day. My goal is no longer to slink through my life unnoticed and uninterrupted by the outside world, but to be a positive force of change within it to bring the kind of happiness I had learned to other people. By that, I don't mean I wanted everyone to smoke weed, but I wanted people to feel what it was like to go on a hike, listen to music, and love every hill, note, tree, stanza, and cloud that they saw, and for people to be in a life situation where that kind of happiness might inspire them to help others as well. My dream is to become a journalist, where I feel I can directly help the few I come into contact with by being positive, and help communities and groups of people by bringing light to their situations and hopefully help as well.
Soon after I began to smoke, I was caught by my parents. They asked me a lot of questions about why I smoked, who I was with, and the other "usual suspect" kind of things. I knew I could never put into spoken words what I felt about smoking, so I just repented and gave it all away. I was back to coming home right after school, and I was no longer with my friends. Eventually, I managed to buy weed again (it's easier than any other drug, including alcohol or cigarettes, to procure). I smoked more, but it definitely wasn't the same. I felt hunted by some people who looked down upon me, and even worse, by my parents. The thing that had literally brought about a new way of thought for me was gone. I didn't feel as if I had a physical need for it, but the sense of injustice to me was terrible. Smoking became less of a joyful activity and more of a crutch, where I would allow myself to fall into the same routine of alienation and self-loathing, and catch myself with a quick smoke by myself at night, perhaps with a book or my Gameboy Advance for company. Being a lonely stoner hurt and felt unfair, but I felt as if me joining my friends again was too dangerous, and the unfairness of seeking happiness being banned was terrible.
I began to shut down again for a short time, but eventually managed to get myself ungrounded, and went again to another period of happiness, during which I was caught again. This time, I didn't have any weed, and I had stolen some of my brother's. I felt so bad about it that I couldn't even bring the lighter to the bowl, and was bringing it back to his room when I heard my parent's door open, at which point I told my dad that I was asking my brother for weed, but he had told me to avoid it and didn't do it himself. I felt as if by attracting all of the anger towards me, I could somehow recoup the disgrace I had brought to myself by stealing what didn't belong to me. Again, I was banned from leaving the house, but perhaps because I had made my brother seem in the clear, my parents were more lenient, and I began again. I didn't get caught for a long time after that, until I showed up to a family dinner at a restaurant with red eyes. I didn't honestly smoke that much before the meal, but my only eye drops were expired generics. I got the same treatment, but because I had nothing on me, nothing could be conclusively said about my habits, or the regularness of smoking. Because of this, I was let off even faster than before, which gave me hope that my parents were warming up to my ways, which I know isn't true.
Things continued as normally for me. I made a new friend from a different school who smoked me out a lot, so I didn't need to buy weed that often, and a relatively new stoner with a lot of money hung out with me too, so I was mostly covered on my school excursions. Whenever I had the money or opportunity, I bought weed to pay them back, but my bank account was monitored, and almost all of my money was in it so it was very difficult to do much more than pitch $5 at a time on group purchases. I lived, though, and my friends showed incredible graciousness in allowing me to keep enjoying their belongings, and having them in my life is awesome.
It was with two of my best friends that I was eventually caught by my school. I came in to school a bit late, and my mother was there unbeknownst to me to try and rally me to get better grades (although I was typically happier, the turbulent nature of the past year had left me with extreme turbulence at school: when I focused and thought about the end goal, I could do amazing things, but most of the time the work seemed trivial and dull, and I felt as if the happiness I was feeling was being strained out through a grinder, a la The Wall). The dean of students intercepted my best friend at the gate, and the expression of utmost terror on his face is the worst my empathy for other people could ever give me cause to feel.
I was called to sit behind the front desk of the school, where I could be showcased as an example to every single person who entered the school (This is not an exaggeration, the school's layout is designed so that the receptionist can see everyone in anticipation of tardies, and being directly behind the desk everyone walked by was humiliating and awful). The dean of students told me he would be back quickly, of which he lied. I sat there, boiling in my own fear and anxiety, for over an hour. I saw none of the people I had been with that morning, and I feared so badly for them that I was physically ill at the thought of what I perceived I had brought on them, but I did my best to square my shoulders and not let them see any weakness. Eventually, I saw the dean walk up to the receptionist with my friend, sign him out, and had him leave. He didn't even watch him go.
After my friend was gone, he called me to his office. I could see the other person who was there, a friend of mine who has brought me so much happiness and good times, sitting outside his office looking anxious and caught. Seeing someone reduced like that was the final straw in breaking me down, and when the dean began to interrogate me, I was already stumbling over my words, and giving contradictions to my own story. The dean implied that the others had both confessed and been found with something, both of which were lies (it turned out he had been tipped off by an anonymous source), and I am sure he got his initial confession by implying the same betrayal to one of my best friends. I feel less angry at him for using such a dirty tactic as I do myself for distrusting my friends on such an important matter, even if he had already been successful once. He informed me that I was to be suspended pending an expulsion hearing, and since this was rather recently, I am waiting over break to hear whether I am going to remain at school.
The dean told me what I had done was poor decision making, as well as dangerous. He told me that my school is not a school that likes to deal with stoners, and as the number of single-offense expulsions since my arrival there is in the double digits, I believed him. The dean was my sophomore English teacher, and he does harbor a sliver of respect for me, and as such he used less derogatory words to reference me than he did the others. He assured me that the other expulsions had made the school a better place, and the implication that I was a bad presence at the school boggled my mind. I am fairly well-liked at my school, and I do my best to make others happy around me. I have my crass moments, but I never try to actually hurt other people, or let myself succumb to the petty hate that is so prevalent in high school. My grades are terrible, so if this is the rubric they use, the implication made was a correct one indeed. But in any case besides that one, he's absolutely wrong. In any case, whether I drop out of high school, (High Tech has non-transferable credits because it's charter) or manage to crawl into a community college is up to an administration that has proven time and time again that cutting out the stoners is a more important goal then understanding them as people.
Before I end my little rant here, I just want to go on record as saying that implying marijuana is a dangerous drug is a ridiculous claim. I've been on a smoking basis of once or twice a week to daily for weeks, and I can assure that besides the intended effects of happiness, more unbridled thinking, and lethargy, there is no danger. I avoid drinking often, I never smoke cigarettes, and I would never touch synthetic drugs like spice, which would have been legal for me to have but are far more dangerous. My driving ability has never been destroyed by smoking, and when I am too high to drive I let someone else do it because I perceive the danger and sidestep it, something a drunk or a hard drug user would not have the presence of mind to do. Nor does weed, as many would say, make you stupid. I got into a habit of getting high and reading articles from around the world, watching TEDtalks, and watching specials about nature, biology, astronomy, and even simple things like How It's Made. When I'm high and my brain is undergoing different, more open thought patterns, learning is an amazing reward unto itself. And, I even remember what they were about! I've gotten more open-minded about the music and other media that I take in, and as a consequence of stoned joy in simple movement and exertion I even began to work out on a twice-daily basis. In my life currently, there is nothing I love more than curling up on my beanbag and pulling out a book/my 3DS/any kind of Youtube player so I can catch up on MLP: Friendship is Magic. To say that weed is a danger to myself or others is patently ridiculous.
Finally, there's the overarching message, which I suppose these kinds of autobiographical narrations entail. Weed is not a bad thing. It doesn't hurt people, and in many cases can help immensely. Saying that everyone would be better off smoking is stupid, but saying that exposing everyone to it at some point would have a net positive effect is a distilled truth. I will never regret my time smoking, nor will I discontinue it, regardless of what happens to me. I hope that writing this can perhaps inspire those who are a bit down to try marijuana, although it was extremely cathartic to myself to write this. Regardless of what happens to me, I feel confident that writing about the injustice (however minor) I face and continuing to act on principle can change the world, however slightly, and I am sure the effect is positive.


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