I still remember the first time I ever tried Marijuana. The year was 2013; seventeen-year-old me was fresh-faced, still struggling to grow out a beard. All of my friends at the time—minus one or two—were smoking weed already, and I was one of the last people in my group to try it. The reason behind that was because I absolutely despised smoking at the time. Call it childish and idealistic (which it was), I hated the idea of smoking because I had grown up watching my father and uncles smoke cigarettes and the concept of them doing something that actively shortened their lives infuriated me. I promised myself at a young age that I would never become a smoker...
That was working out well and good as I condemned my friends for becoming potheads, or as we call them in Trinidad, "High Men." Until one fateful summer, your boy was suffering from the most serious case of heartache over some high school crush that didn't like me anymore (that often happened) and so fell to the temptation of wanting something to "numb" the pain. Alcohol was one route and was way easier to get in my country due to the culture of drinking it promotes, but alcohol only increased the depressed emotions, so I needed something different. Something new.
I remember being on top of a huge mountain with a group of my closest friends. These hills are called Paramin and a great many people live up there as a community that uses the rich mountain soil to produce an abundance of agricultural produce. There were crops everywhere and the night air was cool against my skin. There were no big city lights to block out the natural beauty that was the sky full of stars and a moon casting the palest light over our brown bodies. This is important to the story because this marks the moment in my life where I picked up a substance that would become part of my lifestyle up until the point of me writing this.
Trinidadians don't smoke spliffs, they smoke roll-ons. Specific to Trinidad, they roll the weed on to the tip of the cigarette so that the coarse cannabis produced in the local soil won't be too harsh on the lungs, and also as a quick means to hide the activity, lest anyone happens to catch you in the act. Yes, the taboo of it was another element of thrill that was added to that night. Unlike the consumption of alcohol, smoking for the youth was seen as a disgusting habit, and marijuana was heavily stigmatized within the minds of the general society. We felt like true children, having to hide and the first pull I took...I didn't notice anything. I thought I had to be doing it wrong, and looked to my friends for confirmation and they were like, "Nah bro, that's good, take another pull." By the time the roll on finished, my mind was properly in a haze. Laughter was falling out of my mouth, my eyes felt heavy and relaxed, my thoughts were wild and capricious...I was high.
The rest of that night was full of those good feelings. I was laughing until tears were flowing down my cheeks, until my lungs were gasping for air. I ate more food that night than I ever thought possible. I think I took an entire sandwich loaf and just cut it down the middle and filled it with peanut butter and went to town. That night changed a lot of things in my mind. I believe that, at that moment, I had found something that had no apparent negative effects with my emotions and certainly negated the bad ones, and so began my descent into being a proper "High Man."
As the years went by, my dependence on ganja began to grow. I started smoking more and more whenever anything bad would happen. I attributed many great things to smoking. It pulled me out of the house and took me to beautiful areas of my country I had not even previously known existed. I went to waterfalls and hidden beaches and forests, all to hide my habit from the rest of the world. It became a strong bond between my friends. We all had this one thing we loved doing in a closed group and it felt right. Maybe that is also why I did not notice the way its roots slowly began to take a deep hold on my person. I left the country to study in Canada where my habit kept growing because pain became optional when I had weed. Dealing with the pain of life, losing people, experiencing true loneliness, having loved ones die—ganja helped with all of that, but perhaps it helped too much.
The reason I say that is because, at the present moment, my perception of my habit is split into these two opposing forces that operate consistently throughout my days. If I am sober, there is anxiety in my mind; I feel restless and panicky. I get mood swings and, at this point, marijuana is no longer just a recreational activity, it's one that keeps me regulated. When I get high, however, there is a strong voice inside my head that calls back memories of my life before I started smoking. I get images of what it would be like to have a clear head all the time, not feel so lethargic and lazy. When I'm high, I fantasize about a world where I can accomplish all my tasks and goals without needing to be inebriated. I feel like I live in a constant push and pull of priorities between two personalities that developed to cater to separate needs. There is a duality that has been created inside my mind where it justifies all the good that marijuana has seemingly done for me, while also showing me all the things I've sacrificed in order to gain this sense of control over my emotions. I really wonder if it is worth it? And if I really wanted a change, I would do something to make that change happen instead of make up excuses for why it should persist.