Recollections of my first encounter with cannabis as a cure

By Oran Ryan

JOE FRIDAY’S FASCINATION*

For a very long time I was the kind of a person who feared and loathed marijuana as the doom of society, something fringe radicals did, but not me. Offer me a toke at a social get-together and I was that nice, clean guy in a clean T-shirt who smiled and just said, “No thank you.”

I was afraid. I was hiding my fear and loathing behind middle class respectability. I was judging the person offering me “drugs” with all the condemnation of the Grand Inquisitor.

You see, in Ireland, the laws are pretty strict around illegal drugs, cannabis included.

To me, pot was dangerous, immoral and awfully illegal. To me, Big Brother was watching and judging pot smokers. All this pot smoking did was lead to Johnny Cash moments: Arrest, conviction and eventual addiction.

For me back then, smoking marijuana could only lead to a psychotic state that included dreaming of woodwork and talking about Star Trek. Pot was a lifelong existence in a state of couch-lock. Weed smokers were losers, indulging in selfish laziness and bad poetry. Yes, I believed all that. I really did

Once.

Except underneath all my judging was a Great Big Lie. The truth was that I actually smoked weed for a brief but blissful period back in my 20s. Back then, I lived alone in a small cottage on Cork Street in Dublin, Ireland, and there, I would meet with a friend who was a school teacher. He taught kids and teenagers applied math and physics. Every Friday, we would drink cheap wine and discuss topics that mattered to us. And we got high. It was truly wonderful.

My pal, let’s call him Joe Friday, liked to share a very good and very pure (no additives) blend of homegrown sativa that his wife, a Greek Cypriot, cultivated in an attic room. Naturally, everything was safely locked away from the kids.

I still remember those evenings from decades ago. Joe would drop by about seven. I would be waiting with a meal prepared. After the meal, he would take out a small, leather pouch and say, “Here, you old sod, now fascinate me!”

I would clean my meerschaum pipe, swipe the bowl a few times with some rubbing alcohol, and  place the green buds in the pipe, filling it right up. After pouring glasses of cheap wine and putting some Pink Floyd or Bob Dylan on the record player, we kicked back for the rest of the evening.

I loved smoking his weed. I relaxed, talked and laughed. During those evenings, it wasn’t simply the overwhelming calm and euphoria I felt. It was the way that the heaviness, hopelessness, darkness and anxiety that so dogged me my whole life seemed to lift for this short time. It was as if someone gave me “the kiss of life.”

I worked back then as an assistant teacher. The days were long and the kids had learning issues, so meeting with Joe at the end of the work week was a fantastic way for me to decompress.

Of course, back then, I didn’t realize that others did not experience what I experienced: The dark thoughts, anxiety and weeks adrift in a terrifying void. I was a young, post-graduate schooled in the dark arts of abnormal psychology. I didn’t know I would later be diagnosed with clinical depression.

My friend, Joe, enjoyed my company, and the marijuana he brought to our meetings was a gesture of love and friendship. I remember how, after he departed to return to his family, I would go to bed and with my head on a pillow, look up through the roof window and drift peacefully away into a deep, dreamless sleep. I would wake in my little cottage the next morning so calm and refreshed.

It’s interesting to reflect how the marijuana Joe shared was the right thing for me. More than any other medication, it always helped and never hurt. I never experienced any withdrawal symptoms . No headache. No irritability. No heaviness or lack of mental acuity, despite pot’s dreadful reputation back then. Cannabis really helped me. This medicine, this specific blend of herb, it really helped. It gave me some deep relief.

As I got older, I stopped using weed because I thought it was dangerous and was warned away from it by therapists. I spent a lot of time in the offices of my therapists and psychiatrists, who always listened to me with keen therapeutic awareness and long silences. They prescribed me medications that had horrible side-effects like headaches, stomach aches, limited emotional responsiveness, a sense of general numbness, low or no sex drive, memory issues, and further emotional deadening, not to mention the horrible weeks of coming off a medication, only to be prescribed another.

Just a few years back, I found the sativa blend and began using it again. I got the relief I needed, the exact effects I remembered. Today, I don’t take any medication other than this particular blend. It works.

It’s like I’m back in that cottage on Cork Street in Dublin.

The fire blazes.

The cheap wine pours out.

The kids run about outside.

The great conversation flows out as Pink Floyd resonates in the background.

And the feeling of peace and calm that I experienced two-and-a-half decades before – now I know it again.

*Names, dates and locations changed to protect the identities of the people mentioned in the story.

  • Oran Ryan is a writer who lives in Wicklow, Leinster, Ireland. His novels include, The Death of Finn, Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger, and One Inch Punch. He also writes poetry and plays for radio and stage. He has also written and published short stories, poetry and literary criticism for readers in Ireland, the USA, and elsewhere .  “I have a specific interest in feminist literature, women’s rights, as well as vegetarianism,” Ryan said. Readers may contact Ryan via his Facebook page.