Most women my age looking to de-stress turn to yoga, running or some other hobby — something legal.
Those are all fantastic ways to roll stress off one's shoulders. But after several particularly hectic weeks at work, when I'd come home crying to my fiancé about the burdens of being in a job that was too big for me, I decided to try something else. Something most folks have done at least once in their rebellious high school or college years.
I decided my new way to relax would be to get high.
My drinking days are mostly behind me, as every night out with friends at the bar ends with me getting sick. The prospect of getting high seemed sexier than sweating it up in hot yoga — mostly because up until a couple of months ago, I didn't know what getting high felt like.
During high school, my closest friends and I were actively involved in church. It never occurred to us to experiment with drugs, alcohol or sex, because we had Jesus. In college, I worked two jobs while balancing a full load of classes, tutoring and helping edit the school newspaper. I didn't even see a joint in real life until my early 20s. At that party, when I took a puff and passed the joint along to the next person, I felt nothing.
Now 30, I was determined to understand what "getting baked" really meant.
A sweet deal
As visible as marijuana is in pop culture, it was difficult to actually get my hands on some, with my regular 9-to-5, zero stoner friends and a fiancé whose workplace demands not only random piss tests but also the occasional Breathalyzer screening.
This isn't Colorado. I couldn't just go down to the tiny convenience store in NoDa and purchase a little baggie of green with my Diet Coke. (Wait — could I? Probably not.)
As luck would have it, I discovered that a friend of a friend, who I'd met a couple of times, bakes pot cookies. I'd heard of weed brownies, but never cookies. Seemed legit, though, and maybe even similar to my affinity for a vodka and water nowadays whenever I'm at a bar. A vodka and water simultaneously hydrates and intoxicates me. Perhaps edibles would fulfill the dual purpose of getting me high and satisfying the munchies.
Well, at least I won't have to figure out that whole inhaling thing, I told myself. I typed out a text message to my friend of a friend, inquiring about "cookies," making sure to include quotation marks.
"Sure! How many?" she quickly responded.
"How many do you recommend?" I typed back nervously. I had no idea how many to order. One? Five? 20? Do her kind of cookies come in packaged sleeves like the crack that is Girl Scout Cookies? It was like I was back in high school again — always the book-smart girl who made straight A's, never the cool kid with natural street smarts.
Based on her answer and texts back and forth with my best friend, who agreed to try the cookies with me, I asked for five. As it turned out, five was a few too many.
A couple of days later, I arranged to meet up with my cookie "dealer." As I waited impatiently at the agreed-upon meeting spot, I fidgeted with a handful of bills. Scared of how graceless I'd look if I short-changed her, I scrolled through our text conversation at least twice to make sure I had the price down correctly ($3.50 each), even going so far as to pull up the calculator on my iPhone to make sure my math was on point. I counted the money a couple of times. I considered the best scenario for the exchange. Should I put the bills in an envelope? No, no, that seemed too legit. I put the money back in my wallet. Then I pulled out the money, folded it up and placed it in the back pocket of my jeans. Then the front pocket. A scene from some TV crime show flashed in my head, and I stuffed the money in my bra.
Before I could change my mind again, she pulled up. Asking me how I'd been, she casually handed me a sandwich bag of what looked to be bite-sized oatmeal cookies.
Drugs? What drugs?
I pulled the money out of my bra and handed it to her, like I'd been buying green all my life.
Or, at least that's how I wanted to think I looked.
I texted her a little later, the awkward high school girl in me peeping out. "That was my first time buying cookies. Was I cool?"
"Totally cool," she responded. "Especially when you pulled the money out of your bra, lol."
Snack cake of death
It was a Tuesday night, and my fiancé was out of town. (One of the best parts about being an adult with no children is that you don't have to wait until the weekend to have fun.) My best friend by my side, our bounty of munchies lay before us on the coffee table in my living room, ready to be devoured. White chocolate macadamia nut cookies, freshly baked from our neighborhood grocery store. Salt and vinegar chips. Ice cream sandwiches. Chocolate-covered peanuts. Red velvet Little Debbie cakes. It was a wealth of junk food that I'd usually avoid at all costs.
My "dealer" had told me to try a quarter first, maybe a half. Considering how small they were — about the size of a 50-cent piece — my girl and I each ate half a cookie and turned on Homeland, our latest TV binge. While Claire Danes' character Carrie fell further into a manic depression, I waited for something to happen to my own mental state.
About 15 minutes into the episode, we ate another whole cookie each — they were just so small.
By the time an entire episode of Homeland was over, we had finished off the last two cookies. In less than an hour, we each ingested two-and-a-half cookies.
As the second episode geared up, disappointment edged into my periphery. Would the high that I'd only heard about in music, seen in movies, read about in books, always elude me? Was I just too strong-willed for weed?
Then my best friend got the giggles without me.
"On a scale of one to 10, what level are you?" I demanded, slouching into my leather sofa. Yeah, I was pouting a little.
"Seven," she managed to say between giggles. "What level are you?"
"One. Zero. Negative five." For some reason, she thought my answer was hilarious.
I slumped deeper into the couch, burrowing into the crevice where the two back pillows meet. A little more than an hour had passed since I'd eaten that cookie, and nothing was happening. I comforted myself by nibbling on a drug-free dessert and focusing on Homeland.
As I continued to watch TV — my best friend sprawled out on the couch like she owned it — I started to marvel at how Carrie seemed to jump out of the screen. When my fiancé and I moved in together, he had insisted we purchase the big-screen 3-D Smart TV, but we'd never actually used the glasses to watch a 3-D movie.
Now, suddenly, I was seeing what this TV was capable of.
The edges of my vision started to blur, so whatever I focused my attention on seemed more vibrant. The ceiling fan light above our head glowed warmly, its arms stretching out to hold onto something, anything.
"This is the best damn ice cream sandwich I've ever eaten," I whispered. My faithful sidekick in the night's experiment was motionless, staring straight ahead.
Although the only sounds in the room were coming from the TV — and the crackle of plastic as I opened various snacks — a low roar began behind my ears. I couldn't feel anything.
To distract myself, I focused instead on what was happening inside my mouth. An amazing assortment of flavors had exploded across my palate. I ran my tongue slowly along my gum line, feeling every single ridge in my teeth's enamel — it was like traveling up a bumpy mountain road inside my body.
The roar only grew louder. I couldn't hear Homeland anymore (the following week, we had to rewatch three episodes to recall what was happening in the storyline), much less feel my face, but something told me to go to the bathroom. Just as I closed the door behind me, I felt the roar from behind my ears descend into my stomach and punch me so hard, I threw up, a blackness projecting out of my soul.
In retrospect, I realize that blackness was the ice cream sandwiches I'd eaten. But in that moment, seeing a black gooey substance escape my organs, I concluded I could die that night.
"We ate too many," I said when I returned to the living room, my heart pounding in my ears. My friend responded by turning over on her side.
I rationalized that death couldn't catch me if I made sure to keep moving. So, as my best friend slept on the couch, as another episode of Homeland played that I wouldn't remember, I paced around my condo with my arms wrapped around myself, making sure to pinch my skin every so often. I guzzled water, hoping it would sober me up, only to stop about halfway through my second glass for fear of drowning.
The roar eventually disappeared, and it wasn't long after before I exhausted myself and fell asleep on the couch.
Despite the paranoia that set in that night, when I was certainly at a level 20, I've since indulged in the bliss that is a good high on a few more occasions. I only eat one cookie at a time now, while Bette Midler's rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" inevitably plays in the background — or maybe just in my head. Some people might not have given it another go after such a first experience. But that's what first times are all about: Overdoing it, staring death in the face and living another day to tell the tale.
Nancy Stoner is a pseudonym.
Disclaimer: CL neither endorses nor promotes illegal behavior. Nancy Stoner's story was just really funny.
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