Learning to be responsibly irresponsible

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

The first time I smoked pot I was 16 years old. It was in the ravine close to my high school in a well-wooded area with three friends and they had expertly turned a disposable water bottle into a makeshift bong. I had never smoked anything before so I had no idea what to expect.

For anyone reading who has partaken of this particular leaf before, you probably know the wonderful feeling I felt afterward. Walking to my friends’ place I felt like I was on cloud nine. We were laughing and skipping and when we got to his house we listened to old progressive rock records before dozing off for a nap.

All in all it was a very good day. Not at all what I had expected when I first found out my friends were “stoners” a few months before.

We had just finished class and walked outside to catch the bus when one of them pulled out a joint and asked if we wanted to share. I froze. I was so concerned about peer pressure and being coerced into trying “gateway” drugs that I shut down in front of them.

And then something weird happened.

They saw how stressed and worried I looked and the most blunt of them put his hand on my shoulder and told me I didn’t have to have any if I didn’t want to. In his words, “we don’t want you freaking out and getting us caught.”

It was the opposite of what the cops who came into our elementary school classes tried to scare us about.

Despite being friends with stoners, after that day they never mentioned it in front of me because I had looked so uncomfortable.

I was never pressured into trying pot. I only tried it when I wanted to, after I had done months of research and knew exactly the circumstances I would be trying it in.

I called it being “responsibly irresponsible” and it was the motto that carried me through the rest of high school.

It’s about being smart with everything you do rather than abstaining from all risky activities.

I smoked a few times a month afterwards until graduation and have continued to occasionally partake through my time in university, though admittedly not as often. And recently, I realized how this was how all the successful people in my life went about having fun.

That may sound exaggerative, but I don’t know many people who fully abstain from alcohol and the most successful people I know have excellent self-control in terms of how they consume.

Casual and regular use of drugs is rampant throughout our society and I’m not willing to say that it’s such a bad thing.

Recently I learned from a friend who had completed their master’s a few years before that cocaine can be prevalent in some higher academic circles, but you never hear horror stories about it because of how community driven those spaces are.

She would use some to power through writing big chunks of her master’s thesis, but would only do so in the presence of the other students, some of whom partook and others who didn’t.

To her it was no different than getting strung up on a pot of coffee at two in the morning during a cram session. And since finishing her master’s she hasn’t touched the stuff.

Responsible irresponsibility, taking calculated risks, being informed about what you are putting into or doing with your body.

It’s a simple guideline to live your life by that will help you find the compromise between the risks that you want to take and ensuring that you are safe.

Do your research. Know who to call in an emergency. Don’t do drugs with people you don’t trust.

Don’t use a cup or a bottle or a pill when you don’t know where it’s been. Be around friends who will take care of you if you have a bad trip. Choose a designated driver.

Keep money on your OneCard or cash in your wallet for a taxi. Use the buddy system when at a club or party. Have Foot Patrol on speed dial.

I have too many functional drug users in my life who excel at school and keep down their jobs for me to judge drug users in general.

Obviously this is not an endorsement of all drugs at all times for all people.

But curiosity about drugs, or really any behaviour with associated risks isn’t something to avoid at all costs, nor is it something to shame others over.

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