Live Through This

Medium Cool

This week we’ve run articles on doing lots of drugs and abstaining from everything. Here’s one about choosing the middle path.

Illustration by Kelly

I’ve always been a quitter. There are very few things that I can say I’ve stuck with for more than a few years—my brain just seems to get bored after a little while. Smoking pot was the same way. I started smoking occasionally with my friends during my sophomore year of high school. For us, it was easier to get weed than alcohol, and since we weren’t really going to any parties, smoking just seemed to make more sense. We would use a little bowl or a crushed soda can (TERRIBLE idea, I have no idea what we were inhaling) to smoke bad, cheap weed in somebody’s basement or the park. Was it fun? Sort of—we’d laugh like crazy about random things and eat tons of food, which is pretty much what we would do even if we weren’t high. The next day, I’d go home bloated and tired, feeling like my mind was working just a bit slower than usual.

Around junior year, I began drinking more than smoking, preferring the way that alcohol turned me into a more outgoing and confident version of myself. I was under pretty strict parental supervision, but still managed to do a couple of ridiculous, irresponsible things. I went home with a complete stranger (and let him drive my parents’ car), I passed out in a friend’s bathtub, and I drank until I puked. More than once. Looking back on this time period only three years later, I hear the old woman in my head go, “What the hell were you thinking?” I don’t have too many regrets about the things that I’ve done, but it doesn’t take much thinking to realize that my actions were incredibly risky. My friends at the time were, quite reasonably, pretty concerned with what I was doing. Luckily for me, this period lasted only six months or so until I made some older friends and learned the value of drinking in moderation. Who knew that other people actually drank while playing games or dancing, rather than simply for the goal of being shitfaced? It was a valuable lesson that kept me (mostly) out of trouble for the rest of my high school career.

You’ve read a couple of articles this week about the extremes of the substance-use spectrum: people who’ve done lots of different drugs or who abstain from everything. I’m here to present a different path—a middle path, if you will. I drink, but not in excess. I go out for drinks on weekends with friends. That’s all I do. I’ve never even tried anything harder than liquor and weed, and I have no desire to. Marijuana was never a “gateway drug” for me. In fact it’s lost all of its appeal for me.

The ironic part is that I’m in college now, in New York City, and I have never had such easy access to good-quality weed, and so many people offering it to me for free. My closest friends all smoke cigarettes and pot, and constantly ask me—or rather, jokingly plead with me—to join them. I never do, mostly because it’s been over a year now and I’d like to keep the streak going, but also because there’s just so much more stuff to DO here in New York. Not only night things, like clubs or bars or parties, but tons of museums, concerts, themed parties, and so on to the point where I actually feel like I’m wasting my time by not being busy exploring the city 24/7. And yes, I’m sure there are plenty of people who do all of those things while high, but when my friends smoke pot it usually leads to them spending the night in bed ordering a delivery of 20 cookies for three people (happened), or passing out and being taped to their own bed (also true). I love my friends dearly, but if I have to be completely honest I love them a lot more when they aren’t high.

Last spring, I started getting horrible side effects after drinking even small quantities of hard alcohol—horrific stomach cramps combined with the other lovely side effects that one would typically associate with food poisoning. (I don’t think I need to get into details here.) I’m still not sure if this was caused by having one too many shots of cheap vodka, or my body was simply rebelling against me, but I eventually made the connection and switched to drinking only wine and beer. I also started drinking a bit less, partly out of stinginess (drinks can cost $10-$16 each in NYC) and partly because I realized how annoying it can be for other, more sober people to have to take care of you when they just want to enjoy their night out. But I never saw a reason to stop drinking altogether.

My recent stint of near-sobriety (in comparison to my past, at least) has taught me a couple things. One is that many people will not stop asking you to smoke or drink with them, even if you tell them that it will make you disgustingly sick. I’ve had to give graphic descriptions of vomiting while on the toilet in order to convince people that I really don’t want to take a shot of Smirnoff with them, thanks. For those who don’t want to imbibe, I’ve found “I’m allergic to hard liquor” and “I’m driving tonight” to be the most effective ways to get others off your case. But once you get your point across, people will usually respect you and include you in whatever they are doing, even if you aren’t as wasted as they are. Watching drunk people say and do absurd things can be either truly hilarious or insanely boring depending on your mood. The good news is that this helps you figure out which people you actually enjoy being around. Some people are fun all the time, drunk or otherwise. Some people are not. When you are actually able to observe this with some degree of sobriety, you can make the distinction more quickly.

I still drink because I like to drink. Having a few drinks on a weekend night is fun. It’s sort of the cheap(er) version of having dinner with friends, and the relaxing effects of alcohol make it easier to socialize with new people or go out dancing without feeling awkward. I’ve also reached the point where I sort of enjoy the taste of a good beer or wine. I, like all under-21 college students, have a fake ID, and with easy access to alcohol, drinking has become less of a competitive sport performed at frat parties (or so I hear from my friends at other schools) and more something to go out and do at an interesting restaurant or bar. Drinking is definitely not something I feel 100% compelled to do—when I’m busy with work or with friends who don’t imbibe, I can easily go a month or so without it—but as long as I don’t have to go out of my way for a glass of wine, why not? So, see, I’m not always a quitter.

I feel like this account should be concluded with some kind of moral that I would have wanted to tell my 14-year-old self. Of course things like this always aren’t so clear-cut, but it probably would go something like this:

Dear Self,

Drinking and smoking can both be fun. They can also make you lazy or sick, and can cause you to act in ways that you normally wouldn’t. What they can’t do, no matter what anybody says, is make you happier or make your life more interesting. Just keep that in mind for the rest of high school, OK?

P.S. Try not to get caught so much! You’ve clearly got some terrible luck. ♦

32 Comments

  • marimba_girl January 20th, 2012 3:15 PM

    This tends to be more of the category that I fall into. Although I have gotten drunk (read: shitfaced) with my friends I like to think that I have a healthy reapect for alcohol. I think it is partialy because my parents would often let me have a small glass of wine with dinner or a beer at family parties as a teenager. Untill this past summer I had never really wanted to drink because I didn’t get the attraction, it was just something I did under parental supervision. I have never smoked weed or cigarettes because I have awful allergies. Even being in the car with someone smoking really bothers my lungs.

  • Fortune_Goddess January 20th, 2012 3:32 PM

    I really like that you showed all THREE sides of this issue! Thank you. I’m not quite old enough to actually drink/smoke but when that time comes, I think my decision about whether to do these things or not will be influenced by this!

  • youarebananas January 20th, 2012 3:34 PM

    thanks so much for this–i don’t think i’ve ever heard such a level-headed account of alcohol use, and this is a lot more thought-provoking for me than a lecture on either extreme. what sometimes bothers me about my peers’ relationships alcohol/drugs is that they don’t think about it at all, whether or not they partake–either they condemn everyone who does or they stigmatize everyone who doesn’t. so thanks for putting out something so moderate.

  • Abby January 20th, 2012 3:45 PM

    Wonderful! Although I’ve never had more than a barely-alcoholic martini from my friend’s parent’s liquor cabinet, and I’ve never smoked anything, it’s very cool to see someone who seems to have alcohol and smoking under control while having fun with it. Good for you! And thank you to all of you who wrote this three-part series for being real!

  • missblack January 20th, 2012 4:35 PM

    YES YES YES. This is great. Totally agree.

    Little&Trivial

  • megantron January 20th, 2012 4:58 PM

    Moderation in all things! When I was in high school, I was more like Emily (in fact, I didn’t have my first drink until my first night at college). And now, while I definitely do enjoy drinking with my friends, I don’t (often) do the whole 8-shots-in-a-row, getting shitfaced/blacking out thing they love so much. It’s more fun to just have a few drinks–you loosen up, but not to the point where you’re hunched over a toilet bowl with a friend holding back your hair as you puke up the entire contents of your stomach. Plus, SOMEONE needs to be the one who can remember the whole night (lest you have a “The Hangover”-type situation) 8)

    “And yes, I’m sure there are plenty of people who do all of those things while high, but when my friends smoke pot it usually leads to them spending the night in bed ordering a delivery of 20 cookies for three people (happened), or passing out and being taped to their own bed (also true).” These are definitely my friends too! With both pot and alcohol. The only thing that really annoys me about my friends who drink like fish is that they often end up passing out before we even leave the door (a compelling reason not to pregame so hard). Drinking just for the sake of drinking gets old FAST.

    Anyway, great series–I really enjoyed reading all the essays from this.

  • Maialuna January 20th, 2012 5:08 PM

    Is it odd that I just have zero interest in any kind of thing like this? The only time I drink alcohol is because Margaritas taste really good and sometimes my mom will let me have a sip. But I don’t really feel tempted at all to have my mindset changed by any sort of substance. Of course, I’m still young, but I’d expected by now to have some sort of curiosity about it.

    • clarapop January 20th, 2012 10:02 PM

      I completely agree with you! I really don’t have an interest in alcohol or drugs. The problem I have is finding friends who don’t care about stuff like that, but aren’t all straight-edgey.

  • annagracie January 20th, 2012 5:17 PM

    This whole series has been so great. What I like about all the articles is that they have been realistic and informative–without being preachy. You’re not telling us that how we SHOULD live our lives, but you’re helping us decide how we might want to. Thank you so much, Rookie.

  • Caligirl January 20th, 2012 6:45 PM

    I tried weed a few times, but never really liked it because:
    * I don’t like smoke of any kind as it gives me a headache.
    *I don’t like the smell.
    *I don’t enjoy having my lungs feel as though they are coated with junk for a few days afterwards.
    *I don’t enjoy forgetting what I’m thinking about in the middle of a thought or falling asleep in the middle of a sentence.
    *It causes me to either run into things and hit my head OR I sit in the same spot afraid to move as I’m paranoid that I will run into something.

    The people I know that enjoy it tend to be more uptight Type A personalities that use it to relax, although that might not be true for everyone. They don’t all seem more relaxed when they smoke, but I wonder if maybe the week makes them forget that they are uptight (just a random theory to be honest). I’m more laid back naturally (mostly) and have other ways to relax.

  • MissKnowItAll January 20th, 2012 6:48 PM

    This is so truthful and honest, it made me so happy to read.

  • fizzingwhizbees January 20th, 2012 7:49 PM

    I really love this article. This is definitely the one I most identify with, as I like to drink but I’ve never felt the need to be so shitfaced that I vomit or black out, and I have no desire to smoke weed or use any other drug. So thanks for having something for us middle-of-the-road people!

  • landlockedblues January 20th, 2012 7:52 PM

    This article was so great! I drink occasionally and I’ve smoked weed a couple of times but I’ve always felt awkward about not being one of the people who go all out and party constantly and for not being someone who doesn’t do any of that. It’s comforting to know that there are more ‘in-between’ teens like me. (:

  • llamagesicht January 20th, 2012 8:03 PM

    Saying you’re allergic can be a good way to get people off your back (as long as they’re random people who won’t find out you were lying.) I have celiac disease so I can’t drink beer, and that usually gets people to stop offering if I’m not in the mood to drink.

  • Jamie January 20th, 2012 10:04 PM

    this was nice! this series turned out great!!

    i’m glad i didn’t end up writing the moderation one because my idea of moderation is totally different than this person’s. interesting how two people can still regard their substance use as moderate, and consume totally different amounts/types of stuff.

    i guess the moral of the story is sort of, “to each her own.” find what makes you feel good about your own life and stick with it. :)

    • Johann7 January 24th, 2012 3:21 PM

      I agree that the series turned out great!

      Would you consider writing a “moderation” article with a different perspective on what “moderation” is, or is the series definitely done?

      I ask because, as a number of other people have noted, there really isn’t a piece from e.g. a high-functioning regular user of something like marijuana or MDMA. I know there are plenty of people who get only moderately high one or a couple nights a week and never take it beyond that, managing to hold down jobs, excel in classes, pursue hobbies, etc. I think there’s a BIG space between the “moderate” and “heavy” user posts that could be explored, and really isn’t explored most other places (almost all of the images we get of people using recreational drugs other than alcohol, tobacco, and nicotine are of addicts dying, winding up in prison, or otherwise ‘ruining their lives’ – and even tobacco depiction is starting to head in that direction; also, the pro-drug messages out there, like those in commercial hip-hop, tend to present excessive consumption almost exclusively).

  • Nomi January 21st, 2012 5:36 AM

    Thank you so so much for this article. I’ve gotten a little drunk before while hanging out with friends and it was a LOT of fun. I don’t want to do drugs at all because I have anxiety disorder and it would probably be a bad mix, but I definitely plan to drink again and I’m very glad someone feels the same way as I do.

  • timelady January 21st, 2012 6:55 AM

    I live in Europe, now, so drinking is legal for me even though I’m not 21 yet. I drink (especially on holidays), but I’ve yet to get drunk. My mom always poured me wine or champagne on New Years since I was about 14 or 15, so the whole forbidden aspect of alcohol has never been an issue to me. My gran was concerned I’ve been drinking too much here, and my mom said I was an adult who could do what I wanted. Weed I will never touch because the smell makes me nauseous, same with cigarette smoke.

  • Cherokee January 21st, 2012 7:13 AM

    It would have been nice (coming from a smoker’s perspective, I guess) to hear someone who smokes regularly but still goes about their day-to-day stuff as that’s what I tend to do.

    Though it’s been more of a habit that I have picked up since October (as I only smoked once in a while when with people, and that was rarely ever), it’s remained a nice relief to relax with friends, or by myself, and roll a couple.

    Being someone who drinks more, it is good to read about someone else’s idea of moderation on alcohol as that is definitely one of my main vices, I think.

    Been interesting reading the three perspectives, anyway, as the previous two have definitely been different from my experiences. (The shit-faced thing still stands for me now, if I am honest.)

    Still would have been nice to get more of the drug side of things than alcohol in terms of being moderate, as their are fun drugs like MD/E that aren’t addictive but, like alcohol, it is possible to OD on them (depending what kind of crap someone has put inside the powder/pills, but the likelihood of it is far lower than booze), unlike weed which is practically near-impossible to OD on.

    As said, great set of articles – has given me things to think about, which is always good for me!

    • captainclaire January 22nd, 2012 11:27 PM

      I was thinking the same. It would be nice to get someone who is a regular drug user to show that it’s not all bad. I smoke weed regularly and I still go about my day to day stuff. It don’t feel it has any bad effects if used properly. If anything, it has helped me in a lot of ways.
      And, as you said, it would be nice to hear about someone who uses the fun drugs on occasion, as I do.
      That said, I have really enjoyed this set of articles. It has been great reading all the different views and experiences. Thanks Rookie!

  • Skatapus January 21st, 2012 11:01 AM

    AAH! That’s my collage in the background! *freaking out a bit

    • Tavi January 21st, 2012 11:20 AM

      i love it so much, thank you for submitting! we’re crediting you at the end of january, when we do our backgrounds post.

      • Skatapus January 21st, 2012 11:36 PM

        I’m glad that you like it, thanks so much for using it :)

  • xxbellexx January 21st, 2012 6:04 PM

    i love this article! I have friends who do alot of weed and drinking, and I also have friends who think that smoking and drinking are terrible things. I am kinda in the middle. I have never smoked anything yet, but I have had a few drinks here and there at parties or at a friends house. I keep my drinking in moderation though, like yourself. I totally agree that maybe 1 or 2 drinks with your friends during the weekend is fine! Thank you for posting this story!

  • espressoslut January 21st, 2012 6:07 PM

    I love that we have Rookie, where we can explore and appreciate actual girls who live lives that don’t fit into the mainstream teen girl mold. Reading honest teen girl pieces about drugs is so refreshing

  • stellar January 21st, 2012 6:15 PM

    sometimes the way out is thru…thinking of that saying “the palace of excess leads to wisdom”….well, not necessarily excessively, but trust yrself when u have had enough and know when to stop–without beating up on yrself for wanting to find out more about what u didn’t know enough about and couldn’t predict it wld be like for u in the first place.

  • riley.t January 21st, 2012 9:03 PM

    I wish the majority of people I know would read this! I get so so so sick of my friends drinking because they feel they have to, then ending up sick and having a shit night because they don’t even remember what happened. It just shows how immature they all are with their alcohol. I don’t drink yet, mainly because I don’t want to, but also because I get a kick out of being the only one who got through the entire night without doing something completely stupid or embarrassing.

    I also dislike how my parents act when they drink, so that’s probably a sign I won’t be much of a big drinker. But I do hope, just like you, when I do start drinking I’ll be able to ease into it gracefully so I can have a good time and also save some face… unlike most people that I know.

    Thankyou so much for this article!

  • insteadofanelephant January 22nd, 2012 5:38 PM

    cool article. i, too, learned the value of not drinking just to get shitfaced- so much more appealing. although i am extremely hungover right now, so my lessons didn’t get implemented into last night…

    instead of an elephant

  • Emilie January 22nd, 2012 6:49 PM

    All of these articles have been incredibly, amazingly helpful, so uh…oh yeah THANK YOU

  • flowerpunk January 23rd, 2012 1:19 PM

    My excuse when I don’t want to drink is that I’m on antibiotics… Lame, I know, but it works!

  • TheEgg January 24th, 2012 5:12 AM

    My husband and I think of ourselves as “bon vivants,” which is pretty much a 30 yo’s version of this author’s moderation identity. We like beer, and we are genuinely interested in the local, regional economics of it. Also, we have kids, so we certainly do not have much interest in getting shitfaced while they are sleeping.

    Also, on this month’s theme– I am UP ALL NIGHT tonight because my kid is sick, which reminds me of being a teenager and being up all night on the old wide web on the xfiles chatrooms. YOU KIDS ARE SO LUCKY TO HAVE ROOKIE. I would give my kids the same advice!

    “Drinking and smoking can both be fun. They can also make you lazy or sick, and can cause you to act in ways that you normally wouldn’t. What they can’t do, no matter what anybody says, is make you happier or make your life more interesting. Just keep that in mind for the rest of high school, OK?

    P.S. Try not to get caught so much! You’ve clearly got some terrible luck. ”

    PLUS I’d say stuff about:
    -alcohol/drugs and sexual inhibition/risk
    -saying no: what would hurt you physically, what would hurt you socially.
    -plus of moderation: letting people see you drink sometimes and NOT drink sometimes will give you wide berth.

  • cancercowboy January 24th, 2012 7:31 AM

    i like this 3-parter, but your take on moderation (which in itself is a rather good way) sounds almost like an advocacy of abstinence. well, i’m 34 and i still smoke weed occasionally. yes, i’m a baked granddad ^___^
    don’t get me wrong: i do not recommend doing drugs, and “having fun” or “trying to fit in” are the worst and stupidest reasons to do them, along with attempting to deal with or escape from any kind of trauma. i doubt that any good would come from that.
    but the responsible and careful use of mild psychotropic substances doesn’t necessarily ruin your life or brain. they can offer a change of perspective that one might find interesting, illuminating or even helpful. pls note the subjunctive.

    @stellar
    i guess you mean “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” often accompanied by “…for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough”
    © William Blake