I had a hernia operation coming up, and they were going to knock me out with general anesthesia. Because I’m a daily dope smoker, they said they’d have to increase my anesthetics. But if I laid off the marijuana beforehand, I could get a normal dose. So five days ahead of the surgery I took my last puff, then set the pipe aside.
How long had it been since I’d let a day pass without seeking out that state of all-consuming all-is-wellness?
Since the early ‘70s, I had abstained only when I flew off on magazine assignments to risky countries. Those were all memorable trips. Each one made a good story. I didn’t notice any big difference–until I got home. Then I’d fire up my pipe, and immediately the story took on dazzling new dimensions, whole new associations, deeper meanings. What a thrill it was: to watch my own experiences of the journey melt together with the objective certainties of journalism.
Now, at the age of 73, one or two tokes will do it for me. Yet I reawaken my genie eight or ten times a day. How will I manage without it? Following are the results of my no-grass fast. (NOTE: All ratings are based on my standard benchmark of 100%-of-potential for my stoned self.)
PERSONALITY. I presumed that I’d be a duller presence unstoned, with less to say, less pizzazz, less animation, fewer inappropriate remarks. I’m happy to have witnessed no such deflation. True, I’m not as shamelessly candid when I’m straight. Is that good or bad?
Rating: Straight Tom 87% as engaging as Stoned Tommy
THE WORKPLACE. As a writer, I miss those inspirations (some of them keepers, some of them not) which assault me when I’m stoned. Working straight, I can do a capable job of editing a story-in-progress. But I miss that circus of brimming excitations, those bursts of wonder and self-delight. Why would a writer even bother to write if he weren’t begging to take wing by any flight path available?
Rating: Straight Tom 65% as talented as Stoned Tommy
CAREGIVING. For twenty years, my wife Holly has been slowly losing a valiant struggle against the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. All along, I’ve been grateful to pot for its perspective-enhancing properties, for repeatedly brightening our outlook (especially mine) in the face of a relentless opponent. Over these five days, it doesn’t matter–straight or stoned. I’ve got this job down.
Rating: Straight Tom 100% as caring as Stoned Tommy
BRAINSTORMING. On some evenings I leave Holly with a caregiver and go to a welcoming bar where I have plenty of elbow room and the companionship of a sports screen above. I unfold a few pages of something I’m working on. Then I duck out to the parking lot and take two hits on my pocket pipe. After that, by the magic bestowed, I can look at those words on the page as if I’ve never seen them before.
During my fast, I follow these same routines, except for touring the parking lot. And I enjoy being out of the house. But where are the fresh eyes?, the big ideas?
Rating: Straight Tom 34% as upliftable as Stoned Tommy
TIME. At my age, I want to slow it down, thank you. When I’m stoned, at work or at play, I can get so absorbed in where I am or what I’m doing that time gets put on hold. I glance at my watch…hey, it’s still only noon! When I’m straight I check my watch…how did it get to be 4 already?
Rating: Straight Tom 58% as chilled as Stoned Tommy
EXERCISE. An aerobic walk is a great way to start any new day. Dope isn’t a necessity. The world is just not as sparkly without it, that’s all. Not as gripping.
Rating: Straight Tom 86% as invigorated as Stoned Tommy
CONCLUSION. It’s easy to give up weed for five days. But to give it up forever? No. I prefer being at my best.