I had an operation coming up, and they were going to knock me out with general anesthesia. They told me that because I’m a daily dope smoker I’d need a stronger dose of anesthetics than usual. But if I laid off the marijuana beforehand I could get a regular 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 countries that seemed risky. Those were all good trips, the ones I took straight. They made for good stories. I didn’t notice a big difference- until I got home. Then soon enough 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 see my own reflections of the journey melt together with the objective certainties of journalism.
Now, at the age of 74, 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? Here are the results of my no-grass fast. (Ratings are based on my benchmark of 100%-of-potential for my stoned self.)
I presumed that I’d be a duller presence unstoned, with less to say, less pizzazz, less animation. I’m happy to notice 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
As a writer, I miss those inspirations which assault me when I’m stoned. Working straight, I do a capable job of editing a story. 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
For twenty years, my wife Holly has been struggling with Parkinson’s disease. Where would we be without the perspective-enhancing properties of this drug, which has repeatedly brightened our outlook in the face of a relentless opponent? Over these five days, it doesn’t matter–straight or stoned. I know this job by now.
Rating: Straight Tom 100% as caring as Stoned Tommy
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 hardly seen them before.
During my fast, I follow these same routines, except for visiting 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
At my age, I want to slow it down, thank you. When I’m stoned, at work or at play, I can get so immersed 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
Dope isn’t a necessity for an aerobic walk. The world is just not as sparkly without it, not as gripping.
Rating: Straight Tom 86% as energized as Stoned Tommy
It’s easy to give up weed for five days. But to give it up forever? No. I prefer being at my best.
About the Author
Tom Huth, a former Washington Post reporter and author, recalls the experience of setting his pipe aside for 5 days.
By Tom Huth, a former Washington Post reporter and the author of the memoir Forty Years Stoned: A Journalist’s Romance, to be published on 4/20 by Heliotrope Books.