I remember the first time I smoked marijuana.
Under amazing stars in Vermont when I was 18. Of course there was a boy involved.
He was a redhead with long, sweet smelling dreadlocks. Something about him made my knees weak. His fluidity, his calm.
And the way he carved his board effortlessly through freshly fallen snow.
That was 20 years ago.
After that, marijuana and I had a long, complicated relationship.
At first she was my escape from everything life handed me that was challenging, then she became my life. Then I felt I just couldn’t live without her.
Until I got hives.
And panic attacks every time I tried to smoke.
And then it was obvious we were done, over, that our relationship had become toxic and I was actually afraid to ever smoke again.
My love affair with tobacco started at exactly the same time. After meeting the red-haired boy, I flew to Germany again to stay and work before heading to college. All the kids there smoked hash, passing joints around with it crumbled into tobacco. My days as a smoker began.
I struggled with tobacco addiction for close to 10 years until I quit with my pregnancies, but as years went by I learned a newfound respect for tobacco when I began participating in ceremonies within the Native American community. It was in a sweat lodge that I learned how to pray again after a decade of being pissed at God.
Nowadays I keep tobacco nearby for offering as a prayer, because this tradition entered my heart and made an impact on me.
Some people are saved in the name of Jesus, I was saved by connecting to my heart and to the Heart of it All.
In my mind all that matters is not what saves you but that you are saved at all. By love. That you never feel alone, and that you find a connection that matters to you and opens your heart.
Fast forward another 10 years. I am a single Mom to 2 kids, making it through by the hair of my chinny chin chin, and scraping by. I am mostly stressed to the max, overwhelmed, panicked, and frazzled.
After an especially hard week I get it in my head that I need to smoke some weed. It’s been too long. I need a fucking break.
So I smoke. After so many years of not, the medicine is pure bliss. I am in love all over again.
I feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders and I can breathe. I can laugh! What is that sound --my laughter?
It seems it has been so long since one carefree moment existed for me.
Within this space I remember what it feels like to just be myself. No stress. No obligations. No fear. No self-doubt.
Just playfulness. Fun. Laughter. Oh, how I‘ve missed you! The carefree girl who loved to have a good time, who could relax and forget about the pressures of life. Now things are so serious and arduous --and in contrast, getting high felt fabulous.
The next day I woke up with the profound revelation that I no longer know how to let go and have fun, and what a damn shame that is!
But if you can’t remember that you ever felt differently, then how can you know how to?
Thanks to the medicine of the herb, I was able to remember that there is life beyond the walls of responsibility and obligation, and that lightness and laughter are literally just a breath away. One need not smoke to access it, but sometimes when you are lost, there are plant teachers that can help you find your way back to your authentic self.
They don’t want you to rely on them, but they do want to assist.
Tobacco is also powerful medicine that can support us in connecting to spirit, soothe our pain, and cleanse our environment. As with most medicines, it can be beneficial in small doses and deadly when used incorrectly or abused. It has only been in the last 100 years that its medicinal properties have been mostly ignored.
Now, I am not encouraging anyone to go out and start smoking anything, and I am certainly not about to make it a habit.
I just know that when I was lost in the demands of life, I got this message from an old friend.
Slow down, she said. Take it easy, hun.
Remember you have laughter inside you that needs to come out. You used to be fun, you used to be free. I am here to remind you to let go, enjoy life, and love the hell out of this world.
I got the message, and I intend to cultivate freedom in my mind from now on, without relying on anything but the memory that yes, I can access relaxation anytime.
It is just a breath away.