Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Extracted From Romancing Mary Jane

The author Michael Poole passed recently ... and he and I had worked together for a piece of time ... then he wrote about our working together in his book, "Romancing Mary Jane, A Year In The Life of a Failed Marijuana Grower." as follows:

Marijuana is one of those issues that seems never to go away. Just the other day, it was the subject of a radio phone-in show, and I was surprised by the number of complaints about addiction. These calls didn't accord with my own experience or with the science as I understand it, though they did echo my time in psychotherapy. All through my crash and recovery I smoked marijuana occasionally, even though my shrink advised against it. It's a mask, he said. Covers what you want to uncover. Since hearing this show, I've gone back to my notes (I taped every session), not for any therapeutic reason but to review his take on marijuana and addiction.

Finding the right psychotherapist is like buying boots-if the fit isn't right, you're going nowhere together. Neil Tubb was right for me. On my first visit I did most of the talking for more than an hour, then in twenty astounding minutes he showed me my inner workings, as starkly as an oracle spreading goat guts on altar- As I left, he said it would take five to seven years of intense work for me to straighten myself out. The cure, as it turned out, required just nine months of concentrated effort, and I came through my time with Neil convinced that he had, quite literally, saved my life.

I used to enjoy my visits to Neil. He lives-or did then-near the Victoria waterfront, overlooking Juan de Fuca Strait. I'd often find him sitting outside smoking-psychotherapists have addictions too. He's large and rumpled with grey hair and beard, an EX-RCMP narc , though seemingly free of any reefer madness fantasies about marijuana. "I never found that it had much effect on me at all," he told me at our first session. "It sure as hell didn't raise my consciousness. If I'm going to do anything mind-altering, I'd much rather have a belt of rum." But mind-altering, at least with drugs or alcohol, is not a harmless diversion in Neil's view. Toking would only delay my recovery, he said, and if I kept at it long enough it could do me in.

"Because the quality of the high diminishes over time," he warned, "the quantity has to increase- For some people who have a powerful need to repress things, it turns into a boxcar train that keeps getting longer ... because I smoke marijuana, I smoke marijuana, I smoke marijuana. It doesn't give it to me any more, so I smoke marijuana and do alcohol. Marijuana and alcohol. Then I do cocaine, and it just builds."

Neil's point was that as long as patients can hide behind booze or drugs, they'll avoid facing the psychological cause of their ill¬ness. But I was certain that didn't apply to me. My addiction was self-redeeming work, not dope, and I never believed that smoking masked my inner scars. In fact, opening old wounds was not diffi¬cult for me. My collapse had been so complete, so torturous, my ego defenses were knocked flat, and facing even the most fearsome dragons in my psyche was preferable to living with the twin tigers of suicide and insanity. I guess that's why I was able to straighten myself out in a fraction of the time that Neil had predicted. I was ready.

At first I was uneasy about ignoring Neil's warnings, because he was so right about everything else. He knew exactly what ailed me and how to treat it. My family doctor agreed, prescribing Luvox, one of the refinements of Prozac. "You are so steeply in crash mode," Neil said, "nothing can be done until we get you back on the level with this drug so you can function." When the change first hit, after about six days on Luvox, I was filming herons on the Fraser River delta. Preoccupied with what I was doing, I didn't notice at first that I was feeling strangely and wonderfully different. My mood turned optimistic, free of cares and responsibilities, happy. My surroundings-tide pools, eelgrass, the flat calm sea and distant green of the Gulf Islands-all looked abnormally vivid, the colours brighter. I stopped work (it no longer seemed very important) and lay on the beach for the rest of the afternoon, just watching the puffy June clouds drift past. Driving home, I floated serenely through the rush-hour traffic, utterly without the usual frustrations. Over the next few days, as the chemical changes in my brain took hold, this new lightness of being became fixed. I began to sleep better, and my sense of burnout returned. (Carole had been complaining for months that I wasn't much fun any more.) And not only did my crippling depressions vanish; I real¬ized that I had been living for years under a cloud of constant low-grade depression, as if I were seeing the world darkly through an X-ray plate. That, too, was gone.

Although Luvox was truly a wonder drug for me, it dealt only with symptoms, not the causes of my malaise.

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