Tag Archives: alcohol

An honest and sensible post about drugs.


I had intended to write a fairly humorous post called “Sophie’s Scary Bong” in which I would talk about how Sophie corrupted me and reintroduced me to the pleasures of weed with her her bong, which is indeed a scary looking piece of equipment.


But then as we were discussing the post Sophie and I realised that in many people’s opinion you can’t really talk openly about this subject and certainly not with any sense of reality. We have friends in other countries who would never talk about the various substances they use for various reasons for fear that some kind of authority may be monitoring what they write. Perhaps they do…

So let’s start from the beginning. There is so much misinformation and hypocrisy about drugs. We grow up in a world where drugs exist in a kind of twilight world between reality and fantasy, between legality and illegality and between insanity and common sense. In some ways all drugs are ridiculously lumped together as if they are a single terrible thing; and then they are split up arbitrarily between good drugs and bad drugs. Good drugs are the ones that reduce pain and cure illnesses (unless that drug is cannabis, of course) the bad drugs are the ones which can do you harm but which have enjoyable effects like alcohol and tobacco (except of course that alcohol and even tobacco are still socially acceptable pleasures in most parts of the world).

Still, when we are young we are told that drugs are bad. Drugs are the province of bad people, weak people and criminals. Nice people don’t do drugs. But then we begin to read and watch TV and we discover that in some walks of life some drugs seem to be pretty much part of the furniture. It seems that everyone from Sherlock Holmes to Elvis Presley; religious shaman, scientists, artists and writers all use drugs sometimes. But of course that is in that other world of other people who we read about and see in the media; but it’s not “real”people, not “nice” people, not the boy or girl next door… And then, shock horror, we see that nice boy next door smoking a spliff and we hear that dear old Aunty Alice was once arrested for being in possession of some illegal substances. Our comfortable world where nice people don’t do drugs is looking rather fragile.

But still we know the mantras. If we try drugs we are going to become junkies, our skin will age, we’ll start thieving to buy more drugs, we’ll lose our minds and our souls and we’ll die young, broken and unloved. Yet we have a few friends by this time who use recreational drugs and they don’t seem to be depraved junkies at all. And then we are offered something in a nightclub, and perhaps we try it, and perhaps we don’t die and perhaps we feel great…

Now before you go thinking this is going to be a blatantly pro drugs post that is completely dismissive of the dangers drugs can involve; you are wrong. From personal experience I can say the worst thing that ever happened to me was drug related, and it was very bad and it took me quite a long time to recover from. I would not wish that on anyone. I have also had to stand by helplessly when some of my friends have been suffering due to their own drug addiction or the addiction of people they love. And yes, I have cried at a few funerals of people who died far too young mainly as a result of drug use. And yet I do still smoke cannabis. I have experimented with quite a few things and enjoyed many of them. I don’t feel any desire to take any other drugs at this time of my life but I don’t rule out the possibility that I might one day…

So can we have an honest and sensible talk about drugs? Could we say something that can help our daughter to make sensible decisions when these temptations came her way?

The first thing is that we are not going to be hypocritical. We both smoke cigarettes, we both drink alcohol and for most of our adult lives we have both been occasional drug users. To begin from any other perspective would be a lie that any intelligent young person would soon see through. Moreover, our limited experience of the twilight world of drugs is not unique at all; most of the people we know and associate with have very similar life experience. I would venture to suggest that the reality is that most people in the western world have more experience of drugs than it is generally acceptable to admit. For many people drugs are part of life in one way or another.

Our view begins with the obvious fact that drugs are not all the same. Every chemical substance we introduce into our bodies has different effects, different advantages and different dangers. Some substances can kill you very quickly, while other substances may never kill you but could still change you or cause damage. Some substances can cure disease and or reduce pain and suffering but those very same things could also kill you if you take too much. In view of all this it seems utterly ridiculous to lump all drugs together as if they are the same thing.

People need to make informed choices and that means information should be openly available and discussed. And discussion should always begin with honesty.

Our second point is that the criminalisation of drug use only serves criminals, in fact it creates a whole industry for them and removes any possibility of control or standardisation for legal authorities. Pretty much all the the organised crime in the world and a large amount of terrorism is completely funded by illegal drug mafias. Moreover, what possible good does it do to brand hardened drug addicts or occasional drug users as criminals? In what way does that help them to overcome their problems?

Where we live it is legal to possess a certain amount of cannabis for personal use so Sophie and I are not breaking any laws. However even here we are aware that not far down the chain of supply there must be illegal activity going on at an international level. We wish that were not the case.

Personally we don’t think cannabis is any more harmful than tobacco or alcohol unless it’s used obsessively (and that would apply to practically anything else you can buy legally). It makes us angry that in some places you could in theory be arrested just for possessing cannabis while the bottles of spirits in your cupboard would be ignored and seen as harmless. We don’t want to make this whole post about cannabis/marijuana but would like to note that this substance has many beneficial medical effects and if it could be farmed legally it could become a life saving cash crop in many deprived parts of the world. Again we are appalled at the stupidity of gift wrapping this entire industry to the criminal fraternity.

We’d like to make the point that for as long as humans have existed they have used substances with mind/mood altering capabilities for pleasure, for medicine and for religious/shamanistic ritual. It is nothing new. It is nothing inherently bad. It is something human beings have always wanted, needed and enjoyed.

No drug is bad in itself. But how humans use, control and administer drugs can be damaging, harmful (in many ways) and incredibly stupid.

As we said, not all drugs are the same. We have never used heroine but we have known people who have and it nearly always ends badly. Therefore, based on real life experience we would strongly advise people not to use or even experiment with heroine. However even in this case we don’t think criminalising heroine use helps anybody except the criminals. Here in Switzerland there are several schemes by which heroine addicts can bypass the criminal fraternity and get their fixes in a legal and controlled way. Controlled meaning there is help and support to reduce their heroine use or get off it completely. Isn’t that a better philosophy?

Between heroine at one end and alcohol and cannabis (and even caffeine) at the other end of the scale there is a vast spectrum of substances that can be classified as drugs. Some are naturally occurring things like mushrooms while others are man made chemical cocktails. All of them can do harm but all of them can also be pleasurable to experience; if that were not the case nobody would ever use them.

And the fact is people do use them whether they are legal or not. A lot of people. Perhaps even the majority of people.

We have a daughter who is the most precious thing in the world to us. Of course we want her to live a very long, very happy and very healthy life. We don’t want her to suffer any problems or any ill health ever. But we do want her to live. When it comes to the time that she has to make choices about drugs we want her to be able to make informed choices based on facts and honesty. We hope she will find plenty of ways to enhance her life and have fun without using any drugs at all. But we are aware that like us, she may sometimes decide to take some risks in the ways she lives and enjoys her life. We want those to be informed risks. We want her and all young people to grow up in a world where there is some honesty and clarity. A world where the adults she meets don’t say one thing while secretly doing the opposite.

A world where adults are free and empowered to make adult decisions.

A world where law and taboo don’t make it impossible to speak openly and honestly about serious issues. Where we don’t have to lie about our lives.

And in that world we think there would be far fewer problems and far less risk to health associated with drugs.

For all our children.


Favorite vices

I have been having one of those days where I wanted to write something but couldn’t really think of anything that inspired me. Then I looked again at some questions I was asked to answer as part of an award my other blog received and thought I might go into a bit more detail here. (I will hopefully publish the award post in Devil’s Advocate later this week)

What are your vices?

And the short answer was;- Sex, cigarettes, alcohol, ink, musicians, and flirting.

Before going into more details I suppose I should say a bit about what vices actually are. According to Wikipedia (which we all know is never wrong) Vice is a practice or a behavior or habit considered immoral, depraved, or degrading in the associated society. In more minor usage, vice can refer to a fault, a negative character trait, a defect, an infirmity, or merely a bad habit. A guilty pleasure perhaps…

Well I don’t totally agree with that definition and I fully admit I enjoy quite a lot of things that other people might think are immoral or even depraved. But I suppose I will take vices to mean things I enjoy which other people may think I should feel guilty about. So, with that said…

1) Sex.



No guilt or apologies here, I like sex a lot. I like having sex, I like thinking about sex, I like reading about sex and I sometimes even like watching other people having sex. Should porn be a separate category? Well I like that too. I like the way my body feels and the way my thoughts and feelings change when having sex. I like sex with men. I like sex with women. I like to have sex as often as possible (which doesn’t mean I always can).

But hang on a moment… Wouldn’t 90% of people agree with 70% or more of what I have written above? What is really immoral or naughty about liking sex? And yet I bet a lot of people would consider it to be a vice. For me it is just part of being human, part of feeling alive… I only include sex as a vice here because society often depicts it in that way.

2) Cigarettes. I sometimes get the feeling that this might be the least socially acceptable thing on my list of vices. We all know smoking is bad for our health and I am supposed to feel ashamed to admit my nicotine habit. But I don’t feel ashamed. I like smoking, I pretty much always have done. It gives me pleasure. I like the taste, the feel, the ritual and everything associated with smoking cigarettes. I like the kick that I get from nicotine. I like a cigarette with my coffee, or with a glass of wine. I like inhaling deeply and exhaling my worries when I am feeling stressed.I like being with other smokers. I don’t smoke heavily (in my opinion) but I do enjoy every cigarette I smoke. If it is truly a vice it is a very pleasurable one for me.

3) Alcohol. Yes I like a drink.  I dink moderately but regularly and if I want to I can drink quite a lot. I like wine and spirits. I like the slightly harsh  and dry taste of alcoholic drinks. I like the effect it has on me. I like loosing a certain amount of control, I like the buzz, I like the feeling of relaxation. I like a drink with my dinner. I like drinking with friends. I like a drink when I’m flying. I like a drink to celebrate something. However; I don’t like being totally drunk and nor do I like being in the company of people who are drunk out of their minds.


4) Ink (Tattoos) I have several tattoos; a couple of big ones and a few small ones;  if I had more money and didn’t have to be a bit conservative in my appearance for work reasons I would probably have a lot more. I love them. I love them on me and I love them on other people. I like the process of getting them. I like the way pain turns to heat and blood and then something beautiful emerges. All my tats are very personal. I like the fact that they are carved into my skin and are permanent; that my outward appearance is permanently changed by having them. At the moment I am young and I think they look pretty on me but I accept that one day I will be old… Yes, I’ll be an old hag and my tattoos will probably look quite ugly by then. But they will be as much a part of me as my sagging skin and the wrinkles and scars I didn’t choose to be part of me.

5) Musicians… And artists. I go out of my way to get to know such people. I have been and probably always will be a bit of a groupie. I love music and art and I am fascinated by the people who dedicate their lives to producing such beauty. Many a time I have blagged my way back-stage at gigs although these days I generally find myself on the guest list. I love mixing with such people. I like getting as close as possible (yes, even that close). But my aim is always to make deep connections, and fortunately I have usually managed to do that.

6) Flirting. This is the only vice I feel slightly guilty about because I admit it does sometimes get a bit out of hand and people’s feelings can get hurt. But I am naturally flirtatious. I like people. I like being friendly. I fully admit I also like the sense of power that sometimes comes from using my “womanly wiles”. Mostly even at my most flirtatious all I really want is to be friendly and get to know somebody better, but it can happen that people misread my signals or expect more than what I am offering. And even when I realize it is going in that direction, I find it hard to suddenly stop my flirting. My bad.


This is more personal and sombre than the things I normally post here. It just happens to be what is on my mind at the moment.

We all have episodes in our lives that we are not very proud of (or is it just me??) Anyway, some years ago I went through a period where I was smoking far too much weed and taking all sorts of other things too. Luckily I am the sort of person who has always been able to learn from my mistakes, sometimes however it takes a bit of a crisis to make you realize just how far down the wrong road you have traveled. For me that came one night when I split up with my boyfriend and was generally unhappy with life and lacking direction. I picked that moment to get very drunk, smoke some very strong skunk and pop some pills I assumed to be Ecstasy but in fact had no idea what they were.
And then my mind stopped working.
Thoughts… Got stuck. I could see the thoughts I was having but they didn’t seem…
To belong..
To me..
Everything was…..dis…..jointed.
Some thoughts…. repeated.
Some thoughts repeated.
Some thoughts repeated
Some…. thoughts…repeated.
Again and again and again and again and again. I thought they would never stop. Echoing… In my empty brain.
And there were dreams. Horrible dreams which I couldn’t escape from. But they were interlaced with things… that might have been real. Dancing somewhere… Kissing somebody… Falling in the snow… Throwing up… Strange faces staring at me. A voice of a distant me saying things which made no sense. What language is she speaking I wondered. And that question repeated, over and over…. And there was this other me in a distant universe who was getting naked, and these two guys she had never met before were taking turns at her. And I wanted to hate them but I couldn’t because that other me had probably said yes at some point while the real me was struggling with these echo thoughts that wouldn’t go away. But I was less afraid of being raped than I was afraid that my mind… might stay… like this… forever…

Well I got better and I got over it. I came round sometime in the next day or so and had enough residue of sense to get myself to a hospital. I confessed everything I had done and felt utterly humiliated. A physical examination confirmed that I had indeed had sex but I had absolutely no recollection of who I had been with or even where I had been, so there was no criminal case to pursue. To my great relief subsequent tests showed that I hadn’t been infected with anything. I was kept in hospital for a couple of days until all the toxins had left my system and then was released back into the world again. The next few weeks were excruciating, all my confidence had gone and I was so embarrassed by the whole thing I felt like I was wearing a badge which told everyone what had happened to me and how stupid I had been. But I did get better, I did learn and I did grow up.

So why do I mention all that now? It’s because when I think back to that time it is still that terrible fear that I had lost my mind forever that hurts and haunts me the most. And today after visiting my Mum in the care home it struck me that that is exactly what is happening to her but she has done nothing to deserve it.

In previous blog entries I have written a little about the fact that my mother is suffering from early onset dementia. Last November as her condition continued to deteriorate I had to put her in a care home. Since then she has got worse and worse both mentally and physically, despite the best care and supervision we can pay for.

I recently returned from my longest working trip abroad since Mum has been in the home. I knew from conversations on the phone with my mum herself and with staff at the home that her condition had declined, but it was still a shock to see it for myself now that I am back for a few weeks.

She used to take great pride in her appearance; that is now gone completely despite the nurse’es efforts to dress her well. She insists on putting layer on over layer or stripping off completely in the middle of the public areas. She still remembers me, which is a blessing, but her conversations make no sense at all and remind me painfully of the episode I have just described. Her mind is totally disjointed. Thoughts came and go at random. She has no sense of order, time or place. The ghosts of her past mix with what is going on around her and strange dreamlike happenings merge with reality.
“What did you have for dinner today Mum?”
“Dinner? I don’t know. I think the children put it in boxes… With the dress I am wearing… We put it all out on the table… I didn’t sleep… The dog kept barking…”


And yet there is still enough of her left inside to know that something isn’t right. She is not in some blissful dream-world, she knows at some level that her mind isn’t working and the thought terrifies her, as it once did me. With me it only lasted a day or two… For her it is all that is left.

And so I leave her and walk out into the sunshine. I do my daily chores. I prepare some lessons, listen to some music, call a few people on the phone, arrange to meet some friends for a drink, write some reports about my last courses, go shopping, basque in normality while knowing that Mum can never do that again. I tell myself that I have done everything I can to help her. But I still feel guilty for every normal thing I enjoy.

Should we worry so much?

I smoke cigarettes, I drink alcohol and coffee and I am not particularly careful with my diet. Recently, because of where I have been traveling and working, I have had the luxury of being able to have a cigarette with my coffee or wine inside a cafe or bar; and I admit it is a luxury I enjoy. Yet according to the media, cigarettes, wine and coffee are all bad for me to varying degrees.
There are other chemical substances that some people use for recreation (and I’ve tried a few myself in the past), but according to government information these things are bound to lead to death and social disintegration.
Furthermore I shouldn’t eat red meat, or maybe any meat at all.
Every week a new study tells us that this food or that food could cause all sorts of illnesses.
According to a recent report, it turns out that my lipstick might be poisoning me and the people I kiss!
Of course my Handy/mobile/cell phone might be causing all sorts of problems too, and if I live too near to power cables I might be risking my own life and that of my family.
I do drive from time to time and statistically that opens me up to all sorts of accident risks. I never drink and drive, but some do and they might be on the same road as me… And in many places just crossing the road on foot can be extremely dangerous.
I hate flying but I have to do it. Just think of all the germs that are being recycled through the cabin pressure system. And let’s not think about all the horrific air crashes we have heard of!
My soaps, cosmetics and deodorants could be damaging me and the environment.
Most of the sporting pass-times I can think of could be extremely hazardous. Should we really allow people to risk their lives on things like mountain climbing, paragliding, or bungee jumping? Let’s face it you could break your neck playing tennis or football…
Yet of course we should do sport because if we don’t we will get fat, our bones will waste away, our arteries will clog up and we will surely die.

And yet…
How often do we hear the following facts?
Most people who drink don’t cause themselves or others any significant harm.
Most people who smoke die of the same age related conditions as everybody else.
Most people who use recreational drugs don’t come to any significant harm as a result.
Most people who use mobile phones remain healthy.
Most people who drive do not die or kill other people in accidents.
Most people who fly don’t get ill or die in horrific accidents.
Most sports people do not die of sports related injuries.
Most people who use cosmetics have the same lifespan as everyone else although of course they may have problems if they have allergies or are sensitive to certain ingredients.

I am not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about the health risks associated with certain lifestyle choices, but I do wonder if we worry too much. And is that very stress and worry more harmful in the end than the supposed risks of a particular substance or activity?

As always for me, balance and harmony are the key. As adults we have to make informed choices and live with the consequences of those choices.  If you want to live as long as possible, a certain set of choices open up. If you want to live as fully as possible but longevity is not a big issue, other choices come up. If you care about the environment and your fellow human beings your lifestyle choices will have to take certain other things into account. But once those choices are made, we do ourselves and those around us no favors by stressing about what negative things might happen as a result.

In general the happiest and healthiest people I have met are those who are content with the choices they have made and are not over-burdened by stress.