bud diary, tarot

Life’s gotten chaotic again. Overworked at crummy job. Overstressed in Masters program. Overly reliant on Adderall. Old patterns circulating, gaining steam in a pressure cooker of uncertainty. 

During trying times, I’ve often engaged in a candlelit ritual where I smoke cannabis, meditate, and draw Tarot cards. I’m going to do this over the coming days to figure out what the heck’s going on in my life — or at least clean some crud blocking me from seeing it.   So i dial up weed delivery near me and get ready for a sesh.

Tarot Day 1

I’m sitting on my meditation cushion, listening to Hindu mantras, aware of my heart’s Adderall-induced pounding. I just smoked a 90% indica blend called Dubba Bubba — 21% THC, 1.35% CBD. As I shuffle my Rider-Waite deck, a card leaps out and lands on my mandala rug.

The candlelight illuminates an androgynous teen in green tights, wearing no armor, yet wielding a sword. 

This card is The Page of Swords. 

Since I don’t know what that means, I turn to Skye Alexander’s The Only Tarot Book You’ll Ever Need — purchased, alongside this deck, at Barnes & Noble on Friday the 13th, beneath the full Harvest moon.

CARD: Page of Swords

INDICATION: Risk on a mental or spiritual level; taking up some new line of thought or study.

RESPONSE: This is true. I’m in my first semester of a 3-year Master’s program in Counseling Psychology with a mindfulness focus. My intention: To become an above-ground psychedelic therapist. People involved in psychedelic research, such as MAPS and Johns Hopkins University, predict psychedelic clinics will offer legal therapy in the next few years. But right now, most of them are still Schedule I, right next to heroin. And who’s to say if these predictions will ring true. Not even Nostradamus got it all correct.

So, yes, this new line of study feels a bit risky. And it’s important I keep that in mind, lest I become reckless, and mess it all up like our ‘60s forebears. 

***

I’m not really a “Tarot guy.” I don’t do readings for people. I don’t see the cards as prophetic. I see them as mirrors, with each of the 78 cards reflecting something about our inner nature. They show themes, sometimes hidden, bringing subconscious patterns to light to help process what’s really going on. 

As in dreams, we draw meaning based on what stands out, what response is evoked. Through these rituals, I’ve found that the more intention and mindfulness I bring to the approach, the more relevant becomes the reading.

Tarot cards are mysterious. No one really knows where they originated — though, as I’ve discovered, there are some wild theories decorating that esoteric rabbit hole. Through talking to Tarot connoisseurs, I’ve heard theories that it originated in Ancient Egypt, was based on ancient scrolls housed in the Great Library of Alexandria that contained all the knowledge of the ancient world before burned to the ground, is connected to an occult relic called the Emerald Tablet, which written by a mysterious entity known as Hermes Trismegistus, a fusion of Greek god Hermes and Egyptian god Thoth — the latter of which gave name to Aleister Crowley’s infamously dark deck — and numerous translations of the tablet have appeared through the years, including one by Sir Isaac Newton, who was way more of an occultist than school teachers realize, and it’s all connected to the Hermetic Qabala which is connected to Jewish mysticism and astrology and alchemy and numerology, and maybe the lost city of Atlantis, and is believed by adherents to hold the Key to Universal Wisdom somewhere in its symbolic labyrinth.

But who knows the truth these days?

So, I’m not a Tarot guy, but it fascinates me. And I’ve had enough powerful experiences with it to know it can provide great aid in navigating the inner world—especially with the help of cannabis.

As with psychedelics, this work takes honesty. It’s tempting to read cards selectively, to fortify our personal echo chambers. It’s important I acknowledge another part of Skye’s description that stands out—that this Page of Swords indicates someone “having trouble getting it together,” whose struggle centers on insecurity.

Insecurity. An ongoing life conflict. Hating myself, trying endlessly to change, to please. The struggle that’s led me to antidepressants, benzos, and now Adderall. The struggle I believe psychedelics can help heal.

One thing that’s clear in this moment: If I’m ever gonna help people heal deep wounds, I’ve got a whole lot of healing to do first myself.

Tarot Day 2

Four days since last entry. Can’t remember what I wrote last time. Memory sucks these days. I worry about my mind. Been feeling more blank, more confused. Not sure if this a side effect of Adderall, a distancing between body and mind, or something worse. 

I tend to freak myself out and focus on the negative. Might call it my default mode. 

But here I am again, Adderalled up, sitting on my cushion after an 11:30PM puff of Dubba Bubba. I shuffle the deck, until three cards pop out. I follow my intuition that the middle card is the main card, while the others are supplementary, things to call to mind.

MIDDLE CARD: Seven of Cups

INDICATION: Creative energy and potential; many options available; challenges in choosing specific direction; exploring different roles.

RESPONSE: I am exploring many roles. Psychedelic therapist. Psychedelic researcher. Psychedelic writer. Freelance writer. Novel writer. Short story writer. Journalist. Counselor. I seek to redefine my life. But what is preventing me from choosing a direction?

LEFT CARD: Knight of Swords

INDICATION: Overly aggressive; intellectual focus yielding neglect of other life needs.

RESPONSE: I’ve been in attack mode. Super defensive. Desperate for validation, for opportunity. Unable to sit still due to pressing need for more. Lots of anger. Constant stimulation. Eating and sleeping terribly. All in an effort to get ahead. 

Sounds like a lot of insecurity to me. 

RIGHT CARD: The Moon, Reversed

INDICATION: Soul calling for help; ignoring self-nurturing; reconnect with feminine side.

RESPONSE: I have lost my center. I have abandoned any cultivation of self-love. With each Adderall pill, I direct more pressure toward myself, screaming to keep moving, to do more, to finally arrive at a place of content, a place of success, of validation. 

I allow myself to rest from my strict meditation posture. I lean back against my futon, gazing at my legs stretched out along the mandala rug. I inhale calmly, and I tell my legs, “You are beautiful.”

Tarot Day 3

Too busy for the cushion today, so I’m sitting in a Panera after smoking Dubba Bubba.

Not ideal to read cards in public. Worrying how I’m being perceived — insecurity, back again. Today I draw a Major Arcana card. 

CARD: The Sun

INDICATION: Confidence; attainment; past efforts bearing fruit.

RESPONSE: I’ve spent more days sober since starting this piece than I have in some time. It’s felt good, and I feel a new confidence with this psychedelic therapy path. But still I crave something else.

Why this desire for something else, when I’m already feeling good?

I desire to feel better.

Same trend in the relationships. Seeking more, even when this is good.

Tendency is to think what is can be improved — or that my experience of it can be improved.

But what does “improved” mean? 

Happier. Lighter. Satisfied.

As if that’s how life should always be. 

Insisting on lightness is turning from the hard stuff — rejecting the shadow, fighting our own minds. 

The first time I experienced ayahuasca, I felt a dark spirit enter the room. Images arose of maggots wriggling into coffins to feast on the remnants of decaying carcasses, and in the same moment, half the room of total strangers began vomiting into plastic bags, violently spewing gurgling darkness from the bowels of the underworld. 

I was terrified. I couldn’t take it. I fought it, tried to subdue it. This darkness laughed at my feeble attempts. This was reality, and in fighting it, I was judging it, creating my own suffering. 

We’re taught not to look at the dark stuff. We’re taught to focus really hard on feeling good, on making the darkness vanish.

That’s the advertisement we’re buying, decorating the best-selling pages of self-help books. We’re desperate to alleviate, but we’re finding only palliatives. Who’s helping us navigate this shadow we’re too afraid to behold?

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist who gave the unconscious “shadow” its name, once said: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” 

That’s what this Tarot ritual and psychedelic therapy are about for me. Becoming more conscious of the darkness. Integrating my shadow, that it stops controlling me, for the steering wheels of perception are often unconscious. 

It’s hard and painful to look at the pain I’ve buried deep inside. The Sun reminds me to invite confidence, vitality, and success back in. It reminds me that I have everything I need right in front of me, that even amidst darkness, all is very well.  

Tarot Day 4

All is not well again. High frequency of emotional struggle continues. Same old shit, piling up again. Took 45mg of Adderall to get through. In truth, I don’t want to quit.

This isn’t a streamlined narrative. But if I presented it that way, I’d be lying. My life isn’t streamlined. Causality feels less chronological than lateral, operating in a field of simultaneity.

I just smoked. This time, I used my dark deck, Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck. Out popped the Queen of Disks. For interpretations of this deck, I turn to angelpaths.

CARD: Queen of Disks

INDICATION: Need to connect to the body, to find nourishment, to meet neglected needs; “a stable foundation from which to move forth into the often turbulent forces of life.”

RESPONSE: What is my stable foundation? Haven’t exercised in many days. Been eating lots of takeout food. Drinking beer each night. Slept three hours last night, worked 6am-7pm, then came home to study, and write. Depending on Adderall to get through it. 

Here’s a question: is Adderall helping this situation? Or, in convincing me I can take on more, is it actually causing it? Am I mistaking the cause for the egress? Is it possible to find peace with the anxiety underlying this job, rather than try and speed away from it and repeatedly find myself thrust into into a revolting dungeon of its control?

The Psychology of Meditation class I’m taking differentiates between doing and being. I’m stuck in doing—trying to get somewhere that isn’t here, to make something happen that will change things, and make them better. An if, then mentality. 

The stable foundation to enter turbulence? Being. Present, mindful, receptive to what is. 

If only it were that easy. 

Spending 8 hours a day, faking it? Smiling, as if not counting down the hours? 

Or, the current path: Getting so sped-up and anxious that for the first time in my life I’ve felt concerned I’m tiptoeing toward an aneurysm.

I thought this writing, this ritual, would help. It hasn’t. I’m as lost as ever before. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to be. 

***

People don’t often consider cannabis a psychedelic, but folks who work with it in ritualistic and therapeutic settings often do. Take Daniel McQueen, whose organization Medicinal Mindfulness is becoming increasingly-well-known through its “Conscious Cannabis Circles.” McQueen’s work fuses shamanic journeying, psychotherapy, and cannabis, and participants regularly wind up thinking the cannabis was laced with something more powerful. That’s never the case. Rather, cannabis’ psychedelic—translated as “mind-manifesting”—potential is unlocked through intentional approach to set and setting, which may take a shamanic form, or may take a psychotherapeutic form, as with Innate Path in Denver

Since cannabis is legal here in Colorado, it, alongside ketamine, is paving the way for legal psychedelic therapy, being used to help treat depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It’s just gotta be approached as more than a way to get high. When it comes to psychedelics, intention is central.

My life is lacking intention. I react from sped-up emotions, not grounded centeredness. Intention can draw out the insight I desire, so my thoughts stop circulating through these same immovable patterns ad infinitum.

It’s like writing. Without intention for the piece, it proliferates into wherever the rambling mind may go.

So, for this last session, I intend to feel into my heart. The pipe rests on the mandala rug, between my two decks. I intend to smoke more Dubba Bubba than any previous night of this writing. I intend to approach it respectfully, asking for insight, and peace. I intend to ground in this embodied present, anchored in the self-love cannabis and other psychedelics have long helped me feel, the self-love I’ve let slip away.

I intend simply to be. 

Tarot Day 5

Tonight feels different. I feel the same anxious patterns that have arisen throughout this process, but tonight, they come with a recollection: These patterns are not me. I am their container. I am their loving mother, nurturing them as children. No thought or emotion is unwelcome, and I am grateful for them all.

I grab the Rider-Waite deck and shuffle for some while. Gazing through the darkness of my room, I see the glowing ember at the edge of the incense become two, forming the fiery eyes of a jaguar. My thought says this is an inaccurate perception. But what makes it less valid than “ordinary” perception? 

I do not know the nature of reality. I know only the formulas I’ve internalized to reduce it, navigate it, and convince myself I understand it.

I lean into non-understanding. The jaguar reminds me of my power. The jaguar reminds me how remarkable the world is, how great a gift to experience it. 

I’ve nearly forgotten the cards I shuffle when one leaps out. I hold in the light of the candle. 

A guru sits calmly before a blue altar bearing nine gold chalices. He’s staring at me, smiling. At peace.

This card is the 9 of Cups—according to Skye, the “best pip card in the entire Tarot deck.”

CARD: 9 of Cups

INDICATION: Great joy and happiness; getting what you wish for; triumph; success.

RESPONSE: All is not solved, and I am grateful. I draw two cards from the Thoth deck, and I’m greeted with the Prince of Cups—blue, beautiful being, male youth, balancing strongly on giant eagle—and The Emperor—red, powerful masculine, fire energy, loving protector. 

I’m reminded to invite in these benevolent energies, for they are as valid, and present, as the darkness.

My life may be dominated by uncertainty, yet amidst that uncertainty, there is propulsion. The more I lean into the beautiful things happening, the less I yearn for something more. 

I cup my racing heart in my hand. As I exhale slowly. I feel my heartbeat slowing. 

***

The truth is, this diary is only sort of the truth. I wrote thousands more words, and cut them away, finding meaning through the process, co-creating the progression with the reader in mind. There’s an artifice to it all.

For instance, during that final reading, the card that popped out wasn’t the Nine of Cups. It was a card bearing an advertisement for a book about the history of the deck’s creator. I wanted more. So I noticed the card atop the deck was slanted away from the rest. That card was the Nine of Cups, and through it, I have chosen meaning. 

A pressing question of psychedelic therapy centers on integration: How do we integrate the value of these experiences into daily life? For me, it’s about creating new structures of meaning, which I experience through story. Stories, like the Tarot, engage with archetypal energies, and such engagement can point the way out of traps we’re caught in—a way we know, yet may have forgotten.

As I turn over the deck to return the drawn cards, I observe the card on the bottom.

It is The Fool. The zero card. The first Major Arcana, the first of the deck. He is the jester, the vagabond, innocently embarking upon an unpredictable journey through mythic realms eternally recurring—in Skye Alexander’s words, “embarking on a new way of life.”

The stories we tell about our lives determine our experience of the world. But no story is ever complete. Once again, we arrive at the beginning, gazing into the great unknown. 

 

Sean Lawlor is a writer studying to become a psychotherapist at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. He would be most thrilled if you connect with him on Instagram.


bud diary: depression

Monday, 3pm

On most days I have this eclectic mix of symptoms of depression, ADD, and anxiety disorders all trying to play at the same time. Today I roll a joint of Tangie Cure for its energetic lineage and incredible CBD content (13%!). I smoke while I work my editing job, with spreadsheets and manuscripts. The Tangie terpenes boost my mood and glaze over my cramps, while the CBD almost soothes me, allowing me to focus. The action of smoking itself gives my body something to think about while my eyes are locked on a screen. Except my legs, which jiggle under my desk like shivering pipes. Can’t cloud all the anxiety away.

Tuesday, 11:30am

I’m smoking a butt on the couch. I can tell I haven’t taken my meds yet because I have errands to run and the idea of it makes me want to curl up under pounds of blankets. I inhale the last of my mix—Root Beer Float and Mimosa—and anticipate the awkwardness of the food pantry I’m about to go to, alone, for only the second time. I think about reasons not to go (I don’t have any) and I think about how I wouldn’t have to go if we didn’t waste so much money (not true) and as I crunch the end of my joint into an ashtray, I remind myself that I’m spiraling, and it’s okay, and I push it all aside. It goes great.

Wednesday, 3:15pm

I light up the last of my stash, some so-so Mimosa, trying to focus on work while I have errands on the brain. I turn my time tracker on and read more about feminist economics and the histories that created and sustain economic inequality. Sometimes my job is weird. And great. And isolating. Reading a whole book in a few afternoons is not easy to do, and I get exhausted easily, especially with my own distractedness. But I smoke a joint and finish my work time with my eyes mostly on the screen. Acid Rain (by Lorn) comes on and I feel… groovy.

Thursday, 9am

My body is a cramped weight I feel too weak to carry. All I want is to roll over and ignore a world full of responsibility and need. I drag myself up and pour the coffee my husband left behind, then, bleary-eyed, gather my grinder, papers, bud.

I use joint rolling as a ritual, taking a moment to be here and nowhere, to be awake and alive, but still rather frantic. I use the time smoking to plan my day. With the first hit I feel more relaxed without being sleepy, and my body feels lighter. The Ogre I bought last night tastes diesel-y and sweet. It goes well with the coffee. I can breathe again.

10pm

Things have felt wrong today, a shakiness in my center, and sleep seems incredible. I light up a roll of Sizzleberry and tell myself it’s the last one of the day. It’s an attempt to keep myself out of the muck and get myself into bed—though I don’t think this strain will be doing me any favors in the sleep department. I worked a lot today but didn’t get what I wanted done. The knowledge sucks at me, and I’ve been gripped by the need to either get up and do something or go the fuck to sleep. I slept in this morning, and don’t want to again, so I’m hoping for the latter.

Friday, midnight

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be particularly weird when there isn’t anyone active in your life, forcing you to get better. I don’t just mean being alone. Rather when the people in your life are stagnant, or inactive in their personal health or activity, hobbies, or needs, it tends to drag you down. I light up my tiny spiral hand-pipe with a broken up nugget of The White. My body feels light and airy, my mind relaxes, my head gets heavy. I hope this fills my boredom with a desire for sleep. It’s weird to notice how your actions and inactions both breed their own kinds of loneliness.

You can tell I’ve only been taking half of my Zoloft doses when these are my midnight thoughts.

Saturday, 1:30am

I can’t sleep. It’s a full moon. I stop trying and light candles beside the bed, lighting a pipe of Mimosa and White. I journal, considering what in my life is working, what needs to get better. I look forward to a new year with intention.

Sunday, noon

I find myself in bed, pillows over my ears, trying to shut out the world. I’m sinking in a feeling of unfairness, feeling buried in the unbalanced labor in my partnerships and family. The mix I smoked this morning was meant to get me out of bed relaxed after waking up panicked, and it was nice for conversation, but now I’m stuck down, overwhelmed by the needs I don’t have the stamina to deal with. When I finally get up, I smoke a bowl of The White and a fragrant True Purple Berry, and I can see through the fog of feelings again.

11:30pm

I pull too hard on a joint of Root Beer Float. The budtender at my go-to suggested it as the heaviest strain on the bargain shelf. It tastes sweet and smoky and does leave a weighted fog behind my eyes, but it doesn’t feel like sleep and I think it’ll take two joints to get me there.

I look forward to the new year. To resetting my attitude, my work style, my ideas. We’re given all sorts of opportunities to reset like this, but we’re not always able to take advantage of them. Sometimes because of our situations, responsibilities, limitations, or selves. This year I want to do more, and fear less.

 

Cyn Marts is an east-coast Boricua living on the west coast, searching for her own path through life's bullshit. She spends her time practicing self-care, devouring pop culture, and working as a publicist and editor in Portland, Oregon. She writes a cannabis lifestyle zine series called Ganja Bruja and posts about it under her Instagram.

 

 


bud diary: pakistan

What's it like to be a Pakistani woman who enjoys cannabis, despite the deep cultural and legal prohibitions against it? Manna Zaib shares her experience with us in this week's bud diary... 

 

They say that the hashish we smoke in Pakistan is some of the best in the world. Hash may be banned here—like alcohol—but it is widely and readily available.

Monday

People think it’s easier to live alone, without a family, but it just becomes tougher as the years pass by. I wake up early and skip breakfast. I call a cab, like I do every day, and in the 10-15 minute drive to the office, I wonder what I am doing with my life. I am in my late 20’s, unmarried. But I am in a steady relationship and we might get married at some point. In Pakistan, an independent working woman who lives away from home can only be a drug addict or “used.”

I wake up each day with these thoughts. They only subside in the evening when I meet my boyfriend. We usually meet after work at his place. He and his friends roll up, talk about politics, laugh, and smoke the night away. Sometimes they smoke and drink together. We call it a “cross” when you mix both the highs. But I don’t like drinking and avoid it.

Because it is illegal in Pakistan to purchase, sell, or smoke hashish, we don’t talk about it in public or discuss with peers unless we know they smoke.

Having being born and brought up in the United Arab Emirates, I thought Pakistan would be a drug-free, alcohol-free Islamic country. I moved to Pakistan for my undergrad, and started smoking up. What started off as an exercise to loosen up became a regular retreat.

Tuesday

I almost always wake up fresh after smoking up the previous night.

4pm: I just prayed and am very hungry. I’m confused if one should smoke before or after a meal. I always smoke after 8pm, after working hours. If I really have to finish an assignment and my anxiety is taking over, I’ll smoke during work hours; I carry a joint with me just in case of emergency. I have no idea if anyone in my office smokes, though we do joke about hash and its side effects. After I smoke, I do become socially awkward. I have bloodshot eyes and slower speech, so I avoid my colleagues. But I work like a train when I am high. I can focus better and think better when I am just a joint in.

Wednesday

Today I might not smoke because I have a ton of work to finish, so I might not meet my boyfriend. Days I don’t smoke are dull.

I go to the office and after small talk with my colleagues, I get to work. Because it is a desk job, by 6 pm my head is throbbing and I want to smoke.

On “dry” days, when I know I won’t be smoking, I wonder how people survive without an addiction to give them some relief from their daily routine. In Pakistan, the consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden for Muslims and use of recreational drugs is forbidden for everyone by law. We also have hardly any recreational activities. We don’t have a bar culture, nor do we have a clubbing culture, or a gaming culture (for women). Plus, life is especially tough for women because we can’t even roam in the park without getting cat called a zillion times.

Thursday

Thursday’s are great. It means we are just a day away from the weekend. My boyfriend and I never have any plans for the weekend, because there isn’t much to do. But it is always full of sex and hash.

At my boyfriend’s crib, it is my turn to roll.

My boyfriend has taught me how: you start by emptying and then cleaning a regular cigarette, then you burn and add a small amount of hashish, and then you put it all on a rolling paper. It isn’t as simple as it sounds; it usually takes years and tons of practice to master.

The spicy aroma of hashish fills the room quickly. I smoke one joint and leave because I have to prepare for Friday.

Friday

Friday’s are important, as each Friday is considered a religious day of celebration. I make it a point to wake up and dress well before I leave for work. I pray the weekly compulsory prayer in the office.

After work, I leave for my boyfriend’s house. I usually spend the weekend at his place. We are out of hash but it is easy to acquire. My boyfriend calls his bootlegger, who is also his “stash guy” (drug dealer), and asks him for two bottles and one big pack—about 25 grams of hashish.

The spongy, black hashish—made from marijuana grown in Pakistan’s tribal belt and neighboring Afghanistan—arrives in an hour along with two imported bottles of Scotch.

We make about 10 joints and order food. The food will arrive in the next hour, so we are hungry by the time it arrives. Hash makes us feel very hungry and happy, but sometimes I do not realize how much I have eaten until I have overeaten. Haha. I think that is just one of the side effects.

The night is full of laughter, jokes, some serious political discussion and religious too, great sex, and a good night’s sleep.

Saturday

I wake up at noon and make breakfast for all of us—my boyfriend, his roommates and their girlfriends. We are a friendly lot. It is very important to have a community in Pakistan of like-minded people in order to remain sane.

As soon as one of his friends wakes up, he starts rolling a joint. We all laugh and he explains a zillionth time that it is called “wake up and bake up.” He does this every Saturday and Sunday—smokes up before breakfast and makes us join.

Smoking up early morning makes the day bright! Last night's hangover and the sudden waking of my brain from this morning's puffing makes me tell crazy, dirty jokes. I like being mean to people when I am high. This high lasts for some 4-5 hours and then I feel drained and I sleep to recharge.

Sunday

Sunday is chore day. I wake up early and leave for my apartment. The housecleaner is kind enough to come on Sundays and help me clean my studio. It takes us several hours and I cook for the entire week. I freeze some of the food. Some I store in airtight containers.

I call my parents. We talk about the week and my siblings. Then, the discussion about my wedding starts. I have crossed the ideal age of marriage in my society (18-25 years). My parents are concerned about my future. My earning a living on my own and traveling the world is not an indicator of a secure future for them. After a heated discussion, I end the call. I really would like to smoke now. I am very tired, mentally and physically. I should call them after I have smoked up so that I remain calm throughout our conversation. Instead, I decide to go to bed.

 

Manna Zaib is a Pakistan-based artist struggling to find her purpose and is inspired by hashish daily. 


bud diary: the breakup

In which the author moves to Denver, Colorado for a dude she is dating and he immediately dumps her.

Day 1

7:30pm: My sister’s driving me back to my apartment. She drives a red Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible, and on the way she plays Taylor Swift's "Reputation" album. Top-down, DGAF girl-power mode I'm waving my hands above my head and grooving in the passenger seat like hey, don't blame me your love made me crazy if it doesn't you ain't doin' it right. Been three weeks since the break-up and I think I'm gonna be alright. Turn that Tay-Tay up.

8:15pm: I'm at home checking Instagram and having a hit off my pipe to wind down for bed, when a text from my ex invades the screen. The first contact we have had since the breakup. "I really am sorry I couldn't be who you needed me to be. I care about you and hope I can be a friend to you one day."

All the breakup advice I've read online says to delete and block his number. I deleted it so I can't contact him, but I haven't been able to bring myself to block him. The advice also told me to get rid of any possessions that remind me of him. I couldn't do that either. I settled for stashing the underwear he bought me after his dog chewed the crotch out of my silk panties, and the special rocks I found in a creek bed on a camping trip we took, into the locked storage unit in the basement of the building. I'll retrieve them when I'm healed, though I don't anticipate that happening anytime soon. Still...friends! I mean, we could be friends.

"I care about you too and would also like to be friends," I text.

Day 2

10:30am: Walking to the coffee shop where I conduct my freelance writing business. Cutting across the park I fantasize about playing frisbee in the grass with my ex. Then I fantasize about lying in the grass next to him. Kissing him.

11am: One block away, directly across the street walking in the other direction, I see him. First time we've run into each other since the breakup. I call his name. Obviously, this is a divine meeting set up by the universe, answering his olive branch from last night. He looks. I raise my hand and hold it still in the air, a wave frozen by apprehension.

11:01am: "Ohhaywhatsup" he calls hastily over his shoulder as he walks away. Colder than Denver winter.

11:05am: I sit down in the coffee shop, honestly kinda stunned. Wow. Well, I guess this motherfucker still has control over my emotions. Three weeks of recovery sliced right open. I am not crushed; I am crushed ice. Make me into a sno-cone. Pour candypoison syrup all over me, slurp me up, seriously, who gives a fuck.

11:06am: I mean WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!

6pm: I walk to the weekly meditation meetup group I've been going to in my neighborhood. It's a pretty straightforward meeting. About 10 of us sit in a circle and watch the sensations in our external and internal worlds come and go. I've never gone to the meetup high before, though I often meditate stoned when I'm at home alone. I think weed helps me access emotions that I avoid because they’re too scary to feel. Same goes for meditation, so they're really a natural pairing. My intuition tells me that it's ok to respectfully enter this space high tonight. So, it's settled. Around the corner of the building, I take a couple hits from a joint. Then I go inside.

6:15pm: Halfway through our meditation session and suddenly I'm sobbing. Tears and snot pouring down my face like someone turned the faucet in my sinuses on. Trying to be quiet so I don't disturb the other meditators, my face scrunched up tight. I lower my head and I'm blasted by a ray of late afternoon sun that's made its way through the window shades and into our otherwise-darkened room. Its warmth and energy shines a bright, healing love-light on my suffering. I cry more, and now my tears are golden.

Day 3

11am: Hit snooze. Yesterday was intense, and today I am STFI (Sleeping The Fuck In). I can't stop thinking about my ex. Why would he send a text message saying he wants to be friends and then less than 24 hours later completely blow me off? Who does that? It's just so mean. Not that I mind having the moral high ground, but fuck, this hurts. Rejection hurts.

1:30pm: Get coffee and a breakfast burrito from the coffee shop down the street, which I drive to even though it's only a few blocks away because I have neither food in my house nor energy for walking and potentially running into The Ex. Sit in the parking lot of the coffee shop for 40 minutes drinking my coffee slowly and talking on the phone to my sister.

She says, “I know this phone call is about you, but can I complain about my roommate’s girlfriend leaving her toothbrush on my part of the bathroom sink?!” My sis is an Aries.

"Yes, of course, please." Frankly I’m relieved for a distraction from my pain.

2:30: At a pizza-by-the-slice restaurant with my sister. I order two slices so I can take one home and eat it for dinner, so that I won't have to leave the house again until tomorrow. I sneak out my half-drunk 20oz PBR “tall boy” can stashed in the pocket of my rain coat. My ex re-introduced PBR into my life after I spent the past half-dozen years a craft beer snob. God, damn it. Still, I don’t want to waste a chance at a buzz.

3:30pm: We traverse a 3-foot metal fence that divides the parking lots between the pizza restaurant and the health food grocery store next door. My sister needs a carton of orange juice, and I am always—even if I am depressed and heartbroken—ready and willing to slather free samples of rose, lavender, acai-whatever scented “facial toners” and whatnot from the beauty products section of health food stores over my face and body. It's one of life's small joys and I won't let anything get in my way of it. MAYBE I’LL EVEN PUT ON SOME FUCKING LIPSTICK TODAY, WHO CARES? WHO DO I HAVE TO IMPRESS? NOBODY! THAT’S WHO!

3:40pm: My sister buys her OJ and I get some lavender Epsom salts. The guy who works the register reminds me of my ex. Everyone does.

6:15pm: I finish a bit of freelance work and declare today fucking OVER WITH. A 2-hour workday is more than sufficient given my current mental and emotional state. I draw a bath with the lavender Epsom salts and do something I’ve never done before: smoke a J in the bath. Honestly, I feel kinda awesome about myself for thinking of this.

6:30pm: I'm feeling a lot calmer and happier, more at ease. The warm water envelops me, like I’m back in the womb. The weed heightens this effect. I am proud of myself for going easy on myself. “Self-care” doesn’t come easy to me, but I think the fact that I'm letting myself take it easy means maybe I'm starting to love myself a little bit. "Take it easy, but take it." Woody Guthrie said that.

6:45pm: Almost completely submerged, I feel a presence. Like it's from my ex. I can feel his energy reaching out to me. He doesn't want there to be any hard feelings.

I mean, I get it. I do. Maybe he feels guilty for hurting me. Maybe he really does want to be friends. He thought maybe in a month or two we could meet up; I'm sure he wasn't expecting to see me that day. He was caught off guard. All of that. I get it.

 Still, I don't want to fuck with it. It's not my problem anymore, the fact that this dude sometimes fucks up and treats me shitty.

"I forgive you," I say out loud, to the white tile walls around the tub. "I get it. I've done shit like this to people before, too, believe me. It's okay. It's really ok. But just- for real, leave me alone now. I need to heal." I shake the water off my hands, quick, firm, flinging drops of water off me. "Whatever you're feeling is yours. For you to deal with." We are not friends.

 

Gina D'Ambrose is a Denver-based public relations expert.


Microdosing for Anxiety and Depression

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled through periods of crippling anxiety and devitalizing depression. Adolescence, a period of life already fraught with change and bewilderment, left me frequently unable to function. I tried several antidepressants such as citaloprams, SSRIs, and NDRIs. In short, conventional medicine didn’t work for me. Several therapists and years of treatment later, a psychiatrist finally diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder at the age of 24.

I got to the point of being unable to get out of bed in the mornings because my anxiety had fueled bouts of insomnia. The exhausting nature of depression also further exacerbated my stunning fatigue. It was time for me to search for a solution, perhaps one considered off the beaten track. I decided to try microdosing cannabis.

Cannabis Microdosing for Anxiety

January 2018: A friend suggested that I can get in touch with someone he had been liaising with: a grower, harvester and distiller of marijuana amongst other plants. He would sort me out with cannabis oil, he said. Although I have been known to smoke a joint every now and then, I was at first skeptical of using marijuana as a long-term treatment. But when January didn’t get any better, I decided to take the plunge (after pay-day, that is).

February: I received a petite, navy dropper-bottle in medical-grade packaging one Thursday morning. I was to allow for two drops under the tongue at night, between the hours of 6 and 8pm. The first night I tried the medication, I felt completely out of it. My body, ever-sensitive to foreign substances, didn’t know what hit it. This initial experience forced me to question my decision: did I want to feel this way every evening for at least six months? That night I slept like a baby for the first time in years. So, I decided to press on.

Increasing My Cannabis Tolerance

I did eventually build up some resistance to the cannabis oil so that I (mostly) felt relaxed. But there were periods where I noticed stronger effects. One evening while playing a particularly complicated board game with friends, I ended up in a fit of giggles and talking nonsense.

March: My body had time to settle. Work stress made it ever more important for me to get a good night’s rest, and to avoid stress-induced anxieties. The cannabis oil made this possible and then some.

April: I was doing so well and then the insomnia hit again, out of nowhere. My supplier had warned me this might happen, but reassured that it wouldn’t last too long. I spent almost two weeks getting barely any sleep and feeling fatigued and emotional during the day. My solution was to add another drop or two to my nightly routine. My body eventually re-adjusted and the rest of April passed with few hiccups.

Continuing my Cannabis Journey

I don’t regret my decision to try cannabis oil. Everything else I’ve tried for depression and anxiety has had nasty side effects. I’m just about halfway through the course trial and look forward to seeing what the next three months bring. Perhaps I’ll carry on with the treatment on a continual basis. Perhaps I will decide that my body has been rebooted and further dosage is unnecessary. I’m grateful that, with relatively few exceptions, I’ve had a positive experience with cannabis oil. It’s allowed me to experience what it feels like to be well-rested and placid—two unfamiliar feelings.

 

Nora Dourak is a writer who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. 


Bud Diary: Paralyzing Pelvic Pain

4:05am: Screeching bladder pain. The type that tugs on you like it’s got a hold of your collar, and you can only slacken the grip by sprinting to the bathroom.

4:06am: Grip slackened, take a minute to do some slow breathing to recover from the pain sensation. Quash the fight-or-flight (or pee?) reflex. How bracingly dignified.

Cannabis and Interstitial Cystitis

A little background: I have both interstitial cystitis, aka painful bladder syndrome, and pelvic floor dysfunction, which manifests as a constant urge to urinate and painful sensitivity. After developing these, I became confident that a cross pufferfish had filled itself with helium and replaced my pelvic organs, pushing venomous spines into every angle of my core. To control the pain, I need pelvic, transvaginal Botox injections quarterly or my bladder and surrounding muscles seize up like a clenched fist. It is not a sexy procedure, but it’s the only way to relax the muscles enough to do exotic tasks such as walking around comfortably. I get Botox injections every three months, and the morning of a procedure always seems to hold all the stress of that length of time in a few hours. Medical marijuana (MMJ), which I am legally registered to use and my care team is supportive of, has made the routine ordeal less heinous. I also rely less on anti-anxiety medications.

4:07am: Narrowly avoid stepping on the cat, who is delighted to see her food dispenser. I crouch down and shake out her food, benefiting from her loud purrs. I sit back, close enough that she moves to the other side of her bowl. I’m not going to be able to stand back up without thoughtful prelude.

Using a Hybrid Vape Pen

4:15am: Pick up my phone and scroll through something meaningless. I hope to be back asleep in a moment. Painsomnia has been met by doctors with “vape up, bro!” so that’s what I’m resigned to. I select a strain called Pennywise, which is far less haunting than its namesake and delivers an even THC/CBD combination, soothing but not addling.

4:17am: I’m so anxious about the procedure that I think there’s no way in hell I’m sleeping. I turn on the light, crank up the fireplace, close the bedroom door to not wake my partner and sit down to grind out flower and pour it into my PAX 2. On cue, my cat hauls herself into my lap, either content to keep me company or lured by about the scritch-scritch of my grinder.

4:19am: I’ve concluded that the weed is no match for raw, unbridled anxiety. Or at least not enough to bring sleep.

5:20am: I’m finally distracted. I gently scoot out from under the cat and slip back into the bedroom. My bed feels delightful, and my partner blearily welcomes me into bed.  I try to sleep for the couple of hours left.

Sedation from Cannabis

6:40am: The slowly growing light from outside has not helped. I detangle myself from my partner and slouch back to the living room. Maybe some light gaming and a more sedating marijuana strain will be a balm.

6:55am: I hear my alarm go off and I rush in to silence it and wake my partner. I re-pack my PAX 2 and inhale to stop myself from hissing at my partner to hurry as he dresses at a completely reasonable pace and we head to the hospital.

7:03am: I start in on a heavy Indica called Skywalker OG (discussed with my anesthesiologist and care team prior). No amount of CBD from a sativa-leaning strain would be a good tradeoff right now. I just need to get through the barrage of intrusive behaviors from a variety of nurses, and contemplate what happens to my life if anesthesia kills me.

8:30am: When I’ve faced down this procedure in the past without the assistance of MMJ, interacting with often condescending clinicians has made me try to escape the procedure entirely. When a nurse misspells my name on my wristband, I notice that I am atypically calm. I charitably think “everyone makes mistakes” rather than “if you can’t spell, you can’t guide an IV cath.” I do this every three months. The fatigue is awesome.

9:00am: My partner strokes my hand and I’m prepared to give up control and allow the anesthesia to take hold. He knows the pain that rushes to meet me when I come around. So, he has my vaporizer and headphones for music to ease me back into the world post-anesthesia. Nothing can mitigate the experience, but MMJ files down the sharpest edges.  

 

Nora Flint treats her interstitial cystitis and pelvic floor dysfunction with cannabis. 


Bud Diary: Quitting Drinking

Over the holidays, I reevaluated my relationship with drinking. Lots of my relatives are high-functioning alcoholics. They have good careers and families (or at least a couple of spoiled pets), and accept DUIs as just another part of life. I find it impossible not to drink around them and usually pack on a few boozy Christmas pounds.

This year, I resolved to spend January and February sober. The older I get, the more I find that alcohol plunges me into a pit of despair. Marijuana, on the other hand, is a beguiling sleep shaman. I don’t love loud bars, but I do like to stay home and suck on frozen chunks of mango, so weed is a better fit for my lifestyle anyway. As I embarked on my months of alcohol-free living, I wondered: Could I become a more social smoker?

Day 1

11:00am: Got a text inviting me to a show. This same-day invite has left me with very little time to emotionally prepare. But I have to go out. Not drinking isn’t much of an accomplishment if you stay home and avoid temptation.

9:00pm: I greet my friends. They’re wearing their usual sheer leotards and glitter. God, they look good. I feel self-conscious in my jeggings and cardigan. “You’re going to love this band!” Tina shouts at me. She’s right—the lead singer dances like a possessed marionette and I want to be just like her.

11:30pm: The singer has leapt into the crowd, inciting a mosh pit. I try to make myself half-heartedly jump around. Anyone could have picked me out of the crowd—“That woman is clearly sober and almost 30!” I thought I could hear someone shout. I focus on trying not to drop my seltzer.

12:00pm: I’m home at a very reasonable hour. I congratulate myself with a bowl of OG Kush, an indica strain I got primarily to combat my mild insomnia. Then I eat three oranges.

Day 2

10:00am: I awake, sticky with orange juice.

Since I’ve woken up late, I start work right away. I don’t feel like I have time to walk to my co-working space.

7:00pm: I’m feeling stir-crazy after spending all day at home.

Out of OG Kush, I decide to text my guy. I ask him to recommend a sativa — any strain that will make me want to do something besides melt into the couch. He recommends Strawberry Cough.

10:00pm: To celebrate my new purchase, I re-watch every episode of “UNHhhh,” a YouTube series by my favorite drag queens, Trixie Matel and Katya Zamolodchikova. I always tell myself that watching a movie will take too much time, so I watch YouTube instead, which inevitably lasts 3 hours. I just can’t stop clicking.

Even though I followed my usual routine, I can tell this strain will be better for going out. I feel my synapses crackle and pop. I’m alert and ready to be entertained.

Day 3

11:00am: I woke up to an unusual sensation on my face. I’m lying on my side, with my head pressed into my upper arm. There is gum mashed between my cheek and my sleeve. Turning over, I see the remains of two packs of gum strewn across my bedspread.

I’m angry with myself. I make coffee and proceed to once again work from bed.

Day 4

8:00am: I’m awake at a reasonable hour! Making oatmeal to celebrate.

12:00pm: At the co-working space, feeling like a fire hose of unbridled ambition.

7:00pm: It’s happy hour at the space. I sip tea and announce my temporary sobriety to my colleagues. “I’m still smoking weed. I’m not a hero,” I tell them, which is a line I end up using over and over.

10:00pm: What if I just have a puff or two?

Moments later, I’m uplifted. I’m content to just have a spoon of peanut butter. I fall asleep listening to a podcast and the hosts’ banter is especially scrumptious.

Day 5

7:00pm: My friend Cara and I are going to watch an improv show. The first segment took place in total darkness, which made it difficult to follow the plot. Cara and I usually smoke, but I’m glad we didn’t this time. I could picture myself feeling very nervous that I was the only one who didn’t get it.

Day 6

9:30pm: I meet my podcast co-host Lisa at a bar. I took a deep drag before leaving my apartment and Strawberry Cough is treating me right.

10:15pm: One of my Tinder matches messages me. John’s profile says “Swipe right if you would date Larry David.” My Tinder profile says, “Like if Larry David was a woman, only not as hot as it sounds,” so clearly, he’s my destiny. Tinder dates are the one thing I said I couldn’t do without a few drinks.

11:00pm: When he arrives, Lisa smiles indulgently but I can tell his scruffy beard doesn’t impress her.

11:30pm: John and I relocate to a quieter bar. He is very talkative and eagerly lists his favorite comedians as he squirts condiments onto his hamburger. “I have bad ADD,” he tells me. “You’ve probably noticed.” His chattiness makes not drinking a little easier. I usually feel like I have to carry the conversation and need a cocktail to loosen up. This is a change of pace, at least.

2:00am: We make out outside my apartment.

Day 7

12:00pm: I’m recording a podcast today and Lisa and I have a couple of guests joining us.

4:00pm: Lisa, our two guests, and the sound guy have guzzled three bottles of champagne. It’s getting pretty rowdy. I’m glad I’m sober so I can shepherd my drunk little sheep back to the topic (Queer Ghost Hunters on YouTube, look them up!)

7:00pm: This is taking a minute to edit. I share a bowl with the sound guy. Is the episode as funny as I think it is?

1:00am: I keep smoking until my lids are heavy. I’m still giggling to myself as I drift off to sleep.

 

Monica Candle is a writer based in Brooklyn. She is happy with how her podcast episode turned out.


Bud Diary: Plant Magic

Day 1

6:50am: It's unnaturally cold, so dragging myself out of bed at this hour is especially annoying. But it's the one day a week I try to wake for the sunrise, so in five minutes I'm shooing cats away from the door as I step outside, wrapping a cloak around me and grumbling under my breath, which I can see in the air in front of me. I wait until I reach the hill nearby before pulling up my pipe, fairly certain none of the neighbors will spy me listening to birdsong, watching the first rays climb out of the darkness.

12:04pm: Ten minutes in the middle of the day is just enough meditation and marijuana time to get me through my next couple hours of work. Not every smoke is a spiritual one, but this one makes me feel light and full of air.

9:17pm: Today I pray to a goddess of veils. I take a slow draw from a small bong, and sit back on the meditation pillow at the foot of my altar. I think about the mist rolling over the mountains and into the valley at sunrise, the way it envelopes the landscape, like smoke rolling into my lungs, settling low into my body, hugging my curves like foothills. She pulls the veil back from before my eyes and I quiet my mind, letting her voice fade in and out of focus.

Day 2

10:56pm: Monday, moon day. After a day of catching up on emails, writing pitches, cleaning the house and getting a start on the week’s work, I’m ready to crash. Before rolling over and falling asleep, though, I take a moment to breathe, smoke curling from my lips and up toward the window from where I sit in my bed, the moon creeping lower in the sky and lighting up my room. This evening ritual is vital: sweet smoke, candlelight, a cup of hot honeybush tea, and a good book. Before I settle into the covers to read, I pull out the small rosary hanging by my bedside. The knots slide through my fingers as I gaze up. She changes everything she touches, everything she touches changes. Change us, touch us. Touch us, change us.

Day 3

1:32pm: Today the cold is getting to me. My joints start to ache and I pull the covers over my head one too many times in the morning (and okay, let's be real, the afternoon too). All I want to do is stay in bed and binge watch Law & Order SVU while reading along with Carmen Maria Machado's novella, "Especially Heinous." But Tuesday is Mars' day, the Roman god of war, and so I get up, take a hoot off my hash pipe, and pack my gym bag.

2:23pm: The pool is, of course, frigid, but I plug in my mp3 player and hop in anyway. My pre-gym smoke numbs the shock and soon my heart is pumping along with the beats. Work it!

Day 4

9:12am: Wednesday is Mercury’s day, so I want to focus as much energy as possible on my craft. There is already a tray of CBD-heavy cannabis cookies in the oven, I’ve eaten breakfast and am sipping tea, watching last night’s Daily Show. I need my head to stay clear.

9:35am: Cooked and cooled, I grab a couple edibles for afternoon pain relief—working at a desk all day has its drawbacks, even if that desk is in my bedroom—and I lock myself in with a book of creative writing exercises and my internet off. O Muses, O immortal Nine!

Day 5

10:44am: Plant magic is powerful. Even without imbibing, I can feel the plant in my veins, soothing sore muscles, calming raw nerves. The gym is packed, so I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths before wiggling my way into the weight room. Thursday is Thor day, Jupiter’s realm. Mind over matter, big picture thinking. Lord of Lightning, light a fire under my ass.

Day 6

11:11am: I love when I catch the clock at just the right time. Longing for a day off, I head to a hotel with my partner, a hash pipe, and a few bathtub toys. Venus is in the air, and in the sheets. The jacuzzi makes a terrible humming noise but we don’t mind. We crank the music louder, breathe in deeper, and forget all our worries. Come to me, intoxicating lady.

11:11pm: Skin so soft, smoke so smooth. Fridays are my days to revel in everything good, so I’m full. Full of good food, and drinks, full of fuzzy feelings, and full of love. Just as it should be.

Day 7

7:10am: Saturday, Saturn’s day is about structure. I sit down at my desk, pull down my day planner, and take a quick hit from the pipe while I start penciling things in.

4:22pm: The intricate lines of the sigil wrap their way around the bud, crackling red, then black, then grey as the joint burns between my fingers. A new week is coming, new goals are on the horizon. I’ve set my sights and we’re taking off. Grandmother, grant me wisdom, give me grace.

9:47pm: Back in bed. Books by candlelight, sweet milky tea, one last smoky breath before it all begins again.

 

Max is a witch, a wanderer, and sometimes, a writer. They live in a valley with one man, two cats, and more tarot decks than they can count, which is probably too many tarot decks.