booze, bud, and the “truth effect.”

I have become a stoner. This is a surprise. I was old when I smoked for the first time – in my late twenties. My head is always so free-associative, my moods always so undulating, I never wanted to add drugs to the already overwhelming mix.

And those early forays into getting high, in my late twenties and early thirties, never went well. The first guy who introduced me to it, my boyfriend at the time, smoked all day long. I was distracted, when we met, by living in NYC, the boss I wrote about recently, discovering the world of burlesque. All sorts of things that were more interesting than his idiosyncrasies. But when I got high, instead of turning into a laid-back philosopher or anal-ready sex toy like he probably fantasized, I became a person who hated my boyfriend.

He was so annoying.

Two things I learned over the next couple of years. First, when I am high, I lose impulse control, not just in terms of wanting to eat an entire pizza myself, but also in terms of noticing how I really feel about people. As in, Omigod why am I dating you, you’re such a jerk!

It also jacks up my empathy, to the point where if I get high with another person, I get high the way they do. If I’m smoking with a dumb person, I go blank. If I’m smoking with my brother, who is smarter than he realizes, I start thinking all of the thoughts times three and then some.

I also have past-life flashbacks, although those are becoming rarer. Boy, can that get weird fast.

Aside from the questionable memories of prior lives, I’ve come to trust whatever insights I have when I’m high simply because I become so annoyingly, mercilessly honest – even worse than I am in real life.

I trust these findings much more than the “insights” I have when I’m drunk, anyway. I read some study (somewhere, 2012) that a drunk brain is an old skool brain, falling back on its most sentimental, traditional, reactionary impulses. If you think about drunk girls falling on each other in the ladies room, professing their undying friendship, or the jealous fights between couples, or strangers telling strangers the glorified story of how they “quit” their job… only to wake up the next morning feeling all nuanced and conflicted and vaguely dissatisfied again…

If you’re getting the impression that I a) spend too much time at bars and b) equate being drunk with being a dumbass…


I don’t say this as judgment from on high. This comes from YEARS of field research and using myself as a lab specimen. There are asses dumber than mine, but not many amongst my particular demographic.

Being drunk is to feel everything as an exaggerated, more black-and-white thing. This can be at times informative. I have certainly made long-overdue pronouncements of truth when I was too drunk to care. I have admitted to feelings, when drunk, that I had dismissed as irrelevant or inconvenient when sober.

I’ve had some pretty damn good sex when drunk.

The best sins are multipurpose and alcohol, in that regard, has most of the others beat. But, for all the bounteous delights a beer or a shot can offer, that shimmering fluid does distort reality. It can turn casual fucking into true love, horrid relatives into important parts of your story, and the IRS into a Dilbert character you can easily outwit.

In other words after much rigorous testing I have come to the conclusion that:

Booze + You = Dumbass

In my experience, marijuana has the opposite effect, lifting the veil between what we consider polite (convenient) society and what is really true. And wow, can that get awkward. But this “truth effect” resonates with me. The older I get, the more I learn to honor my own forthright tendencies. Being honest has caused discomfort, destroyed friendships, lost jobs, actually – but ultimately it’s never let me down.

Because truth is you. It is your journey.

And becomes, sometimes, being convenient just sucks.