Eight Miles High by
(298 Stories)

Prompted By Drugs and Alcohol

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At first blush, writing about a history of drug use seems risky. But I am not running for public office (remember when Bill Clinton had to say that he didn’t inhale?), and now that my kids are grown, I don’t mind them knowing that I was a little wild in my youth. Can’t imagine that anyone else would care. Six years ago, when the prompt “Altered States” came up, I wasn’t ready to publish a tell-all, but now I’m okay with it.

Seems like we had much more fun being in our twenties in the '70s than we do now that we are in our seventies in the '20s!

I was first introduced to marijuana at a summer program I attended at Syracuse University before my senior year of high school. (See With a Little Help From My Friends, and  A Whiter Shade of Pale.) I thought smoking dope was great, much better than drinking alcohol. Also easier to get, because you didn’t have to show proof of age, like you did to buy alcohol. I continued smoking senior year (although only at my friend Amy’s house, because her parents were never home) and all through college. In college, everyone I knew smoked, if not when they first got there, certainly before they graduated. Absolutely everyone. No matter how straight they were when they arrived in Cambridge. Grass, and occasionally hash, were present at all the parties I went to, and made everything more fun and more intense. Ginger Baker drum solos were the best thing to dance to stoned. Movies were better stoned too, especially ones like Yellow Submarine and Woodstock. I occasionally tried mescaline and LSD and enjoyed them too, although they were a little scary because you took one pill and you never knew how wasted you were going to get or how long it would last. Once, when I was tripping, a friend invited me to go for a motorcycle ride with him, but I had the sense to decline. Even in my altered state, I knew I might decide it would be fun to let go of him and just go flying through the air, which would have landed me in the hospital or the morgue.

Internet picture, not mine

It wasn’t until I was in law school that I was exposed to cocaine. My first experience was like something out of Hollywood — we actually snorted it off of a mirror, through a crisp rolled-up hundred dollar bill. I loved cocaine because it made me so wide awake and aware of everything around me. Getting stoned (or getting drunk) usually led to my falling asleep, but with cocaine I could stay up all night. Once I graduated and got a real job, I gravitated to the other people in my office who were into drugs. It was a small but fun group to hang around with, and made the transition from school to work much easier. One of the interns had a side gig as a coke dealer, so he could always get some for any of us who wanted it. However, after I had known him for a couple of years, we were talking on the phone one night, arranging for me to buy some coke from him. All of a sudden, he addressed me by my full name, and then said “so I will bring it over to your house, which is at [my street address] at 7:00 tomorrow night.” I felt a chill go through me. Why did he say all those facts so clearly? He must be setting me up for a bust! So I said, “you know what? I changed my mind. I don’t want to buy anything after all.” He said okay, and we hung up. And after that, I never snorted coke again. I will never know for sure whether I would have been busted if I had gone through with the purchase, but it seems likely.

After getting married, my (first) husband and I would generally get stoned when we went to parties, and always when performing with his rock ‘n’ roll band, but once I had children I stopped. I missed it, but I knew I shouldn’t be in an altered state while caring for babies and then toddlers, or even school-age kids.

Heavy metal band Gwar

Over the next 25 years, I only smoked a handful of times, all of them on my trips to Cambridge. Unforgettably, at a Lampoon party with my son in 2010 (along with the heavy metal band Gwar). Also, starting in the 2000s, every five years at my college reunions, where there was always someone with a few joints at the dinner-dance.

Now, of course, marijuana (or cannabis, as they seem to prefer to call it) is legal in California and Massachusetts, the two states where I spend the most time, as well as 35 other states. There are billboards everywhere advertising dispensaries. I have done edibles with two of my kids, but I’m not a big fan, because it takes a while to know how high you are. Reminds me of acid and mescaline in the old days. You wonder, should you eat a whole cookie (or brownie), or just a half? And if it seems like a half isn’t having any effect, and you then eat the other half, will you suddenly regret it when it hits you over the head? Smoking – or vaping, which I have just done once – seems much more controllable. But in truth, I don’t do anything mind-altering very often any more. It doesn’t have the same appeal it did when I was young. As the t-shirt says, being twenty in the ’70s was much more fun than being seventy in the ’20s!

I don’t actually have this t-shirt

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Just a great and honest story of your history of being stoned over the years, Suzy. And, as you know, and without going into murky college details, I can particularly relate to it. May I just add that — I am told — the movie 2001 was also a very popular one for viewing in an altered state in those days. (I recall an employee of the theater standing guard in the front of the house to keep people from rushing the screen.)

    And your story about the coke deal that never was was truly creepy. To state the obvious, I’m not myself a narc, but it sure sounds like a set-up to me. Very wise on your part!

    I’ve not seen that tee shirt before, but it is perfect. If Abbie Hoffman were alive, he’d probably steal it. And, for the first time in a while, your song title title is very familiar to me. However, there are so many song titles (and lyrics) from our idle youth that allude to drugs, I wasn’t sure which one you’d pick. Oh, wow.

    • Suzy says:

      Yes, I know you can relate! As I said, everyone I knew in college smoked sooner or later!

      I hated the movie 2001, and I was stoned when I saw it. I actually wrote a story about that called Also Sprach Zarathustra. Just went back and re-read it, and it’s a pretty great story, if I do say so myself.

      • John Shutkin says:

        I plan to re-read your story, Suzy. And, while I didn’t hate 2001, I found it pretentious, overrated and, frankly (other than the special effects and music), dull. And I was entirely un-stoned when I saw it.

        Now I need to order that tee shirt!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I am very glad you felt you could share all of this six years after the initial “Altered States” prompt, Suzy. You certainly tried lots of different kinds of mind-bending stuff and enjoyed the ride. Crazy about your “sixth sense” when almost buying coke after law school. Sounds like a really smart decision! And I love the slogan on your tee shirt that ends this story. I know that I already can’t recall things the way I could just a few years ago, so I don’t want to mess up those brain cells any further.

    Thanks for your honesty and this great thrill ride.

    • Suzy says:

      I thought long and hard about whether there was any reason not to divulge all of this, and I couldn’t think of a single one. I remember for years having the debate with friends about whether to tell the truth if your kids asked you about your drug use. I was never sure about what I would have said when they were young, but fortunately they never asked me. Now that they’re grown, I’m fine with them knowing.

  3. Wow, a tell-all indeed Suzy.
    My drug story is limited to pot and brownies and not a very serious or consistent habit at that.. I do remember being at a party in our younger days when everyone seemed delightfully stoned and I was sure I was not and was sorry. But at the same time it seemed so funny to me, I couldn’t help laughing hysterically!!!

    My sister who was 10 years younger and a heavy user of more serious and worrisome stuff got herself very sick at Cornell in the 70s and I realize that made me more cautious. I know my son and his friends are big pot smokers, I can only hope he’s too wise to do anything foolhardy.

    And love the tee-shirt! Reminds me of one I saw a guy wearing that said, “I may be old but I got to see all the great bands.”

  4. The T-shirt is clever. However, for me, things were more fraught in my 20s, and I was perhaps not as emotionally self-aware and evolved as some others. Therefore, being in my 70s in the twenties is, as Jack Flash might say, “a gas!”
    I enjoyed reading about how you navigated substance use at various points in your life. That possible “drug bust phone call” was chilling, even to read about second-hand.

    • Suzy says:

      In some ways my life is better now than it was in the ’70s, but I feel like I had a lot more fun then. Parties, for example, were much better back then than they are now. In fact, most of the parties I get invited to these days are political fundraisers. No loud music or dancing involved!

  5. Marian says:

    Reading your story, Suzy, I wish I enjoyed smoking more, which I found irritating. Had one great experience smoking pot in a hookah, though. You are being really forthright in this story and I am glad you feel comfortable telling it now that your kids are adults. I was always afraid of coke and super stimulants because I have a history of irregular heartbeats. I had one job where a group of people often used coke to work all night and top management looked the other way, and I must say it was a very disturbing experience for those of us who weren’t involved.

    • Suzy says:

      Mare, now that you mention it, we often used a waterpipe, much like a hookah, which made for a more soothing smoke. You could try that now, if you were so inclined. Also vaping isn’t as irritating to the throat as smoking a joint.

  6. Fred Suffet says:

    Yikes! That’s some story, Suzy, and you’re one brave soul for putting it out there and revealing so much about yourself. One thing that’s implicit in the story, especially the part about the cancelled deal, is that the response of the law (if any cops read it) is certainly not what it would have been back in the day. Back then, years before the internet, it certainly wouldn’t have reached nearly as many people as now. Nonetheless, if you had spread the story around, by whatever means, the likelihood is that a federal agent would have been knocking on your door in short order. But now that you’re an ex-user, you’re in no danger. I suppose that things have changed for the better, at least in my opinion, but I’m certainly aware that many people disagree. Oh, well, c’est la vie…

    • Suzy says:

      Not sure there is bravery involved, Fred. I couldn’t be prosecuted now based on anything I said in this story, it’s all from too long ago, and there’s no proof. Besides, it could all be fiction. And I don’t use my last name on this site, so that a google search of my name would not lead to any of these stories.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    I love that t-shirt, Suzy. I think I am just older enough not to have experienced the drug scene the way you did, but as I indicated in my story, my younger brothers did. One of them still enjoys pot from time to time. I agree with you about the edibles. Thank you for feeling safe to share this on Retro.

    • Suzy says:

      As I said to Fred, I don’t think there is any question of safety. I suppose I might not have written this if my parents were still alive, but I can’t think of anyone else who would care. And all the jokes about “if you remember the Sixties, you weren’t really there” suggest a societal acceptance of the fact that lots of people were stoned in those days.

  8. Khati Hendry says:

    You have seen the world from both sides now, and to everything there is a season. There is still a lot of trepidation sharing stories of substance use, but it is nonetheless very widespread, and so has it been throughout history (if archeology findings are to be believed). You took many of us down memory lanes.

  9. Susan Bennet says:

    A vivid and well-drawn story, Suzy. Thank goodness your law school-informed instincts kicked in just at the right moment.

    Did you ever consider that those college parties were great because they were held in the dark?

    From what you say I was the only one at school not in the know. In my thirties I decided I shouldn’t leave this life without trying marijuana, and so I tried it one time with a friend. Once it kicked in I saw a continuous conga-line of little devils (complete with pitchforks) in my mind’s eye, like the figures on the Underwood Deviled Ham can. That was it for me. As the Beach Boys once sang, “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.”

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