by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I always went back and forth about writing to you regarding my self-medication of Asperger's Syndrome, but the reader posted earlier convinced me.  I, too, am diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome; people tell me I'm intense, committed, hard-nosed, highly principled (on a borderline-pathological level), honest/blunt to a fault, overly formal/polite, etc. 

I was entirely against substance use - from caffeine to alcohol to illegal drugs - until a close friend of mine unexpectedly passed away when I was 21.  I had smoked periodically starting that year (maybe 5-10 times ever), but after he died, my use/abuse really took off. In short, I stopped giving a damn about what I put in my body.

At that time, I also became friends with a group of people that, had I not started smoking cannabis on a regular basis, I would have never been friends with.  I started going to parties (something I had never, ever done before), speaking out about issues that moved me, and just generally interacting with people in a manner I had never been comfortable with.  That is not to say that I'm a shy person; I have never been a shy individual, I've never hesitated to "tell it like it is" or to speak up if I feel wronged.  But something about cannabis made me socially "normal" (a word I don't agree with; I support neurodiversity as a concept).

Cutting through the haze of daily cannabis use (and there is a haze; take it from someone who's been smoking daily for 7+ years now) can be difficult. But for me at least, that haze is a moot point, and sometimes even a bonus.  Ask my girlfriend; about a year ago, I told her I was going to stop using cannabis.  After two weeks she was ready to kill me. She told me that our relationship was in jeopardy if I didn't get back on the cannabis.  It sounds extreme, but she said it in one of those half-kidding/I'm-really-being-serious kind of ways.
 
When I'm not using cannabis regularly, I become an incredibly manic over-achiever who does not let petty obstacles like peers, social stigmas, or friends get in his way.  When I'm not on cannabis, it is nothing for me to end a years-long friendship because I perceive it as getting in the way of my achievement (and this has happened before; it took a lot of work to bring it back).  Not only that, but my "routines" (AS term) aren't nearly as important to me if I'm regularly smoking. 
 
Example: my morning routine is to wake up early, put on a pot of coffee, let the dog out, pour my cup of coffee, let the dog back in, stir in my cream, then sit on the couch and read or listen to my iPod until my coffee is done.  If I haven't been smoking regularly, and my girlfriend comes down and lets out the dog BEFORE I put on the pot of coffee, that will completely ruin my day if not my entire week.  I'll be irritable by the time I get to work, and liable to snap at the smallest provocation.
 
On the other hand, if I had smoked the night before, I will notice that my routine has been jockeyed, but it just won't bother me that much. The same goes for my social connections; when I smoke, I reflect upon, and come to value a social connection, but it's a cognitive process for me... It's not something I do naturally, and it's not something I'm inclined to do if I'm sober (my mind says, "THERES NO TIME, THERES NO TIME")
 
I guess you could say my overal point is this: All people are different.  All people choose to use substances for reasons that you may not understand, or care to understand.  But one thing is consistent with every single person I have ever met in my entire life: Everyone has vices in which they indulge, whether it's ducking outside of work to smoke a cigarette, ordering an appetizer and dessert with dinner, making your partner wear handcuffs to bed, laying around and playing video games, snorting coke in the bathroom at the bar or club, skipping religious service, blazing up after a hard day's work, or having a nightcap... And everyone has reasons for doing these things.  And until they decide that those reasons are no longer worth doing whatever it is they're doing, societal stigmas, oppressive laws, and shaming will only alienate people.

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