Drug Use Hulton Archive/Henry Guttmann
By Chris Vespoli

AWKWARD NEW YORK is a weekly column about the uncomfortable experiences of Chris Vespoli in and around NYC. Every Tuesday is another cringe-worthy account, from being fat shamed by a Dunkin’ Donuts employee to crashing Fashion Week.

I don’t do drugs. Well, that’s not entirely true. I don’t do illegal drugs. Like most New Yorkers, I require an irresponsible amount of caffeine in the morning, alcohol at night, and, up until recently, a steady dose of antidepressants along with the occasional Xanax (or Klonopin) to take the edge off modern-day life. But cocaine? Certainly not. Heroin? Never touched the stuff. Molly? MDMA? X? I’m 30; I’m not even sure I know what those are. But while some may cite their health, fear of arrest, or any number of other self-preserving reasons for never indulging in hard drugs, my excuses are far lamer.

I’m already sufficiently paranoid without drugs, a fact I’ve learned from my limited experiences with marijuana. I didn’t have my first toke until I was about 17 years old. It wasn’t that I was scared, or morally opposed to pot, I just never got around to trying it (I was too busy enjoying underage drinking, which I began partaking in around 14). My first dance with Mary Jane was uneventful; I didn’t get high, just sleepy. A high school friend of mine who moonlighted as a drug dealer to middle-class Long Island kids provided the bud, so I’m confident its ineffectiveness wasn’t due to an inferior product. I’d go on for years thinking pot just didn’t have an effect on me, until a few fateful nights in my mid-twenties.

After continued prompting from another friend of mine (just say no to peer pressure, kids!), I joined him for a smoke in my apartment. Despite the soothing, pastoral images on the flat screen (we were watching the Planet Earth Blu-ray in an attempt to check off as many stereotypical stoner requisites as possible), I was a nervous wreck. It felt like the floor was being ripped out from under me. My head was spinning, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I spent much of the night in the bathroom, rocking back and forth on the toilet.

About a year or two after that, yet another friend convinced me to try THC extract — the active chemical in cannabis, manufactured into a sticky paste that’s intended for consumption by placing a dollop on the back of one’s tongue. I took too much right before a Friday night drive to Atlantic City…way too much. Somewhere in between the Alexander Hamilton and the Woodrow Wilson rest stops, I quietly lost my mind in the backseat of a rented sedan. The songs on the radio slowed to garbled molasses, while my fellow passengers’ conversations sped up to distorted ciphers. The streetlights warped past the windows like a starfield in a science fiction movie. I was having a bad trip, while on a bad trip, and the fact that our destination was Atlantic City, a municipality whose main export is anxiety-tinged sadness, certainly didn’t help.

What I’m getting at here is that if I can manage to work myself into a paranoid, neurotic, fear-and-loathing fit on weed — the calming green plant responsible for benign activities such as Hacky Sack, Frisbee, jam band music, and staring at shiny things — then I wouldn’t stand a chance on narcotics or hallucinogens.

But that’s only half of it.

If my experiences with food are any indicator, I have the impulse control of a stray dog in a beef jerky factory — a short, stocky, stupid dog. It’s not a stretch to assume that my addictive personality when it comes to salt, fat, and sugar would carry over into drug use. The attitude of “more is better and all is ideal” is fine when we’re talking about a box of Entenmann’s soft-baked chocolate chip cookies, but not so much when it comes to lines of coke. There is little doubt in my mind that I would easily slip into a life of drugs, no matter the toll on my health. I’ve just crossed the threshold of 170 lbs. — technically considered “obese” for my 5’3” frame — yet I’m literally eating an ice cream sandwich as I write this. And then there’s my willingness to run myself into financial ruin for my “habit.” Case in point: I ordered the $17 “Cadillac” burger for lunch at P.J. Clarke’s the same day my H&R Block accountant told me I owed $2,000 in taxes, because if you’re gonna go broke, you should do it in fucking style. With a mindset like that, I’d probably sell my first-born child for a bag of H.

I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing since I was 14 and stick to drinking, because alcohol never caused anybody any problems…right?

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