sober at a mile high

When I ran off to Los Angeles in 1995, Denver was a town in transition. Things were about to happen but they hadn’t quite yet. Suffice to say, when I came back 15 years later things were happening, primarily weed. Like everywhere. Upon arrival in the Mile High City, you are greeted with a permanent marijuana musk which smells like a skunk who’s had too many burritos and by young loadies  who populate city parks sparking up as if they didn’t get the memo that Woodstock ended 40 years ago.  Having lived in Los Angeles during the medical marijuana storefront boom, I had seen pot go retail. But what I had never witnessed was an entire city go to pot.

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There were lots of things about my hometown I didn’t remember. Like the terrible driving. After nearly getting run over by a Subaru, I said to the startled pedestrian next to me, “When did the drivers get so terrible here?” To which she replied with zero irony,”Oh that’s just because everyone here is high.” A subsequent trip to my favorite coffee shop, wherein I witnessed my barista  with cherry red eyes and a cartoonish perma-grin make my latte  at a sloth’s pace, certainly reinforced her theory. From grandmas to teens, on city buses and corporate functions, pot is omnipresent. Being a big fan of bathing and caffeinated beverages delivered in a timely manner, the culture, quite frankly, annoyed me. Still,I tried to not let it bother me. I was the minority here and solid in my sobriety so what did I care?  It would be hypocritical for me too get to judgy seeing as pot served its purpose for me for over decade. It nurtured my favorite pastimes of eating and sleeping while making some truly godawful films more enjoyable.  As long as I didn’t smell like a gassy skunk, Denver could smoke its brains out. After all the, image is that the city has this pot thing totally under control.

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After living back in Denver for the past two and a half  years, however, its hard not to wonder if the veneer on the perma-grin has begun to crack. A 4/20 rally that ended in two shootings doesn’t bode too well for Weed Town, USA. Neither does the onslaught of regulation issues currently biting Denver in the ass. The oddest place I’ve seen pot pop-up is in recovery. My jaw dropped when I was told that a common belief in the 303 is that you can be considered sober and still smoke pot. Marijuana maintenance was acceptable as long as you didn’t drink. As drunk who is also a drug addict, this thinking was news to me. I was told I wasn’t sober if I was using any chemical to check out. In order not to get pissed off at such a notion, I have to keep my eyes on my own paper.

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Policing other people’s recovery or trying to dissuade a city from sparking up a joint would be a colossal waste of time. Besides, my own bucket of crazy needs to emptied on a regular basis, therefore making it a full-time job. If I’m doing the stuff that keeps me spiritually fit, the habits of others are none of my business. I’m able to enjoy myself and my life without substances and that’s all that matters. Is it harder staying in town that’s high? I don’t know. I think staying sober is difficult anywhere. I know fall down drunks in small towns and people with long-term sobriety who live in Las Vegas. Which is to say, I don’t think the diseases of addiction and alcoholism are location-based. I also know how to deal with it better the longer I live here. I avoid places with lots of pot smoking. I try to be understanding of people who need weed to help them stop drinking. I’ve become a more cautious and aware pedestrian.  And, most importantly I allow extra time for my stoned barista to make my latte.

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