I Accidentally Got Ridiculously High Visiting My Mom, and it Changed My Life

I remember clearly filling the dropper and popping two squirts of the stuff into my tumbler of soda water. I thought it was bitters, some “gourmet Oregon” tincture I decided to spend way too much money on when I went to Market of Choice to buy pizza fixings.

I was wrong about that.

I made my mom, who’s 94, and her husband, a WW2 vet who’s 97, a big Pizza Romano with meat and veggies and a dough that I’d been proofing for 26 hours. It was amazingly good, and I was very proud of it:

Unfortunately for me, I never finished this amazing dinner. Instead, I ended up in the bathroom thinking I was about to go to the ER.

We were finishing our dinner when my face got “fuzzy” and a strange sensation filled my body. My blood pressure dropped and my mouth went dry and I had a hard time focusing on anything.

I’ve had pretty bad food poisoning before, the worst when I visited Mumbai for the first time back in 1990 and didn’t heed the warnings about eating creamy desserts. When your body thinks it’s been poisoned, you’re in for a rough 48 or more hours.

That’s what I was thinking as I sprint-walked down the hall to the bathroom. You don’t wait on these things, you get in position, calm yourself, and know it will all be over in a few hours.

I made it to the bathroom and flipped on the lights and fan, hoping the fan would drown out whatever inhuman noises I was about to make. My throat started to open, my stomach clenched, my jaw tingling in the tell tale sign of Not Fun Things About to Happen.

And then… nothing.

Deep Breaths, Weird Thoughts

I sat there waiting for what seemed like days. My brother and his family were over and I could hear my niece pondering whether they should wait for me to come out so they could say goodbye. They all wondered if I was OK and … No, honey bunny, I am most assuredly not OK...

How long do you wait in these situations before you consider going to the hospital? A hospital is a place for sick people my mom used to say, you go there if you want to get sick. Wise words if you’re a hypochondriac, which I’m not, unwise words when you’re pondering how far the hospital is and what kind of mess you’re going to make getting there.

Also: my mom and her husband don’t drive. Just as this thought settled in the front door closed, with my brother’s family on the other side of it. If I needed a ride, there it went.

It was at that point that I thought about my brother’s Tesla and how making a mess inside of it would be kind of funny, given how much he loves that car and what a condescending shit he can be about his fancy Boomer mobile. I then thought that if I was going to foul a car I couldn’t pick a better one than Tesla because fuck Elon Musk…

That’s when I started giggling. Which was weird because I was also terrified that I had really bad food poisoning. This made me laugh even more as I wondered if there was a special kind of food poisoning where you laughed instead of puked… which made the giggling that much worse.

What was I just thinking about? Oh… right… should I think about calling the hospital or some hotline. I thought about how that conversation might go:

Umm yes high I think I ate some really bad tacos and don’t want to puke in a Tesla unless it’s Elon Musk’s so should I come in?

Sir this is a Wendy’s…

It’s at this point that I realized something else was happening to me. Something kind of funny.

Going Full Spectrum

You see, the gourmet Oregon bitters that I bought at Market of Choice was the exact same size and had the exact same blue label as this little fucker right here:

This is what’s called full spectrum CBD oil, which means that, along with the CBD funtime, you get the rowdy THC cousin to join in the party. My mom was prescribed this a year or so ago and was told to take two drops to see if it helped with aches/pains/etc. She didn’t like it and said it was too strong. So she popped it in the refrigerator door for some damned reason and just left it there.

Two drops. I loaded up on two entire droppers.

I didn’t look at the bottle when I grabbed it — I was looking for a blue bottle of snooty Oregon bitters and how many snooty blue bottles do you find in your mom’s house anyway? I found my answer to that question soon enough.

The realization slowly pounded its way into my swirling mind and I once again had a split-brained, clashing reaction: yay I’m not going to be sick vs. Oh shit how high am I going to get. At my mom’s house no less.

Buckle Up, Meatball

I knew I was about to become more stoned than I had ever been in my life and for longer too. If it came on that strong, god knows when I was going to peak! You’re only supposed to take a few drops of this stuff and I whiffed up two entire droppers. That’s… what… 10, 20 times the dose?

Ohhhhh shit.

I don’t smoke pot and haven’t since high school. It’s one of those “in a blue moon” things where I might if I’m in a cabin in the woods somewhere, which isn’t that often. I do know, however, what being high is like and I also know that I don’t care for it very much.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t like feeling a lack of control over my thoughts. Beer and alcohol in general don’t do that to me, for some reason, but pot does. I lose track of my thinking — even to the point of not knowing where I am or what I’m doing, which induces a bit of panic and things go badly from there.

I got up and left the bathroom and confirmed that the vial I grabbed from the refrigerator earlier that night was, in fact, my mom’s CBD oil. I stared at the label forever, hoping it was just CBD but NOPE. On the back it clearly stated it contained THC and mentioned some percentage which I tried to forget immediately.

It was then my mom came over and asked me if I was OK. “You disappeared from dinner pretty quickly and I was worried… we all were. No one gets up that quickly if they’re OK and then to stay in the bathroom that long you must be–”

“Mom. Please. I put some of this crap in my drink and I’m really high right now. I need for you to be calm around me as I’m not in a good mental state. OK?”

“I think we should call an ambulance Robert. This is serious! You can die from this sort of thing and I think we–”

“MOM! I need you to chill out. I’ll be fine, you can’t OD from pot, I promise. I’m just a little stoned. Can we please just turn on a movie? Oh… and can you get me a Pepsi?”

Yes, I seriously said that last part. And yes, I started to giggle again which I think lightened the mood. Of course no one was there to appreciate this Gen X bon mot, as is usually the case when your recall and timing perfectly align. But I get to tell you all about it, which I suppose is OK too.

Anyway: can’t blame mom for being scared and, to her credit, she relaxed and turned on a movie. She doesn’t drink Pepsi, however, but did offer me some lime jello (which I did take a picture of when I was high because I just couldn’t believe what was happening to me and I also thought I might need proof):

It was about this time when things started getting a bit more intense. I sat down in the kitchen as my mom and her husband watched Antique Roadshow and I remember being so drawn into the stories behind the antiques that I was transported, in and out of a weird dream state.

I was in the old barn in Wisconsin where the writing desk was stored up in the rafters, covered with an old sack, for the last 120 years. I looked out my mom’s window and wondered about cows and corn silos

A collector was explaining that if she could find the twin of her wonderful iron horse sculpture that there she could fetch upward of $20,000 for the pair as the artist who made these lived an eccentric life in the Smoky Mountains and used to wander naked through the forest looking for inspiration…

I was dreaming, while I was awake. That feeling you get when dreams start to take you over, right before you fall asleep, that’s what was happening to me but I wasn’t sleeping… but the dreams were coming… what the ffffff….

Time for some cold air. I walked to the front door and out into the Eugene, Oregon night.

Cylons in the Neighbor’s Kitchen

It helped. The darkness pulled me in and the light drizzle and chilly air focused my senses toward the simplicity of nature. If you’re ever way, way too high: nature is the place to hide. Your brain gets lost when you’re stoned and tries to make sense of the world. This is where the giggling usually comes in, because the little switch that’s responsible for the machine that does this kind of thing has been thrown to the off position.

Some people find this hysterical, others (like me) don’t.

I watched drizzly raindrops appear out of the darkness in a wild yellow halo around the sodium vapor streetlight, under a sky the “color of television, tuned to a dead channel”. That’s William Gibson right there, with the opening line of Neuromancer. Famous, that line is. I let it bounce around my mind as I marveled at its nuanced simplicity. I thought about The Matrix (the Neuromancer version, not the film), and the night came alive with shapes and sounds, all representing data in some form.

My attention was then pulled to my mom’s neighbors, who were doing the dishes with their blinds pulled down, letting the bright interior lights flood their front yard through banded slits. I could just make out their neighborly shapes inside… which seemed… off. They were moving in the oddest way as they moved about the sink. It wasn’t like “one’s washing, one’s drying” — no, they were in full combat mode, beating the messy dishes down as if they were at war.

This is where I realized I wasn’t looking at people, but something else. I had mistaken some thing or things as people doing dishes when, in reality, it was something far more sinister… I smiled as I thought they looked like robots. Robots doing dishes…

What started as a fun little prank on myself turned into something mildly terrifying when one of them looked up at me, through the curtains, and it was a Cylon. Old school Cylon, of course!

I was sober enough to know that there weren’t, in fact, any Cylons in Eugene… even though if Cylons were real, Eugene is probably where they would live.

OK, Rob, don’t do that again. Playing tricks on yourself isn’t funny when you don’t get your own joke.

I knew I was about to start hallucinating, and I felt my guts clench again and my chest tighten. My body does this when I’m high — it reacts before my brain has a chance to. So weird.

Unbuckle and Let Go

If you’re wondering if we’re ever going to get to the “life-changing” part, well yes, here we are. And yes, I could have summarized this entire post with “I got really high and broke down some psychological barriers” but that’s a statement, not a story. Besides: the story is the fun part. Who gives a damn about the lesson learned, am I right?

I have never hallucinated before… at least not that I can remember. Certainly not from marijuana. Yet here we are, wondering if there are Cylons in Eugene, and I know the worst is yet to come.

I looked back at the street light, hoping for the comfort I found earlier when something hit me:

Let go. Fall into it. Figure some shit out…

This is where this story turns personal. I don’t talk about this much, but for you to understand what happened next, it’s important.

I was married to my wife for 21 years and have known her for 30. We’re about to finalize our divorce in the next few months. My youngest, whom I’m very close to, lives with her and my oldest is off at college. In the span of 3 months I crossed over two major life events and now live alone, which is weird as it’s very quiet and it’s just me, which takes some getting used to.

There are some other things to my story that I’ll keep to myself, but I’ll just say that the last 3 years has been traumatic. Yes, I realize that there are people dealing with trauma far worse than mine, but … well it still hurts and it’s been a thing to deal with.

As I stare at the street light again, I envisioned a Black Well inside me where I know Bad Things live. All my defenses have just been disabled by an imposter bottle of bitters, and here I stand in front of some deep, dark shit. This could go badly.

What would you do? If you’ve ever been to therapy you know they tell you to confront your fears and move beyond them. It can take years to surface the stuff you store inside you and, if you have a skilled therapist, they can guide you through the process of dealing with it in small, manageable steps until you’re able to move on.

I’ve done a lot of this kind of thing over the last 3 years, but I know there’s more to do. Yet here I am, under my Street Light, standing in front of something that could swallow me whole and I’m utterly defenseless.

Or am I?

Yes, I did feel a cliché hit me at that moment. Be strong, fear is the mindkiller, the path to the dark side, only by facing our fears can we truly become … whatever. Yes, mangled quotes from a mangled brain… moving on…

Fuck that. I wasn’t about to turn into a twitching wreck in the middle of the street, now was I? I started to walk back to my mom’s when I realized I was facing completely the wrong direction and, for a few seconds, had no idea where I was. Have I mentioned I really hate marijuana for this very reason?

When the vertigo subsided I realized that this is going to happen whether I like it or not. Might as well get it over with.

Fine. Take Me.

I must have looked like a complete whack job under my Street Light, with my arms outstretched, muttering to myself. I said aloud: “Fine. Let’s go. I’m letting go” and, with a deep breath, I imagined myself floating up into the night, letting the thermonuclear dose of Mommy’s Little Helper take me wherever it will.

I swam in the Black Well, feeling it’s slick surface on my arms. I let it pull me under, and, instead of trying to hold my breath spiritually, I let it fill my lungs (it tasted like blackberry… how original Rob).

Oddly, this process got boring quickly. There was no “a-ha!” moment, no “yay I’m free!”, no tears, no swearing or… any of the rest of the cliché nonsense. It was just me, alone in the night. It was, as they say, a complete non-event.

So I went for a walk. I won’t lie — I thought something big was going to happen but it didn’t. Which I suppose I’m grateful for, but at the same time I wanted a groovy psychedelic freak out story!

I decided to head home and I worried I wouldn’t be able to find my way back, but given that I was letting things go I decided to just… fuck it… I’ll find my way. I began wondering about how well I would sleep that night, if at all, and I did the same thing and thought “maybe I’ll watch movies all night”.

I pondered calling a friend, telling them how high I was and hoping they might have some encouraging words. No, I thought, this is for you and you alone. I liked that idea.

This is for me. I’m scared right now and I’m dealing with it and I’ll be OK as long as I stop obsessing on myself and just… let go.

I made it back to my mom’s just fine and she came over to stare at me, like mom’s do when they think you’re high. “You look stoned. Really stoned. Your eyes… oh my goodness…”

Yep, mom. I’m pretty damned high and it’s kind of fun. How about that Pepsi?

She gave me lime jello instead, and yes, with Cool Whip and you know what? That is some stony shit right there WOW was it good.

Mom went back to the couch to sit with her man. Someone else was on Antique Roadshow at that moment and I found myself pulled off to Los Angeles in the 1920s, to Rudolph Valentino’s house, where he had this spectacular chair that somehow made it into this guy’s storage unit in Thousand Oaks…

A Spectacular Drive Down the Oregon Coast

I slept well. Full blackout, all night, and it was glorious. When I woke up, however, I knew that my soul was still wobbling about inside my frame as things were still just a little detached. I could hold a conversation just fine, but concentrating on complex things was a bit hard.

I decided to wait for a few hours to ensure I could drive OK and then realized I was completely fine, so off I went on the 10 hour drive down to the SF Bay Area. I like to drive along the coast when I can, cutting over through Grants Pass and then on down south.

I bought this little guy a few days before my trip, which made the drive even more fun:

I never do this when I’m driving on long trips, but I took my damned time. I usually want to get home as there are things to do… but not on this day.

Something was detached inside me and it was wandering out my window and down to the sea. Back up through the wild forests and redwood groves, swirling around with the mists blowing in from the cold North Pacific.

I couldn’t tell if the chemicals in that CBD oil were still in me, or if my soul enjoyed the field trip it went on the night before, as I chilled out and let things happen without worry. I think it was the latter, and it was good.

I’ve read many times how people take psychedelics to “unlock” things in their minds and yeah, I can see how that would happen… but to actually experience such a thing… is wild. I’m not suggesting to anyone that they go experimenting! For me, the Big Thing was being forced to let go of control, and how good that made me feel.

It does make sense to me — that you have to be driven, in some way, to the point of Letting Go. Sometimes it’s a therapist, other times it might be through the love and kindness of your partner.

For me it was a little blue bottle in my mom’s fridge that looks a little bit too much like gourmet Oregon bitters.



Author of The Imposter’s Handbook, founder of bigmachine.io, Cofounder of tekpub.com, creator of This Developer's Life, creator of lots of open source stuff.

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Rob Conery

Author of The Imposter’s Handbook, founder of bigmachine.io, Cofounder of tekpub.com, creator of This Developer's Life, creator of lots of open source stuff.