First of all, I want to say that you all helped me so much when I was feeling sad and now i've started to work on oval tables and making the living room homey. I so belive in good vibes sent and so thank you all.
This story was set off by Buffy's post on buying grass in LA. It takes place in 1969 when I was 20-something and in addition to being in grad school -I began to smoke alone every few nights at the table in the one bedroom , 2nd floor brownstone with my first husband, Julian. We were very close and loved each other a lot but by 69 we were becoming frayed.
He'd be asleep when I'd trip, though on this night he was away with his parents, as I had just returned from a Florida vacation with my family. I was reading a book on dreams while lying on the sand with my sister. I told her I was going to write a great paper, when a guy came along and gave each of us a joint. I told her not to smoke it --he looked tripped on acid, and she dumped in a wastebasket. I put my joint into my backpack.
Then I flew from Florida and went directly to my shrink's. Seeing shrinks in NYC in the 60's was almost de rigeur. Everyone was doing it. I thought I had so lucked out because mine, one Dr. B, was the shrink of choice for those of us at Columbia, recommened by the university. I met many who said how great he was and so I began at nineteen to see this so lovely, so empathic man. He said little but was gorgeous with blue eyes and in many ways during the first years he healed me from going out with mean men. From him I learned to love the sweethearts and married Julian.
We two--me and Dr. B-- had some amazing chemistry but he drew the line at being physical, because he said "Who would be there for you after?" but that line came years after we began meeting. Once a week; twice a week, three times every week for what would become eight years, with a group of 6 added on, a fourth night, somewhere in between.
On this night I had just come from 'group', and as I sat to write my dream paper-- I lit up. I smoked regularly then and it often went like this: Alone with writing paper, I lined up pens. I inhaled and held the smoke as we do. Then, usually, four or five puffs in, fear would envelop me. Pretty strong. That's when the writing would begin because for me joints were akin to strong truth serum.
I am talking generically of how I would go all the way into the fear and the fear always held a lot of truth in it, guilt or something I had avoided seeing about myself, or others: I would then ride the fear through with words, writing while scared, writing into and through the truth of why and always but always I came out with more strength with more insight, more of myself. Successful insights. Truths now not scary. Liberating myself, piece by piece.
I wish I could remember what those fears were but what I know is that they required solitude, not company, and probably gave me more depth and more strength just because on the other side of fear was simply a truth, accepted and acceptable.
On this particular night, I lit up but the fear wasn't the usual unpleasant sensation of something I feared but must know. No. This time the fear was colossal and I had no control, it was grass laced with something like acid, so that I was writing as if from a runaway, speeding train. The fear was not proportionate but paranoid to the max, and I did not write about dreams, because I could not choose my topic. The longer I wrote the stranger I became. Our bokcases were wavering. The shrieking sirens of police or ambulences were inside me, not outside.
I was dealing with more scary sensations than I could handle but I never stopped writing--page after page thrown onto the floor, since I knew or believed that as usual, if far more intense, this smoking/writing would tame it, or that 'it' would subside.
I finally landed on the one topic I had never discussed with myself, nor even thought about. It concerned Dr. B and the group meeting of that very evening. I was seeing how each of us 6 were not growing into adulthood but growing back into our early years, not only inhabiting 1969 but moving toward the 40's/50's. I guess Dr. B was a Freudian but I had thought he was eclectic. I now knew mainly that he was doing something to each of us that was damaging. Not healing, not anymore.
That was, itself, terrifying because he had become my lifeline, itself dangerous I now knew. I thought of Dan who had stopped teaching; of Brenda who had stopped working. The group, seen in my mind, one by one, proved my vision that he was damaging us. Then I'd think of my other friends who were moving foward. How Kathy was so politically active, a leader. Or Bob, how he never gave up on Yeats', becoming a scholar. I kept flipping from those in the group, regressing into every nuance of childhood and then to my friends, with passions that enlarged them into adult life.
We with Dr. B were the opposite, growing smaller. I must have written for about four hours, and finally at midnight for the first time in 8 years I called Dr.B at home. I had never once called him before. I woke him up.
The drug was not exactly wearing off but I was now in that layer that was pure truth, not imaginary terror. I told him I was losing my mind. I told him that I had seen the wayward in his ways. That I had seen the charlatan in his work. He was very soft-voiced and sweet but I knew his wife, also a shrink, was in bed with him and that he was speaking to me but also to her. So I told him I had taken a joint that was laced with something really alien. He needed me to say this, "O you injested poison," voice rising. "How long is your phone cord?" Long, I said. "Where is Julian?" Away, I said. He: "I'll have my wife call poison control" and I imaged her moving toward another phone, and then true: His voice changed again.
He said, lovingly, "I will stay on the phone all night but you must make some herbal tea and put in a LOT of honey." I was so grateful that he was there for me and did as he said while we kept talking. Then, I started coming down-- was it the honey or the voice? Probably the latter. I asked him if he was still doing his art, those paintings-- vortexes of whorling white that had filled his office. He admitted that no, he longer painted. I said that was the problem, that he was not living but living through us and that was bad for all the patients. I talked about the increasing fragility of Dan and Brenda and then I said, "They all say you act as if I'm your lover. I know your wife is there but we ARE having some weird love affair, is that part true? He was brave, "Yes, true. You are the most special."
He agreed to see me the next morning at 8 as we hung up around 3 AM. He lived close to me and so I saw him that next morning exactly as I had seen him in my toxic state. He was altered in my mind, seriously so. I went to classes (clinical psychology no doubt due to him) and the short of the long story is that I never once trusted Dr. B after this.
I knew that he was living through us, most especially through me. So I moved to Boston the following autumn for my internship, mainly to get away from his influence. Now I was seeing 9 clients or 14 per day and I had to not do what Dr B had done, whatever that was. The lopsided not talking I reversed and had conversations, as he never really did. I felt that ontological insecurity that framed the next two years until I was the ground of my own being.
Just as I, in Boston, suceeded in overcoming his power on my young life (which was by far not all bad, he loved me and that helped me blossom)--the very day I realized I was healed from the huge confusion that was Dr. B, a letter arrived. He suggested in his barely readable script, four pages long, that we write a book about our therapy together. His timing was off. I did not respond. He scared me now.
I heard from him last, many years later when I moved back to New York in 1996. In the year 2000 he had read my book on Israel and called to congratualate me, inviting me for lunch. He said, "I need to hear all about how you are." I said, "Fine, great, but I need to hear about you as well. " Long pause. "Bye now," he said, and never kept that lunch date. He still did not want to talk of himself, I knew.
He is now 80 and his wife is 85 and they live five blocks from my new apartment. But that night soured me on weed for a long time. Now to find the truth I do not smoke and that is one of the many things I find unfortunate about that long ago life-changing episode.