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Erowid Families and Psychoactives Interview Series
Dialog with Judith
Interview by Erowid
Judith is 54 and has two sons, ages 25 and 28, whom she raised as a single mom. Since her children left home, she has occasionally smoked cannabis with them, and they have done MDMA together on several occasions. She and her husband also have done LSD with her younger son, several years after his first (difficult) experience with it at the age of 16. For her experience report related to this dialog, see: Erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=24650



Erowid: One of the things that I wonder about when I come across families like yours that have been open-minded and open with each other about psychoactives, particularly psychedelics, is, what brought you to that point? I get the impression that some people are just made differently. Regardless of what family they are born into, they are inclined to be seekers, or interested in things like psychedelics. And other people come from families that are like that anyway. So I was curious as I was reading your report, whether that was something that may have been supported in your family of origin, or…

Judith: No way [laughter]. I guess I could probably say that I came from a troubled family, and I got away as soon as I could, as soon as I went to college. I wasn't really experimental in college, either. I was there to get an education, and get through school. I just happened to be in college in the late sixties, when everything started to break up. I was maybe doing a small amount of experimenting, around the time I graduated. A lot of it is just serendipity. I happened to meet a Colombian in college, and moved to Colombia. When you move to another culture, as a young person, you're just wide open, to new experiences. For me it was completely overwhelming, new experiences everywhere. I could hardly speak the language, I was mainly dependent on my husband. The timing was such that there were tons of Americans travelling through. We kept meeting more and more people, and everybody of course kept wanting to smoke pot, and one thing lead to another… I think it was partly just the luck of being exposed at an open age to a lot of new experiences, and then meeting someone like Terence McKenna in Colombia just kind of blew my mind that much wider open. I was just rereading _True Hallucinations_ and it's all just so fresh when I read it. I met Terence just a few months after those experiences described in his book. He was probably at his most outrageous. He was this utter freak, wild hair, dressed in all white, and he was with this really strange woman, and they had this strange cat, I think it was a civet or something. He was like the most bizarre person you could imagine. He had a huge impact on us. We had just never met anyone like that in our lives. You rarely do meet someone like that. We actually spent several days together, at our first initial meeting, and then a few months later we ran into each other again and he stayed with us for about a week and he was working on his manuscript for _The Invisible Landscape_. So, within several months I was pretty schooled in his theories, which were, you know, pretty outrageous and hard to follow. I think for my husband at the time and me, he just really opened up our minds, in a lot of ways. That for me kind of set the stage for more experimentation, openness to alternative realities, alternative ways of understanding. That's why later I was prepped for getting involved in neopaganism, different lifestyles.

Erowid: And then you moved back to the United States….

Judith: Around 1975. A few months later I came out to California.

Erowid: I know that some women give a lot of thought to their habits -- particularly with cannabis -- when they're thinking of getting pregnant. Do you remember some of the thoughts you had around this topic, when you were going to have your first child?

Judith: It's interesting that you say do you remember, because of course it was a long time ago [laughs]. It was almost 30 years ago. I think I was fairly conservative, I did smoke cigarettes at the time of my first pregnancy. I would be fairly restrained, I would take just one toke, if someone was passing around a joint. I never tripped when I was pregnant, and I wasn't intensely into tripping during that time. There was just a short period in Colombia, then my husband ran into some problems and we quit taking mushrooms. I had ongoing use of cannabis, but during my pregnancy I was fairly moderate, and when I was nursing I guess I wasn't as concerned about it, I didn't have a heavy habit, but if I had a toke I didn't worry too much about it getting through the breastmilk. My kids were probably exposed to cannabis, certainly they were in the room when it was being smoked, when they were little. I didn't do much tripping at all when my kids were little or when they were growing up, I think I can remember one time, with some friends, when Clint was a baby, taking what we were told was THC.

Erowid: Did your sons go through the DARE program?

Judith: Was that a formal program?

Erowid: Yes, DARE started in the early 80s, so it probably would have been up and going.

Judith: How was that integrated in the school, was it like a curriculum?

Erowid: 5th grade. Police officers came into the classroom.

Judith: I think they probably did. You'd have to ask my sons.

Erowid: It wasn't something that was memorable for you as Mom.

Judith: No I don't have any particular salient memories. I have to say, and I don't know if this will sound good in print, I think that when my kids were growing up, we kind of had a "don't ask don't tell" policy, which I don't think sounds very good on paper [laughs]

Erowid: I think that is not an uncommon thing.

Judith: That's true.

Erowid: If you want to talk about it I'd love to hear about it, because it apparently worked for you, and a lot of people probably have that experience.

Judith: I think I was reluctant to say it initially because it sounded kind of lame. like "Oh well I just didn't talk to my kids." It wasn't exactly like that. We were leading really different lives. As a single mother of two boys, my kids as they reached puberty, got more and more distant from me, particularly my older son, whose dad was Colombian, but who wasn't involved in his life, and so he kind of lost his mooring for a while. He got into trouble, not with drugs, but with burglary, stuff like that. There was a period of several years where it felt like we had nothing in common, which I feel is typical, and particularly when the parent is of the opposite sex. At a certain point when my older son was about 15, he got in trouble, and I had to just totally clamp down on disciplining him. Up until that point I had been a laissez-faire parent. He was really slick, he was just so easy he could just get away with stuff. I didn't have a clue that he was getting in trouble to the extent that he was. And so we went through a couple of really rough years where he spent some time at juvenile hall, we went through some counseling, he got into a really strict training program for learning how to repair PCs. It was just at the perfect time, so that he got into the industry just as it was starting to take off, late 80s, early 90s. So, he got on his feet.

At the same time I knew that he was using dope, because my stash started to disappear. I started locking my room, and I had a big confrontation with him. I can't remember if it was before his 15th or his 16th birthday. This really good pot that I had bought -- and I didn't have a lot of money -- just disappeared within two weeks. All of a sudden it dawned on me, "Oh duh, that's why all those kids are smiling at me when I come home, and they're hanging out on the front porch. "You're mom is so cool," you know. I flipped out, "OK, that's your birthday present." I was so pissed. That was a "I know you're using pot, but you're not going to use mine" kind of thing. Of course he found his own way, and I think at a certain point he was dealing, though not intensely, with his friends. I knew that they were doing stuff and trying stuff, and a lot of times they were hanging out at our house, because he had a converted garage, a big room that had it's own entrance. That was Clint's room. Actually I felt ok about that, I felt better that they had a place to be and stay off the street. I knew that they were trying stuff and I just didn't get really concerned about it, because I felt that that was typical teenage behavior. It was really only after they moved out that we started to feel more free to talk as they became adults, we could talk more as friends, without having the parental thing in there. As they got older, they would tell their friends that we knew Terence, and their friends would be like, "Whoa." So they started to realize, "My mom isn't that weird. She's weird, but she does know cool people." [laughter] You know what I mean, when you're growing up, you just want to be normal. If your parent is a little strange, like into paganism or psychedelics…

For my older son particularly, being half Colombian, he was identified by everyone as Mexican. When he would explain to people that he was half Colombian, they would go, "Oh well you're a drug dealer, your dad must be a drug dealer." It was like a chip on his shoulder. Being half Colombian and not really having a strong father figure… but then he came out in flying colors. He still works in Silicon Valley, he never went to college, makes a lot of money, has never been laid off. It's like this incredible success story. Along the way he's gotten involved in trying different things, mushrooms, Ecstasy… When I asked him the other day what he thought about how I raised him, he kind of felt that I basically trusted them to make their own decisions and that worked out ok.

Erowid: What about your other son?

Judith: He followed in his brother's footsteps in the sense of taking his older brother's advice about things. He was the good kid since Clint got in trouble, and Zack's dad was around. So his dad -- even though we didn't live together, and we didn't get along very well -- his dad was very present in his life, with "OK, you can't mess up like Clint…." Both my kids are smart, it's just that my older one doesn't really have an academic bent. He just hated school, never succeeded in school, after junior high school. So Zack was a good student, but he was still experimenting with stuff, mostly with his older brother and his friends, or with some of his own friends. He later revealed to me that he had a scary experience the first time he tripped on LSD. What I understand was that he was with a friend, and the friend left and left him alone in the house, and it was scary for him. But he didn't tell me at the time, it was only a number of years later.

Erowid: Tell me a little bit about that, how you and your husband Bill tripped on LSD with your son.

Judith: I'm trying to remember the timing of everything now… I think by the time we did that we had taken Ecstasy together a couple of times.

Erowid: You said there was a Christmas where you smoked cannabis together for the first time. Did it feel like an epiphany, or a relief, or something else?

Judith: It just felt normal, in a way. It was funny, my kids initiated it. We were driving to someone's house, for a Christmas party on Christmas day. We were taking two cars. For a while there's a little bit of a thing where, OK, Bill's children are really straight, because they're athletes, and my kids are not. They were going in a different car [laughs] to this party. My sons just pulled out a pipe and loaded it up, "Mom, you want some?" "Yeah, sure." That was the beginning of it, it was normal. It wasn't a big deal, they knew that I smoked, they didn't have to hide it from me. And of course by then I knew they smoked too. It was just kind of normal, and broke the ice in terms of starting to be able to share more freely about what we had each been experiencing. I think as my kids started to grow up and became exposed to more things, they started to realize, "Oh mom's probably done this." or "I wonder what it's like for her?" It became more of a free exchange.

My younger son still was fairly cautious about trying anything other than marijuana. Bill and I had gone to a psychoactives seminar in Palenque, around the beginning of 2000. After that I was talking to my kids about it, and the different things we had learned about but hadn't known about before, like 2C-T-7, 2C-B, ketamine, all those kinds of things. I was just giving my kids information, telling them about things that we'd heard about or maybe tried. That's when Zack started asking me about Ecstasy and what I thought about it. I had had all positive experiences with it. I had probably actually done it about 15 or 20 times. I had spent several months -- and this was when my kids were still at home -- I had taken it by myself in conjunction with a therapist that I was seeing. I hadn't actually done it with her, but I had spent a day by myself, taking it, writing a lot of stuff about my family life, and then processing that in therapy. It had been very beneficial for me, I felt like I had gotten through material it could have taken me years to get to. I had some really intense revelations.

Erowid: When you say your family, you mean your family of origin?

Judith: Yes. Particularly I had a lot of problems with my father. It just brought me some realizations about it, I was already in my mid-40s and I still hadn't had these realizations! [laughs] It really brought some information to me that was very useful. I had had a lot of positive experiences in sort of a therapeutic use, and then also with Bill, whom at that time I was starting to date. That was in the mid-90s. During our first few years together, we used it several times and found that it was quite helpful for really bonding with each other, and understanding each other. And we both say even still today that we probably wouldn't be together if it wasn't for Ecstasy. I think it's an incredibly powerful tool. I've had nothing but really good experiences. So, when Zack asked me, I said, "I think that it can be really beneficial, I think it could be a good thing for you to experience." And so he did, and he liked it.

Erowid: Did you suggest that he inform himself about it first, or did you say "this could be a good thing," and let him figure it out on his own. People sometimes have a concern with what they are getting.

Judith: Honestly, I've had really good luck getting good stuff. I guess I'm lucky I haven't really had any close experiences with someone who's gotten something really bad.

Erowid: When you went into the experiences you mentioned before, did you have the intention to examine your family of origin stuff, or was it just something that emerged?

Judith: I had some intention about it. I was in therapy at that point, I had gone into therapy because I was feeling overwhelmed and coping with being a single mother, and all the issues in my own personal history that had gotten me to that situation. Like messed up relationships, choosing partners who were not appropriate for me, that kind of thing. I guess I kind of really wanted to get to the bottom of how I'd gotten myself on this path, of being this struggling mother of two teenage boys. It was extremely helpful.

Your family is the template you come in with, it informs you in important ways. I'll just give you a brief example. My father was a travelling salesman, and so he wasn't always around. When he was around he was very unpredictable because he had a serious alcohol problem. Maybe he would come home and he would be in a great mood, and then an hour later all hell would break loose and the whole house would be torn upside down. I came to realize, this is my experience with men, that they're not always there. You can't count on them, they come and go. The more I sort of journeyed with that, about how that impacted me, it sort of made sense; "Oh yeah, I'm always choosing these men and they're a little unpredictable and quirky. I like them because they're weird, but there's no stability there, there's no continuity. So it really helped me to understand why I was making those choices. And it also had a lot to do with my own self esteem. That I didn't think that I was worth someone that was always going to be there. I don't think I would ever really have gotten to that for years, honestly. That's just an example.

Erowid: Zack went and had his MDMA experience. Did he tell you ahead of time, or did he come to you later after it happened.

Judith: He was in college, at SF State, and he was living in the dorms. I was a little bit familiar with the rave scene. I had a friend of mine who at the time was in his 50s and was really into the rave scene. He was going out and dancing and partying every weekend, and I was like, "Peter, you know, you're a little old for this, OK, whatever." [laughs] I knew that a lot of it was ecstasy based, and I understood the joy of that, but I never had done it in public myself. I only had done it with intimate partners, or by myself. So I went to a New Years Day rave with Peter. It was during the day, I couldn't handle this all-night stuff. So I had had a little exposure to that, and I knew what the kids were into. My older son was starting to get into promoting parties. I kind of knew what the kids were doing, and I basically felt it was somewhat of a re-creation of what we were doing in the 60s. Just a new level, and a different drug. For the most part I saw that that was positive. Because it's love-based, it's not fear based, or alcohol-based, which can often lead to violence and unpleasant situations. I think it was that summer that we did our first trip together, at a concert, in public. It was a beautiful day, it was fantastic. We were at the Greek Theater, the sun was setting, it was warm. It was just an exquisite experience. My older son showed up halfway through, he wasn't as much into the group as Zack, and I think he took a half a hit of Ecstasy, but we were all kinda in the groove together. And it was a further bonding of my kids with Bill, as well. We'd been living together since '96. We moved in together as my kids moved out. So they knew Bill, but of course it takes time to build a new family structure.

I think that doing some of the psychoactives together has created more of a family for us. It was the following spring that we decided to take acid with Zack. It definitely, I think for Bill and Zack, helped to create more of a solid connection. I think Zack has smoked dope with his dad, but he's never done anything else. His dad is non-experimental, at this point. When he was younger, he was more open to psychoactives, but I think at this point he's left it behind. So for Zack, it's been mainly his mom that he can talk to about this stuff.

Erowid: You said Bill has two kids of his own. I've talked to people about the idea of coming out, or being out, or being discerning about who they talk to about this part of their life. Is psychedelic use something that you keep private vis-à-vis other friends, or that side of Bill's family, or is that something you're open with them about?

Judith: That's a really good question. We have other parts of our life, too, that are semi-private or secret. We're also polyamorous. You can't really share that with everybody. In terms of our kids and our families, it has evolved that we've become more and more open. I think that we were both at a point in our lives, when our kids were starting to leave home, and we were becoming more free to get back into using things that we might be interested in. Going to Palenque together got us back into a community, got us more connected with using different things. It's been a really important part of our journey together.

Both of Bill's kids are top-level athletes. Once his older son got through Olympic trials and graduated, he's become more open to experimenting a little bit. He'll smoke pot with us. We took him to a concert last New Year's Eve and took E with him, and that was his second time. He'd done it the first time with his girlfriend. Both times, we gave it to him. We've had a real open dialog with all the kids at this point. Bill's daughter, I think, would be open to trying things. She has in the past tried mushrooms. Both the kids had smoked pot when they were in high school. But because of being in the heavy athletic thing, they absolutely have to stay away from it. Bill would like his daughter to do stuff with him, but she's made it really clear that as long as she's working toward Olympic trials, there's no way. So, psychologically, for an athlete, they just can't do it. But I think Bill would like his kids to be more alternative. You know how kids always find a way to rebel against their parents? If you don't give your kids any rules… Like Bill's son became really strict Christian for a while. That's like, "How could my kid do this? [laughter] I didn't teach him to do that!"

I think that for him he's probably a little more interested than I am, even, to try to get his kids to have these experiences. I think he feels it's kind of an integral part of your growing up, to expand your mind in those ways. We were listening to a Terence video and interview recently, where he's very adamant about, "Well if you haven't had psychedelics, it's like not having sex!" I'm not really that dogmatic about it [laughs] I do understand things about life and death that I never would have understood without psychedelics, and it's been an incredible spiritual tool for me. But if you don't have that intention… I've encountered many many people who don't really seem to get it. They can just take stuff and take stuff and it doesn't seem like it's really doing anything for them. So I've really learned that it is all in your head. People have incredible mechanisms for blocking these -- what I consider to be -- transcendent experiences.

Erowid: Do you or Bill have siblings that you're still in touch with?

Judith: I have two brothers.

Erowid: Are they different than you?

Judith: [laughs] Yeaah… they are. One of them is a successful architect. He's the really straight one in the family. My other brother is also an architect, but he's not quite as straight and narrow. He'll smoke a little bit of pot with me once in a while, but he'll always hide it from his kids. I think I sent him some Ecstasy one time, and he did it, and he didn't really feel anything. He was drinking at the same time. And so, they're both fairly turned off to those kinds of experiences.

I was the oldest, and I was also the most academic. I toed the line all the way up until I got through college. But I was a religion major, I didn't choose some kind of career where I was going to make a lot of money. I was already pursuing spiritual interests. I was still very involved in the church, but just starting to veer off a little. As soon as I went to Colombia, I was out of my cultural milieu. I had total freedom to open up to another way of being. Just being around people who live very close to the earth, very simple lives, was an incredible education for me. After this period of 6-8 months, where we were heavily using psilocybin, we had a lot of friends visiting us, my husband started to have some serious psychological problems. So we stopped using, and we went to live in this tiny little town in the mountains where he grew up. We lived in a little cabin with no running water or electricity. We would go into town during the day and work in his parents' store, and had a very basic life. I really learned a radical new way of living, and it had nothing to do with substances. But I also learned that plants are incredibly powerful medicine, and that was the biggest lesson from meeting Terence and reorienting to another way of looking at things.

Erowid: Have you and Bill been in a position of mentoring other peoples' kids after your own kids have left home?

Judith: It hasn't really been directly, although what's happened is that we've had a few parties with my friends' kids, but my friends' kids were already using. It's more like we've got this extended family thing, where we're doing it together. For example, my younger son's roommate is a DJ. So we had a big party when we got married, and he DJ'd the party. About halfway through, when it seemed a lot of people were drifting away, some of us took Ecstasy. The core of us who were staying up late stuck around for the afterparty.

Another time, we went up to my property in the country, it's completely wooded and private. My son always wanted to have a party there, and blast out the music really loud. So we rented a trailer, and brought these huge speakers, a generator, amps, guitars, turntables, a keyboard and trapset, everything. It was kind of outrageous. This year we're getting ready to do it for the third time. So we've gotten kind of close to these other kids. My son's roommate and another friend, they all play music together. Then last year we camped near them at Burning Man. It's gradually become this intergenerational extended family scene. Zack's roommate's mom was at Burning Man, but she's not involved with them at that level [of using psychoactives]. It's brought me closer to my kid's friends. My other son, I'm not quite as close to his friends, but we all smoke pot together.

Erowid: If you had it to do over, would you do anything differently?

Judith: That's a good question… Hard to say, at this point… I suppose if I were to be a completely conscious and intentional parent, I would have talked more openly with my kids as teenagers. At the same time, I think its' really hard for kids at that age to listen to their parents. I was never heavily into the lecturing thing of don't do this or don't do that. I know that as soon as you tell a kid not to do something, they're going to go do it. [laughs] Most likely… or they just think, "Oh mom, she doesn't know anything." Because I grew up with a family that was fairly distancing in style, that was a bit of my style, but also as a single parent, I felt from day one that I had to raise my kids to be independent, for my own sanity. That they needed to be their own person, and that seemed to really work. And now it's like we're best friends, all three of us. So I can't think that I did anything wrong, because I'm just so happy with how close we are.

Erowid: Is there anything that you could think of that you might give other families or single moms for that matter to think about, as they're facing these issues with young teens.

Judith: I think it's really important to get beyond fear. Because the fear is what feeds a lot of bad experiences. Bill has a friend right now who has a 14-year-old son who's starting to use marijuana and things like that. I think the tendency of a parent is to try to hold on, and keep your kid from trying things. And I think it's better if you can say, if you want to try something, please talk to me first, or don't think you have to hide it from me. It's important for them to know that the parent is there, particularly when they get in trouble.

I think that the biggest problem is that, if the parent hasn't tried it, they're going to have a lot more fear about it.

Erowid: That's a good point. What do you say to a parent that hasn't tried anything and they're trying to make sense of it all but they just don't have the context for it. It would be important for them to try find a peer or a parent their age who has at least tried something so that they could maybe get a better picture of what they're so afraid of.

Judith: We go through life censoring who we are, depending on who we're with. For Bill and I, that's one of the reasons we've gotten more involved in the psychedelic community, and more involved in the polyamory community. Because then we at least have some more people that we can talk to about what we're doing. The more you can be in a community where everyone is dealing with some of those things, that's real important.

I feel like I live in this bubble of liberal, progressive California. I have all kinds of levels of friends that we can share things with, but definitely we have some friends who are probably not interested in some aspect of what we do. So probably the more we get involved in it, the less common ground, or the less we can share that part of our lives. But, community is really important, no matter what the basis is for it. I think for parents, first of all they need to inform themselves as much as possible, that's where Erowid is so invaluable, there's so much information. But I think sometimes some of these things scare people off, it's just too weird. People are doing stuff and they're real ungrounded about it, and they're just getting messed up. When I first started using mushrooms, they were growing all around me, Terence pointed it out, "there's one right there." they're like these little flying saucers growing in cow pastures. I pretty quickly lost my moorings. I didn't know what I was doing. Terence was little help, "Well, just lie down, be calm." That's the problem with psychedelics not having the legal ability to seek help from people who have more experience. Because there are plenty of experienced psychonauts out there. At least in this area, I don't know about the rest of the country. There are plenty out there, I'm sure, it's just that we don't have the freedom to step forward, and say, well here let me help you with that.

We have found ourselves in the situation, like with my younger son, and with another friend of mine recently, of just being there for people, and tripping with them, so that they feel safe, and for the most part it's turned out very positive. A lot of times, a person just needs the assurance that there's someone there who's experienced. Then it's not scary. But if you go into it with fear… that's why I keep saying we have to get beyond fear, because that's the only way that the boundaries are going to start to expand, is when we can open up to new experience. But when you go into something with fear, that's going to create something scary, right?