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Erowid Families and Psychoactives Interview Series
Dialog with Katie
Interview by Erowid
Katie, 36, was raised with the value of exploring her own mind and psyche, and with idea that drugs were a potential way of doing that. Katie currently works for a major corporate financial institution.

Katie: I grew up in a hippie house. There were a lot of people who were adults -- at least I thought so when I was a kid, I would now not think of them as adults now, people in their early 20s -- living together, doing psychedelics, smoking pot, doing whatever it was they did. It seemed really normal to me. Nothing was every hidden from me and my sister - I have a sister who's a year older than me. Our parents were always - as they are, with people whom they know -- very frank about what was going on. "This is what we do, you have to be careful about who you tell this. But, we believe in it, we think it's a good idea for these reasons." My mother is actually still a strong proponent for marijuana smoking. My father's attitude is, "Some people are into it and some people aren't." My mom's attitude is "People should smoke pot."

Kids who are army brats often meet kids who are army brats, and there's clearly a connection there. Kids of hippies, second generation psychedelics kids, I meet them here and there, and as soon as I meet one, often there's this whole understanding of what that is, in the same way that it kinda is for army brats.

There definitely was a phase of realizing that it was different in my household, than it was in other households. There are all these things that my sister and I went through, in terms of the drug usage, or more just alternative culture, where we realized our house was unusual. It's what I grew up in. I can't imagine what it would be like for parents who weren't straight with their kids about what was going on. There is period of time when as a kid you realize that things are different at home for you than they are for a lot of other people, or that things are going on that are not necessarily going on in other peoples houses. Like bringing your friends home after school. It's a little bit of a dice roll. Do you really want to bring your friends home after school? Because there might be a giggling bunch of 22-year-olds painting spirals on the wall. Which is great, if you're a kid, it's totally fun, but your friends might think it's weird. Some of your friends are going to think it's totally cool and fun, like you have the best place to hang out, ever -- which is how things tended to shake out -- but then there are the people who are freaked out, because your house is weird. People who don't tell their kids about it, I imagine they must still go through that period realizing that something is different, but they probably don't really understand what's going on. That strikes me as potentially problematic.

Erowid: What do you mean you grew up in an alternative household? What was different about your house?

Katie: Where I grew up, in Buffalo, New York, from the time when I was a kid to the time when I was starting to have self-awareness, initially we lived in a two-flat building. My parents and my sister and I lived on the top floor. Different groups of people lived on the bottom floor. There were a lot of hippies, and people sort of came and went and lived there, and there were a lot of psychedelics. [[I would hesitate saying this kind of thing in a place that was published, where my parents might read it, but they were non-monogamous. Unlike their psychedelic use, it's not something they would happily talk about these days.]] There were a lot of people taking us to parties, dressing us up in cool clothes. There was being able to stay up all night, with everybody giggling and people painting the bottom of your feet in Day-Glo colors and walking you up the wall and over the ceiling. The kinds of things went on that would if I had kids, in the life I'm living now. Not that it was a wild party all the time. It wasn't, but there was going to hippie parties in the park, and Be-ins, etc…

That kind of upbringing was normal to me. I guess you can think about the kind of people that we know who are living a, not exactly wildly outrageous, but not your basic life, but having kids. I was one of those kids. A lot of my friends had parents who worked these jobs and who came home. They had these little outfits and they went to see their grandparents on the weekends or they went to church. What a lot of kids did is different from what I did. People were actually sitting around reading me Chaucer when I was a little kid. It was being able to stay up until you were asleep on the floor, and if that happened to be four in the morning, then it was four in the morning. Because no one paid attention to the rules.

Erowid: How old were you when you started realizing that maybe this was different than what other people were experiencing, and it was something you had to translate for other people around you? Or, you mentioned earlier your parents saying, "This is not something you can tell everybody."

Katie: I don't remember them ever distinctly saying that, frankly. My parents will still do things like, when they took a train out here to visit me a couple of years ago, they would get out of the train and stand out on the platform and smoke joints. And they'd get back on the train, and someone would say to them, "Isn't it terrible that you can't smoke cigarettes on the train?" And my mother would reply, "Well, I don't smoke cigarettes." "Oh, I thought I saw you smoking." "Well I don't smoke tobacco."

That's how they are. They're totally public pot smokers. So in that sense, they're kind of out, and in the 60s and 70s when I was growing up, it was probably easier to be out and not to be so concerned that your kid was going to go to school and say something and you were going to be busted. They were probably a little bit more out. I think probably though, they must have somehow or another, I mean I don't remember them ever distinctly saying it, but there must have somehow or another been the understanding, or maybe I gleaned it myself, I don't' really know, or maybe my sister gleaned it, because she was always very much more aware of these kinds of things than I was. Probably it was first or second grade. Actually I remember pretty distinctly, and again I think it was my sister who got wise to it before me. She's a year older than me and she's always been much more aware of this kind of stuff than I. I remember formulating plans - this another thing about being one of these kinds of kids - I remember formulating plans about what we would do if the cops came. Because we figured, we were kids. We knew where all the drugs were, where everything was. And if you were a kid, you could probably get away with grabbing everything and dumping it. So my sister and I had like choreographed plans of what we would do if the cops came.

Erowid: And that was under your own initiative.

Yeah, just me and my sister. And again, I think it was her idea. I think she was the one who was like, "OK, you know, this is a potential, we gotta have a plan." So we would have these plans. But I also remember -- and this is an interesting thing, to compare me and my sister. Because I remember having - and still do, actually - if you had this interview with my sister, and she probably wouldn't have it with you, you would have a very different story of my childhood than you would have for me. I have a lot of pride about my childhood, and about coming from the kind of family that I come from. I feel like I had a really superior kind of childhood where I was taught to think outside the accepted boundaries, and to really value the potential of my own mind. What could things be, what is it to have the idea of reality that you have. I feel like growing up with parents who - and I told you before my mother is a big proponent of people smoking pot, and the reason that she is, is because she thinks that it makes you face the stuff that's in your own head, all the fear stuff, all the things that you are hesitant about. She thinks that if you are regularly getting high, then you can't hide from a lot of the difficult things in your own mind. Which is actually my own experience with psychedelics, one of the greatest values is it's something that's taught me about fear space. They taught me to control it. And I'm definitely a proponent of that.

My sister I think was always much more tense about it, and felt like it was kind of unfair that she didn't' get to have the kind of childhood other kids had. So, she would be the one who would be worried that something bad was going to happen and would make the plans. And I would be the one who was like, "Oh, wee, this is fun," and kind of reveling in it. It's kind interesting to have had both of those kinds of experiences. I would say that it was first or second grade when I became aware of the fact that this was different. And I think at the same time, and it was probably my sister's guidance in making these plans, probably it was going home to my friends' houses after school, and then coming home to my own house and seeing what the difference was. In most of my friends' houses they brought you out cookies or cut up carrots and you watched Sesame Street. There wasn't even a TV in my house, there certainly weren't' any cut carrots. And in other peoples' houses it would just be their mom who was there and no one else. In my house there would be four or five people, hanging around, listening to music, listening to rock and roll, being stoned and having long rambling in-depth conversations. Where they thought that even if you were a kid, you should clearly be involved in the conversation if you were there. They would be saying, "Well, do you ever think about death?" or whatever it was they were talking about. [laughs] So I definitely think that was the difference between what it was like going to my friends' houses and what it was like going to my house. So I would say first or second grade, when I was six, seven, eight, somewhere in there.

Erowid: Some of the other people I've talked with recently remember a distinct point when the DARE program started to go down. It sounds like you were growing up before that.

I'm pre- all that. My parents and I have talked about this many times before, actually, where they've both said, "We could never have raised you the way we raised you any later than we raised you." As my mother has said, "We didn't worry about your friends coming over and smelling pot in the house. We didn't worry about the fact that you knew we were taking LSD." They just never worried about it. It was frowned upon by straight people, but it wasn't like somehow somebody's kid finds out you smoke pot and they march in and they take you off to jail. That would be a concern to somebody now.

Erowid: What year did you graduate from high school.

Katie: 1983

Erowid: With the open understood use of drugs in your house, at which point did you yourself consider that that might be something that you would want to do?

Katie: When I was a kid, my parents were both pretty big acidheads. My mother has actually impressively enough taken more LSD at one time than anybody I've ever met. The woman's got capacity. I think they consciously stopped taking LSD or anything else when I was about 12. Partly because they realized that it upset us. I remember being upset, maybe my sister more than me, but maybe me too. Just to have our parents being so weird, and we didn't really know what was going on, exactly. Maybe we were a little younger. But they still smoked pot, pretty steadily, and I still was well aware of the drug intake, and what LSD was, and what they were doing. The first time I ever took a hit of pot… I don't remember how old I was, I was a kid. At two in the morning -- I have seen my own friends do this with their own children -- where you're high enough, you don't really think about it, you take a hit off a joint and then you hand it to whoever is next to you. And sometimes it's a kid, and the kid carries it off and hands it to whoever is next in line. That was me, I was the little kid. There was a point where people just stopped paying attention and they would just hand it off to whoever was next to them, and if it was me, I'd trot it over to whoever it was next, but I probably took hits of pot when I was kid. I don't think I ever had that, "The first time I got stoned," experience, like a lot of people had, because I think by the time I got into smoking pot, I'd probably been stoned before.

Amusingly enough, though, nothing was ever fully forbidden in my household, it just wasn't like that. I started smoking pot when I was about 14, 15. My first phase of pot smoking - the first year or so - I didn't tell my parents about it. And I smoked their pot -- they had good pot, nobody else had good pot. I would go out with my friends, on weekends, for about an hour until I knew my parents were gone, and then I would split and I would go home. I spent about a year being an isolated pothead at home. I'll tell you what, of all the drug doing I've done in my life - and I've done a lot of drug doing, that was the strongest, that first year of smoking pot by myself. With the cats, just putzing around and playing with things. Just being home alone and being high.

Erowid: Did you hide it from your parents?

I did, it hid it from them, fully. And my sister was also smoking pot at the time, though we hid it from each other, which is very funny. I remember seeing Timothy Leary's kid at one point, and him saying the same thing. The first year or so he was getting high, he was hiding it from his father. The same as with me: I don't know why I did it. I didn't fear retribution, I didn't think I was doing anything that I wasn't supposed to be doing. I think it was more just wanting to explore it on my own terms. Not wanting to have anybody else's advice or input, or, "This is what it's going to be like." Same with my sister. I just sort of kept it to myself. I so enjoyed it, really, that first year of smoking pot by myself at home was so awesome. It actually really was one of those phases of life that turned my life around. It really changed how I viewed the world and how I interacted with people and what my social status was at my high school. All these things, because I just got blown out a little bit in a really great way. And then the summer I was 16, I was going into my senior year of high school. My parents had a cottage on the Jersey shore, and we went off to the Jersey shore, which we had done traditionally, often in the summers. And it was on the drive up to the Jersey shore, when my parents were smoking pot in the car -- which they already did for roadtrips, they still do. My mother, bless her heart, said, "Do either of you smoke pot?" And we both said, "Uh, yeah." So she said, "Shall we all smoke this joint then." So we did. That trip to New Jersey is when we started smoking pot together. We have been ever since. That was probably the time when we started getting high together.

Someone gave us some coke once, me and my parents, and we did that together, which is funny, because I'm not a fan of coke, and I probably wouldn't have done it if I wasn't having the opportunity of doing it with my parents. I've given my dad some DMT, which he did. I'm fine and out about my drug experience, and they are about theirs.

Erowid: You said that your parents quit doing acid when you were 12, because of you and your sister. Is that something that came out later on, that decision?

Katie: Much later on.

Erowid: Tell me a little about that.

There's a crux point on this one. When I was 17 and started doing acid, I discovered my parents' acid stash from the mid 70s -- it was a pretty fine acid stash -- and I took it all. Which was kind of unconscionable. They're still pissed about it. And then I went off to university and my sister was off at university, and my parents decided, "Great, they're gone, let's jump back into the LSD." They opened the stash and of course it was all gone. They knew immediately. I mean they knew I was taking acid, and that was OK, but they didn't know I was taking theirs! And they knew I was smoking their pot, which was ok with them also. But they called me up when they found their acid stash was gone. Which probably didn't happen for a year or two, when I was 18 or 19. "Do you know what happened to all the LSD?" I was very apologetic. That was kind of the crux point. Though now that I think about it, the first time I took LSD I was 16. The drug I started with really was acid, I took a lot of acid between 16 and 21. Boy was that ever a good idea for me. As soon as I started doing it, I started talking to them about it. "This is what happened to me, blah blah blah." Again, like I said, they'd always been really straight with me, so they would answer, "Well, this was an acid experience I had." We would compare them and talk about them. Once or twice I came home tripping, when I was a kid, to my parents house, and they would sort of pretend they didn't notice, so they wouldn't freak me out. And the next day, they would ask, "Were you high?" or "Were you tripping?" Yeah, I was. Or sometimes I wasn't, I was just stoned. Then we would talk about it.

Actually, as soon as I started taking acid, it never was a big deal or anything I hid from them, particularly. Although, again, if I would come home tripping, I would try to hide it from them, which is a funny thing. Of course it's like that when you're tripping anyway. When you're out, even if you're tripping and in the right circumstance… it's sort of an internal thing, often, you try to hide it, unless you're with people that you know you can really be loose with. I suppose it is a little odd, that I would try to hide it when I was tripping, but then as soon as I wasn't tripping, I would be happy to talk about it, which we did. So, as soon as I started taking acid, I started hearing about their acid trips. I could tell you some of them. I know a bunch of theirs. That was part of the experience, telling them, "I was tripping, and then I had this idea, or this thought." Now that I'm telling you this I realize, I can tell you a bunch of the acid trips that specifically my mother told me about -- of her own acid trips -- and I can tell you acid trips I had when I was that age, but I don't think I can exactly call to mind any of the ones I would have told them about on my own. Which is funny, because the other two categories stand out pretty clearly.

Erowid: So you said you don't think your sister wouldn't talk about her experience to an interviewer. Would you tell me a little about that?

Katie: Yes. I've always reveled in having an alternative familial situation. Like, we didn't have a T.V. when I was growing up, and I thought that was so cool. I thought I was way cooler than anyone else, because I didn't' have a T.V. And she hated it. She would go to her friends' houses. And she's a film critic now, and a culture critic. We didn't see movies, we didn't watch T.V. when I was growing up, that's just not what we did. Now, T.V., film, that's what she does. I think she felt like there was a lot going on in the world that she was missing out on. The whole not being able to bring people home… I've noted this before, if you talk to my sister and me about our childhoods, I will tend to stress the things about my childhood that are more alternative. Ask me about my childhood and I'll talk about the drugs, and about all these people living with us. Ask my sister about our childhood, and she'll talk more about the cottage we had in New Jersey, or that my parents have been together since they were teenagers, or that my parents were academics.

I really gravitate toward the part of our childhood that was different, and she gravitates toward the part of our childhood that wasn't.

When I listen to myself talk, I understand that I'm probably stressing those parts. The day-to-day life of what it was like to be me as a kid was probably not all that different than the day-to-day life of what it was like to be any kid. But there's this scattering of other things that were different, although not having a T.V. was pretty different from most kids. That's probably almost a bigger difference than the drugs or the communal living. I think she would be uncomfortable with what I'm saying now, with this picture. But she's just straighter than I am. For some reason I really took to this whole idea of an alternative lifestyle, I took it as a badge of pride. If you could concentrate it, I would say "Yeah my childhood was different than a lot of people's childhoods." And she would say, "my childhood was not that different from other people's childhoods." And I would be proud of that fact and she would be proud of that fact.

Katie: Have you done acid with your parents?

No I haven't. Don't know that I would, frankly. The difference growing up on the East Coast -- like I said I've met second-generation hippie kids like me -- there definitely has been in my experience often a distinct difference between east coast hippie-kiddom and West coast hippie-kiddom. At least for the time span of the mid-sixties to mid-seventies, which is when I was a kid. I would never have called my parents John and Adele. Enough familial tradition existed so that the relationship between parent and child was still the thing that defined us. I think that people who call their parents by their first names, and who call their parents mom and dad, even though that seems like a small difference, to me that's a big difference. Because in the one case, you're addressing each other through the form of traditional family -- it's actually in the role of parent/child that you're interacting -- and you're not attempting to cross that boundary at all. Calling your parents by their first names, in my mind anyway, is a sign of that attempt to bridge the gap between being defined by the traditional familial roles. It's an indicator of something larger. It's not like in my family we ever tried to totally bridge those gaps.

In my mind, I had the best of both worlds. I had an alternative upbringing, but I had a totally secure nuclear family scene as well. My parents were very together; they've been together since they were teenagers. And they were a little older than a lot of their friends; even though a lot of their friends were floating through jobs, my dad had kind of a straighter gig, and made some money. My mom was at home for a while, and went to graduate school, and then was an academic. My father was teaching, and also had a business. There was a lot about our life that was stable. Even though the rules of my house were not fixed, everything was up for debate in my house, as a kid… if you could make a good argument about why rules should be otherwise, and you could verbalize a good argument, then the rule would get changed. But you had to be able to do that. Otherwise they set the rules. So it wasn't like "This is the rule because I say so." It wasn't necessarily laissez-faire.

Erowid: It wasn't that super-permissive childrearing that was happening for a while, where kids got asked, "do you want to do this or that?" at every juncture…

Katie: Exactly. I've got to say, hats off to people who can get down and take LSD with their parents because you know what, your parents are your parents and maybe other people don't have this experience but a lot of the stuff that I have internalized in my life and a lot of the more difficult to churn through mentally stuff that I have, is parental stuff. I think human beings have in the world is this idea that we have in our psyche that we have to prove ourselves to someone. You set up this thing about who you're trying to impress in the world. People often start with their parents. And maybe you move on to your boss or your lover or your neighbors or whoever it is that you put in that role of who you have to prove yourself to, but psychically, I think, your parents are still the origins of who's out there and who's judging you.

My parents have always been really fully supportive, whether I was doing doctorate work, or doing a high-powered job, or blowing around Europe with a backpack and catching as catch can, with no idea of when I was going home or what I was doing. They've always been really supportive, so it's not like it was externally all that way, but, in my mind one of the reasons that one does anything impressive is the ability to call one's parents and say, "Hey, check out what I did." For me, the idea of taking acid with my parents… I would love to think that I was fully prepared for that scenario, but that would be… no, you know I think actually I could maybe take acid with my parents. I did buy them some MDMA for their 25th wedding anniversary, I bought them some MDMA, two hits of it for them to take. And they were like, "Well, it would be fun if we all took it together." So I bought them another one, which I was going to do with them. , I had them in a little baggie, and my mother, whom my sister calls the mad tidy-er and who has a tendency to overclean, she thought it was garbage and tossed it so I never ended up doing it with them.

I certainly would do MDMA with them. I would do ketamine with them. I would do 2C-B, or 2C-I, or any phenethylamine with them… I guess in my mind acid is the big one. Acid is the one I have the most historical experience with. It's my best friend of the drug world, for sure. It's also the hairiest one for me. So, I don't know about acid…. If they proposed it, I would probably do it; I don't think I would propose it myself.

Erowid: I don't know if you've looked at some of the prohibitionist literature that's out there, "how to talk to your kids about drugs," "what to do if your kids are doing drugs." Some of the material is smart and makes a lot of sense, and the only discernible challenge is the bottom line of "no is the only answer." The material that's coming out of drug policy reform or progressive education models says ultimately you have to be honest, and help people to make decisions for themselves. It sounds like your parents had no ambivalence about the positive as well as the negative effects of drugs in their lives, and that's what they communicated to you.

Katie: You're segueing into one of the strongest opinions I have about my upbringing; and the thing that most differentiates my upbringing from other people's. Which is that, I feel like my parents were always straight with me. What they did, and why they did it, and what they were happy about with what they did, and what they weren't happy about. They always were very honest and laid it out like that. They didn't try to pretend that they were an ideal, or what they most wanted to be. That carries over to everything. With drugs, they were straight about the fact that they were doing them, they were straight about why. I've known since well before I had the experience of being high, that my mother was of the opinion - both of them, she tended to speak for them both - that smoking pot was a really good way of exploring your mind and figuring out why you did what you did, and of dealing with your own fear, and dealing with your own thoughts. I was raised with the value of exploring your own mind and your own psyche. I was raised with this idea that drugs were a potential way of doing that. It's not like they were ever pressing drugs on me, they never offered to do drugs with me, with the exception of pot, which I described earlier. "Marijuana is not a drug, it's an herb," is the language my mother would use.

With the exception of that, the coke somebody gave us, or the MDMA I gave them, they were never like, "Oh if you're taking LSD, you should take it with us." They were like, "Great, you go take LSD with your friends and let us know about it." One of the things is that my relationship to drugs is much healthier than that of most of the people that I know. Because I don't have a lot of fear around it, I never thought I was doing something forbidden. I came into it with some road signs about why I was there and what to look for. And the road signs I came in with were, "You're there to learn something about your psyche and explore your own mind." What's really valuable about it is what kinds of lessons you're able to bring back. Or whatever experiences you're able to have. It's not only, are you having the experience, and is the experience in and of itself fun… although my mother told me acid stories that were just fun, weird geeky things. But also talked about things she had realized, or suddenly understood about herself, or about other people. I'm definitely into the literature that says, "Be honest." The literature with the bottom line of "Just say no…" You know, you give someone a forbidden thing - especially if they know you've done it - and that just opens up this whole realm.

Everyone wants to do stuff that they're not supposed to do. My teen rebellion was to date football players and hang out with cheerleaders and join the "Right Track" which was the drug-free kids organization - and I was a total pothead when I was doing it. What do you do as a teenage rebellion? You have to do something, that's what I did, it didn't last very long, but… The process of defining yourself, everyone has to go through that phase of, "I'm no longer my family." You have to find some place where you can maneuver. By setting things up that you're forbidden to do, like drink or smoke or take drugs, that's a blatant invitation to do those things, when you're going through that phase of defining yourself, of being separate from your family. If you're trying to encourage your kids not to do drugs, that doesn't seem like a good idea. What seems like a good idea is to talk to them about why you don't think drugs are a good idea, what your understanding of it is, your fear of it is, to be straight and honest about why you think it's a bad idea, and hopefully they'll hear you. Or, if you're trying to teach your kids how to have a healthy, open relationship to drugs, then the same is true, to talk to them about what your experiences are with drugs, why you feel that way, what were the strengths, what were the weaknesses. My mother told me about some of the bad trips she's had, and the things that were unpleasant and what that was like, and I came into it with those things too.

So it seems to me whether you're trying to encourage your kids not to do drugs, or you're trying to encourage your kids to have healthy relationships to them, the answer is still the same: rather than try to call on this other authority, just be really straight about what you feel and why. Because kids read that. A lot of people think their parents are hypocrites.

I wasn't a rebellious kid. I'm so much like my parents; I was so not a rebellious kid, at all, except that what they already are, for most kids would be rebellious.