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Erowid Families and Psychoactives Interview Series
Dialog with Lisette
Interview by Erowid
Lisette is a college student whose little brother recently started using psychoactive drugs recreationally.



Erowid: We've talked about how your little brother is starting to get into drugs, and how you've tried to play a role in providing a role model, or someone for him to talk to. But first for some background. You're 24, you're youngest brother is 16.

Lisette: He just turned 16.

Erowid: You're older brother is…

Lisette: 31.

Erowid: 31. And your older sister is…

Lisette: 32.

Erowid: Did you talk to your little brother about psychoactives before he started trying them, or how did that come about? What happened?

Lisette: It's kind of hard to remember, really, it came mostly through him talking about pot. Then he brought up questions to me like, "Have you ever done ecstasy? Have you ever done acid?"

Erowid: So he came to you with questions?

Lisette: Yes. But he also came to me with a knowledge that I'd already participated in these things. When he asked me about psychoactives, I had a feeling he had already been talking to my older sister before me, and that she'd told him that I do it.

Erowid: How old was he when he first started talking to you about it.

Lisette: 14, 15.

Erowid: So about a year ago.

Lisette: He first asked me what it was like [specifically ecstasy] and he assured me, "Oh, you know, I'm never going to do it, I was just wondering what it's like." Basically his friends had started talking about it. He was being very showy about the fact that he smoked pot. I was really hoping to approach him in a sharing way, where we could talk about it, but he was trying to prove himself to me. Which was a little difficult, his mentality was a little difficult for me. So in the beginning I tried to remain aloof about the questions, because I thought unless he was coming to me with a really serious consideration, and wanting to talk, I didn't want to encourage him or discourage him. I'd be really hypocritical to try to discourage him, so that's the difficulty.

Naturally I have a fear of him being in the wrong kind of environment, being abusive… I also have never really liked many of his friends, I don't find them to be good influences. When he came to me with his first hardcore drug experience, he told me that he had been looking for pot, and had gone to the ghetto, and he had done cocaine. He was telling me this to try and shock me.

Erowid: So he had gotten cocaine from his pot dealer? And he came back to you and said, "I tried cocaine."

Lisette: Basically.

Erowid: How did you respond to that?

Lisette: I tried to be non-reactive, but still attentive to what he was saying. I also tried to be serious with him, I tried to emphasize that I worried about him getting a hardcore substance such as a white powder from an unknown source, in an unexpected situation. He's driving around in a car with a bunch of 16-year-olds, in an unfamiliar area of town. I emphasized to him set and setting, and I emphasized to him that if he was curious about these things that he should look into them, and educate himself, and it was a conscious choice. And that I would really like it if he came to me first.

Erowid: How did he respond?

Lisette: I didn't really feel that he was listening to me. I often get the feeling that I'm lecturing, and that's what I struggle most with, is how I can communicate with him without lecturing. Ideally I feel that I'd like to set an example, but that's difficult. Later he came to me more with questions about MDMA. Finally he came to me to reveal he had purchased two pills of MDMA from my older sister. This was naturally kind of upsetting to me. Not that I'm adamantly against him doing MDMA or experimenting - I think it's been a very positive thing in my life - but I feel it's important that he be educated about it, and have a really healthy view, and doesn't approach the drug from the perspective that it's a drug. I'd rather he approach it from the perspective that it's a medicine, or an opportunity or an experience.

So he came with me to that, I sort of thought about it for a while. And I approached him and offered to him that I would like to be with him the first time he did it. Maybe do it with him. But that I would like to provide MDMA that I was certain was pure and was not cut with anything else, that was actual MDMA. I said that what I would like to do is take one of his pills and use an EZ-test on it, and the other pill I'd like to send away to have tested and view the results on the internet. I thought that would be an educational experience for both of us, to find out this process, so that he would know a safe way to be assured of the drugs he was getting.

Erowid: Or a way to reduce the risk of what it might or might not be.

Lisette: Exactly. I also wanted him to recognize that he had some control and some choice. He didn't have to just take whatever he was given, and be manipulated by his environment and circumstances. When I offered this to him, he seemed really iffy about the fact that he'd lose one of the pills, that wouldn't get to do it with a friend, and he'd be doing it with me. He'd like to do it with me, but he'd also like to do it with a girlfriend or a friend. I told him to think about it. I tried really consciously not to be pushy, in order to not be the lecturer all the time.

He didn't take me up on my offer. That was disappointing. He in fact did it with a friend. He told me about it, and I said, "How was it?" And he said, "well, it was a gay experience." Apparently he'd had a gay experience with a [male] friend of his. [sigh] So, I was just kind of disappointed. Since then he's been telling me - in fact the last time I talked to him - he said, "Oh yeah we're just hanging the mushrooms." The hanging of the shrooms. It's difficult, I'm out of state, and I don't feel comfortable talking about that on the telephone, and I don't want to encourage his having these kinds of conversations on the telephone, or being casual about these things. So, I just try to be non-reactive. I think that's what he's trying to get from me, some sort of shock or, he's trying to impress me. I don't want to give him either of those things.

Erowid: you mentioned before that you had encouraged him to research for himself some of the things he was doing, but you didn't feel like he was taking you up on that idea.

Lisette: I'm sure he's not. He seems open to it, he just sort of agrees with me when I suggest it. Last time I made him write down the web address for Erowid, but he didn't follow through with it. I think this goes back to that thing that I feel like he's not conscientiously making choices, he's not really in control of his experiences. I don't think that he even realizes that he has the power to educate himself or that he has any kind of understanding of the concept. It's a little frustrating. I'm really curious to talk to him now that he's tried a psychedelic, tried psilocybin mushrooms. I know that he's going to be experimenting with them a lot more in the future because they grow in the area where he lives.

Erowid: How did you feel about him acquiring the MDMA from your sister. Did you ever confront her, what's up with that?

Lisette: [sigh] I was actually really upset about it, because she in fact told him information about me, "Oh, Lisette knows where these come from, and Lisette knows these are really good," using my name. I don't think that's fair for her to involve me.

Erowid: Was she making that up?

Lisette: Yeah, she was. There's no reason to approach her about it because in the past she's been very defensive, and she usually denies and won't give me the full story. So there's no point in me even asking her about it. All I can do is emphasize to my little brother, "She doesn't necessarily know what she's talking about, she's not the expert. Nobody is the expert. Not me or your friends. You should seek to find information for yourself." I feel that it's very inappropriate that she would be encouraging him either way. As older siblings, we have a lot of influence, and I really feel that he should be following his own path. I want to be here as a trusted resource, but not as somebody who is dictating his growth and development. I personally find her behavior unethical.

Erowid: Does your mother know that your brother is smoking cannabis?

Lisette: Yes, she's caught him on several occasions. She has a rather conventional view of drugs - specifically psychedelics and cannabis. However, I've tried to be very open with her, and honest, because it has come out through my little brother, and through my older sister, that all of us have used psychoactives. I've tried to be honest with her, telling her that I feel these things can be very helpful, be used medicinally. She's at least openminded to listening about what I have to say. She's asked for my help with my little brother, and I've told her that I'm going to be honest with him, that I feel it's extremely important when you're dealing with teenagers, that you're honest. I'm not going to lie to him, but I'm also not going to encourage him.

Erowid: How does she feel, does she feel like, "Whatever works"?

Lisette: Yes, she says, "Whatever works." She basically acknowledges that she doesn't know what to do. He's not going to listen to her in any way, so at least if I can have some sort of positive perspective for him.

Erowid: do you know what her basic fears are?

Lisette: Health, brain damage. She fears him being put in a dangerous situation. I really… I was going to say, the same fears as mine, but they're not the same fears. My fears are just that he's going to be reckless and not honoring. Not conscientious about what he's doing.

Erowid: Do you mind if I ask you about when you first smoked cannabis, for some context?

Lisette: I first smoked cannabis when I was 14. My mom never found out directly, but I think that she suspected. Various things were suspicious over the years. But we never talked about it. For the most part I was very communicative with my parents, and well-behaved. So they didn't challenge me. I first tried MDMA when I was 16, and psilocybin around the same time. LSD around 17. Cannabis was, I think, fairly typical. Teenager, high school, smoking out back of buildings, iffy situations. With MDMA I was fortunate to be in a very loving, supportive group of people who were also very interested and educated about what they were doing. That was a powerful influence in my life. I hope for the same for my little brother. I wish that I could somehow introduce it to him in that way. My first MDMA experience really taught me a lot about dealing with people, and a new perspective on life. I wish my little brother had had that same experience.

Erowid: Have you smoked cannabis with him?

Lisette: Yes, actually, I smoked cannabis with him once. I didn't want him to feel alienated. When I first started smoking cannabis I knew that my older brother was smoking cannabis. I have the same age difference with my older brother as Kyle has with me. My older brother was in denial to me about the fact that he smoked cannabis, and would never do it around me, and would hide it from me. I always knew that was hiding it from me, and I really resented it. I felt like I wanted to prove to him in various ways that I was cool like he was, and that I could be accepted. So I sort of overcompensated. I didn't want that to happen to my little brother. I didn't want him to feel like I was trying to isolate him from my life. I also told him I use responsibly, and I didn't feel it was a big deal, and I felt it was much healthier than being drunk at parties, and safer.

Erowid: do you know if he's drinking?

Lisette: Yes, I know he's drinking. In fact he was caught by my parents. He was given a prescription medication and he was caught by my parents drinking lots of alcohol and taking five painkillers at the same time. And being naked, running around the house out of control, vomiting.

I'm really flattered that when this episode happened my little brother called me immediately. "Lisette, I really need to talk to you, I'm desperate." I feel good that he feels comfortable coming to me with stuff like this. But you know, there's not much for me to say. My stepfather also called me, and he said - what was the word he used when he saw Kyle - not "appalled," it was a stronger word -- completely disgusted and shocked. I think that's pretty funny.

My little brother is really reckless about his drug use, and my parents are not naïve. He's been very very careless. Things like leaving cannabis in his overnight bag with porn videos and my parents find them.

What's really difficult about the situation with my older sister, or an example of the difficulty, is my mom knows that there's this particular friend of my little brother's whom my mom doesn't allow my little brother to see. She says, "I know that this is his pot dealer." He calls the house sometimes asking for my sister. Which means either my sister is selling him pot or he's selling her pot. This is a high school kid. Which, I just feel isn't the wisest thing for my sister to do. I don't think I could be that desperate for pot. If that's an indication of how she handles things with my little brother, that's why I'm concerned. I feel like mentally, the way she approaches drugs is like a 14-year-old. She's not much better than Kyle's friends, in fact she's worse, because she has the power of being the older sibling. I feel that's something I'm fighting against, in dealing with my little brother, is her influence.

Erowid: And what about your other brother?

Lisette: My other brother is dealing with it much like he dealt with me. Which is just totally ignoring the situation, denying that he participates, and wanting nothing to do with it. My little brother has tried to talk to him as a confidante, and he just basically refuses him. That's unfortunate. I really think Kyle is looking for somebody to talk to.

He [Kyle] called me when he wanted to know how to make mushroom tea. First of all, he's asking me on the phone. I didn't feel like I should tell him on the phone, for one. And for two, that's sort of like me handing him the mushrooms, in my mind. So far the way I've dealt with this, if I'm not sure how I feel about giving him information, I just tell him where to find the information on his own, and try to stay out of it. It's a difficult call for me. I did warn him to be extremely careful about the type of mushroom he had, and warned him that some can be deadly if he mistakes one for the other, since he's picking them wild. I gave him a website address. I don't know if he followed my instructions.

Erowid: How did you respond in the moment, when he asked you that on the phone. Do you remember?

Lisette: I was kind of aloof. "Oh, that's interesting, you have to make sure you're really really careful with that, because that can be really dangerous if you're mistaken."

Erowid: So you just ignored the fact that he asked you about a recipe.

Lisette: I was ambiguous about what he was saying. I said I wasn't going to help him with this, that he needed to look it up on the internet. Once again I encouraged him, "You know you really should learn about what you're doing to your body." But in general it's difficult to say that to him because he's a freshman in high school, going to be a sophomore, and he has the reading level of a fifth grader. Where I was at the fifth grade, or worse. That's what's so sad about this. I want to tell him to educate himself, but I know that's a lot more of a challenge for him than it would have been for me at that age. I'm having difficulty even relating to him. I'm putting things to him in a way I would have wanted them communicated to me, but that's not necessarily what's right for him. I'm just trying to be a nonjudgmental supporter observer.

Erowid: It sounds like you're kind of carrying a lot of weight in your family, among your siblings. Your younger brother calls you to tell you about things that are going on, your older brother doesn't want to be involved, your older sister is making it even more difficult for everyone, and your mom and stepfather are enlisting your help.

Lisette: I feel a lot of responsibility about it. I have to remind myself that all I can do is be an example and try to be his friend in other ways, so that hopefully he'll trust me, trust my example. I try to establish a connection with him. But yeah, I completely feel a responsibility. I ordered the book, "From Chocolate to Morphine," for him. I ordered it twice. I told my parents about this book, I thought it would be great for them to read, and for him to read. And they never went to pick it up. At the same time as I'm getting a lot of pressure from them, I'm not getting any support, either. They're not following through with their end of the deal. I just have to trust that this process is going to be for him like it is for a lot of teenagers. For me, I know some of my mushroom use and my cannabis use was haphazard, and with friends, maybe in not the most ideal situations. And I survived, and in fact learned a lot from those experiences, and it wasn't terrible for me.

In a way I'm actually slightly relieved that he's using mushrooms. [pause] I don't know how to articulate that… I feel that there are a lot of things about his environment… He's in a very conservative redneck town, and my parents don't really participate much in his life. I'm hoping that it will really be an educational experience for him. I know it was for me. I know I gained a lot from it. So, I'm hoping that even though he's maybe not in the best situation, he's still profiting.

He's planning on coming to visit me, which I'm really excited about. The last time I talked to him I asked him how his last mushroom experience was, in so many words, without coming out and saying that. Because he said, "I'm hanging the shrooms," and I said, "How has that been for you." He said, "Oh, it was so great, I'll tell you about it later."

Erowid: Maybe that will open up something.

Lisette: I hope so. The difficulty is I still have a hard time knowing how to deal with his showiness about his use of drugs. It seems like part of his ego and his status and his self-identity is based on the fact that he's experimenting with these substances. I just don't know how to deal with it in conversation. I try to ignore that, I try to skim over it, I try to say, "Well, not everybody uses drugs. It's not something that makes you cool."

Erowid: I wonder if asking more questions about the experience, and getting him to talk about it more, would help. Maybe that would be one way of being subtly directive… "What did you think about?" and he then he gives you a response, and you pick out one place to go deeper… Getting asked those questions might prompt him to open up his mind a little bit more about what he's going.

Lisette: I think that's a really good idea. Especially now that he's doing mushrooms, I want to do that. I don't know why I didn't do that when he told me about his MDMA experience. I think that his reaction, "Oh, it was a gay experience," made me think that it ended up just being something sexual, and I guess there was a part of me that wasn't really wanting to talk with him about that. Even though he's been fairly explicit in sharing that sort of thing with me… that wasn't one where I was interesting in prying, or delving into. But the mushrooms, I'm really excited about. I think it's important to talk in person because I don't have the freedom to talk about this over the internet, or on the telephone. He has nobody else to talk to who is reliable.

Erowid: You might not necessarily have any answers to this: If you met someone else who is roughly the same age as you and has a sibling who is roughly the same age as your brother, and they're just starting to face some of the same issues as you have, is there anything that you would say to them? Things to try to remember to think about, or tips for them? I've heard you say you don't want to be hypocritical, to be honest with him.

Lisette: Also to be non-judgmental. I feel like that would turn him off. I would give the advice that the most important thing to be is a friend. Somebody that he feels that he can turn to for good solid trustworthy advice. Beyond that, I don't' really feel that so far I've been extremely successful. But that's to be expected; he's rebellious, and kind of reckless.

Erowid: Well the fact that he's still talking to you is a good sign.

Lisette: that's true.

Erowid: What you're doing is really brave.

Lisette: Thank you.

Erowid: Thank you for talking about this with Erowid.

Lisette: It's really good to think about this project, and to think about it in a broader scale, when I'm thinking about this situation.