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Erowid Families and Psychoactives Interview Series
Dialog with Eve Finlader
Interview by Erowid
Nov 2003
Eve and Humphrey Findlader, both in their 30s, have a three-year-old son, Tom. Erowid talked with Eve about the topic of families and psychoactives on the playground during Tom's play group, with other mothers, babysitters, and children scattered among the jungle gyms and picnic tables.



Erowid: I've never done an interview like this, in a playground.

[laughter]

Eve: It's a perfect context.

Erowid: Yes, perfect context… Your son is two years old now, almost three - right now he's playing with a play group, and you've got your eye on him. Last night when we were talking you said you didn't have much to contribute to this conversation yet ["Families and Psychoactives"] because your son is too young and there's really nothing to talk to him about. But then we talked about babysitters… Tell me a little about the babysitter factor.

Eve: Since Tom's been born, Humphrey and I have both been trying to continue to do the Institute. We've had to consider bringing babysitters into the house, which sounds like a simple thing to do, but there's a number of factors aside from wanting someone who's loving and caring, capable and attentive and reliable. We have the additional issue of considering, is this person savvy enough to understand why we have cases and cases of books on the topic of psychoactives and culture?. Aside from having those books on the shelves, Humphrey has a medical marijuana permit, so we grow cannabis plants in the garden. The question is, how is the babysitter going to react to that? We certainly avoid having babysitters 18 or younger. We don't have minors babysit because we don't want to put the parents in a position where they somehow feel threatened for their child. We have to find people either through word of mouth, or, when I interview babysitters, that's one of the questions I ask them: How do you feel about drugs?

Erowid: Really? Wow…

Eve: I may not be that direct, but I'll ask a question that brings up the issue, just so that I get a sense of where they're at. Usually they think, "Oh no, I don't do drugs!" Well, most people have experimented with drugs at some point, and I say that the work that we do involves in a large part drug policy. Then I describe a bit what it is that we do. Then I can kind of gauge on their face where they're at. From there the conversation either stops, or I can see that this person understands. It's a dance of interpersonal reactions. Certainly the people who have been consistent babysitters for Tom respect the work that we're doing. It's added strength for me, I don't have to think that there's additional anxiety or worry when I leave him with someone who is supportive in that way.

Erowid: There have been people whom you've interviewed that you decided against having as babysitters on the basis that they're not tolerant?

Eve: It's not only tolerant, it's a more complex understanding of the issues, so that you're not just getting knee jerk reaction to the topic. When they hear the topic and react negatively, it's a sign to me that it's not going to work out. Because I don't want to be fighting someone's internal resistance to that issue as a babysitter. I want as much easy flow as possible.

Erowid: I'm interested in what you said about minors. What lead up to that decision?

Eve: With a minor, you're involving not only the sitter, but the sitter's parents.

Erowid: You thought about this before you interviewed any babysitters?

Eve: Yes, we sat down and we thought about it. "How are we going to do this?" Because oddly, the collection of books that tend to be on the topic of drugs is right next to Tom's play area. That's a central spot where he plays, particularly when he was younger. So the sitter's eye is going to wander onto the books. We knew that it had to be an open topic with whomever was coming into our house on a regular basis. And actually, that's another thing - we can't really have random babysitters, like from a service. It's all privately done. We feel strongly about the issue of minors: we didn't want to inadvertently introduce the possibility of a legal hassle.

Erowid: Does the issue of what you do with the Institute ever come up, like right now in the midst of a playgroup, with mothers and babysitters? Is it something you end up discussing with people?

Eve: We're pretty open about what we do, when there's occasion to discuss it. The way that we approach drug policy through the valence of cognitive liberty allows people to accept the premise before they accept the application. Once they accept the premise that people should have a right to control their own consciousness, and to keep government intervention at bay, when it's concerning how you're thinking, that's pretty readily agreed upon. From there, to say that the drug war is one application of this, we can see how the government has overreached its right to police its people. When it comes up in that context, no one is ever outright shocked or saying "My child can't play with yours." Part of that may be that they know who Humphrey and I are, they know what kind of people we are, just from having seen us as parents.

Erowid: I'm interested in the issues and decision-making that come up around pregnancy, nursing, and post-nursing. I've talked to mothers who were cannabis users before they had their child or their children, who continued to use cannabis but interrupted their psychoactive explorations until their kids were out of the home. It definitely spans the spectrum. I wanted to bounce that idea around.

Eve: There's a black hole of time that suddenly happens when you become a parent that engulfs peripheral free time. The luxury of being able to decide that I want to do something for the next six or eight hours… it's really hard to get a chunk of time like that. There are so many other pressing demands on me or on us, not just as parents, but in engaging professionally or socially. It makes it really hard to carve time out. As a mother, with nursing, I was pretty militant about not using anything, not because I didn't think that it was possible to do that, but because I wasn't comfortable as an individual… I wanted to do natural birth, natural diet, yoga, breathing, organic, I wanted to do that for my son as long as he was attached to me in some physical way. Now that he's not, that's certainly something I'm open to, but again it's a time crunch.

Maybe it's that psychologically, a mother moves into a different phase. There's an immediacy to the relationship. When I'm not with him, like when I'm working, I want to be with my son and also with my partner. I have a limited amount of time, so the question is, how am I going to spend that? Launching on a heavy dose trip eats up a lot of time, then there's time for processing; I just don't have time for that right now.

Erowid: Tom is probably too young to take any interest in plants in your garden, but has it ever come up, that there are plants that are different in the garden?

Eve: No, we try to instill in him a respect for all plants. He doesn't really distinguish between "bad" and "good" like that. Again, it's a situation where people don't even notice them [the cannabis plants]. They're integrated into the gardenscape. I have younger nieces and nephews who come over, and they don't comment on them, and I don't comment on them with them, because of the religious backdrop that they're being raised in. It hasn't come up yet, but I'm sure at some point it will.

Erowid: What does your family think about what you're doing? They're raising their children differently than you are, do you ever find yourself observing behaviors that you don't agree with?

Eve: Not so much that, but as far as my family's reaction, are you referring to the demon possession [laughter]?

Erowid: So your family of origin is very Christian…

Eve: Not all of the family, but factions within it. It's one of those curious things where they have a policy of love the sinner, hate the sin. In their eyes, there's definitely wrong behavior going on. They've got their mental parameters, and I've got mine. We come to neutral territory, where I don't attack what I see as the fallacies in their religious framing, and they in the same way have seen that I'm responsible in the way that I approach the topic of drug use. We've come to a neutral amicable disagreement that doesn't get very heated anymore. It used to. In the initial phases of the relationship that Humphrey and I had, they were much more concerned about what was going on, not just because of my own interests, but because I was merging with someone else who was deeply involved in this stuff. They were worried, but then they got to know Humphrey, and they understood that it wasn't something that was going to push us to the dark side. But if I asked them straight up, "What do you think?" they would give me the devil line. So I just don't ask.

Erowid: How was it for you as a teenager?

Eve: Let's see. You hide so much when you're a teenager, it didn't come up. There were a few instances when things got to a boiling point. But my brother had paved the way for me, at one point growing hydroponic pot plants in the closet in my parents' house. Then he warped the wood floors, and that's how they found out. I always thought they were a little naïve though, wondering why he needed to lock the door on his closet for his tomato plants. Anything I could come up with was much less threatening to them, because they'd already been through it with him. Plus he was involved in the club scene, so I think my brother initiated them into the world of teenage drug use. I was always the good student. As long as my grades complied with good bourgeois protocol, they left me alone.

Erowid: I have a friend whose son is about 7 years old who already envisions initiating him into the world of psychoactives, probably cannabis or MDMA, when he's fairly young, probably at 13. Has that topic ever come up for you and Humphrey?

Eve: We have thought about that. Similar to the person that you're mentioning, we've considered the age of transition from childhood. Thirteen is a ritualistic age in a number of cultures, pervasively, and a good time to do something like that. By then, Tom will have gained somewhat of an understanding of what we're about. And again, discussing this topic in this way can make our life focus sound like it's this one area [psychoactives], and that's not true to who we are. We're multidimensional, we have a lot more going on than just drug use or the conviction that that's something that's beneficial to society. In the same way, I want Tom to see them as a resource, but it's hard to anticipate what he's going to be like at 5, 8, 10. There's a maturity level that needs to be there. I have a feeling the discussion will certainly be ongoing.

Erowid: On that topic, of psychoactives being a resource among others, you've done quite a bit of reading on other technologies like brain stimulation, nootropics, nanotechnology, and brain-machine interface. In the future, the world will be radically different, and some of these questions will become obsolete.

Eve: That's certainly something I think about. That there will be other ways of interacting with consciousness that are not chemically bound, and some of those techniques, like transcranial magnetic stimulation, are still in their infancy. I feel that in the same way that plants are natural things that have distinctive properties, there will be a broader array of possible ways of interacting with consciousness. For Tom, I imagine if not 10 years, then certainly 20 years from now there will probably be other ways for him to do that. We see that just in the technological gadgetry that already exists. Sadie Plant, in her book Writing on Drugs, introduces that possibility, and I'm sure she's not the only one. Maybe chemicals are a little more sloppy than electrical technologies, and at that some point in the future, they will be able to resolve that with a bit more precision in what they're targeting. I would say even just in the chemical realm, that's going to happen. I anticipate a day when there are individually tailored psychoactives, based on a person's genetic profile, on what their tendencies are. But that may just be my cyberpunk fetishism. [laughter]

[Eve goes to grab Tom's sippy cup…]

Erowid: I just overheard a nearby conversation, one mother turning to another and asking "Is your husband a doctor? Or, what does he do?" If someone asks you such a question, what's the reply?

Eve: We've tried our two-minute blurbs on ourselves and others. It's really hard to briefly state what we do, it doesn't fit in a normal category. Certainly we say we're working on civil liberties. And then they question, well what do you mean by that, and we go from there. You have to interact with people. If communication is the goal, you definitely have to reach out to people on a level that they're going to understand, and I don't mean that in a hierarchical way, I mean that in a contextual way. If you have a mother that has 2+ kids and lives in a suburban town, what's her context? What is she even going to understand and respond to?

Erowid: Lets talk about technologies like chipping that are being offered to parents as a way to protect their children. They are technologies that have ethical questions and implications. We're getting to a place where it's possible to database large amounts of personal information. Are these things getting marketed to parents?

Eve: I remember a couple of years ago that Blockbuster was offering free videotaping to parents. They would take a short video of your child, in case of abduction for identification purposes. I thought it was really surreal, here's your local video store, a branch of a massive national chain, videotaping your child. Isn't that invasive? I guess the thought was, better they than the police? I haven't noticed that sort of marketing. I know they have radio frequency ID tags that they're putting in all kinds of products, but that's more a commercial interest in tracking where products actually end up. Tom's not really in school yet, he goes to a childcare center, it's not a full-on government institution. I'm not sure how the experience of parenting him and having him go through public schools is going to affect our perception of what's possible in this country, and what isn't.

Erowid: Has your Institute addressed the issue of age of consent? Where does self-determination start with regard to altering one's own consciousness?

Eve: That's a really difficult question. We haven't addressed that in a formal protocol, so that we can offer a policy perspective, which at some level has to be communicative with a larger public. If you say anyone anywhere should be able to do this, then you're creating unrealistic expectations for where policy's at right now. In the future, maybe we'll become more sophisticated as a culture and will be able to approach things in a different way. Where do you draw the line? There's incremental change, and there's also global change. I think both need to be worked on simultaneously. Humphrey and I have a lot of discussions about this, and sometimes we disagree. My personal view is that since there's already a set of rules on what you can or can't do based on adulthood, that whatever society deems as adulthood, that should be the starting point for an individual choice in regards to psychoactives. However, earlier we were talking about how at 13 we may let Tom do this; again, I think that parents, until the child is 18, are the best judges, unless there's extremely heinous intervening circumstances.

Erowid: I think you made a good point earlier about how it's not reducible to whether or not we take "drugs" - what does that really mean, anyhow. Having some control over one's consciousness also means protecting oneself from advertising. There's so much advertising in schools! That's a consciousness issue. At home you can control television viewing to some extent, and you can be there with your child when you're witnessing advertising in public. When it comes into the schools and you're not there…

Eve: There are a lot of qualified people, like Adbusters, who are working on the intrusions of advertising in the commercial culture that we live in. That's certainly an aspect of freedom, freedom to and freedom from. As far as Tom's relationship to advertising in schools… he's going to always come back to the house. This may be naïve, because I haven't been a parent before and he's still young. But I would hope that he would come back in a balanced way. Society is so complex: Tom's in a loving home with two educated parents. Not everyone has that grounding or emotional stability. That's part of the larger problem. Advertising gets under the skin when there are other issues that are unresolved--like cultivating visceral desire and looking for approval.

Erowid: Since 911, I've gone through security in a number of airports. I've had bone-chilling moments when I've watched 6-year-olds getting searched, and being made to take their shoes off. I want to flash forward: kids are growing up in an environment when they're used to having their privacy invaded in airports.

Eve: It's something that's becoming a part of the psyche. It makes me think of the issue of drug testing in schools that came up recently, the explosion over testing students for participation in school clubs. I saw that issue in the same way: it's not even whether such and such kid is or isn't taking drugs; it's the compliance with this all-out invasion in what really should be personal body and consciousness issues. That really infuriates me.

Erowid: Are there minors who are interested in the CCLE?

Eve: We may have members who are minors. We don't ask age so we don't really know. Since we're a policy and information organization, so much the better that they're getting information from us. We haven't had any conflict in that way. The question came up when we had this recent mental diversity scholarship that we offered to attend a conference. One of our sponsors wanted to provide conference fees and travel stipend so that people who couldn't normally attend could go to a conference. The question came up because some of the applicants were under 18. We decided before we went through the procedure of selecting recipients that we would require a parent's consent to attend.

Erowid: Are there any other issues you care to mention related to raising Tom?

Eve: One thing did come up when he was in his mimicry stage. He's almost three. Humphrey and I would be having a conversation and he would mimic back whatever words we were using. That's an obvious stage every parent comes to terms with: "Oh I need to censor my language…." But which parts do you censor? I say that not meaning that there's a vocabulary kids shouldn't hear. It's because they repeat words like parrots, out of context. The question became, "Do we need to have conversations about drugs alone?" I don't think so. Again, it was just a stage of language development, and he mimicked anything. I think that Tom will have an easy time of it, knowing the way his personality is now. But the hardest part of course will be interacting with an intransigent authority structure, the school structure. I don't think this is just about drugs. There's the whole spectrum of what that kind of regimentation means. Like what about standardized testing? Personally I don't want Tom to take standardized tests. I think it's a bogus register on a certain kind of intelligence. Once you get into their tracking, then it just continues. That's just one example of where I'm already at odds with what I know the public school system is pushing. That will be an interesting challenge. I've already decided ahead of time he's not going to take standardized tests. But I don't know how realistic that is, either. [laughs]

To me it feels like - and maybe it's because I'm surrounded by the normalcy of reasonable attitudes about drugs - I don't tend to change that for other people. I try to be an example.