Plants - Drugs Mind - Spirit Freedom - Law Arts - Culture Library  
Erowid - Honest Global Drug Information
Erowid Families and Psychoactives Interview Series
Dialog with Stephanie
Interview by David J. Brown
Stephanie is a single mom. She is raising a 12-year-old boy named Josiah, whom she adopted five years ago. Before the adoption, Josiah was living…[with a foster family, and before that he was living in homeless shelters, where he was abused?] . They live together in California.

DJB: What is your personal experience with drugs and psychedelics?

Stephanie: Good!

DJB: Could you go into a little more detail about they have affected you and your life?

Stephanie: It completely changed my life. I was about to become an assistant professor at Yale, when I was in a car accident and started having seizures. In three months, I went from being set up for life at Yale, to being on the street in Santa Cruz. I wanted to kill myself. That's when I started doing LSD. It's what kept me alive. I realized that when I was at Yale, I had a miserable life there, and that this "accident" had happened for a reason. LSD saved my life. I would have committed suicide when I lost the material things in the world that you're supposed to aspire towards. If I hadn't started doing a lot of LSD then I would not have made it--because I would have thought that life was over. Then I found out that life was just beginning, and there could be a much better life. I started realizing that doing something that I hated for a living, just because everybody admired me for it, wasn't right. But before I'd done the LSD I hadn't seen that. All I could see was what I'd lost. And because I hadn't gained anything, I was just in agony. But now I have gained something. I have gained the right to experiment with it, and to do something spiritually that was much more interesting than what I'd been doing. So, even though it was still hard to lose, I had also gained, and on a daily level my life was better.

DJB: Could you tell me a little bit about your son? What is his age, and could you talk a little bit about your relationship with him?

Stephanie: Josiah is twelve, and he's about to be thirteen. I think our relationship is very very good. I think that this is because we both understand loss so well. I've lost people too; like people who really admired me in one life, but didn't admire me in another life. I went through a lot of loss stuff, and also with my mother. My mother tries, but she's a child of the Holocaust, and she's never really been there. So I think I have a lot of really really core stuff around abandonment, and so does Josiah. He totally gets the importance of taking care of people--because he wishes that somebody had taken care of him, and he wishes that somebody had taken care of his birth mother. So I feel like I understand him, and I feel like we have a very deep relationship, really deep. And I just love him with all my heart.

DJB: How do you discuss the topic of drug use with Josiah?

Stephanie: Well, because of how he was raised--being in homeless shelters with junkies, and because I don't believe that you should overwhelm kids and scare them with more than they need to know--I've stopped with just explaining WAMM [WoMen's Alliance for Medical Marijuana] to him. I've brought him to WAMM events, and I've explained to him about the difference between medicine and recreational stuff. I think that he's too young to go further with.

DJB: Do you find the topic uncomfortable to discuss with him?

Stephanie: No, I just think he's too young. I mean, I want him to learn to read and write. I think he's way too young, and also he has a real fear about it.

DJB: He's scared of drugs?

Stephanie: Yeah, because he's only seen it in terrible contexts. He's seen drugs like cocaine and heroin in homeless shelters. I've explained marijuana to him because it's an integral part of my life, as I use the plant as a medication to control my seizures. I've explained WAMM to him, and he understands it. He has a WAMM t-shirt. Josiah saw a woman on the cooking staff at school wearing a WAMM t-shirt, and he wore his in solidarity with her. When Valerie was busted he called her and he said that he was proud of her. So right now we're dealing with medical marijuana and WAMM. He doesn't really know what the others are, and frankly, given what he's been through, I don't think it's the time for him to be using drugs. However, when he's older, different things will be possible.

DJB: How many years has Josiah been living with you?

Stephanie: Five years. Before that he has been abused in every way possible, and much of it in the context of drugs. Not drugs like LSD obviously, but drugs like speed and heroin. You know, I'm not against it, but he has a lot of fears, and he's not ready to hear more now. He needs to feel safe. In the beginning I didn't even tell him about WAMM. But as he becomes safer, and older, and able to understand more, I'll tell him more and more.

DJB: What would you say are some of the things that influenced you as to your approach towards him, with regard to educating him about drugs? What were some of the things in your background that informed your approach?

Stephanie: I would say that it's more his background. I got a kid who was terrorized. He's been sexually abused. He's been physically abused, and much of it in the context, as I said before, of drug use. And because he buys the ideology of the culture, it scares him. And it would scare him to know that it was in my world. With kids, you tell them what they're ready for. Right now he's ready to understand about WAMM. I show him a lot about WAMM. As he grows older I will explain more to him.

DJB: Do you think that the nation's current approach to drug use helps or hurts your ability to educate your son properly about drug use?

Stephanie: God, are you kidding? Of course it hurts; they're nuts.

DJB: Tell me a little bit about why you think that?

Stephanie: Well, my son has been raised by Christian fundamentalists. He hears this shit on the television and he is unable to distinguish between heroin and LSD. He doesn't know the difference. He doesn't even know what LSD is. I mean, he's in the DARE program. Of course it hurts. However, what I have found is that the truth prevails. He had learned marijuana was evil. So I took him up to Valerie's. He met the kid from 20/20 who had been helped by medical marijuana. He spent a lot of time with Val. He has seen my seizures and how they go away with medical marijuana. So, as he gets older, more and more truth can come in. Josiah was such a fight to get, so my objective is not to give him more than he can handle.

DJB: Would you say that your own use of psychedelics, or other drugs, affected your relationship with Josiah? If so, how?

Stephanie: Oh, I think it completely has. First of all, I don't think that I would have had the nerve to adopt a child, given my medical history, had it not been for my extensive experience with ayahuasca. When I went into that ayahuasca trip, and I realized that I was just incapable of adopting, and it just couldn't happen, I went to the saddest place. It was the saddest night of my life. And then I woke up the next morning and realized it was a cage I had made. So I went to the County Building, and asked for a child--the day right after my last ayahuasca trip. So, obviously, I think that my psychedelic experiences affected my relationship with Josiah.

Also, Josiah feels things very very very intensely, and I think that as we grow older, we lose that ability. However, I think that because of my extensive use of mind-opening drugs, I haven't lost that ability. And when he is really in a place where he seems to other people to be completely gone, I understand what he's feeling. And I don't think I could do that on my own. I think it's a reminder. It's a wake-up call, and I understand what the pain is, and how he has to work it through. I think it's also influenced my way of handling certain things--like when I got Josiah, the court had cut off contact with his birth mother altogether, and I opened that back up. I did this because one of the things psychedelics has taught me, is that you have to deal with everything. You can't pretend things didn't happen. So I think that it has really influenced me in terms of how I process with him--how I don't make him call me mom, and how I don't make him pretend that his birth mother never happened. I do this because I realize that these experiences are inescapable, and I don't think I'd know that otherwise.

DJB: What do you think can be done to help educate children better about the risks and benefits of drug use?

Stephanie: If you completely lie to them, and you tell them that one hit of a cigarette is going to destroy their lives, everything that you tell them will go out the window the first time they experiment. I think the best way to educate them would by telling them the actual truth, and not pretend that different drugs are more or less dangerous than they really are. First of all, I would eliminate the word drug.

DJB: What would you replace it with?

Stephanie: I would replace it with a much more specific term. I mean, to me, LSD and crack are not the same thing. Using one word to describe them, hides more than it reveals. I think it'd be really good if they got an honest education. And some things should probably not be done, particularly for somebody like Josiah, with a history of addiction in his family. I'd prefer if he never did alcohol or cocaine, just because of his history. I'd prefer it, but I can't control that. But, if he does, then I'll have to deal with it. However, I just wish it was more honest. But I also don't think he's ready for the kind of enlightenment a psychedelic can bring at this point in his life. He's got too many demons. He needs a lot of therapy, and a lot more security. When he gets to be about 17 or 18, if he's in the place that I hope he'll be, that's when I'll start talking to him about it. And if he brings it up sooner, of course, my agenda's gone. But, so far, I've been going at his pace--what I think he's ready to hear, and what I think that he is ready to try, which, at this point, I think is nothing.

I don't think he's ready to try anything--because of his age, and because he has had such trauma in the past that I don't know where he'd go. However, I feel like he gets more secure every year, and that some day he's going to want to experiment with these things. Kids do. And when that happens I want him to know that I'm somebody that he can come talk to. I'm somebody that he can come to to get stuff, so he won't buy it on the street. I'm somebody who will allow him to do it in the house, so he doesn't have to do it in a car somewhere. So, as I sense his interest growing, I will let him know more, that I am somebody that he can come to without judgment, and that I've had my own positive experiences. But he's so far from that now. I just don't think it's good for kids to do it too young. I don't think they know how to handle it properly, and they shouldn't do it unless there's some real intense medical problem, like with the 20/20 boy, where there's violence that can't be controlled otherwise. What Josiah needs to know is to not have his mind messed with. He's been in very very strange mental places because of what's happened to him, and I think that he just needs a few years of security and non-disruption.

David J. Brown webpage