Marijuanalysts Anonymous

The night after the chilly and sort of awkward joint Interdependence Day picnic for Enfield’s Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House, Somerville’s Phoenix House, and Dorchester’s grim New Choice juvenile rehab, Ennet House staffer Johnette Foltz took Ken Erdedy Kate Gompert along with her to this one NA Beginners’ Discussion Meeting where the focus was always marijuana: how every addict at the meeting had gotten in terrible addictive trouble with it right from the first duBois, or else how they’d been strung out on harder drugs and had tried switching to grass to get off the original drugs and but then had gotten in even terribler trouble with grass than they’d been in with the original hard stuff. This was supposedly the only NA meeting in metro Boston explicitly devoted to marijuana. Johnette Foltz said she wanted Erdedy and Gompert to see how completely nonunique and unalone they were in terms of the Substance that had brought them both down.

There were about two dozen beginning recovering addicts there in the anechoic vestry of an upscale church in what Erdedy figured had to be either west Belmont or east Waltham. The chairs were arranged in NA’s traditional huge circle, with no tables to sit at and everybody balancing ashtrays on their knees and accidentally kicking over their cups of coffee. Everybody who raised their hand to share concurred on the insidious ways marijuana ravaged their bodies, minds, and spirits: marijuana destroys slowly but thoroughly was the consensus. Ken Erdedy’s joggling foot knocked over his coffee not once but twice as the NAs took turns concurring on the hideous psychic fallout they’d all endured both in active marijuana-dependency and then in marijuana-detox: the social isolation, anxious lassitude, and the hyperself-consciousness that then reinforced the withdrawal and anxiety — the increasing emotional abstraction, poverty of affect, and then total emotional catalepsy — the obsessive analyzing, finally the paralytic stasis that results from the obsessive analysis of all possible inplications of both getting up from the couch and not getting up from the couch — and then the endless symptomatic gauntlet of Withdrawal from delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol: i.e. pot-detox: the loss of appetite, the mania and insomnia, the chronic fatigue and nightmares, the impotence and cessation of menses and lactation, the circadian arrhythmia, the sudden sauna-type sweats and mental confusion and fine-motor tremors, the particularly nasty excess of saliva — several beginners still holding institutional drool-cups just under their chins — the generalized anxiety and foreboding and dread, and the shame of feeling like neither M.D.s nor the hard-drug NAs themselves showed much empathy or compassion for the ‘addict’ brought down by what was supposed to be nature’s humblest buzz, the benignest Substance around.

Ken Erdedy noticed that nobody came right out and used the terms melancholy or anhedonia or depression, much less clinical depression; but this worst of symptoms, this logarithm of all suffering, seemed, though unmentioned, to hang fog-like just over the room’s heads, to drift between the peristyle columns and over the decorative astrolabes and candles on long prickets and medieval knockoffs and framed Knights of Columbus charters, a gassy plasm so dreaded no beginner could bear to look up and name it. Kate Gompert kept staring at the floor and making a revolver of her forefinger and thumb and shooting herself in the temple and then blowing pretend-cordite off the barrel’s tip until Johnette Foltz whispered to her to knock it off.

— David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

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