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Harvard_and_heroin - Harvard and heroin I coasted to an Ivy...

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Harvard and heroin I coasted to an Ivy League degree as a drug addict, but forever damaged the bond between mother and son. - - - - - - - - - - - - By Seth Mnookin Aug. 27, 1999 | When I was 13, 14 and 15 years old, I used to give my mother my homework assignments. Ostensibly I was asking her to proofread, to fix grammar, tighten up unwieldy constructions, suggest ways to tie together disparate thoughts. She would give them back with her neat, rounded print quietly annotating the pages. Her comments were always gentle: Maybe this sentence should be a little shorter. I think the reader gets lost in all your words. Those years certainly helped my writing, but I was doing more than asking my mother for help and she was doing more than offering it. We have always connected best over the written word. The first time I really read Shakespeare -- it was "Romeo and Juliet" -- I remember coming into my parents' room late at night. I was 13. My mother was reading, and I paced around her bed. "There's so much there," I said as if I was the first person to discover this. And she smiled at me, and we talked for a bit and then went back to our reading. At around this time, in the years before I started shaving and the months before I began using drugs, I decided I was going to be a writer. I remember when I came to this decision: I was wandering through my house, clutching a just-finished copy of William Carlos Williams' "Paterson," a book my mother had given me. It was around this time that she began writing seriously, going back to school to get her MFA, joining poetry workshops, giving readings. These mutual decisions were a source of pride, I think, for both of us. My mother was going to be a poet. And her son was going to be a writer. I imagined the years ahead: We would discuss our successes and failures, mail our manuscripts back and forth, perhaps give readings together. Six months later was the first time I got high: I was a freshman in high school and a trio of junior girls asked me if I wanted "to go outside" with them before class. I had never smoked pot, and was even vaguely afraid of trying it; as a child, I used to be terrified of reports that perverted psychopaths dressed as clowns were feeding kids LSD out of ice- cream trucks. But the girls were cute and I was curious. And I immediately loved it. I loved the rituals associated with getting high: Packing delicate, gamy buds into an ornate pipe, passing it around, holding your breath until you choked. I loved the feeling: Floating slightly above everything but still able to cope with the world, sensing that I was somehow special, or at least different, that I belonged to a secret and exclusive club. Most of all, I loved the fact that it slowed me down.
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For years, I had suffered from insomnia. Starting when I was 10 years old, I would get four or five anxiety-addled hours of sleep a night, convinced, every time I lay down, that I had to go to the bathroom again. I tried everything during those years, including hypnosis, psychotherapy, relaxation therapy, counting sheep. But nothing worked until I smoked pot. Suddenly, I could sleep at night -- or during the day, or in class, or behind
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