(Wrote this awhile ago, decided to finally post, if not for any other purpose than expression of grief)
I guess I have learned the hard way how true that old cliche is: you never know what you have until it's gone.
I always was told how smart I was, the perfectionist in me never accepted such, nor how eloquent a writer I was. I used to banter with my professors on their level, and I was only an 18 year old. My professor told me I was one of those rare students. One who actually thought about what he learned, who asked more than he needed to know and thought about the implications of such thought, usually to the point of exhaustion or angst in some cases.
One of my dirty little secrets was that I was never went to school as some investment in my future (well, not a concerted one; I went to school out purely for self-enrichment, my future prospects being more of an afterthought. Of course I always had thoughts about where my learning would take me; desires to achieve some amount of academic achievement. What college was, what I wish it still could be, was a means of relatively instant gratification through attaining understanding and growing my knowledge. Also, my relative intellectual progress allowed me to get the validation that I never received, nor could from myself. I have always been a perfectionist, always been self-critical even in the face of admiration or accolades. I tried to maintain some amount of humility, mostly to keep my own ego from over-inflating; pride really does go before a fall. However, I always knew from what others said and from my academic success in relation to peers, that I was somewhat gifted. All my friends in college were made through intellectual discussions, some being so mature in nature that I was mistaken for being in my 20s, meeting with shock when I was only 18-19.
But then I started smoking weed, at 19. I wasn't a heavy smoker at first, although even then in my English class I noticed the effects it had on my vocabulary for a day or so after I smoked. It shrunk and became more difficult to access. At this point though I hadn't smoked heavily or often enough to notice a severe difference, or thought I should stop. The euphoria from the high, especially considering my treatment resistant anxiety, was not so much so when I had smoked. For even days after things that made me so anxious before, seemed less important and less unnerving. I was happier, definitely. my fears were less pressing.
However, after I started using more regularly (more than just every other week or so) I began to have more paranoid fears and thoughts crop up out of things others, even my non-smoking neurotic self, would probably have seen as ridiculously inconsequential. My fears went from being focused on things that were based at least to some extent in real existential, philosophical or intellectual dilemmas (although they were often fear-based ones), to all being completely erroneous religious obsessions based upon happenstance and paranoia, suggesting god's hand, or at least consuming me with the fear it might be. Other things including connections I made with my religious fears and what I learned in school, such as the projected bottleneck of resources due to the effects of rampant environmental destruction, culminating in a "World without Ice" around about 2030 (Pretty good book btw, read in geography). Then came the International Politics, providing ample concerns for my end times paranoia/Pentacostal background to grasp onto. By this time writing was noticeably different, and focusing as well as retaining in class much more difficult. Essays by published and academic scholars enumerating the encroachment of MNCs (Multi-national Corporations) on the autonomy of states, and ultimately Democratic freedoms, as well as human rights. Although I wasn't completely "stupid" my ability to articulate definitely was not as easily accessible, nor as efficient. I could still understand the concepts (although this felt somewhat more labored as well), I had difficulty expressing things with my previously expansive vocabulary, which at this point was not lending itself to application. I could still read these terms, understand them, but my natural flow wasn't there.
This was around June or so of this 2012, and about halfway through my legal procession (instigated by an arrest for possession of marijuana and alcohol).
When all this was over, I now I have been a non-smoker for almost 2 months, and still I notice how it seems like I can barely read anything without feeling like I must have my mind completely convoluted. My thoughts no longer being as concise as I remember. I guess I have been out of school for a few months now, but even that and my depression can account for my experience. Through researching effects of marijuana I learned that even only a year can have noticeable impact on skills like verbal recall as well as perhaps even the ability to learn and encode new learning. The nature of my mental condition all the worse given my perfectionist standards for my own intellectual performance, as well having a propensity towards obsession over any perceived deterioration the capability to meet said standard. Now though, I don't see my intelligence as emerging at the normal level from whence it declined. The worst part of it is not being able to access my own thoughts for CBT, self-talk and reprogramming. CBT is pretty helpful, but doesn't do much for you unless you have a
Moral of the story? A mind truly is a terrible thing to waste especially if your entire identity, your self worth is constituted by it. Also, if you don't like Christianity, but still fear it, not being able to contemplate as efficiently nor abstractly is a pretty debilitating deficit. My one thing that put me on par with my fellow peers, is gone and I am now as a result one of the more....unfit organisms/humans to exist in my peer group, because of the stupidity of smoking at a young age. Buttressed by studies like this: