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I want everyone to close their eyes and try to envision this for a second. Imagine a dorm building that has no RAs or “higher ups”- one that has no university affiliation. A dorm where you can smoke weed and drink wherever you please, and are free to do any hard drugs you choose behind closed doors. Welcome to my freshman year of college.

Freshly released from the confines of my mother, I went from pristine, sterile, Orange County to the carnival-like, barefooted atmosphere of Berkeley. I don’t think anyone there has been informed of the fact that the Summer of Love came to an end sometime towards the end of summer in 1969. Silly hippies…

Anyways, back to my story. So, I had just graduated from high school, and was looking to move out of my house to a college town atmosphere where I could attend community college for a year or two, until I could transfer to university. My parents and I both decided it would be best if I moved into some sort of student housing, as going directly from home to an apartment might be too huge of an adjustment. On a recommendation from my brother (a Berkeley graduate), we decided that the Berkeley Student Co-ops would be a good fit for me.  COULD WE HAVE BEEN ANY MORE WRONG?!?!?

I packed my bags and drove my car up 3 days before classes started. Upon entering my new home, I was greeted by a circle of 15 people taking turns filling balloons with Nitrous Oxide that came out of those giant blue tanks- you know, the ones that belong in rice-rocket cars! They were all barefooted with a layer of black crud caked to the bottoms of their feet. Next to the Costco sized Nos tank sat 3 of the most beautiful glass bongs I had ever laid my eyes on. “I’m home,” I thought to myself. I couldn’t have possibly found a more suitable environment.

Over the next few days, I met all the essential contacts I needed. The weed/hash dealer from Humboldt, the coke hook-up that would wash the blow I would buy with acetone for me, the liquor store owner that didn’t card, the wacky hippy guy who had both all the molly (MDMA) my mouth could swallow and psychedelic research chemicals my brain could handle, and the athletic girl that didn’t take any of her prescription painkillers for her sport-sustained injuries. I was golden. The best part about it was I didn’t have to leave my house for any of this, with the exception of the liquor store, which was a measly half a block away.

Sounds great, right? It was for quite a while, until I began waking up in bathroom stalls and vomiting on the way to class after a night of blackout drinking. Once I got a kidney stone which I attribute to coca-ethylene, I sort of knew things were beginning to get out of hand. It is definitely not all that it’s built up to be. While it sounds awesome on paper, there are many holes in the structure of the environment. All of this illicit partying goes on behind closed doors, and behind the backs of the higher-ups of the organization.

There was an incident that involved a young man whom had overdosed on a cocktail of drugs and alcohol. He was not discovered until the morning after a night of partying, and had sustained permanent brain damage. He is now in a vegetated state. Following this incident, accusations flew left and right regarding the role that the principal administration should or should not have taken to promote drug awareness. This wasn’t the first time the co-ops have had to deal with drugs in their community. Two houses under this particular organization have been shut down, on two separate occasions for mass drug dealing (whatever that means…), and excessive drug use/partying.

It is my belief that the responsibility ultimately lies in the hands of the individual. I have done drugs in many environments that were not tolerant of such things. If I were to have overdosed in the dormitory I was living at during my stint in culinary school, I would not place blame on the school or the fact that my roommate was a heroin dealer. Only I am to blame for that. Similarly, if I were to have O/D’ed with a needle in my arm in a bathroom at a church, I would not sue the clergy for allowing me to fix under their roof. Although the disease we addicts/alcoholics suffer from is for the most part ruthless, we have to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions.


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