CHAPTER TWO: THE REAL CINDYBIN

I was born in 1957 so I was a child in the 60s and a teen in the 70’s, when supposedly “everybody” smoked pot. But I never did. They portray those kids on “That 70’s Show” sitting around getting high almost every week, as if it was the thing to do. But that concept is totally foreign to me.

In those days, we didn’t have the DARE program. The closest thing I remember was watching a film in sixth grade health class about the evils of drugs. I wondered why they showed it, because I wasn’t even thinking about drugs at that young age, and knew I would never use them, anyway. I honestly don’t remember my parents even talking to me about drugs. They didn’t have to. I just knew better. I wasn’t the type, I had no desire, and believed it was the ‘bad’ kids who did things like that. And I think most kids at that age felt the same way. We all believed it was the ‘bad kids’ who would smoke pot and use drugs one day, not us. We were all still young and innocent, just as the kids are in the DARE program today. In my opinion, they teach these kids at too early of any age.

Of course, when you get to high school, it can all easily change. Kids want to be “cool” and can easily be influenced by peer pressure. I did my share of experimenting with cigarettes and alcohol then. I remember smoking a couple of cigarettes at home in the bathroom. I didn’t inhale, but even so, I thought I was being so “bad”. It was fun. I stopped after a short time, because I was smart enough to know that I did not want to become hooked. I tried alcohol later, and drank occasionally in college, but never really cared for it.

None of my friends in high school smoked pot. I attended a large, racially-diverse high school and I’m sure lots of kids used marijuana or at least tried it, but they weren’t people I talked to and vice-versa. It wasn’t because I thought I was “better” than them, it’s just that they wouldn’t have wanted to talk to me anyway. I wasn’t their type. I hung around with a small group of nice girls, and was not in the popular crowd or the studious crowd. I wasn’t a nerd, just a normal girl. I did not have a boyfriend, although I would have loved to. But I wasn’t a party-girl, didn’t attend social or sports events, and no boys even talked to me, except for the boyfriend of one of my friends. But then, he talked to everybody. I think the only memory of anything having to do with drugs in high school was when a boy I barely knew passed out in my biology class. They had to carry him off on a stretcher, and word was that he had overdosed on something.

In college I dated a few guys, none of whom smoked pot. I was a sophomore when my boyfriend (who later became my husband) and I were walking through the corridor of his dormitory and he stopped and had me smell what was coming out from under one of the doors. “That’s marijuana,” he said, so I would know to recognize it if I ever came across it again. I’d still probably be able to identify that smell today. But I have never been exposed to it since, unless you count one incident toward the end of my senior year when I was near a group of kids who were about to light up. I had been out with some friends, including my roommate Carol. Afterwards we stopped at a house someone was renting, and Carol and some of the others went into the adjoining room, pulled the shades, and proceeded to sit around in a circle. They hadn’t asked me to join them. I was standing next to one other girl who also had not been asked to join. We stood there for a moment watching them from a slight distance, and I honestly did not know what they were doing. I glanced at the other girl with this puzzled look on my face, and she mumbled something like, “Oh, I don’t care if they do that, I just don’t want to risk getting caught—that’s my only objection.” It was then I realized they were about to smoke pot. I was stunned. I had made friends with Carol the year before and asked her to be my roommate my senior year, because I thought she was a nice girl. She dressed modestly, was studious and soft-spoken, attending chapel services at the college. A couple of the other girls, Jane and Lynne, were also partaking. I had become acquainted with them through Carol and we usually ate meals in the dorm cafeteria together. I wasn’t close to them but we were friendly and talked, and they never mentioned anything about marijuana to me. And it’s not because I was some big anti-drug activist or something. I did not rant about the evils of marijuana and yell at people for smoking pot. I just didn’t think about marijuana and I did not know anyone who smoked it (or at least didn’t think I knew anyone). And it also wasn’t because I thought I was so wholesome and pure. I never wanted to be considered a goody goody. People told me all the time how “sweet and innocent” I looked, and I hated it. I was not religious and did not attend chapel services like Carol did. I didn’t want to be a “bad girl” but also did not want to be the opposite. I just wanted to be normal, to just be me. Yet even with all that, they never offered me any marijuana.

As we watched these girls (and one guy), for a split second, and I do mean split, I considered going over there to try it. I thought, “Wow, I’ve never been around marijuana before, this might be my only chance.” But then I thought, “No, I’m 22 years old, engaged to be married and will graduate soon. I plan on having children someday. If I were the type to want to smoke pot, I would have done it long ago, when I would have had the time to enjoy it.” I pictured what might happen if I had tried that marijuana and actually liked it. I could just see myself as a pot-smoking mother. No, that simply would NOT do. So that idea of trying it was out of my head in an instant. Then the other girl and I walked back to our dorm. I never said anything to Carol or the others, because we were young and they were my peers.

Carol and I kept in touch over the years; we weren’t real close but we wrote at Christmas, called sometimes, and I had her over when her two boys were very little. Several years ago I worked up the courage to confront her about the pot issue. “Carol, how could you do that?” I said. “It’s the ‘bad’ kids who smoke pot!”

“I know,” she replied, attributing it to peer pressure, plain and simple. “I was with some friends when I was a freshman, and everybody was calling me a goody goody if I didn’t try it, so that’s how I got started.”

She stopped after she graduated, and said she was now raising her boys as most parents do, to stay away from drugs, telling them that it is wrong. I was glad she matured and was raising her children right. And I could sort of see how she succumbed to peer pressure at such a young age. But I also couldn’t help but remember how I wanted to appear as anything but a goody goody, and yet nobody ever offered me marijuana or even talked to me about it. The one time I was around it, they just assumed I wouldn’t be interested. So much for peer pressure. And as far as the “Just Say No” slogan, I think, “Say no to what?”

I think I was also in college when my future brother-in-law casually mentioned that he had been a “pothead” in college. I was shocked. He had been a straight-A student and was an Eagle Scout. His parents raised him to know better than to ever use drugs. They would have been stunned! He said he stopped using it because it began to affect his memory. But other than that, he didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with it. Again, I did not say anything to him because we were young. But it was hard to ever think of him the same way.

After these incidents, I rarely gave a second thought to drugs; I got married in 1979 after graduating, and began raising my family, two little boys. Many years later, I was talking to a friend who found out her teenage son tried marijuana. She was pretty upset, and I tried to comfort her. I thought about Carol and my brother-in-law. “I know a few people who smoked pot when they were younger, and nothing happened to them,” I said. “I’m sure he’ll outgrow this. It’s probably just a phase. It doesn’t mean he’s going to become a drug addict.”

“I know,” my friend replied. “But it’s against the law!” She had this look of horror on her face, thinking of her son possibly getting caught and all that he might have to go through. I understood her point.

Another friend, the mother of two little girls, also reiterated how marijuana is against the law and talked of how horrible it would be should anything happen to her daughters. Of course she did not want them to ever use drugs, and she had never used them herself. But she did realize that kids experiment and can get caught up in peer pressure.

I’d feel so sad when seeing names in the paper of kids who had been arrested on marijuana charges—kids I knew through years of being a class room mother, or who lived in the neighborhood, or had even been to my house to play with my little boys when they were young.

Sometime in 2001, I found out first-hand just how the law comes into play regarding marijuana, when the teenage son of a friend was arrested for possession of illegal drug paraphernalia. Tim was a good kid, did not smoke pot and never even had a detention before. One afternoon he was leaving his friend’s house, and at the last minute his friend handed him a pipe and asked him to return it to its original owner two blocks away, since he was going in that direction anyway. Tim wasn’t thinking and just took the pipe. He was used to doing things for this friend, who was essentially blind. (I knew the blind kid, too.) Well, Tim was walking along with the pipe in his pocket, when a cop stopped him to question him about a report he had just received about graffiti on a driveway in the neighborhood. He asked Tim if he knew anything about it and Tim said no, but the cop searched him anyway, looking for CHALK, when guess what he found. The cop handcuffed him and hauled him off to jail, which is standard procedure in our county. His parents had to bail him out. Of course he and his parents were in shock, since nothing like this had ever happened to them before.

My friend knew the state’s attorney, and set up an appointment with him. The state’s attorney was sympathetic, but said there really wasn’t anything anyone could do. The blind boy offered to tell his side of the story and testify that it was not Tim’s pipe and that he did not use drugs, but they learned even that would not help. Tim was caught with the pipe and that’s all that mattered. They practically begged people to give Tim a drug test in order to show he did not smoke pot, but nobody cared. It just doesn’t work that way. The law is the law. He would have to appear in front of the judge and take his sentence.

A few weeks later I accompanied my friend and Tim to the courtroom, just as moral support, and also because I wanted to see what would happen. The judge, a woman in her 30’s, was extremely imposing. Before she heard any cases, she started on a big tirade, sternly lecturing about sending people to jail if anybody dared lie to her. I was shaking in my boots, and I hadn’t even done anything! When it finally came time for Tim to stand up in front of her, she showed absolutely no sympathy. She said she didn’t believe it wasn’t his pipe or that he didn’t smoke pot. She had heard everything before and wasn’t interested in excuses. And really, you can’t blame her. I mean, she didn’t know Tim from Adam; why would she believe anything he had to say? He was just a punk kid to her.

“I don’t believe for a minute that was your friend’s pipe!” she bellowed. “A FRIEND would not give you a pipe!”

When I first heard her say this, I was furious. How could she not believe him? Did she know him? Was she there? The nerve! But when I look back, I can see that she was just trying to teach him a lesson. She couldn’t let him go, because if she did, she’d have to believe every other lame excuse that anyone might make up about their marijuana adventures. So she told him she didn’t believe him, in order to scare him into not letting anything like this ever happen to him again. A mother of two young children herself, she was trying to impress upon Tim that he should choose his friends wisely, and not hang around with people who use drugs. I’m sure she was raising her kids to believe this as well. This is exactly what the state’s attorney had tried to tell Tim before the court appearance.

Tim had just turned 17, which was considered an adult in our county (even though he lived at home and his parents still had to call the school if he was sick). He was sentenced to the usual punishment for an offense of this kind: a fine of close to $1,000 and a year of court supervision in which he had to report monthly to a supervisor. He also had to undergo a drug assessment (which was a joke and totally unnecessary, answering a series of questions such as, “Do you get along with your parents?” Well, lots of people who smoke pot get along just fine with their parents. I did not get along with my parents when I was a teenager, and I never even came close to smoking it.) The judge also threatened community service but she didn’t make him do that. Not to mention he had a record now. And also, this was written up in the paper with his name and address for all to see, standard procedure. So anyone reading it would think he was a druggie, because it said he was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. They did not know the full circumstances behind what happened.  In any case, Tim tried to put the whole incident behind him. And yes, he remained friends with both the blind boy and the boy he was returning the pipe to. These were his friends, period. The whole court incident didn’t change that, it only made him bitter.

One other incident happened when I found out that the friend of my son’s girlfriend smoked pot. I had known this girl, Gina, for several years, had her in my house for dinner, and thought she was real nice. I knew her parents, and her father was a cop. She seemed to get along well with them. I saw videos of Gina’s Sweet 16 party and she and her parents were hugging and laughing and smiling. So when my son’s girlfriend told me about her, I was furious! It just drove me crazy that here she was, this nice, polite, well-adjusted girl who got along with her family, who got good grades, whose father was a COP, and yet she thought nothing of casually lighting up a joint on a Friday night with her friends. It was all I could do not to tell her parents. But I had to keep it in, because I didn’t want to betray the confidence of Melissa, my son’s girlfriend. “How could she DO this?” I said to Melissa. “She seems like such a nice girl, and here she would smoke pot?” Melissa tried to explain the situation to me. She said that Gina used to be the same way as most kids, never thinking she would use drugs. She had been in social situations where she was offered marijuana, always turning it down. But then one day she succumbed to peer pressure, and that was that.

“I never experienced any peer pressure,” I said. “What kind of kids does she hang around with, anyway? Didn’t her parents teach her any better? And how could she do this when her father is a COP?”

“Well, she’s just not thinking about that,” Melissa shrugged. “Sure, her parents tell her to stay away from drugs, just like most parents do. But they don’t really explain the REAL reason, WHY she should not use them.” Melissa was trying to tell me that Gina’s parents did not factor in the “moral” aspect. I knew what she meant. And it saddened me. I tried to talk to Gina about this through a letter (I figured I would be too upset to discuss it in person and would be able to express myself better and more calmly through the written word), but it didn’t help. And in fact, she took it all wrong, thinking that I thought she was a bad person, when I was trying to tell her just the opposite, that she was a GOOD person and that’s what made this worse, because she should know better. Didn’t she have higher expectations than that for herself?

Even my son and Melissa thought I was being judgmental. “Gina is a good person!” Melissa said angrily. Well I knew that! That’s what I had been trying to tell Gina and everyone else! And that’s why I was so surprised she did what she did. Now she was just another typical teenage stoner—one of those “bad kids” parents tell their own children to not associate with—even though she was not bad per se, but obviously smoking pot is exhibiting bad behavior.

Also, after having been in that courtroom with Tim, I knew that being a “good person” was not going to fly if you got busted. Gina may be nice and sweet and get good grades and hug her parents. But if you put her next to a girl who was a lazy bum, got horrible grades, disrespected her parents, hated little baby ducks, yet knew enough not to light up a joint, and gave them each a drug test, Gina would be the criminal. She would be the one standing in front of Judge Ratchet, being treated like dirt. She would just be a number in the courtroom, because that’s what happens when you break the law and get caught. I haven’t seen Gina in years and have no idea if she still smokes pot. But the whole incident was disheartening.

Around this time I started exploring the Internet, having fun surfing various sites, buying a few things on eBay, joining some Yahoo groups and making online friends. My profile name was Cindybin2001, which I derived from “Cinbin”, a silly nickname my little brother called me when we were kids. Besides Jeannette, one of my Internet friends was Kay, a teenage girl that my older son talked to. She had one of those online blogs or diaries, and would write all about her life—her friends, her boyfriend, her parents, her interests, health concerns, aspirations, etc. Through her blog, I found out that she smoked pot, and I remember commenting to my son that it was a shame she did this. My son, who had known her longer than I did, said, “Mom, Kay’s family life is really bad. Her mother’s idea of bonding with her daughter is to open up a bottle of vodka and drink it together.” He also told me that Kay’s mom was a nurse! It was just unfathomable to me how a mother could do this with her daughter. I felt so bad for Kay, and certainly understood why someone raised in that kind of environment might turn to illegal substances.

I felt compelled to sort of take Kay under my wing, and try and talk to her as if she were my own daughter, giving her some guidance in a loving way. And she seemed to really appreciate my love and support. She sent me long emails, confiding in me about how upset she was over the way she was raised and how she didn’t feel close to her parents. She complained of feeling depressed, talked of how she cried all the time, didn’t have any self-esteem or self-respect. I tried to help her as much as I could, comforting her, building up her self-esteem, telling her she was worthy of happiness, and to not mess up her life by using drugs. But she hung around with a group of kids who regularly smoked pot, as did her boyfriend, and was just so caught up in this lifestyle I don’t think she could quit. We lost touch, but I often wonder what happened to her, if she ever did take more control of her life as she got a little older. I cared about her and enjoyed our friendship. 

Also around this time, in June 2001, I began the controlled carb program called Somersize. I had struggled with weight for years, after being a skinny-minnie throughout my teens and twenties. In fact, I used to get mad when people made fun of my size! I remember a friend in college wrapping her fingers around my wrist, holding up my arm and exclaiming, “Look at how thin she is! She’s a twig!” I hated it, and just wanted to put on a few pounds so I’d look “normal.” At 5’2”, I weighed only 93 pounds. I ate; I definitely had a sweet tooth and didn’t think a thing about wolfing down chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, cake, or any other dessert that was offered. If I missed breakfast in the dorm cafeteria, I’d open my stash of Pop-Tarts. I ate healthy things, too. But if I thought anything was fattening, I wouldn’t hesitate to indulge.

After getting married at age 22, even before I became pregnant, I suddenly filled out a little, topping the scales at over 100 pounds! It was great. I felt I was just right, not too skinny or too heavy. I continued to have a good figure throughout my twenties, despite having two children. I ate whatever I wanted. I still tried to eat healthy, of course, providing nutritious meals for our family, but if I craved chocolate chip cookies or any other type of sweets, by golly I’d have them. Didn’t think a thing of it. I worked out to my aerobics video most days as well, just to stay toned. I never dreamed my figure would change. When I was about 31, I had two friends over for lunch. We hadn’t seen each other for quite a while, and they had both put on weight since we last got together. But then, they were a couple of years older than me and each of them had had another baby or two. They looked at me with envy. “Well, Cindy, I see that you are still as slender as ever,” one of them said. “How do you DO it?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “It just comes naturally, I guess.”

And it did. As I said, I’d eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, enjoying sweets when I had a craving, and not eating them when I didn’t. It just seemed to work out fine. I didn’t even think about what I ate.

Well, then it all changed just a year later, at about age 32. It seemed like overnight I had flab where I never had flab before. The scale kept going up and up, and my clothes were all getting too tight. “What is happening to me?” I thought. I figured my metabolism must be slowing down due to getting older. So I thought I’d try to lose some weight. Boy, was this a change, trying to LOSE weight. I had no idea how to go about it, other than doing what I had heard or read about diets, such as cutting back on portions and fat, and exercising. Well I already exercised, working up an intense sweat to an aerobics video, as well as using weights and doing floor exercises. But I would make a special effort to eat less and use fat-free or reduced-fat products. I learned new recipe tricks such as using a carton of plain, fat-free yogurt instead of the oil when making brownies. I bought things such as fat-free cake, and switched to skim milk. I thought these changes would make a huge difference. But they didn’t. In fact, my cravings for sweets just got worse. Before, I didn’t even think about what I ate. But now I was becoming more and more concerned about how to relieve my hunger pangs and cravings. It seemed the more I tried to cut back on portions, fat, and sweets, the hungrier I got, and my cravings were out of control. I became “addicted” to chocolate chip cookies. I’d go for awhile without making a batch, and continue eating my reduced-fat and fat-free products, but then I’d get so hungry I couldn’t stand it and break down and make a batch of cookies which I’d gorge on for two days. This went on for over ten years, with the scale going up and down, up and down. I yo-yo dieted myself up to almost obesity for my height, gaining a good 50 pounds, despite intense exercise. It was very discouraging.

Finally, at age 44, I discovered how Somersize could work for me. The actress Suzanne Somers had several best-selling books on her controlled-carb program. Backed by doctors, she wrote them because she had so much success with this way of eating she wanted to share it with others. And that’s what I liked about Somersize, it was not a diet, but a way of eating. I did not have to cut back on portions, fat or calories. I did not have to count points. I did not feel deprived in the least. I ate from all food groups, including meat, vegetables, dairy, fruit, and whole-grain carbohydrates. But I did have to learn a whole new way of cooking and eating, completely cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates, and finding new ways to make dishes I had always made. I learned to read labels, because sugar is everywhere, in various forms. I learned that it’s okay to eat fat, that fat is healthy and good for us, as long as it is real fat, not transfat. As Suzanne says, “fat is our friend, sugar is the enemy.” It’s the overconsumption of sugar and refined carbs that can put on weight and raise cholesterol. I threw out all my fat-free and reduced-fat products. Through Somersize, I learned that those products replace the good, healthy fat with sugar, starches and chemicals that can cause weight gain and cravings. No wonder I was so out of control.

I could still eat desserts, but I learned to make them in a whole new way. Actually, with Somersize I did not crave desserts anymore. After learning so many new recipes, such as vegetables with delicious cream sauces, egg and meat dishes, etc., I did not even miss my beloved cookies. I was having too much fun enjoying all the real food I could eat. All the while my clothes became loser, my rings almost fell off, and before I knew it, the scale dropped down to what I had been in my 20’s. I continued to do my workouts, but all the weight I lost was due to what I ate, not how much I moved. It was not easy; it took work to learn a whole new way of cooking and eating, but once I “got it”, it became second nature and I did not even have to think about what I ate. I just ate! And the people in the Somersize chat room helped keep me going as well. We were all there to support one another.

I was so anxious to share my success that I made a little homepage with my weight loss story and some before/after photos. Many Somersizers and others on similar programs have posted such sites, helping inspire those who are trying to lose weight. I worked hard on my story, writing in such a manner as to not be “preachy” but just matter-of-factly sharing some tips and recipes, and telling how Somersize helped me and can help others. I received many compliments and emails from all over, people congratulating me on my success and some even saying they planned to start Somersizing because of what they saw on my page.

This newly-svelte mother saw her older son off on a two-year church mission in 2003, crying her eyes out while saying goodbye to him at the airport. It was hard knowing I would not see him for so long, but he was good about writing each week. I kept myself busy with my hobbies such as doll collecting and going to garage sales and vintage doll shows. I spent a lot of time on doll boards, where we ladies (and a few guys) would chat about our treasures. I talked to Jeannette about the Beatles, their wives and girlfriends.

And this was the Cindybin who came to the Yahoo headline boards in 2004.

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