The first time I smoked weed was at a friend’s house on a warm Friday afternoon sometime between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college. It was a big deal. A random group of kids showed up to celebrate the occasion. We ate brownies with marshmallows on top then got impatient so we smoked out of a homemade water bottle bong. After a few hits, I kept insisting that I wasn’t high. Then, I exhaled when I should’ve inhaled and blew the weed everywhere. Everyone yelled at me.

I went to college and my roommate was a pothead so I smoked a few more times after that. We’d do all the typical stoner stuff: eat Annie’s Mac & Cheese substituted with half & half, take 30 minute showers in what my roommate called “American life water”, listen to the latest Ellie Golding dubstep remix, talk about nothing, try and fail to do some homework, sleep.

But the first time I really got high was my Freshman year 4/20. I smoked a joint with a friend and we walked around Manhattan. We rode the really tall escalator in Forever 21 and tried on funky sunglasses. We rode down the really tall escalator wearing our funky sunglasses. Then we walked out to the street and into a coffee shop with bright yellow walls, blaring French music, and a chalkboard menu with items and prices written in pink words too small to read – we kept our sunglasses on. A wiry mustached male barista with an undetectable foreign accent and a scary smile asked us what we wanted. We left without buying anything. We call those, “deleted scenes”.

In the next few years, I smoked more and more frequently. But looking back now, I would say that those years were, more or less, comprised of a host of deleted scenes.

Remember that one time we laughed really hard…what were we laughing at again? Remember that one realization about life that blew us away…what was it again? Remember that song we came up with but got too high to write it down?

Yeah, I forgot it too. It was a good song, though.

For me, weed was a catalyst for creativity. It amplified and multiplied my thoughts and forced me to look inward, questioning every part of my existence. It revealed many hidden emotions, thoughts, and desires and loosened my inhibitions, enabling me to connect with others that shared my passions. It even led to many groundbreaking personal conclusions.

Like, the moment I knew I needed to stop smoking weed.

It was in my car. There was me, high, in the passenger seat, and my younger, wiser brother, concerned, in the driver’s seat. He turned to me and said, “Gina, I’m so happy that you’re moving along in your relationship with God, but you’ve really got to stop smoking weed.”

He was right.

You see; I’m a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ was who he said he was – fully God and fully man. I believe he died on the cross for my sins, rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit into the world. I believe the Holy Spirit dwells within each believer and enables us sinful humans to be in communion with a sinless, perfect God.

I grieved the Holy Spirit for most of my life, allowing sin to share space with His dwelling place. I took advantage of God’s grace and continued to disobey Him because I didn’t quite grasp just how wide, how deep, how vast, and how accessible God’s love is. I didn’t understand how God’s love could take the place of weed, or any other sin. I didn’t truly believe that His Presence could fill every void.

Translation: I didn’t believe that God’s love was enough.

Ironically, the first time I fully experienced God’s Presence as an adult, I was high. So, for a while, I had come to believe that smoking weed gave me a greater and quicker access to the mind and heart of God…

…Good thing God gives us wisdom when we ask for it.

As I delved more into the Word, God revealed to me just how wrong I was. The Holy Spirit dwells within me – the key to experiencing His life living more richly through mine isn’t by adding sin, but by repenting from it!

You see; God is really all we need. We don’t need a little bit of wine with worship. We don’t need a little bit of Buddha with Jesus. We need God. And once you humble yourself to admit just how lowly you really are, how much you need Him, you begin to hear His voice – and His Presence becomes too real to ignore. You slowly start to fall more and more in love with your Creator. Your ways begin to change, not because you as Christian now have rules to follow, but because you’ve fallen so in love with Him, you can’t bare the thought of purposely hurting the Father’s heart.

I never ask myself, “If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?” because ultimately, we can’t go back. Time lost is lost time.

But, I will say this – every sober day walking with God brings inspiration, peace, joy, and love that no substance could supply; not even weed. God’s love is an eternal reality that awakens our hearts to our divine purpose. It breathes through us onto others and allows us to live the way we know we should; the way our Father commands us to. It is endless, and it continues to transform me from the inside out.

So, for all my friends celebrating 4/20, have fun – I recommend eating a few spoonfuls of cookie butter. But I also recommend praying. Ask God to reveal Himself to you. He loves you, He wants a relationship with you; He even died for you to prove it. And He’s always with you, whether you’re high or not.