What I’ve learnt from smoking too much weed
In my 20s I felt trapped by marijuana. Here’s what I learnt about addiction and loneliness.
I’m 28. In the past 10 years, I’ve smoked a lot of weed. At some point, it became a problem. Stopping has been an ongoing struggle for the past several years. I’ve failed plenty of times so I’m slow to say that I’m 100% out the other side. But I’m far enough now to have some perspective.
First I want to tell you what it feels like to smoke every day and feel trapped. Then I want to break down what I learnt about breaking the cycle and moving on.
It feels so good and it feels so bad.
Weed is a funny drug. My relationship with it was social at first and then became something personal. There’s no on point in the journey when I can say that I began to realise it was a problem. But after a certain point, I began to both hate it and love it.
I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to discuss why it was easy to love weed at the beginning. If you’ve ever watched Pineapple Express, The Big Lebowski or Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, you get the idea. So I’ll move on to the part where it became a negative force instead.
By the time I was experiencing what I describe below, I was smoking almost daily on my own.
When you smoke weed everything is ok. Your problems don’t seem as big. The people that annoy you don’t matter as much. Your ambitions get smaller. The bar you set or yourself gets lower. It feels like a beautiful place to be. And all the stoner movies you watch help give you confirmation bias. It’s totally ok to get stoned all the time and you can still make it in life.
When you smoke a lot of marijuana, you have this ongoing conversation. Each day starts with a resolution that ‘today will be the day that I stop smoking weed’. But as the day goes on, it could be an hour later or it could be five, you begin to think about your plans. You begin to imagine what that first hit on a joint would be like. You begin to talk yourself down and think of reasons why you should delay quitting:
‘Today’s been stressful and I want to relax, I’ll quit tomorrow.’
‘Today was awesome and I want to celebrate, I’ll quit tomorrow.’
‘Today’s sunny and I want to make the most of it, I’ll quit tomorrow.’
‘Today it’s raining and I want to get cosy, I’ll quit tomorrow.’
One thing this helps you realise is how creative you can be with your own self-deception. Because the list is endless. You pick an excuse and you give in. You get high again.
The rabbit hole goes as deep as you allow it to
No matter how creative I got with my excuses, this nagging sensation began to eat at me. I’d talk about quitting to my girlfriend, then end up smoking again. I promised myself I was going to quit but it never happened.
This is a painful circle despite how simple the solution for freedom is. Eventually, you have to face up to the fact: smoking this much does not help me become a better person. In fact, it stops me from growing. It’s stalls you for so long that you actually begin moving backwards.
It feels like an endless hole that you cannot climb out of.
You think that the people around you can’t or would never understand your struggle. You retreat inwards and don’t reach out for help. These are all avoidance tactics to stop you from confronting what has become a big problem.
There is an upside. I’ve made these mistakes already and there is a way to avoid them. The answers are simple and straightforward, but you have to be willing to be brutally honest with yourself.
I felt like I was trapped. That was my first mistake.
When you’re deep in the circle of pain, lies and regret you don’t allow yourself to grow. You’re suffocating your progress and all the challenges around you become bigger and more difficult to tackle. What you’re lacking is reflection. Without it, there is no way to progress. And while you’re still smoking, you can’t reflect in any meaningful way.
“Pain plus reflection equals progress.” — Ray Dalio
Addiction is a prison that exists in your mind. What took me so long to figure out was that the key to the cell was with me the whole time. Reflection is about being honest with yourself. And when you do that for the first time it will hit you hard.
Reflection is a continual process. Because crawling out of this trap is not a one-time thing. It requires you to constantly check yourself and be honest about how you feel. But the more time you’re able to do it the more you’ll realise that you have the power to break out.
I felt like I was alone. That was my second mistake.
You’re not alone. Nobody is. And despite how unique your situation might feel, someone has been there before you. Somebody out there knows how you feel. Somebody out there can sympathise.
When you begin to think that you’re the only person who can understand what this is like, then you’ve let your Ego take over. There are 7 billion people on the planet and millions that have come before us.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are the only person who knows this kind of pain.
Until you can admit that you’re getting in your own way, you’re going to struggle to get help. I dealt with this by reading. I sought out people who’d been through personal struggles and found a way out the other side. Rich Roll was a good place to start for me. His story gave me perspective and began to reduce some of that loneliness.
I never spoke to anyone. That was my third mistake.
Finding the right person to speak to can seem like a big task. Because first of all, you don’t feel like anyone will understand.
Then once you’ve gotten over that, you don’t think anyone will care.
Then you just feel ashamed.
Overcoming each of these hurdles and being honest with someone is a journey in itself.
Breaking down how you feel helps you look at the problem from a different perspective. I wrote notes about the people I wanted to speak to and why I was worried that they wouldn’t care. I wrote down why I thought they would judge me. And as I did that, I began to see that what I was writing seemed ridiculous. My emotions were a cloud of confusion. By writing them down I could test them more honestly.
Small choices can lead you down the right road.
If you want to stop smoking weed there is a way out. If you want to stop any destructive behaviour, you can. Doubt and self-deception may stop you from believing that right now. But it doesn’t alter the fact that you have the power to change what you want about yourself.
There is no one path for everybody.
I spent years wrestling with something that I knew was holding me back. That I wanted to stop but felt powerless to control. I can’t say I have all the answers. But I’ve managed to get this far. And I know others have too.
So this is my advice.
Search for the people that have faced similar challenges. You will find solidarity and strength in their journey.
Search for the people that will listen to your fears. You will find depths of love and compassion that you didn’t know existed.
And don’t be afraid to talk. Because when you do, you’re one step closer to being where you want to be.
There are certain subjects that I tend not to write about. Because they are painful for to admit and I’m scared about how they’ll be received. This is one of them. I wanted to add this note to make it clear — sharing is not easy. But if I can do it, you can too.