Me, Marijuana and Magic: A 25-Year Love Story
Most people go to Ireland to drink Guinness, listen to music and explore their ancestral roots. Me? I’m gonna kick my weed addiction with magic.
I’ve smoked weed almost every day since I was 15. Often compulsively. At times with sacredness and ritual. Sometimes with control and thoughtfulness. But ALWAYS, always pining for that burst of turned-on aliveness that seems nearly impossible to access on my own.
I’m almost 40, and I’ve tried to quit a million times since then. What stops me? I’m afraid I can’t access that tingly, awakened state without it. At least, not on demand.
Now, maybe for you, weed makes you sleepy or paranoid. But I know some of y’all know what I mean, right?
When you smoke that highly energetic, creative, psychoactive, THC-laden weed? How it makes you all lit up with magic and mischievousness? Where your body feels active, energized, dance-y? Where the natural world pulses toward you, where plants and animals have secret messages and divine guidance to deliver?
When I think about quitting weed forever, I’m afraid I won’t be able to access immanence—that known feeling of the sacred, the divine, living HERE, NOW— without it. And, DAMN I need that presence. I’d die without it.
I’ve learned to access this state in meditation. And sometimes sex. And sometimes with ritual and magic. But damn, psychoactive substances just know how to kick ‘ya right in that zone.
Except — it’s not consistent. And it’s not entirely predictable. At best, I have a stop smoking for a little while so I can come back and get that brand-new-to-weed feeling, where my heart explodes and the birds are insistently delivering me important messages.
So — you might ask how I got here? Why is it so hard for me to access life energy? Why’d I start getting high at 15? You might even think, what’s WRONG with you??
Nothing. I make perfect sense, and so do you.
No matter how flawed your strategies are for regulating your emotional experience — whether you use weed, alcohol, cigarettes, work, sex, TV, social media distraction or something else — these are all perfectly reasonable attempts to find peace and a little bit of calm in this world.
If you sense your self-regulation strategies are creating side-effects that are not desirable — which is the case for me and weed — and you want to understand why and how you might begin to heal and transform your brain, then read on.
How Childhood Attachment Disruption Can Lead to Diminished Life Energy
Ok, this is a more complex topic than I can address in this little piece and I’m dashing to catch a plane to Ireland, but here’s the gist: mounting scientific research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology shows that folks who struggle with life-long depression and flatness (sometimes called anhedonia) often share a common early-childhood experience of learning to limit their own life-energy.
When we do not have a sense of being deeply accompanied in our emotions, or when our emotional landscape is too vast and intense to be caught by our care-giver’s emotional window of tolerance, we learn that we are “too much” and we begin to self-diminish, to discount or sublimate our own emotions and needs.
No surprise, then that our bodies begin to have trouble accessing joy and aliveness later on! Weed = perfectly reasonable strategy.
I’ve spent the last 6+ years studying the neurobiology of addiction and attachment theory, learning meditation and other embodied self-connection techniques, getting off tons of psychiatric psychotropic medication, and building new neural fibers of self-regulation and resiliency, and I now help others do the same.
Getting rid of weed as a strategy for aliveness is next on my to-do list, and my plan is to do it with magic and the support of my healed ancestors.
(PS — sometimes you gotta go way back to find the resourced ones who aren’t starving of famine, impoverished and traumatized with no support to give you. Systemic Constellations work can help, maybe I’ll tackle that in another medium story some other time.)
So — Whaddya Mean “Magic”?
I love how Starhawk writes, in Dreaming the Dark, that “magic is the art of changing consciousness at will.” Yes.
Tapping into the frequency, the consciousness itself, of magic in the natural world helps me access my inner guidance and intuition, and makes the world of my brain a helluvalot more inhabitable.
Magic to me is a natural aspect of reality, a technology for both perceiving AND affecting the world by merging our own individual consciousness with the larger oneness of spirit.
Think about it: why is it that smoking a super sour, 29.9% THC content, limonene-terpene-laced pre-roll causes me to walk by the neighbor’s Lamb’s Ear plant and become convinced that it has a message for me? When that same cute, soft little shrub acts all demure and standoffish when I’m sober?
If my brain has the capacity (when tickled by endocannabinoids) to meet that Lamb’s Ear as a living, breathing manifestation of the wise, loving spirit of the universe , then why can’t I tune into that at will?
Because I’m not consciously attuning to the magic when I’m sober. I’m not tuned in to the frequency of immanence. I’m too scattered, to left-hemisphere-inhabited, too busy, too depressed, and: dammit, I want a quick fix!
After years of working with the amazing Sarah Peyton (a neurobiology educator and practitioner of a type of magic called Resonant Language), I’ve finally integrated my right hemisphere enough to sit and be with my own feeling self… which is the first step to access the magic.
Quieting the left-hemisphere, living in the body using language and somatic empathy, and adding a little ritual when needed, are the 3 tools I’ve found that most consistently lead to the magical experience of spirit-on-earth.
But still — I struggle to get there. Sometimes I forget how to pray. Other times my brain’s critical loop is so loud and lacerating, I can’t hear the quiet. Still other times I long to know more clearly and consistently how to access the divine.
This is where Ireland comes in.
Creating a Context for Play, Curiosity and Aliveness
What I’ve learned, in 3 years of studying with Sarah Peyton, about the healing potential of neuroplasticity, ancestral connection, and nervous system resiliency is profound, especially for those of us who have struggled with addiction and accessing life energy.
I’ll write sometime soon about the nucleus accumbens, which is a dopamine-driven points system the brain uses to rate substances. For now I’ll just say that the more you use a particular substance (like, e.g. for TWENTY-FIVE fucking years), the higher the permanent score becomes for that substance.
This understanding helps curb my impulse to self-shame, so I can access more gentleness when I seen to prefer weed’s WOW over sweet, seemingly more real things like deep human connection and spontaneous joy.
Maybe this understanding helps some of you, too?
Understanding the brain’s reward system is only a small piece of this puzzle, and there’s a ton more:
The latest discoveries in relational neuroscience show us that our brains can heal and change (including learning how to play and access gratitude and aliveness!) no matter what age, no matter our genetic predisposition, and no matter what adverse childhood experiences we’ve endured.
AND — connecting to a well of sustainable accompaniment and support (whether through building a compassionate witness consciousness or by tapping into the deep resilience of those that came before) is a huge step in fortifying our own nervous system resilience.
Magic is the technology I long for on this Ireland trip, to access the divine through the body of the earth, through the neolithic passage tombs and sacred holy water, and through prayer and ritual.
My intention is to feel and see the magic of the natural world AT WILL; not just while in Ireland but after. I long to abandon my 25-year crutch of using weed as a short-cut to presence and accessing divine power.
I pray to feel and intuit and see my way inside, supported by my Irish ancestors and the living, breathing divine sprit I hope to meet there.
I’m SO grateful for the spirit of cannabis. Without weed, I may not have gotten all those precious glimpses of the divine aliveness immanent in the natural world…
But I’m ready now to learn the way to walk that path without mediation. And I need help, because sometimes I forget what to do when I’m sober.
Here’s to aliveness, and here’s to seeing the sacred that is available and offering itself to us always.