Marijuana is the drug of illusion. It creates the illusion that you’re thinking great thoughts and doing great things while you’re sitting on the sofa and growing a beard.
— John McAfee, who I concede is a jackass but it’s a good quote so whatever.
This is a guide on how to stop smoking weed, but I’d like to preface it by stating that marijuana is not a fundamentally bad substance. It’s a godsend for people who suffer from PTSD, cancer, neurological issues, chronic pain, and other afflictions. I also don’t think recreational use is a problem. There’s nothing wrong with getting high every once in a while... It’s fun as hell and feels amazing.
That being said, marijuana is not for everyone. Some of us like getting high a little too much. Once we start, we can’t stop. We smoke until our lives are in shambles, and then we keep on smoking.
This guide is for the ones who have to smoke before every social engagement. The ones who spend every sober minute thinking about the next time they’re going to get high. The ones who have destroyed beautiful relationships to inhale plant smoke and eat Cheetos on the couch.
The ones who know they need to change, but don’t know how.
This guide is for you.
Smoking To Escape
“Not feeling is no replacement for reality. Your problems today are still your problems tomorrow.” — Larry Michael Dredla
Humans feel a wide range of emotions. We feel happy. We feel sad. We feel relaxed. We feel stressed. We feel excited. We feel apathetic. The list goes on and on.
Some of these emotions feel good. Some don’t. Good feelings are nice, and obviously preferable. Unpleasant feelings need to have their day though, and you need to deal with them responsibly. That’s how you grow and mature.
Marijuana allows you to cheat that growth. It offers a pain free shortcut to the good feelings without the growth-inducing pain of handling problems in a sensible manner.
Getting high to avoid problems works in the moment. But when you come down… your problems are still there. In fact, because you didn’t deal with them, they’re a little bigger and a little scarier. And the bad feelings that come with them are bigger and scarier. So you light up and escape again. And your problems get bigger. And so on.
Eventually your once-manageable problems morph into awful Thought Monsters: Fear. Doubt. Inadequacy. Failure. They’re always lurking, waiting for you to sober up so they can flood your mind with waves of crippling anxiety and depression.
So you don’t let them. You ignite, and inhale, and high becomes the new sober.
Over time, getting high ceases to be an oasis from psychological storms. It becomes a prison. The walls of smoke no longer protect you from your insecurities; they just isolate you from love and joy. The contentment you once found here is long gone. Nothing remains but a hazy, lonely numbness. You want to break out, want to feel again. But how can you? The Thought Monsters are right outside the door, and you will be at their terrible mercy.
But you need to leave, because you need to feel. Without feeling you cannot truly experience what it means to be human, and that is a tragic thing.
Prepare For Battle
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln
Quitting a life-consuming habit is hard. Really hard. Reality is going to hit you like a truck once you stop getting high. Solid preparation will help you weather the storm and stay on the course to a better life.
Commit to quit.
Be as objective as possible. This list won’t mean anything to you unless you know it’s complete and truthful. Keep it handy, we’re going to use it in a bit.
Get rid of your weed.
Throw it out. Flush it down the toilet. Make brownies and sell them to unsuspecting seniors at the local farmers’ market.
Just don’t smoke it.
You literally decided a few paragraphs ago that marijuana has no place in your life anymore. Smoking the remainder of your weed completely nullifies the commitment you made to yourself. Getting high at this point shows you’re not seriously devoted to getting your life together. And you need to be serious for this change to last.
Get rid of your smoking paraphernalia.
You need to make it as difficult as possible to smoke again. If you still have everything you need to smoke, quitting will be near impossible. Every time you get a craving you’re mere seconds away from lighting up. All it takes is a minute of weakness. Don’t chance it.
Toss your pipe, grinder, lighter, papers… if it helps you smoke, it needs to go. If you have a more expensive piece, sell it. Just do it quickly. You need it out of the house and out of your life. I don’t advise giving this stuff to friends; it’s too easy to ask them to return your stuff, and former smoking buddies will be more than happy to get you toking again.
If you’re serious about quitting, you’ll never need these things again. They’re basically trash at this point; they serve no purpose. Just toss them.
Get rid of everything else that connects you to smoking.
Delete your dealer’s number. Light your medical card on fire. Torch all dispensaries within a 50-mile radius (wear a gas mask… you don’t want to get high).
If you frequent forums like /r/trees or Grasscity, block them. The internet is a wonderful place, but having instant access to message boards with such overt enthusiasm for weed won’t help you in the coming weeks and months.
Explain to friends you used to smoke with why you won’t be lighting up anymore. If they really care about you, they’ll understand and support you. If they lash out or respond negatively, distance yourself from them. They may come around in time, but the last thing you need at this stage is someone influencing you to smoke. It’ll be tough enough to quit as it is.
Arm yourself with reasons to not smoke.
Print out that list of pros and cons you just made. Carry a copy with you everywhere. You’ll have a squadron of reasons not to smoke in your pocket, ready to gun down cravings at a moment’s notice.
When you get urges, you only remember the good times smoking gave you. You won’t focus on the reasons you stopped ‒ that’s why you need this list.
One Day At A Time
“If you can quit for a day, you can quit for a lifetime.” — Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Don’t quit weed for the rest of forever.
Just don’t smoke today.
You’re undergoing a massive lifestyle transformation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by thinking about the weeks and months ahead. Don’t do that to yourself. Focus on not smoking in the present moment, and let the compounding power of time work its magic.
In the first couple of days you’ll want to smoke every single moment you’re awake. If you followed the steps in the preparation phase, you should be able to get through this critical phase without running back to Mary. Even so, it’s worthwhile to minimize the urges and withdrawal symptoms as best you can.
Get out of the house.
Your mind associates locations with the activities you do in those locations. If you spend a lot of time where you used to smoke… you’re going to want to smoke.
If you usually smoke at home, get out of the house every time you feel like getting high. Don’t come back until the urge is gone. It doesn’t matter where you go. Take a walk down the block. Drive to the local library and go on your laptop. Get some Chinese food and season it with your tears in the parking lot.
Even if you don’t typically smoke at home, getting out of your house is a good idea. Abusing weed and isolating yourself typically go hand-in-hand. Try to reconnect with the people you pushed away in favor of getting high. If they don’t trust that you’re done with weed, don’t sweat it. Show them you’re making real strides toward becoming a better person, they’ll come around eventually.
You need to sleep. Quitting weed makes it hard to sleep. Here are some things you can do to make sleeping easier.
- Exercise. Working out has a ton of benefits, making it easier to fall asleep is just one of them. Do it in the morning if you can… working out in the evening can make it harder to sleep.
- Meditate. Meditation fights insomnia and help you sleep better. Try it.
- Take supplements. Melatonin, Valerian, Chamomile, and Magnesium will all put your cranky, weedless ass to sleep.
- Use lavender oil. I’ve found this stuff to be a relaxation godsend. Put a few drops on your palms or in a diffuser before sleep.
- Don’t look at screens an hour before bedtime. It keeps you up. Use f.lux to change the intensity of the light if you really need to use your computer.
A word of caution: Don’t use Benadryl to fall asleep. It may work in the short-term, but you’ll build up a tolerance quickly and might start sleep-walking.
The insomnia caused by marijuana withdrawal should pass relatively quickly. If it doesn’t, talk to your doctor.
Loss of Appetite
You need to eat. Quitting weed makes it hard to eat. Here are some things you can do to make eating easier.
- Drink protein shakes. Get some whey protein and throw it in a blender with some fruit and milk. This will give you a decent amount of protein and calories, and you can force it down your unwilling throat with minimal effort.
- Eat some ginger. It’s a great appetite stimulant. Chop it up and eat half a teaspoon before you try eating. If you don’t feel like eating it raw (like me), you can use an anti-nausea ginger supplement.
- Eat foods you don’t have to chew. Yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter, Cream of X soup, and applesauce are all viable options.
Like insomnia, this symptom is usually short-lived, but it’s important to deal with because you need to eat to live and stuff.
Anxiety and Depression
I’m not going to pretend that quitting weed is a cure for all of your problems. Anxiety and depression are serious mental health issues, and quitting weed alone won’t fix those. However, it will allow you to create a baseline of emotional stability from which you can work on these issues in a healthy and responsible manner.
That being said, almost everyone who stops smoking will deal with these feelings in some form. Here are some ways to lessen their severity:
- Exercise. There are a whole host of studies that show consistent exercise helps with feelings of anxiety and depression. Aerobic exercise is particularly helpful when abstaining from smoking. I don’t care if working out makes you curse every living thing to hell, it’s worth doing.
- Meditate. Like exercise, daily meditation can help with anxiety and depression.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Therapy can help tremendously when recovering from an addiction. Like I said, there’s a possibility you’re using marijuana to deal with underlying mental issues. A cognitive behavioral therapist can help you deal with these issues and get your life on track. If you can’t afford a therapist, you should at least use a CBT workbook to help you analyze your thoughts and change your behavioral patterns.
- Reach out. If therapy is too expensive, there are still plenty of places to find support. Reach out to family and friends, even if you’ve lost contact with them. Online support groups are a great place to go as well. The /r/leaves subreddit is filled with people going through the exact same struggle you are, and there’s always someone willing to talk. Marijuana Anonymous is another great option. It’s basically AA for stoners. They have a policy of complete anonymity, and meeting in-person with people going through this can help tremendously.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail .”— Ralph Waldo Emerson
So you smoked.
Don’t get upset. Relapses are common; it’s rare for someone to quit an addiction without at least one.
Don’t let it spiral out of control.
It’s so easy for a Friday night toke to roll into a Saturday morning wake-and-bake, and before you know it you’re stoned all week and right back where you started. If you smoke, accept that you made a mistake and get back on the wagon.
Don’t think you’re “starting from day one.”
If you made it 10 days before relapsing you should say, “I have smoked once in the past 10 days.” In 10 more days you’ll be able to say, “I smoked once in the past 20 days.” Eventually you’ll reach a point where the number is high enough that you feel comfortable starting your count from the day after you last smoked, and your streak is resumed. It’s important to have a positive mindset. Addiction is a nasty son of a bitch; putting yourself down won’t help you beat it.
Learn from your relapse.
Identify what caused you to relapse and take steps to remove that trigger from your life. If you smoked because you got drunk, stop getting drunk. If you smoked because you were laying in bed all day and feeling depressed, get out of the house. You’ll have a better chance of success moving forward.
Build Productive Habits
“To break a destructive habit… you have to replace it with another, more positive one.” — Debbie Hampton
There’s a reason I titled this article How to Stop Smoking Weed and Get Your Life Together and not How to Stop Smoking Weed and Keep Living A Crappy Life. Improving your life is the goal. Quitting weed is just the first step.
You have the mind of an addict. If you want to better yourself, you need to rise above your addictive tendencies and channel that energy into something worthy of your time. You’re not going to improve if you stop smoking only to start drinking, gambling, or gaming to excess.
In order to truly be rid of these tendencies, you need to choose something productive to replace them. I think working out is the best habit to start with, but it’s up to you. Whatever you choose, work on it consistently every day. You’re going to see something amazing happen.
Your brain, which until this point was satisfying its dopamine cravings with weed, will start to sate these urges every time you partake in this new activity. Being productive will make you feel good. By rewiring your neural pathways to seek pleasure in productivity, you’re not only improving as a person but also insulating yourself against future relapse.
The Good Stuff
“I love this part.” — Me
Weed is out of your life. Awesome. There’s a ton of stuff you have to look forward to now.
- EMOTIONAL STABILITY!
- No more brain fog!
- No more walking into the kitchen and forgetting what the hell you were doing there… though let’s be real, you were probably just searching for munchies.
- Articulating your thoughts and stringing together intelligent sentences!
- Responding to conversations in more meaningful ways!
- Improved relationships with everyone in your life!
- EMOTIONAL STABILITY!
- Vivid dreams!
- Disposable income!
- Time! So much time!
- Pride in your ability to take control of your life!
- Not smelling like weed!
- DID I MENTION EMOTIONAL STABILITY!?