If you’re reading this, I have died.
Just kidding. I’m probably still alive and worrying I’ll wake up dead tomorrow. The reason for all the dread is that I’m a drug addict now, and I’ve been taught that drug addicts end up one of two ways: on the sober path with Jesus or dead in a ditch. Since Jesus is bossy and I hate being told what to do, I guess I’m headed for that ditch.
When I think “addict,” I think of the crackhead who clumsily breaks your window to crawl through and steal your TV.
I have a job and a bank account. This is fortunate since I’m too tubby to fit through your window to steal your things. But “addict” must be the right label. Non-addicts get through their day without medicating their emotions. Non-addicts don’t have to stop everything when they lose their dab pen at the office.
So you be the judge.
Am I an addict on the verge of death? Or am I medicated? To help make your decision, here are the facts on what happens when you’re high every day for five years.
You’re high at work.
Getting stoned makes me a better employee. If my job involved heavy machinery or life-or-death stakes, I’d feel differently, but I work in an office. I take the train to get there. The only heavy machinery I operate is the switch for the fluorescent lights; the only life-or-death stakes are whether my coworkers’ inane chitchat will drive me to murder.
A few hits from my vape pen lets me focus on one task at a time.
While stoned, I don’t anxiously sweat through my clothes just because Steve from accounting asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to. I haven’t had to leave work midday for a panic attack in over four years.
Being high at work doesn’t feel like the scummy thing our culture says it is.
It feels like having a cup of coffee or smoking a cigarette — something I do to make the day go smoother.
You lie to yourself about why you get high.
I just told you I get high to make the day go smoother. That’s not the whole truth. I get high to quiet those emotions I’d rather not have at work.
I mask my emotions with cannabis. Before that, I did it with humor. Some emotions need to be masked. Not every coworker needs to hear how their stapler reminds me of some piece of childhood trauma.
Marijuana is my medicine.
You’re better when you’re stoned, the people closest to me say. Not so prone to the tears and screaming.
When they say that, I’m reminded of the depressed widow from the TV show Deadwood who laid in her room and drank Laudanum all day — she too was more peaceful when she was stoned out of her mind.
But I want them to be right.
I want these fixes to be legitimized. I want my drug to be seen as medically necessary for my day — a stopgap to make me more like the rest of you when I’m in public.
This would be more believable if I didn’t keep taking the medicine when I got home. My home is a safe space to have emotions, but I don’t. I get high instead.
You might lose fifty pounds.
The overeating stoner is well-known. Once, I ate all the snacks a Postmate could carry in one sitting. The flip side is that after you’ve been getting high for a while, you lose your appetite when you’re sober. Now, if I don’t vape, I don’t eat.
An entire box of mac and cheese is the number one predator of sadness.
The other reason for the weight loss is that before marijuana, I ate to feel better. At night, when I felt the knot in my stomach, I would put food in my mouth until there was no more room for that knot.
I replaced one drug with another.
I no longer get the munchies since I have to get high just to eat. Now instead of gorging on pasta and candy bars, I vape. I write. I listen to music and read between episodes of the show I’m bingeing. Make no mistake, I’m still bingeing — on thoughts, on a drug, on entertainment. Just not on food.
You lie to your psychiatrist.
My psychiatrist loves weight loss. He’s one of those doctors I need to leave because he believes every problem is a result of weight.
He noticed my new pants size and asked what I was doing differently.
I told him I’d lost weight because I’d taken up marijuana. I figured he’d be glad I didn’t have a parasite, but he frowned.
“How many times a day do you get high?” he asked.
Times? I thought. I’m always high. High right now, bro. For there to be a second time, I’d have to stop the first.
I lied. “Four?”
He was as shocked as if I’d told him the truth.
He recommended I stop. But he also added I should cut out caffeine and sugar. At that point, why be alive?
I don’t say that — they put you on suicide watch if you say that. Instead, I left. I kept vaping my weed, eating my sugar, and lying to my psychiatrist.
You’ll cough up your kidney while claiming perfect health.
Vaping is healthier, they say (before all those folks started dying.)
Vaping feels better than smoking but makes me cough more.
Everyone hates my loud cough. When I cover my mouth, my fiance insists I’m only creating a megaphone. The other day, someone on the street shouted at me, “STOP COUGHING!” Rude, but I was loud, and it’s San Francisco — maybe they were homeless and I was traipsing through their living room.
I tell myself I’m fine.
I only cough when I’m hitting my pen. I’m not a morning cougher. I don’t have any shortness of breath. Yet.
You’ll have trouble following conversations.
For the first three years, I had no mental side effects from marijuana. I didn’t understand where the stoner reputation for being stupid came from. Now, occasionally, I find myself saying stuff that makes no sense — things I wouldn’t have said if my brain hadn’t been in a fog.
I might say the wrong month because time moves too fast for the stoned brain to keep pace. So I ask a colleague for a report referencing September when I mean October. Silly, but plenty of sober people make the same mistake.
Other times, I’ll space out in the middle of a conversation and find myself surrounded by confused looks as I go on about the topic everyone else abandoned minutes ago. I sound like an idiot.
I don’t have a bottom.
I don’t have a story about how I cost my company millions, got behind the wheel stoned and ran over a child, or sold my baby for a pound of weed. There’s no real “rock bottom” here — just the day-to-day worry I have about the effect this habit is having on my body and mind.
You’ll get irritable.
Stoners are mellow. Everyone knows that. Until we’re not.
I have a shorter fuse than I did five years ago.
Things like the TV being too loud will make me scream at my fiance. Too much chitchat turns me into a teenager from the ’90s — I’ll literally tell you to talk to the hand.
This is a recent side-effect.
I suspect part of the reason for the irritability is the increased confusion. Lately, my brain is already having difficulty navigating the fog I’ve put it in. When more stimulation is added to that, I get stabby trying to keep up.
You might not be able to quit.
Every time I try to quit vaping so much weed, I change my mind. I fail.
Medicated or Addicted?
At the beginning, I asked you if I was an addict, but I don’t really want to know. For me, it’s not a useful label. Everyone is filling the hole they have inside with something.
This isn’t a cautionary tale. I’m tired of the addict to sobriety redemption story, and it doesn’t quite apply here anyhow. The truth is marijuana has healed and enlightened me — it was a lifeboat when I needed one most. The other truth is that now it’s time to stop clinging and learn how to swim.
Here’s what I’m doing to help that process along.
I’m vaping weed with lower concentrations of THC.
Quitting cold-turkey isn’t working, so I’m using more “flower” and less concentrated marijuana oils. This reduces irritability and lowers tolerance.
I’m paying attention to what emotions I use weed to mask the most.
I’m always trying to cover up shame— about how I look and act as a woman. To help, I’m reading everything Brene Brown has written on shame. I’m doing wacky shit like sitting with the shame, describing it, and drawing pictures of it with crayons.
I’m reading Rachel Lewett.
She’s an ex-stoner who writes on Medium and makes me feel seen like no one else. Check her out.
Other than that, I’m just waiting to see who gets here first: Jesus or the Grim Reaper.
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