Classic column from November 3, 2010
I can’t stop smoking pot
I love smoking pot, but I think I may have a problem. I smoke it every day, and when I can’t get it, I drink
I smoke marijuana every day. There are times when I don’t smoke, but I’ve definitely smoked almost every day for several years. I’m an extremely functional smoker (stoner?) — I’m in grad school, I have a part-time job, I have a good relationship with my family, I have a social life, etc. I usually smoke alone — most of my friends don’t smoke or only smoke occasionally. I usually wait until later on in the day to get high, but I’ll sometimes smoke before I go to school/work/coffee/meet up with friends.
Smoking is relaxing, it’s fantastic, I really love getting high. I don’t do hard drugs — I only smoke weed. I’ve researched the topic and I’m not overly concerned about the health ramifications. [To the people who are rushing to comment that marijuana is VERY HARMFUL (psychosis! cancer! we don’t really have proof, but it’s terrible for you! etc!) — please don’t waste your time.]
I have a history of depression — it’s genetic and occasionally situational. I’m not severely depressed — but I definitely have depression that waxes and wanes. I’m sure that I’m partially self-medicating, but as medicines go, weed is a pretty good one. I’m definitely psychologically addicted to marijuana.
My family, employers and some friends would be shocked and upset if they knew how often I smoke. I come from a conservative/religious background and I feel guilty about the tension I’ve created between my public and private life. I doubt anyone would explicitly say it, but most people I know would prefer that I develop a drinking problem as opposed to being a stoner. More important, they’d prefer I not be addicted to any sort of substance.
I enjoy drinking — but I enjoy smoking far, far more. When I can’t get weed, I use alcohol as a substitute. I’ve started combining the two — and my drinking has increased. Smoking weed is great, but having a few drinks and smoking is sometimes even better. I’m concerned that I’m developing a drinking problem. I’m pretty sure that I’ve flirted with developing a drinking problem in the past, but smoking weed has helped me avoid that. Should I stop drinking? Should I restrict my drinking? How concerned should I be about this whole situation?
I’d really appreciate your advice.
How concerned should you be? You should be very concerned. From what you say, it sounds like you’re one of us, an addictive person who probably can’t stop on his own and is headed for trouble. Look at what you’re doing. You’re substituting one drug for another. That’s a sign. You’re doing it every day. That’s a sign. You can’t stop. That’s a sign.
If I were you, I wouldn’t even bother to try and stop on my own. I’d just skip that futile step and get into a program.
I mean, sure, you’re free to try. But here’s the thing. We know an awful lot about this. There are so many of us addicts, and many of us are really smart. We know the ins and outs. We have a vast reservoir of knowledge, firsthand accounts, personal experience, medical data, psychological data, systems, programs, literature, societies, support groups, blogs, forums, meetings, specialists, retreats, rehabs, hospitals, books, tapes, movies …
This is not some mysterious problem you just came up with. If you walk into the world and say, I’m an addict and I’m asking for help, you are going to be showered with help, perhaps more help than you want, and you are going to have the opportunity to get free of this thing and live well and happily without it.
So, frankly, I think you should just get into a program and skip all the intermediate steps of losing your job, losing your friends, crashing cars, being homeless, going to jail, etc. Why bother? Just get into a program now and stop before you really, really, really have a problem.
I’m speaking from experience. I used to smoke like you do. I hid it and felt guilty about it but I really, really loved it. And I didn’t see anything wrong with it except that I was getting addicted to it. But eventually all the normal things happened to me that happen to most people who get addicted to things. I lost jobs, friends, lovers, places to live, clothing, self-respect, health, energy, dreams, reputation. You name it, I lost it. And I didn’t have to. If I could have stopped earlier, I wouldn’t have had to do that. Of course, there are reasons having to do with character why I didn’t stop. And of course there is the fact that I just fucking didn’t want to.
But, hey. It doesn’t have to be that way. You could get into a program now.
So why not? Why not just say fuck it, it’s clear where this is heading, and I don’t have to go there.
It’s going to be obvious to everybody else around you where this is headed. If you choose to keep going, you’re going to be the only one pretending that you don’t know where it’s headed.
Once you’re addicted to something, stuff starts to fall apart. Once you’re addicted to something, you’re no longer free, and you’re no longer present. You’re gone somewhere. You begin to lose your life.
That was when I stopped: when I became conscious that I was losing my life. But it took a long time. I was betraying my principles and hiding my real life.
The real damage was that I was losing my self, my soul, this innocent personhood to whom I had pledged myself, that I would be a good person, that I would not be a failure, that I would become good at writing and would be a person I could admire, that I would fulfill some kind of promise.
Where did that promise come from? Where did that inkling of virtue come from? You could call it what you like. You could call it the soul, or the divine, or just innocence, or God, or just moral consciousness, or just man’s innate reason. There was a part of me that knew better. And I didn’t listen to it for a long time.
But finally things got too bad.
So you could stop before things get there. You could just go to a marijuana addicts anonymous meeting and start listening to people’s stories. Many stories start out as yours does. Things change over time. It is hard to maintain an addiction that is steady and does not cause deterioration or does not spread. I think that’s because addiction changes your overall habits in life. It tends to take over. It undermines your reasoning and decision-making.
You’ve got something that you’re lying about, that you can’t control, that is making you feel guilty, and you don’t have to do it.
You’ve obviously got a problem. These kinds of problems only get worse without intervention. So go get some help. Stop smoking pot and stop drinking. You’ll be glad you did. You’ll be re-integrated into your family and your social world, and you won’t have to be hiding things, and you’ll have more energy and clarity of mind as well.
And don’t try quitting alone because that doesn’t work. You’re going to need help.
So that’s my advice. You can stop. You really don’t have to do it. You can change your life. And you’ll be happier after you do.
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