So I’ve had an interesting relationship with weed over the years. Growing up, I had no shortage of friends getting stoned and going to class or basketball practice, but none of them had any plans beyond high school so I made up my mind that I wouldn’t touch the stuff until I graduated. By the end of that summer, I was a proper pothead. Since then, my relationship with wacky tobaccy has gone through several stages, up to and including what most people would consider to be addiction. In an age where legal recreational use is imminent under the guise of a medical application, I figured this post was long overdue.
So when I first started smoking, it was purely social and recreational. It was usually in place of, or a complement to a few beers – and always with friends. If I wanted to toke but nobody was around, I just wouldn’t.
It was in my first year of university that I started developing sleep issues. Effectively, my brain wouldn’t turn off for sleep. I’d go to bed, but my mind would continue to cycle from thought to thought for hours. First, I tried basic sleep aids which didn’t help me sleep, but left me groggy the next day. Then I tried some prescription stuff which worked about the same, but left me even groggier. Eventually, my sleep schedule had me sleeping at about 9am and waking up at 5pm. Lectures were mostly optional and it was easy to study at night so school was a non-issue, but many years later, sleep is still a struggle.
In university, I’d probably be a frequent user by most standards, but it wasn’t daily. In many cases, I’d go weeks or months without, simply from a lack of access or a shift in priorities. At this point, I think I had still yet to blaze by myself. It wasn’t until I finished university and moved back home that those dynamics started to shift a bit.
I grew up in a pro-cannabis community, in a pro-cannabis city, with a very pro-cannabis social and professional circle. Now as a recent university graduate, back home, with a full-time income and his own place, I’m pretty sure my version of christening the place involved a philly, friends, food, and family guy. While my intake likely increased, it was still very much a social activity until I started using it as a coping mechanism.
I was an assistant manager at the time for a large rental car company. My manager who happened to be a close friend of mine was fired in a cost-cutting maneuver. His replacement sucked and my job went from fun to shit within a few months, including a switch to late-shifts. The shifts had me arriving home close to 11pm and rather wound up – so I began my ritual of winding down. I’d come home, ditch the suit, roll some reefer, and relax. Eventually, this became every work-night. Even when I moved for work to a new town where I didn’t know anyone – and the ritual persisted.
Following that role, I transitioned into finance and into a career path that was the epitome of high pressure. I began that path thinking that I wanted to maximize my brainpower so it was time to take a break from the Buddha. I did, but now I was back to not being able to sleep. Eventually, I justified it to myself that sleep was more important – and the ritual persisted.
While still in that role, I began dating a girl who wasn’t the biggest fan. She grew up in a household which embraced the war on drugs and just about considered it a deal breaker. I cared a great deal about the girl and figured I could probably benefit from a break. I did, but somewhere along the line, the bigger issue for me was taking direction from someone who doesn’t understand the issue. So it became a weekend activity and not around her.
Not long after that, dispensaries started opening up in the city and the quality, section, and access all leaped forward. Now there was a far better excuse to eliminate the weekend rule, but no excuse was better than getting a call from the girlfriend saying that her headache was so bad that she was looking to explore some alternative medicine. She shared a spliff for the first time as an adult and never looked back. Shortly after that, I had a bad ankle injury which took me off my feet for a couple weeks. So I bought the new Xbox, and oz, and set up shop on the couch. We broke up a few months later. That’s mostly on me.
The following year, the only way I could fall asleep is if I greened out. I was still mostly functional at work but was struggling with some short-term memory issues and occasionally spacing out in the middle of sentences. The effective impact was marginal, but certainly noticeable. It was like a cycle of going in and out of a fog. I’d wake up in a haze that I’d spend the first couple hours of the morning trying to shake, then I’d hit my stride and cruise through the day, usually arriving home late in time to visit the vape. I’d spend an hour or two watching tv, surfing on my phone, and doing bag-rips until I fell asleep on the couch. I’d wake up at about 4 or 5am and move to the bed – and repeat.
It wasn’t preventing me from doing my job or playing sports, it was still a social activity, and it was the only thing that would consistently get me to sleep. On the rare nights where I was without, I probably averaged 2-4 hours of sleep. It was so easy to justify and so quickly approved by my peers that it was hard to pursue a routine without.
Prior to passing away, my dad shared an interesting thought on pot, “it never made anyone any smarter.” When I reflect on that statement, what I hear is that we have a drug which interacts with our bodies in a variety of ways, most of which we don’t yet understand. For all the good and bad it does, it’s probably not going to make you any smarter. I owed it to him, my clients, my peers, and especially myself to at least explore that opportunity. So I did.
Few people are more familiar with the games that you play with your own mind so I went to a good friend of mine and told him I was quitting. He understood the situation well enough to know how to help. We had a sesh and he left my house with my kit and all my supplies. The agreement was a 6 month reset but a few months in, the family dog died and my sister took it rather hard. It was still her coping mechanism at the time so I broke my commitment. On the way home, I had the munchies and picked up a giant poutine. When I got to my couch and started pigging out, I had this moment of thinking this isn’t what I want at all. I was back to sobriety the following morning and made it until Christmas of that year.
While sober, my sleep schedule completely reset itself and everything was back to normal. Most of the haziness subsided in the first couple weeks, with just about all of it gone within a few months. That said, there’s something different about my brain now. I can’t tell if it’s the hemp, bumps to the head, or just getting older but I don’t feel as sharp as I did when I was young. While things like memory recall aren’t what they once were, things like perspective and open-mindedness have increased dramatically. I don’t have the information necessary to know which factors contributed to which results, but I would be surprised if the herb had nothing to do with it.
I’ve now accepted that it’s my vice of choice. For most the time I was sober, I wasn’t thinking about it. The times where I was around friends who were getting green, or at home looking to wind down, all I could think was how much I preferred a moderate approach of once in a while. Unfortunately for me, as soon as I had proven to myself that I could still stop if I wanted to, I was intent on making up for lost time. I was back to smoking a joint before bed every night with the new girlfriend, and when things didn’t work out with her, I was back to greening out before bed every night on my own.
In November of last year, I moved for work. It was a huge opportunity for me which would allow me to fast forward from a junior role to a senior role within a short period of time in a very well paid career. I decided to use that as a reset point, thinking that this was the best time for me to apply my maximum brain power. So I stopped using again with the exception of when I was visiting back home, and the little bit that I bought back with me each time telling myself that I was using it to reset my sleep schedule. It took several weeks but my schedule was normalizing, I was getting healthier, and I was feeling better. In January I was fired for unethical conduct. A long story for another time, but it was unexpected, and very quickly turned my world upside down. I had invested more of myself into this career than anything before. It was the kind of career where the first 5 years were brutal but the next 30 made it well worth it. I was fired almost exactly 4 years in. Taking away something that I was so invested in and focused on, that meant so much to me and my future, was a very meaningful experience.
I walked out of that termination determined to be as productive and positive as I could with the experience. Then I signed up at the local dispensary and proceeded to smoke ALL the cheeba. I was focused on moving forward, but as a new resident in a small town that was then buried in snow, left me with limited activities. Fortunately for me, I love to snowboard so I hit the slopes with some good friends for the first time in February. Unfortunately for me, I took an uneventful spill off a jump and broke my arm pretty bad. I had to have surgery, including plates and screws which meant that I was prescribed some pretty heavy duty painkillers. Knowing what’s in them and their addictive properties, I decided to stick with my vice.
I’m pretty happy I was able to get through without getting into the opiates, but it did leave me in this perpetual state of being high all the time which I didn’t enjoy. That was this February and I moved home about a week ago. This transitional period that I’ve been going through over the last few months has resulted in a lot of personal growth and was ultimately the reason for this blog, but that personal growth has also left me with an unresolved perspective around this astro turf.
As I approach the second half of this year, my life is becoming far better aligned with who I am and what I’m capable of. As much as I enjoy the endo, I don’t think it’s making me any smarter. I think I’m a more capable individual when I’m sober. I also think that the closer I am to reaching my potential, the happier I am. I even had a moment a few days ago, smoking a joint from the comfort of my own bed, where I said this is enough, this isn’t what I want and it’s time to make a change. I had to build some IKEA furniture that day so I obviously kept blazing, but it was a valid thought. Even as I write this, part of my mind seems dedicated to finding the right excuse to justify rolling one up.
This last bit I write stoned. Somewhere in my logical and analytical mind, I can’t help but think that this experience of addiction is highly educational in a self-growth kinda way.
The drugs I’ve done are weed, mushrooms (once), MDMA, and DMT (twice). As a result of where I grew up and a brief career detour, I’ve spend my fair share of time around much harder drugs. I resisted all of them on the same premise that the reward wasn’t worth the risk. Those were life-destroying drugs and no high was worth that risk. Weed wasn’t life destroying, so I seem to have fearlessly chased this vice down to its depths, knowing that I’m exploring something real without risks that I can’t handle. I took a class in university call drugs and behaviour so I understand the changes in my brain chemistry when I’m stoned, but from an introspective standpoint, – hold on.. lost my train of thought – there’s something else here. First, I think it’s important to understand drugs. Not just how they affect someone’s brain chemistry but how they truly interact with peoples minds. I think there’s a lot to be learned there. Second, is to understand what it means to be addicted to drugs. It can be a surreal experience, not just the mechanics of something that exists somewhere between a craving and a dependence, but also how it changes you. I’ve become more introverted over the years. I much prefer a night in with a joint than night out drinking with the boys. My memory is less effective than it once was. It’s highly noticeable with names but less so with other things. I’ve been able to adapt so it doesn’t affect me much but it’s annoying. My sex drive fell way off when I was smoking the most. By way off, I mean almost zero. There are other things that likely contributed to each, but I’m confident my blazing did too. Part of me tells me that I still have more to learn here but another part of me remembers what it’s like to be truly sober. It’s like one of those limitless pills compared to where I am now.
Something occurred to me not long ago, maybe I smoke to make myself dumb. My natural state of mind is very ‘go go go’, which is great when I get to apply it to something. But when I don’t, I sense this gap between what I’m doing and what I’m capable of doing and it eats at me – until I’m stoned. When I’m stoned, I don’t care. I’m content in that moment and satisfied with life in general. It’s as if I’m happier when I’ve lowered my potential to be more in line with my output.
So I suppose the moral of the story is fix your life and you won’t need to get stoned. Here’s the interesting thing though, I don’t need to get stoned, I prefer to get stoned. I stopped when I wanted to and chose to go back because my life was more enjoyable stoned than sober. Maybe because I was a broken person, but probably because I was completely focused on a future which wasn’t my own. I wasn’t in my element and I was nowhere near my potential. I was tuning out assuming things would get better. I was right – they fired me.
As I’m approaching this new phase of my life where I better understand myself and better understand where I should be applying my talents, I’m recognizing that I should probably end up smoking a lot less. That doesn’t change the fact that I currently rely on it to sleep and have completely formed a habit out of it. This won’t be easy, but it’s perhaps the most important area of growth when exploring the nature of addiction. I know that I can quit outright, but that would be too easy and not what I want. This is my vice of choice, but not the way I use it now – there must be moderation. As always though, I’m optimistic. As I begin to accelerate towards projects of high interest, I’m excited to start using my brain again and I’m reminded of a quote from my dear Sherlock Holmes, “I’m not an addict, I’m a user. I alleviate boredom and occasionally heighten my thought process.”