Confessions of a Marijuana Addict

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.”

My Thoughts on Privilege


A few years ago, a girl I was dating told me to check my privilege.  It was tremendously frustrating for me as I couldn’t understand what she was actually trying to say.  She went on to say that as a good-looking white male, I had all kinds of advantages afforded to me which weren’t available to others.  I reflected on that statement and it still didn’t resonate.  From my perspective, my path had not been easy and both my opportunities and successes were well-earned.  I figured a good place to start would be with a definition we could both agree on.  So we looked it up:


Privilege: A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available to a particular person or group.


That sounded rather general to me.  By that definition, if white privilege existed, then so did black privilege – and every other kind of privilege for that matter.  Tall people are privileged to reach things off high shelves while short people are privileged to not bump their heads on low ceilings.  If privilege is simply referring to the advantages held by some and not others, aren’t we just talking about people in general?  Maybe.

It would be easy for me to say that white privilege doesn’t exist because privilege doesn’t exist.  I would go on to give an example:  Would you rather be a black man being pulled over by the police in Alabama, or would you rather be a white guy getting pulled over by freedom fighters in West Africa?  Then I’d remind us that while we all share a common blueprint, we all vary in our own ways and those variations provide inherent advantages and disadvantages depending on the circumstance.  If circumstance is the variable that determines if we experience an advantage or disadvantage, then does privilege really exist?  Like I said, it would be easy for me to say that white privilege doesn’t exist because privilege doesn’t exist – but I would be wrong.


Everything that I just said is valid to an extent but I think that there’s another layer to what’s going on here that better represents what we’re looking at.  I think if we explore this a little further, we’ll find some clarity

A granted privilege seems to be simply be an advantage given from one person to another.  What I find curious here is that the word granted offers the possibility of earning your advantage.  Consider a student who has good grades in high school and then is ‘granted’ admittance to a top-tier university – we’ll call her Priya. Now consider someone who had average grades, who also made it into that university after their parents made a significant donation – we’ll call him Bryce.  I think most people would blow the whistle and call a privilege foul here on the latter, but what if the Priya was at a top private school with unlimited tutoring funded by her parents?  What if Bryce’s parents grew up in poverty, worked hard, and were simply making a donation to their alma mater?

This is a rather interesting topic for me because in the context of a social conversation, privilege is what I would consider to be a poorly defined topic.  It’s like we know that there’s something wrong but we’re not exactly sure how to articulate it.  As in many other cases in society, we think we’re dealing in issues of fairness but in reality we’re dealing with issues of efficiency.

Let’s revisit the earlier example in a different context.  Let’s say for the sake of simplicity, Priya is unprivileged and Bryce is very privileged.  Both are admitted to a top-tier university and both approach their degree as an independent effort.  Now they’ve both graduated and while Priya continued to work hard and earned good grades, Bryce worked harder and earned better grades.  Now imagine that in 40 years, we’re reflecting on their life’s work and there’s a clear winner – Bryce.

If this were a real world example, what we commonly define as privilege could’ve led to the discrepancy in university grades and the career but that’s the point.  What if it wasn’t?  It’s certainly possible that Bryce did better because he had more resources at his disposal, but what if his circumstances we’re simply better aligned with his own personal strengths?  What if Bryce simply wasn’t motivated in high-school, but once he had the autonomy and challenge that came with a top-tier university, he was motivated to perform?  And what if his personality and degree were directly in line with his career path?  And what if Priya who worked hard and got good grades her entire life had the genetic blueprint for a world class chef, but became an accountant as a result of her academic focus?

In reality, what we’re really upset at is a series of systems which are inefficient at allocating resources and creating value.  The system we have currently is a ‘fair’ entry system predicated on prior academic performance and extra-curricular activities but it’s also the same system that would see Priya become an accountant and see Bryce not gain admission.  It’s largely a level playing field, but perhaps it’s time to prioitize making sure people are suited up for the right sport and playing to their full potential.

With the progress we’ve made in understanding our genealogy and psychology, along with advances in our ability to collect and analyze data… I smell a revolution in how we determine fit.  Imagine everyone being given the freedom to explore their options, while also being given the information to understand what they’re likely to be best at.  Now imagine everyone having access to the same information and how much more efficient we’d all be… at everything.  The goal isn’t to make privilege against the rules, the goal is to have a system in place that makes the use of privilege seem foolish and counter-productive.

If I were to offer up my best definition of privilege, it would be an applied, circumstantial advantage.  When circumstantial advantages are used to further the collective interests (efficient), people seem not to mind.  When circumstantial advantages are used to further self-interests (inefficient), there’s an issue.  Our issue isn’t with having different strengths and weaknesses from one another.  Our issues aren’t even with those who apply their strengths when competing.  Our issue is those who take the short-sighted approach of putting their own interests ahead of collective progress.  Our issue is with those who use their resources to create inefficiencies in the larger system at play.

A Brief Thought on Modern Feminism

So a good friend recently posted a comment to his Facebook account along the lines of, “Plenty of women only businesses, so why do men catch such flak when we try it?”  Now it’s important to know that he’s a good guy, happily married with daughters so what I suspect he was really doing was stirring up some interesting conversation.  This was my contribution to the conversation:

Consider this… men are the more physically dominant sex, which meant that until we got smart enough to realize that gender equality would double the workforce and lead to greater comparative advantage, we were calling most of the shots. As with many things in life, there’s a pendulum effect. Right now the middle is where most of us would like things to be, but when we’re way over on one side, the momentum of that change will often take us right through the middle and over to the other side. That’s what we’re seeing now.  For men as a sex -this is all long overdue. The problem with that is the vast majority of men I know who are dealing with this short end of the stick today are actually bonafide feminists.

Where things get interesting is that the further the pendulum swings to the benefit of women, the more that momentum gets stored up and the more likely it is to swing back to the side of men.  Even as I write this, men’s rights movements are gathering steam.  While I’m sure they have some valid points, I also have very little interest in seeing the pendulum swing back to where it’s been for the last 10,000 years.  Here’s to hoping we find that common ground but the balls are in your court ladies.

There is No Normal

We seem to care a great deal about what is normal and what is not, but I have good reason to think that there is no normal and that our preoccupation with it becomes a counter-productive perspective.  Imagine if you will, a normal person.  How tall are they?  How heavy?  How smart?  What do they look like?  What are their talents?  Now consider what normal might look like for someone from another culture.  The same?  Whose version of normal is more accurate (hint: probably Chinese or Indian).

I suspect that most of us would consider ourselves to be mostly normal.  So is normal an arithmetic mean of the human population, or is normal people who are more like us? And why do we want people to be normal?

When I visualize normal, I’m visualizing a blossom of deviations from that median where everyone is just a little different than what the human genetic blueprint might suggest.  Now this is where things start to get interesting because different isn’t necessarily good or bad – The universe never claimed to be a fair place.  Some of us are ‘gifted’ with a high IQ, athleticism, or good looks, while others are ‘gifted’ with a lack of emotional intelligence, binge eating tendencies, and a big nose.  Or maybe those are all qualities of the same person.

The unfortunate reality is that some of these deviations are so extreme that they’re not given a chance to play out.  Infants die from differences in how their brains or hearts developed and while we might be quick to call them defects, they weren’t broken and they didn’t come out wrong, this was part of the process and they got the short end of the stick.  What’s important to keep in mind though is that we’re dealt a hand and the hand is rarely determined by one card.  If you look back, this defines some of history’s most fascinating and accomplished people:

  • Beethoven: Legendary composer who began to lose his hearing in his 20s went on to compose some of his best work almost completely deaf.
  • Turing: Socially awkward, gay, eccentric math genius who founded modern computer science as an out of the box solution to cracking the German Enigma in WWII.
  • Hawking: World renowned astrophysicist who developed ALS in his early 20s who went on to become one of the most valuable minds in modern history – and he’s going to space!

Each individual is incredible person in their own right, but they also illustrate what I think is a very important pattern.  Given the right motivations and circumstances, being dealt a bad card doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve been dealt a bad hand.

I think that the motivation necessary to accomplish what these individuals did is not to be undervalued, but for the purpose of this conversation, it’s about circumstance.  Consider if Beethoven was born today.  He likely would’ve received the right treatment for his illnesses and would’ve never gone deaf.  Had Turing been born today, he probably would’ve been celebrated like a gay Steve Jobs (a far more suitable ending to his story).  But what if Hawking had been born 100 years ago?  What this all amounts to, is the idea that we are each dealt a hand, and that your cards are largely irrelevant without knowing the circumstances in which we have to play them – but things are improving.

Had Hawking been born 100 years ago, he would’ve likely died before 25.  Medical science isn’t yet capable of giving everyone a fair shot yet, but we’ve made tremendous progress and Hawking is a fantastic example.  As medical science continues to improve, more people will be given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

While medical science might allow someone born with a heart defect to go on to play professional sports, social circumstances exist as well.  Alan Turing is my favourite historical figure and perhaps one of history’s best examples of someone who was born before his time.  Turing was gay in England at a time when being gay was illegal.  Despite a tremendous education, being highly regarded in his field, cracking the Enigma, being awarded the Order of the British Empire, and founding modern computer science, the British government prosecuted Turing for being gay.  He was left with the options of prison or chemical castration – to which he elected a third option and took his own life.  Imagine where computer science would be today had he fulfilled his potential.

Society evolves along with the rest of us and so do our understandings of what people should and shouldn’t be doing.  Consider this: The word kind is derived from the word kin, meaning children (or family more broadly).  Knowing that, perhaps as evolved as we might be, we might still have the pack instincts of being kind to our family, and being cautious of those who are not.  Where we’ve evolved though, is who we consider to be family.  Perhaps it began as a family, then a tribe, then a village, then a kingdom, and eventually an empire.  As we’ve progressed through those stages though, we’ve understood that kin isn’t necessarily determined by bloodlines, or location, it’s based on how we choose to identify ourselves.  As we learn that identity comes from within and isn’t a selection on a multiple choice test, the closer we come to understanding just what normal is.

The more honest we are with ourselves and the better we understand ourselves, the more we recognize that we’re all just a little different.  With that understanding, it’s much easier to expand the idea of family, to include our entire species.  If we’re looking at the entire species, there’s a lot of deviation from that human blueprint.  If deviation from the median is the norm, then different is normal.

Now for my favourite part.  Embracing different isn’t about gay pride parades or shaking up the dress code at work, it’s about doing what we’re best at.  Everyone’s wired in their own unique way and we’re just now entering into an era where exploring that identity isn’t just tolerated, it’s encouraged.  The more we explore our own identities, the better we’ll understand ourselves and the better we understand ourselves, the better we are at recognizing what our gift to the world is.  Everyone has their own unique potential and we must understand it before we can reach it.  The first step is understanding that there is no normal.