People Talk About the Experience That Made Them Stop Smoking Weed
(Top photo: Flickr user daddyboskeasy, via)
Smoking weed is a lot of fun, until it’s not. You might have grown up getting high and watched as all your friends slowly put down the papers, or you may well be the person out of your social group who first decided that weed wasn’t for you – whether that was because it started to make you feel weird every time you smoked it, or just because you were done with the rigmarole of waiting three hours to pick up some sub-par skunk.
Everyone has their own reasons when it comes to leaving weed behind, so for Weed Week we asked a load of people about the experience that made them want to stop getting high.
Will Smoking Weed Affect My Anxiety?
I first started smoking weed when I was around 12, and by age 15 I was getting stoned pretty much all day, every day, until one night in my room when I started to develop what I now understand to be psychosis. I could hear people calling for me in my house and would run downstairs to see what was going on, only to see there was no one home. I would hear heavy rainfall on my window, only to look outside and find a still, dry night. It started happening like clockwork: every time I started smoking I would have the same hallucinations. I knew pretty much instantly it was from the weed, but it took a long time to wean myself off it, both because I loved it so much and because it was all my social circle were interested in doing.
I stopped smoking fully until my mid-twenties, when I realised I could get stoned now and again without any of those hallucinations coming back, but now I’ve pretty much cut it out again because once I start I can’t control myself with it. I’m a stoner at heart, so getting “a bit” stoned “now and again” just doesn’t do it for me.
I started smoking weed when I was 12, cobbling together £5 in change between four of us and changing it up at the shop for a note to buy a jax with. I gradually got more and more into it as I went through my teens, which was loads of fun at the time. Then, when I was about 22, 23, I started feeling like weed was making me really anxious for about the first hour or so after smoking. I realised after a while that I was spending crazy money on smoking spliffs for a high that I hoped would wear off as quickly as possible.
Still, I carried on smoking for about another two years because it was a central part of my routine, and the addled love a routine. I eventually quit in January of 2015 after a particularly anxious episode where I was convinced I was gonna have a heart attack. I don’t want to sound high and mighty: I’d still smoke weed daily if I enjoyed it as much as I used to, but something changed in my brain, I guess, and now I’m better off without.
WATCH: High Society – The UK’s Drone-Operating Weed Thieves, Granny Growers and Pot-Friendly Politicians
I started smoking weed because of a stoner ex-boyfriend: I would only really smoke it when we were together, but then he dumped me and I just started smoking on my own all the time. After about three or four months I started to get really paranoid: I was super vigilant about everything and would get delusions. I’m still not sure if it was just the fallout of being dumped and the anxiety and depression that came with that which caused the paranoia, or the weed, but I stopped. I miss getting high, and I’ve been thinking about trying it out again because I read a lot about how much it helps anxiety. But then in turn I’m anxious about the paranoia coming back, and having to accept that maybe it just isn’t for me.
I never used to smoke weed as much as most people my age; for me it was more of a “once a fortnight” thing to take the edge off of hangovers and comedowns. In 2012 I visited Amsterdam with some seasoned stoners, and on the first day we all went to a cafe and decided to go in on some “vaporised isolate”, which you inhale from a bag. Sadly, I completely lost it. Like full on lost the plot: lost track of where I was, what was happening, didn’t recognise anything around me. To this day, the only way I can describe what happened to me in words is that I got locked inside my own mind. It was like I was thrown all of the world’s most challenging philosophical conundrums to deal with all at once, and I couldn’t even word to my friend what was happening as he walked me around the area to calm me down.
I still look back on that holiday and get little flashbacks once every six months or so, which leave me feeling very confused and anxious for about an hour. It’s really odd, because I never suffered from anxiety, but for about an hour every six months I relive the experience – although it’s becoming less frequent now. I properly decided to build on life after that, though, and I can honestly say it’s helped turn my life into an amazing experience. In a way, I appreciate that it happened.
LINK TO REALITY
I smoked weed every day for a few years from the age of 18 onwards. Blazing opened up to me a whole new social stratum of mates – people who chose to live life on their terms a bit more. Its mind-expanding, introspective properties undeniably contributed to some vitally important existential realisations and helped me to figure out my frantic brain and learn about myself a fair bit.
After suffering from drug-induced psychosis triggered mostly by a heavy diet of psychedelics at 23, I had to rethink my attitude towards all mind-altering substances, and there were times during my recovery that I would have a toke and feel my brain turning towards overly meta realms divorced from the cushiony comfortable reality weed use to give me before. Four years on, my roots to reality are more solid, but I’m still cautious with how much I smoke, because I’ve felt first-hand in my brain that unsettling link between getting high and losing touch with everything tangible and real.
I’ve been smoking since I was about 13, but mostly in a social capacity and rarely on my own. It would be in between classes at college, before and after parties or the club, and always scraping that last zoot out the grinder kind of flex. About two or three years ago I was at a festival out in the South West – I’d planned to have a fairly chilled one and just drink most of the weekend, but I had a bad stomach for some reason and I could barely drink an alcoholic beverage without being doubled over and burping constantly.
Luckily I had a nice 20 bag, but by the end of the weekend I was sick of it. I was sitting there with a big spliff in my mouth and a metallic taste on my tongue, just thinking, What is this? I don’t even enjoy it any more.’ I finished the spliff and that was it: I just decided I was done. Since then I’ve had the odd toke and it just sends my head spinning. I’m getting old, clearly. I thought I’d be smoking for life, but clearly not. Maybe edibles is the way? British Bake Off, come at me.
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I want to smoke weed again
I can’t believe it — I passed the 90-day mark. 90 days without smoking weed, after 20-plus years of smoking every day. I’m finally free. I say free because now I’m out of the golden cage.
I definitely loved the whole experience of getting high — breaking up the buds, the lift-off as it goes into your lungs, the cotton mouth and the light-headed feeling as you float on a cloud unbothered by anything in the world. Once you’re in the cloud you don’t have problems, you just lay back and relax. Some of us need that, especially as Black people living in a world of stress and anxiety that daily debases and devalues us. I fully respect the desire to smoke in order to keep on keepin’ on. But some of us — me, definitely — take it too far, allowing it to become too big a part of our lives, the discovering that we can’t stop. There were times I knew I should quit, or at least cut back and smoke less often. Instead of helping me recover from the world, smoking weed became one of my biggest problems. Yet I felt powerless, as it shaped too many of my choices.
I declined parties because I’d rather stay home alone, smoke and zone out. I saw any hole in my day as a chance to smoke. I saw any emotion as a reason to smoke. If I was happy, I smoked to make me happier. If I was upset, I smoked to alleviate the pain. I say “I,” but what I really mean is “The Voice.” The Voice was the sound of the addiction, editing every plan I made by saying, “First, let’s smoke.” To The Voice, everything was a reason to smoke: if I had to write, it said let’s smoke to be more creative. If I had to do the dishes, it said let’s smoke to make the task less boring. The Voice knew how to justify anything. It was insidious, smart, chameleonic and in control, because the reward it was offering, the joy of being high, was so delicious.
By comparison, The Other Voice — call it the voice of maturity, or the voice of resistance — was quiet, feebly mustering up logic by saying, “You smoke too much, you’d write faster if your mind was clearer.” But that voice was drowned out by the bacchanalian, bully dictator whose prompt to every moment was “First, let’s smoke.” The Voice knew just what buttons to push, and it was selling a killer experience. My addiction had a lobbyist inside my mind, who was constantly pushing me to smoke more, buy more, and ignore the voice that was saying I was hooked.
Make no mistake: I was addicted. I couldn’t stop. I tried several times. I went to Marijuana Anonymous meetings, I tried to institute rules for myself. But after the kids left for school, or went to bed, The Voice said, “Let’s go,” and off I went to the window with my tin to get high. Several people might now be saying, “But you can’t get addicted to weed” and produce some scientific “fact” that “proves” this. Well, I’m here to tell you that I was compelled to smoke even when I recognized it wasn’t that much fun anymore, and knew I would be better off without it. It was so deeply ingrained in me that I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t say no. I have no problem not drinking alcohol or stopping myself from having more than two drinks, that’s my limit, but weed was beyond my ability to grapple with. I was in it’s grip.
Then one day, three months ago, I said, “I feel like I’m kind of a spectator in my life. I’m spending too much time floating above myself in the weed cloud, while avoiding emotions, decisions, and reality. It’s time to do better. and participate more fully in my life.” In my umpteenth effort to quit, I wasn’t simply removing something — I was embracing sobriety, I wanted to move to a new tribe. I felt like I’d stayed too long at the party, and that now, in this chapter of my life, being sober would be more interesting.
The clarity of mind that came from not smoking was more calming than being in the cloud. Getting off the roller coaster — going up and down, into the high and then washing out — seemed more relaxing. I would deal with my stress and anxiety without running away. Suddenly I had a strong feeling that I was improving myself. I could be a better writer, dad, husband, and athlete (serious tennis player) if I just didn’t smoke. When I was armed with a desire to be clear, The Voice grew weaker, and the Other Voice stronger. When I was stoned or craving the high, I was weakened and The Voice could defeat my maturity and resistance quite easily. But once I had a week away from weed and my mind was calm, the Other Voice stepped up with a logic that silenced the desires to overindulge. The Voice was now unmasked as a frat boy leading me astray, while the voice of resistance and maturity was the adult leading me to the more refined pleasure of inner peace.
I am not saying everyone should quit. Most people can integrate weed into their life and aren’t controlled by it. Good for them. I also am definitely in favor of legalization, because people shouldn’t be criminalized for what they put in their bodies. Weed is not inherently bad. But for those who suspect or know that they’re relying on it too much, know that you’re not alone. I don’t know who exactly needs to hear this but you know if it’s you. You don’t need to smoke to deal with life. Things could be better without it. You could be happier without it. You have the power to quit. I know because I did it. There are Marijuana Anonymous meetings that might help you. They didn’t help me, but you can’t quit until you are ready. And if you can find a strong reason outside of yourself, that makes it easier. If you can avoid not only weed, but also the friends who you get high with — that too can help. Or tell those friends hours before you get together, before The Voice kicks in, that you’re trying to quit. Real friends will respect the request, and not make your effort harder. Recognize that The Voice goading you on, and that this voice isn’t you — it’s the addiction trying to stay alive. You can take control of you and be happier. Weed is not the source of your happiness. You are.
I am still tempted. I can still hear The Voice saying, “Hey, let’s smoke!” But now I have the strength to swat it away. Over the first 30 days I had to be more conscious about shutting down The Voice, but now it’s becoming easier. I expect to have this internal battle going on inside me forever, but where it was once a massive conflict I was losing, now it’s more of a skirmish with a weakened enemy that I am winning. I’m still taking it day by day though.After a lifetime of listening to the "Let's Get High!" voice, Toure writes that it is possible to move on. ]]>