The Cannabis Closet: Addiction

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A reader writes:

The reader who wrote "Oh please" in response to another's concerns about marijuana addiction needs to get a clue. I spent a couple of very real, very sad years hung up on weed. My life revolved around it: I woke up, and getting high was the first thing I thought about. I went to work and was desperate to get home to smoke; then I started getting high before work, occasionally. (Before that job, I waited tables and smoked on the job with my coworkers in the employee bathroom; those days too, I was usually desperate to get home to get high -- before I'd remember that I already was.)

On my days off, instead of going out and doing things, I'd plop myself in front of the TV with a bowl, and frequently devour a couple thousand calories of junk food in well under an hour. Needless to say, I wasn't exercising anywhere near enough to offset that.

My girlfriend had made it clear from early in our relationship that she didn't want to be married to a stoner, so I told her I only smoked once in a while and then planned our time together so that I'd have plenty of time to hit the pipe at home and sober up again before we went out. Of course it would have been easier just to not smoke, but that simply wasn't an option -- I'd throw away my stash, last a few days, and then call my dealer up. While I waited for him, I'd sneak into my roommates' room and steal some of their weed. I felt awful -- until I took the first hit, after which my guilt would melt away.

No, it wasn't horribly debilitating in the sense that meth or cocaine or alcohol can be. And when I finally stopped smoking and got some help, there were no awful withdrawal effects beyond a couple weeks of not knowing what to do with myself and confronting a lot of difficult emotions. It turned out I was depressed, of course, and the pot was an easy way to avoid dealing with it. Things worked out fine for me, and could have been much worse, but I still wouldn't wish the feelings of helplessness I had on anyone. I remember so vividly telling myself over and over I shouldn't smoke because I had important things to do, and at the same time knowing I was going to crumble eventually. It just brought me lower.

Despite all of this, I'm very much for legalization, because I think the arguments for it make sense and because I think it'll help dispel the myth that weed isn't addictive. ("Not physical" shmysical -- if you find yourself up at 3 a.m. desperately scraping resin out of your bowl for the second time in a week, you have an addiction.) Too many people's attitudes are like the reader's, whereas they'd never so offhandedly dismiss the pain of someone admitting to a drinking problem. That's troubling, because I suspect there are more people going through what I did than most of us would guess.

Another writes:

I believe that marijuana should absolutely be legalized. But it has been really psychologically damaging to me. I'm a senior in high school and for the last two years I have been smoking pot pretty regularly with my friends and at parties. It was fun at the beginning of my junior year as my friends and I took our first few tokes. Then, over the course of the year, for reasons unrelated to marijuana, I became depressed and anxious.

One of my regular self-abuse mechanisms was to look in the mirror and find all the asymmetry in my face and think about how I was actually the ugliest person in the world. As this depression and anxiety developed within me, the fun of smoking pot declined. I would leave my friends, go stand in front of the mirror, and find new asymmetry and faults in my face and hate myself even more. I would spiral into my own thoughts and find thousands of reasons as to why I would never be happy.

I continued smoking pot until about three days ago. Even when I've made progress on my own issues, marijuana always brings me back down and allows me only to see bad things about myself. Why would I ever want to smoke again?

Another:

I am a 22 year old recent college graduate. After smoking marijuana nearly every day for about 3-4 years, I am currently trying to quit the leafy green plant, or at least go on a break of a few months. For at least the past couple months, every time I smoked I became intensely depressed. But I kept the habit up anyway, because it's the only thing I know.

I've been adjusting to this new 9-5 grind, and part of that adjustment had been coming home (to the parent's home, while I save money) and lighting up. But, as a formerly creative person, I'd found I had also been unable to create, though I'm realizing now, this isn't really the sole fault of pot. However, for a variety of reasons I am trying to give up this substance which had brought me much happiness for a few years, before I am hopelessly beholden to it.

Another:

While I agree that marijuana should be legalized, especially for medical purposes, I don't think it's completely harmless.  During a period in my life after college but before finding a job, I smoked multiple times a week.  I was getting high to escape feelings of uncertainty about my future.  It worked: while I was high, I did not feel these uncomfortable emotions.  Because of this, I was not motivated to do anything to prepare for my future.

Fortunately, I finally realized that I was in a bad downward spiral; smoking pot was getting in the way of living a full and productive life.  I cut back on smoking, but I never stopped completely.  As I got my life on track, I came to realize that in moderation, I could enjoy pot but still be in charge of my life.

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