When struggling with the decision of whether to put a substance into your body or not, there are key questions to ask yourself: is this substance going to promote me or demote me? Is it going to build me up or bring me down? Why do I choose to bring marijuana into my life, especially if it hurts my body or it clouds my mind?
When a substance becomes problematic, examining its role in your life becomes even more important. Is it causing you to lose your connection to yourself, to others, and to the things that are important to you? Is it holding you back from your purpose, your dreams, and the life you were meant to lead? Is it causing problems with your relationships, your professional life, and/or your health?
The Appeal of Marijuana
As I look back at my first experiences with marijuana, which began when I was 13, I see that it served me in a couple of ways. It calmed my hyperactive mind. It helped me push difficult emotions aside. Sometimes, it alleviated my anxiety and anger and allowed me to feel more playful. It felt like it got me out of my head and allowed me to enjoy life and just ‘be’.
Simply put, smoking marijuana gave me a feeling of relief and the ability to escape uncomfortable thoughts and emotions.
Early on in my relationship with pot, I began to build a story around it. I told myself, “I need this. This will help me. This is good for me. This is soothing to me. Why would I ever give this up?”
Like with any new relationship, its intoxicating effect made me feel as though I had found a solution. Marijuana essentially became something I needed in my life to do almost anything. I didn’t think of it as a need, however, just something that augmented and enhanced my experiences. If you encountered me when I had run out of it I was a more irritable, annoyed (and annoying) person, but I didn’t think of it as something I had to have or I couldn’t function. I didn’t see it as an addiction.
As time went on, I realized most of the people I spent time with also smoked pot. It had become threaded throughout my entire existence. So, I decided I would stop smoking pot for 30 days to clean out my mind and body.
The Decision to Stop Smoking Pot
After a couple of days of a lot of irritability and impatience, I started to feel better. I had more energy and began working out again. After 10 days, I thought to myself ‘wow, this is incredible! I’m going to make it 30 days!’ 20 days into my marijuana cleanse experiment, I was feeling great and full of confidence that 30 days pot-free would be a cakewalk.
I made it 22 days.
On day 22, I woke up feeling great. I told myself that 8 more days with no marijuana was going to be no problem at all. It felt obvious to me that 30 days with no pot was not going to be difficult. It was as if I had made it already, right?
By 11:00am that morning was smoking marijuana, and by that afternoon I thought, ‘Oh, right. This is why I wanted to stop. I had no energy, no motivation, and I had let myself down.
This is known as “addictive thinking”. Behind my flawed logic was a craving, likely triggered by an uncomfortable situation, memory, or experience, which then translated into the thought ‘it’s okay to smoke, I could make 30 days, no problem’, which ultimately pushed me into an action: using marijuana.
It’s a cycle: trigger, craving, thought, action.
The moment I thought “I can make it, no problem”, I was doomed.
Eventually, I went to treatment, where I had the key realization that my life to this point had been about avoiding feelings. All my actions revolved around trying to recreate some form of perceived pleasure I had in the past or trying to avoid emotional pain in the present moment. The anxiety I felt was the anticipation of perceived future pain.
I was anxious about the future and obsessed with the past, but I had no sense of the present. I was smoking pot all those years, avoiding all those feelings, never learning how to go through a difficult feeling but rather putting it aside, just like brushing something under a rug and expecting it to be gone.
Early Recovery from Using Cannabis
When I stopped using pot or any other mind-altering substances, when I started to live life as a sober person free of drugs and alcohol, guess what was waiting for me?
All my core issues, all those emotions I had stuffed and pushed aside all those years, were all still there waiting for me.
I had never learned or evolved through life’s challenges because I had only pushed them aside by using alcohol and drugs. My ‘solution’ hadn’t worked. It was like putting a band-aid over a bullet hole; the numbness of drugs and alcohol temporarily removed emotional pain, but I hadn’t ‘fixed’ anything at all.
This was a big eye-opener for me. Marijuana had not healed me at all, ever.
The moment I accepted this truth, I entered a world where a new kind of freedom, a new kind of healing, was possible for me.
It’s hard to understand, on your own, that the discomfort of the early days after you cease using any substance, including marijuana, is the first step of an incredible journey into self, into peace, and into freedom. In the first days, weeks, and sometimes months, the feelings that were numbed through substances come to the surface.
It is nearly impossible to get sober – meaning cease the use of a substance – on your own. But recovery is more than stopping something – recovery is the reward for getting sober. Recovery is where you blossom into your true, authentic self.
In the early days of recovery from marijuana use, it’s essential to be gentle with yourself. Be proud of this incredible step you’re taking to learn, grow, evolve, and live a healthier life. Now is not the time to beat yourself up about the past, or project into the unknown future.
Be kind to yourself and surround yourself with supportive, compassionate people.
Get Involved in a Community of People in Recovery
It is essential to become part of a community of people who understand what you are going through and have walked the path before you. Find others who have had a deep experience with marijuana and have made the life-affirming decision to move beyond it, live in the present, and who have chosen to be free from its grasp.
Community moves you out of isolation and into the understanding embrace of others thriving in life without marijuana, or any other substance. For me, this began with residential treatment and continued with a 12-step community where I found love, support, connection, and understanding.
Beyond the 12-step community, there are many other groups that can help. The key is to surround yourself with others who understand what you are experiencing, who are living a meaningful life beyond substances, and who can offer their own experience, strength, and hope as a guide.
Treatment for Marijuana Use
In many cases, marijuana so deeply takes over a person’s life that they need more support and some time away to heal and remove themselves from the people who have been using with them. Making this adjustment in a new, healthy environment is very helpful. Treatment can be inpatient or outpatient, depending on your needs. The most important thing is to put yourself in a healthy, supportive environment while you take time to heal.
There is a misconception in our society – especially since the legalization of marijuana in many states – that “it’s just pot”. Marijuana users often have the misconception that treatment is for those who are addicted to alcohol or hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, and Oxycontin.
My response to this is that the most dangerous and insidious thing about pot is it doesn’t kill you right away. You could live your entire life actively using marijuana and never realize it is keeping you from the life you were born to live because things didn’t implode as they so often do with alcohol or other drugs.
The notion that marijuana is somehow less dangerous to your health and well-being is completely incorrect. Marijuana use leads to many mental and physical problems, including marijuana psychosis, which is increasingly common and can last for months – or even permanently alter your brain. Even if you don’t reach this more extreme circumstance, it dulls your senses, alters your reality, and leads to impulsive and dangerous behaviors. Not to mention what it does to the lungs of those who smoke it.
Life Beyond Cannabis
Once your body and mind have healed a bit and the cravings have subsided, it’s vital to replace the maladaptive use of pot as a ‘coping’ mechanism with healthy, life-affirming habits and patterns. Stopping the use of marijuana, with the use of treatment or not, is only the very beginning of a path that leads to wellness, expansion of consciousness, wellness, and freedom.
You need support as you process your mental twists around marijuana use and heal unprocessed emotional residue and/or trauma from your past.
There are many methods to explore, including individual or group therapy, 12-step communities, addiction support groups, and surrounding yourself with others pursuing an authentic life of discovery and recovery.
If you try to recover on your own, you are almost certain to fail. Because addiction worms its way into every aspect of our lives, we must fill that space with people and experiences that lift us up, not bring us down or help us numb.
And guess what? You get to learn so much about addition, about your life, and who you are meant to be. You’ll uncover some of the reasons why you were using pot as an avoidance mechanism, and can heal from old wounds that kept you stuck.
The day will come when you realize that you haven’t had a single thought about using marijuana. You will realize the craving – the yearning – has been completely removed from your mind, body, and spirit.
Once you have the courage to ask yourself that first key question – is marijuana truly serving me in healthy ways? – you can explore your relationship with pot, or any other substance, and make the life-changing decision to find your way back to yourself.
ABOUT TOMMY ROSEN
Tommy is an internationally renowned yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert with over 30 years of continuous recovery from addiction who has spent the last 3 decades immersed in recovery and wellness.
Tommy leads yoga and recovery retreats and workshops internationally spreading the message of “Don’t just survive, THRIVE”. He is also the Creator and Host of the popular ‘In The Circle with Tommy Rosen’ podcast.