Now a Legitimate Responsibility

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In recent decades, marijuana has been prescribed for medicinal purposes in state after state here in the U.S.

Recreational use has now been made legal in several states, and I see no reason for this trend not to continue.

I’m not really writing to comment on state (or federal) marijuana laws, just to say it seems as though weed is generally gaining legitimacy in society, overall.

Weed seems to be something we’re ready to believe we can trust ourselves with.

So, regardless of the real consequences of improper or immature use, I don’t think it’s helpful or consistent (honest) these days to simply label weed as bad and destructive—an evil to flee from at all costs lest we be hopelessly corrupted. Such a view seems too simplistic (ignorant) now when weighed against our current collective conscience.

Writing off weed because of its potential for abuse might be about as selective and shortsighted as suggesting we offer absolutely everyone a free-for-all in light of its benefits.

But the problem with all delicate balances hinging on evolving degrees of personal and societal responsibility is that they’re nowhere near as neat and easy to spin as either bud pics with devil horns or montages showing happy respectable stoners sharing specific knowing looks.

Real stories of uncertain direction and mixed ideals can, however, make up for their lack of sex appeal with a capacity to cross divisive lines and “unspin” quick interpretations, uniting diverse hearers and storytellers alike around common experiences shared.

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So to depart from talk of narrow sound-bite figments of opinion, and to hopefully connect across the board via honest sharing and illustration, let me quickly blast through my own relationship with weed thus far.

In short, the balance of responsibility that we as a society seem ready to accept is the same balance I’ve been searching for ever since I first started getting high as a teen.

When I was 17, this scruffy friend and I each paid way too much for half a massive bag of ditch weed. Neither of us had ever tried weed before, mind you; we just wanted to be cool.

My friend decided right away he hated being high, so he gave me almost all of his remaining stash.

I mostly enjoyed my weed experiences back in those early days, though sometimes it could get a bit scary or overwhelming.

The first night I ever smoked, I remember feeling this all-encompassing rhythmic pulse that surged throughout my body; it seemed to encapsulate everything I saw, felt, and heard . . . even down to my very thoughts . . . somehow locking it all together beautifully in time. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and let whatever was happening occur.

Before long, I discovered weed could help with creativity. I’d often smoke and play guitar, and it wasn’t like being high gave me superhuman abilities to bust out lightning solos or anything; it more just helped me appreciate the simple rough-and-tumble patterns and riffs I’d always fall back to and roll around when not paying much attention. Weed seemed to help me develop a sense for “where to go next” in music.

It also helped me better understand my own thoughts and motivations. Maybe in the same way it enhances food, entertainment, and other experiences, I felt like it enhanced my thoughts by slowing them right down to where it was like I could literally see in-between and realize, “Oh, thaaaaaaaaat’s why I think that. It makes sense now.”

I always kept a tape deck and pad of paper with me when I smoked.

In my 20’s, I grew somewhat wishy-washy in life, bouncing between all extremes.

I remember smoking a lot with friends at the time, having the most fun, silly, profound conversations.

I was also quite fond of burning through buds alone in my room late at night with the lights off and windows open. I lived right in the middle of a big city at the time, so I’d be puffing away and just listening to all the people walking by outside on their way out or back from town.

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But then I’d get a new job, or new girlfriend, or my religious friends would bring me to church, and I’d completely flip the other way, quitting weed and throwing out all my paraphernalia.

I hit my 30’s with a pretty clear sense of who I was and what I wanted in life. I’d decided I was going to be a writer, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d simply taken too long to make up my mind and start.

I just remember this horrible, mounting anxiety as I stared at blank pages on screens way past midnight every night (for months on end). Nothing I tried to come up with seemed worthwhile enough to really sink into and carry.

And time kept going by, as it does, so I got more and more anxious and down on myself for not making progress toward my goals.

Then a friend happened to bring up medical marijuana in conversation, and that was a true light-bulb moment: when the idea of legal weed as a real possibility hit me for the first time.

The benefits I’d always loved weed for, like creativity and personal insight, felt like the exact attributes I was missing.

So, I booked an appointment and got my prescription.

Right away, I found relief from the crippling anxiety. I’d arrive home from school late each night and sneak tokes in the downstairs bathroom. Right from its onset, the high would dissolve my gritty edge, and I’d fall in love with whatever I ended up doing next: music, TV, food…

Of course, then I started to enjoy that sense of deep release and happy enhancement a little too much. I started also smoking out of old, dented cans in my car on my lunch break at work.

Then I added a third session in the morning, after dropping my kid off at school.

It didn’t take long before I was using all day most days.

Now, I started to see right away that being high all the time was having some pretty major consequences. Three of the biggies were:

  1. All my money was literally going up in smoke, even precious savings for future dreams.
  2. I ended up isolating myself from most friends—basically anyone I wasn’t comfortable being high around.
  3. Being high didn’t change the way I felt about myself for not reaching my potential.

Plus now I couldn’t stop. I mean, I can’t tell you how many perfect plans to keep myself from using I must have found, bought, or constructed in those first few years of addiction.

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And whenever I was actually high, I’d feel so convicted and motivated to follow through on all my big plans to change and gain control.

But then the high would drift away, and I’d go all fuzzy and dull again until finally I’d watch myself skitter and sleepwalk my way back to weed (as fast as I possibly could).

Seeing myself fail over and over to limit how much I was using took my already fragile self-esteem and gnashed it against the reality of a life passing by so fast, I felt, with so little yet to show for it.

But here’s where we get back to talk of that very real and delicate balance—where values and consequences are weighed as ruthlessly and objectively as possible against one another.

For even though using weed addictively was holding me back in obvious ways, I did still also experience those same benefits I’d always enjoyed.

As for creativity, I went from being a wannabe writer trapped in constant failure-to-launch to packing drives with documents filled with ideas for stories and content enough to last myself for years.

But being high all the time meant I couldn’t flesh out those ideas the way I knew I needed to. Weed fantastically enhanced my idea-generation process, but it greatly hindered my ability to consciously focus on actually writing.

So that become another major motivation for me to control how much I was using.

Regarding personal insight: Through the months and years spent experiencing and recording those deeper “in-between” high thoughts, I started to see the same intuitions and convictions repeating, looping, and expanding out to later tie back together in increasingly obvious and diverse ways.

I was essentially engaged in an ongoing conversation with my own high self . . . and we got to know each other pretty well.

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I felt like weed enabled me to apply my mind back to itself in a way, so that no thoughts or perceptions ended up being “wasted” after all.

Instead of just feeling anxious for not reaching my potential, or wishing I could save money instead of watching myself blow it all on weed, I was gaining an inescapable, comprehensive, and holistic view of all my deepest core values, and of how every action would either contribute to or keep me from becoming the person I couldn’t help seeing was who I’d truly always wanted to be.  

Considering those things I felt weed was genuinely helping me with, I had reasons to not stop using completely, just as I had reasons to not keep losing control and using addictively.

If it could be possible to get high non-compulsively—to not use more than I thought I should (but still without having to quit altogether)—then that was my goal.

And for four years, I put that goal to the test. I learned to face my relationship with weed for exactly what it was in order to make the experience as good and helpful as it could possibly be.

And since society now seems ready to trust itself with that same responsibility for balanced use, I say we stand together and hold ourselves accountable to live up to that ideal—to not use addictively, but to make the experience as positive and beneficial as it can be.

The reason I’m writing this call for collective, open accountability is that what really changed everything for me was making my story public.

Again, just from using weed over time and capturing my high thoughts and experience, I was already gaining personal insight about why my values were worth facing my addictions and limitations for. But it was putting that experience together to share that made it impossible for me to go on avoiding or ignoring the next steps toward what I’d been hearing and seeing myself say I’d wanted all along.

Even though I watched myself enter those addiction years failing plan after plan to control myself, publicly facing my relationship with weed did eventually change me. I watched myself naturally start to make progress toward all sorts of goals, using weed less and less. Addiction began to steadily lose more and more ground in my life.

Just the power of publicly searching for ways to use weed only when I thought I should expanded my perspective, which in turn changed my behavior.

And since my journey had been public, those changes were far more irreversible.

In short, going public with my weed experience ended up making that experience everything I’d always hoped it could be.

But beyond just with weed, going public forces you to see and reckon with your current state for exactly what it is. You can’t keep hiding indefinitely from addictions, excuses, compulsions, and the lies you’ve learned to tell yourself without even realizing.

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Going public with any transformation you hope to make (or anything you do, really) gives you an extroverted view of your life. You find specific motivation to grow and take steps toward being the person you keep seeing and hearing yourself saying you want to be.

I believe it’s possible to face, control, and return from addictions—to find balance even after having lived as an addict, and after having failed to quit however many times. I believe you can live in control again, instead of being forced to claim helplessness and then run forever from whatever’s overtaken you.

By sharing my story, I was able to reach that delicate, balanced state of being in control without having to rely at all on abstinence or willpower.

An old and true cliché: If I can do it, anyone can!

For the first time in decades or centuries, you and I are being trusted to use weed rightly and respectfully.

So in this world where weed now presses on the verges of legitimacy, where the joy and help we’ve found collide so neatly and plainly with all potential for abuse, I believe we can stand together and honor the best in ourselves and in this beautiful plant we love.

Instead of running, hiding, or attempting to spin over the difficult and often uncertain balance involved in taking such responsibility, let’s step into it openly together. Let’s all share our unique stories and evolving perspectives so we can watch ourselves become more and more the people we want to be; and let’s never stop helping each other move forward toward that end.

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I’ve called the story of my four-year journey Facing Addiction. Most of the links in this article are to chapters in Facing Addiction where I share more on each given topic. You can read Facing Addiction from the beginning (for free) here:

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I’d love to hear your story!

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