When I was thirty-two, I had a few story ideas that seemed too good to just keep sitting on. I knew I had to start.
So, this became my nightly routine:
I’d down a massive mug of coffee at about 9pm, and then open up a document and start throwing ideas around.
Even with hard trance music blaring, I’d often find myself fading or drifting off before long.
Sometimes I’d get all antsy and distracted.
I had this folder on my desktop with about thirty guided audio breathing exercises that were meant to help me relax and focus.
But I never used any of them.
Instead, I’d load up on sugar or alcohol.
Every night, the stretch from about 11 until 1 became a downward, fading haze of inactivity and confusion.
After shutting down my computer, I’d cycle through the same YouTube videos over and over on my phone until I crashed out at about 3.
Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, sleep deprivation, and all my other tricks were certainly not mature ways to maximize my writing time; but weed addiction hindered my progress more than any of those other things.
I barely made it through a night without getting high, which meant I was almost always aware of unreached potential in terms of my art form.
My wife wakes up when it’s still dark to run. Her philosophy is to finish whatever needs doing before she relaxes or has fun.
I can put things off forever. I’ll watch TV with dirty dishes in the sink, telling myself I’ll get to them before bed (which can easily stretch to the next morning).
I should only have to glance at how successful my wife has been to see the flaws in my philosophy of putting off what’s difficult.
As I began to go public with my experience, it took a long time for the value of work before play to weave itself in amongst all my other convictions about addiction and life.
Here’s what I wrote (while high) when I first had that realization:
“Do what’s important first, before what’s fun.
“Am I talking about when I get high, or in life?
A few days later, I wrote this (again, high):
“Come here to be a kid; but run your life like an adult.”
I wrote this about a week later (high):
“You can’t enjoy fun while putting off what’s important.
“I always feel like I still have so far to go to catch up to myself.
“I can’t fully enjoy weed because I’m using way more often than I feel comfortable with. I see it keeping me from what I value.
“You do something more and more because of what it does for you; then it depletes you, and you don’t benefit from it the same way anymore.
“That’s sort of like a built-in mechanism with addictions.
“An obvious sign of immaturity is not being able to handle it when you don’t get something you want right away.
“Just watch little kids at grocery stores.
“Maturity means knowing why you should wait for the right time to enjoy something.”
The next day, I wrote this (high again):
“How can I navigate the cliff face of addiction and use weed more responsibly?
“I’m nervous I’ll get swept back so far behind myself, and be left so depleted, that I’ll never be able to catch up.
“Maybe all these lofty high thoughts are really just weed’s dumb way of fooling me.
“Maybe I’m really already totally crazy and too far gone.
“But the peace of seeing my experience and ideas connect and be illuminated by others’ quells that anxiety.
“Anxiety is a frantic grasping for control in moments when control feels impossible.
“Peace comes gradually as I see connection after connection, realizing in time I really don’t need to worry about control.
“Underneath the surface, change is already happening. Seeing that is enough.
“Anxiety comes from feeling flapped about by uncertain forces, yet life’s pendulums always continue to swing.
“Can we navigate the cliff face, even after climbing back up from addiction?
“Anxiety would have me leap to construct plans like perfect little fences at precise distances from the edge.
What more can I say?
This story is just an outline of my heart.
I’d love to hear or see your heart. I’m sure I’m not the only one that would.
How will you feel if you keep giving in to addictions instead of doing what you know you should?
Tomorrow: a more holistic look at life beyond just sets of goals and hindrances.
P.S. I still write at night, though now without the aid of so much chemical stimulation.
P.P.S. Since first writing this story (and the P.S. just above), I’ve switched to writing early in the morning. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is doing what’s important well, and being able to enjoy what’s fun.