When I was twenty-eight, I decided to go back to college. I was working fulltime, so I took just one night class that first semester. My teacher, Ms. Daniels, was amazing. Not only had she returned to school later in life as well, but she encouraged me in my writing more than anyone else ever had.
Everything about that tiny, tough, eighty year-old adjunct professor just inspired me.
Four years later, I had another class with Ms. Daniels. By that time, I was fully addicted to medical weed. It was odd to experience Ms. Daniel’s class in such a different mental state the second time. I found I could still string together papers and do most of the work; but I always had the feeling I was letting down my favorite teacher.
The two classes with Ms. Daniels were like bookends marking a total transformation in my life. In four years, I’d gone from being a fired up twentysomething, excited to take on higher learning, to a tired thirty-two-year-old who snuck out of class most nights to go smoke weed in the parking lot.
I started to dread Ms. Daniel’s class. Seeing the effects of my plummet into addiction made it impossible not to imagine how I’d feel when I showed up high, unkempt, lethargic, angry…
I actually skipped a whole bunch of weeks leading up to the final exam, barely scraping by to pass.
How important is being able to imagine the consequences of your actions? Could being able to predict how you’ll feel ever empower you to make better choices?
When I was a teenager, all my friends and I were made to feel incredibly guilty for having any sexual inclinations at all. It wasn’t because of any specific set of influences or authority figures—that was just how things were where I happened to live at the time.
Masturbation was a shameful secret we could only talk about with our closest friends.
Because of the shame I felt, I tried many times to quit masturbating. I made plans, created diversions, downloaded strategies, fled privacy…
I actually managed to quit for about a year when I was fifteen. What eventually gave me the edge was not being able to help but imagine exactly how bad I’d feel afterwards if I were to give in to compulsion.
I’ve been calling addiction doing what you tell yourself not to. Well, at fifteen I’d been telling myself not to masturbate. I believed it was something to be ashamed of.
Here’s something I wrote (while high) in October, 2014 :
“Tonight I was on my way to a dispensary that closes at 10pm. It was about 9:40, and I realized I was 25c short of the $5 needed for a pre-roll joint.
“I dug around in my car, but only found a foreign coin that was roughly the same size.
“The coins really didn’t look the same up close.
“I stormed into the dispensary attempting to forcefully hold eye contact with the girl working the counter as I requested my joint.
“I handed her the $4 cash first, then the four coins (with the foreign coin in the middle).
“I was overjoyed when she told me it was Happy Hour and gave me two joints for the price of one.
“As soon as I had the joints in my hand, I bolted out, scrambled to my car, and zoomed away.
“I hope I didn’t get that girl in trouble. Probably not, since I’m sure they’re going through cash all the time. I doubt they tie each sale to a particular rep.
“Maybe next time I can leave a tip or something.
“Anyway, as soon as I’d sped off in my car, puffing away on the first of my two joints, I saw a 25c coin lying on the passenger seat. I would have had enough the whole time.
“So, I ended up with two joints tonight for a little less than the price of one. I just smoked one of them. Before tonight, I hadn’t had any weed for about a week.
“I wish I could imagine, once I’m not high, how awesome it would be if the joint I just smoked could be my last for a while. Then I could save this extra joint until the next time I actually decide to use. It could represent a new beginning, when I’d emerge from addiction in total control of my weed use.
“I could smoke this extra joint right now or tomorrow, and feel nothing.
“Or, I could wait until I next decide to use, and it would be magical.
“If I could just imagine how I’d feel…
“Remember how much you want what you want. That’s really all you’ve ever had to do.
“Learn to remember exactly how you feel when you lose control to your compulsions.
“Learn to imagine how you’ll feel when you don’t.
“That’s actually what I’ve been learning to do all along.”
Has being able to imagine consequences ever helped you keep to a decision?
Tomorrow: using your addiction to bring yourself to your own next phase.