Thank you for reading Facing Addiction.
Though I’ve shared my real experience, this story isn’t about me. It’s about the forces that influence all of us: addictions, limitations, values, self-deception, perspective, fear, desire, accountability…
If my example has gotten in the way at all, please disregard it.
Personal stories can make ideas more interesting and easier to understand.
But what matters is what’s true: the experience of your life.
For these last six chapters, I’ll be sharing everything I still had to learn about life and addiction as I literally left my addicted state and discovered a new life of freedom and balance.
I wrote this in November, 2014 (while high):
“A few years ago, the thought came: ‘Straight loser . . . I can only forget.’
“Basically, constant addictive weed use had left my mind so fuzzy that I couldn’t really remember or focus on much of anything.
“I see how far I’ve come since then, and I know I’ll never go back.
“But I still sneak off to go smoke weed in dirty, unsafe places.
“I still smoke through pipes made from trash.
“I’m still broke and estranged from loved ones.
“I still can’t enjoy fun things the same way.
“I still feel as though I’m straggling somewhere far behind where I could be.”
The next day, I came across some thoughts I’d recorded a few months before even being prescribed medical weed. I was shocked to see how so many of the ideas in this story would have resonated with those forgotten, pre-weed thoughts.
Here are some examples of those lost thoughts, recorded in 2010:
- Why can’t I do what I know I need to do? (5/18/10)
- How can my self-image change so I succeed instead of continuing to fail (since I’ve only failed so far)? (5/27/10)
- Thinking only aggravates the problem, like picking at a wound. (5/27/10)
- I keep failing to change because I keep trying to force myself. I’m both arrogant and insecure. I grasp at chaos with a broken soul and wrestle it to death (mine). An endless and intimidating search for just what to do keeps me paralyzed. (6/4/10)
- I can’t create my destiny or figure out the truth alone, in only my own mind. (6/22/10)
- To-Do lists would be better than schedules. Journals are good for capturing thoughts and feelings as they develop so I can see my life more objectively. (10/23/10)
- I always feel like I need to be or do something; I try to figure out exactly what that is; I come up with a plan real fast; I unconfidently try to follow that plan; I fail; I feel ashamed (and even less confident); I begin the cycle again… This happens over and over. (11/4/10)
- I need to always be open to new ways of making the best use of my time. (11/4/10)
- Who or what I am is a combination of multiple causes. I can change if the causes are changed. Every time I fail, it strengthens my belief that I’ll never succeed. But failure doesn’t really exist. I call doing something that goes against my values failure. But that really just means I’m making less progress than I could be. Since I’m a combination of so many things, what I call failure is really just the experience of a less than optimal application of my components. (11/4/10)
- Even just writing all this helps me realize what it means to set realistic goals. Seeing what I write helps me come against unrealistic, negative thinking (which blows everything out of proportion) with realistic, positive thinking. I can also develop a system of behavioral motivation to reward myself for taking steps toward my goals. (11/9/10)
Again, many of those thoughts could easily be tied to later ideas shared in this story.
So, if I already knew all that back in 2010, why the plunge into my “straight loser” state of addiction only months later, in early 2011?
After rediscovering those thoughts from 2010, I got high and wrote:
“Back then, my goals were like tiny, remote flashes washed under deep oceans of blanketing darkness.
“I had to come to see how all those flashes were really indispensable puzzle pieces that could be fit together to illuminate connected layers.
“In 2010, my values were just stabs at hopes I’d long since given up actually believing in. I didn’t see their light as real enough to guide my steps.
“So, I started getting high…
“Preparing to share my real experience of the years of addiction that followed was what eventually brought all my disjointed hopes, thoughts, and goals together.
“In a way, I saw what I was worth.
“When I started using weed, I was convinced I should only seek entertainment while high. I was afraid of trying to communicate with certain others and looking dumb.
“Now I might seek entertainment at times (if there was something I really wanted to see or listen to); but I’d mostly rather be creative, or with friends, or just sitting in silence letting myself imagine…
“My particular change in perspective marks the end of what I called the Devil’s Lettuce curse—my addiction: wanting more and more (or so I thought) because I could never seem to feel quite high or entertained enough…
“Your change in perspective will be built from understanding a dichotomy of values unique to you.
“I’ve mentioned having less is more as my goal; but my new perspective is really ‘less is less.’ When I get high compulsively, weed becomes less fun (and I want more of it). But getting high less reverses that dynamic: Less weed leads to less unwanted results, and also to being okay with less stimulation or fulfillment overall.
“The same principle applies to all addictions and compulsions.
“Addiction changes your state. Something you’ve been taking in to benefit from starts taking you in to benefit from you.
“Weed became a major part of my life for years; but I never saw getting high addictively as a permanent solution.
“I always knew I needed to find new and better ways to relax and enjoy my life.
“Now I know I’m ready.
“I’m ready to rediscover my most valuable treasures (my relationships), and to make better use of my time.
“I’m ready to manage my weed use, and to keep building the life I want most.
“I’m ready because it’s already happening.
“I’ve already changed.”
The last idea from 2010 I shared above was: “Develop a system of behavioral motivation to reward myself for taking steps toward my goals.” I should have known better than to look for a literal prescription to follow, since I was already aware of how my tendency to seek out perfect systems had always led to apparent failure.
Rather, I should have understood that what I’ve really always been looking for is just a way to excel at what I most want to do in life.
A prescription is a rule or schedule taped to a fridge; knowing what you want and why is a perspective to be lived out.
You know you’re ready to make the leap when you see yourself making it.
Tomorrow: more on seeing yourself making the leap.
P.S. I later got high and wrote:
“Though I’ve shared my real experience, this story isn’t about me.
“Yet here’s the ironic thing about universal ideas, concepts, and truths: You seek out the simplest, most easy-to-follow steps; but you also teach yourself to forget (as quickly as possible) how the logic behind those steps ties to your real life.
“‘Oh well,’ you say, ‘at least I tried. I guess that plan wasn’t quite perfect for me after all. I think I’ll go find a better one tomorrow, or maybe the next day…’
“On other hand, you never forget the stories you relate to.
“It’s ironic that I’ve ended up with twelve self-management steps. It’s not like I’m trying to copy or outdo 12-step programs or anything. But my twelve steps aren’t really steps at all. They’re just pieces of my story like all the rest. The titles don’t matter.
“On DAY 1, I wrote, ‘It just goes back to this feeling I have that recording and sharing my experience will be my first step toward control.’
“Recording was my first step, though it really wasn’t. Sharing turns out to have been my last. It was between recording and sharing that the real change actually occurred—the change in my perspective.
“Now go be you.”