Cannabis and its veil of deceit
I awoke this morning to a flurry of colourful and fantastic insights for my story on cannabis. By the time I made it to my desk, all those wonderful ideas had dissolved like smoke in the wind.
In so many ways, that sums up my 20 years of cannabis use.
From the start, I loved using cannabis because it opened my mind, heightened my senses and made me feel connected with the universe and the otherwise scary people that populated my world.
Gradually I set up my life around pot. Early on, I learnt to grow it because that kept the cost down. Inevitably, this led to a prosecution for cultivation. Along the way, I began to deal in pot (and other drugs) to ensure supply and help fund my own use.
When I was finally earning enough in my career to fund my habits, I surrounded myself with folk who supported my using; people who often found me more accessible, thoughtful, even useful, I suppose, when I was stoned.
At one point, I even had the landlord build a deck off my office so I only had to walk a couple of paces to have a smoke in privacy.
Most of my friendships were founded on drug use and my ability to supply. At first, I liked the needy nature of the supply relationship, but later on, I found it pathetic and embarrassing.
As I had my first smoke at breakfast, I knew there was a good chance that in an hour or so I would feel edgy, unfocused and indecisive, yet the lure of that wonderful first-up rush of warmth was just too much to resist. The sense of physical wholeness and the psychological shift that came from that first smoke overpowered my knowledge of the consequences.
In the end, my best friend turned on me. My mind had become closed and could barely function. The world had become a grey and foggy place, and my overwhelming paranoia had distanced me from everybody.
People couldn’t understand my using, and they found it difficult to understand my behaviour and even my words a lot of the time. My work became at best unpredictable, and my ability to have intimate relationships was negligible.
This was all from a drug that the press at the time suggested was not harmful. Apparently, it was neither physically nor psychologically addictive, and the only real harm was to the lungs. I so wanted to believe the “evidence”.
At about age 35, I decided that I needed to grow up, get a life and be like the folk around me who weren’t stoned, yet seemed to be leading pretty good lives. I began to want a life that didn’t have so many crutches.
I decided to stop smoking cannabis.
But stopping turned out to be a little trickier than I thought. First, there was the physicality of the whole process, the feeling of total discomfort in my being, an itchiness coupled with an inability to sit still, and an overwhelming sense that something was missing.
The psychological withdrawal could be summed up by the word “craving” – a complete and absolute obsession with cannabis 24 hours a day. No matter how much I drank or what other drugs I used, I couldn’t shake that obsession.
I realised then that I had a problem and that the problem was something I could not easily deal with.
Over the next few years, I would often swear off pot on a Sunday and by Wednesday – or maybe, if I was really lucky, Thursday – I would find that I was stoned, but with no real connection to how it had happened. This was a period of constant internal strife and struggle.
Seven years after my first attempt to put pot away, I surrendered to its power over me and, through treatment and support, found a way of living without my dear friend. I was given tools to help me live with the physical craving and mechanisms to deal with the overpowering mental obsession. In this way, I was able to walk though the withdrawal that dragged on for many months.
Ten years on and the veil that is my relationship with cannabis has been lifted. I am now able to see what I was like to the world and how I had short-changed myself by living that shrouded existence.
I have watched others close to me go along a similar path, and I’ve felt sad and powerless to help. But there has also been gladness that I am finally free of that grey, clouded, smoky world.
- To contact Michael about his story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.