I Know I’m Dependent on Weed But I Don’t Want to Quit
At my fifth grade graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, I stepped to the podium sporting a blue button-up shirt, braces, and uneven bangs, and played the flute. I can’t remember exactly how D.A.R.E. had molded me into an eleven-year old who believed that doing drugs was a crime and a sin, but it had succeeded. Some weeks later, I caught my teenage sisters smoking weed behind our back porch during a dinner party. In a brainwashed fervor, I cried and screamed at them, “Well I hope you know you’re going to hell!”
At fourteen I took my first hit, lay back, and said, “This is heaven.”
Weed is complicated for me. It has been an escape, a ritual, and a medicine. And it has been a trap, a habit, and a source of pain. I’ve gone from glass bowls and bongs to grape Swisher Sweet blunts to spliffs in RAW papers. I smoke with friends and by myself, while I’m making music and while I’m watching TV. I smoke when I am sad and when I am overjoyed. I smoke a lot. I know I’m too dependent on weed, but I don’t want to quit.
Quitting means giving it all up, including the times when weed is a conduit for connection and creativity, an extra eye for the subtly sweet things, like Riis beach at sunset, sitting on the boardwalk, dusty turquoise benches and lavender sky, with all my favorite people, passing a joint between us. Or stuffed with homemade pasta at my parents’ house in the winter with a fire in the living room, when I step onto the back porch and smoke a spliff. Springtime on a stoop in Brooklyn, my friend and I burning one with some beats on, her freestyling like a fool and me laughing hard.
But most of the times I smoke are not necessarily special. It’s pretty easy for me to find reasons to roll up.
If the morning feels bleak and I need a lift, I’ll smoke a little something. When the words won’t flow and a draft is due, I light one to get loose. Maybe it’s one of those days when my chest gets tight when I think about leaving the cocoon of my room to dive into the current of the city but I have to go to work, make money, be an adult. I roll up and relax, hoping that if inside I’m easy, nothing outside can rock me.
I’ve been smoking regularly for over half of my life and I’m not in denial about the toll it takes on my lungs, my wallet, my mental health. I know that I’m much more productive without it, that I’m too quick to curl up with it as a way to avoid others, my desires, and my fears.
So once or twice a year I go stone-cold sober for two or three months. Then I’ll re-engage, but with boundaries: Only smoke at night. No more than two joints. No smoking before the gym. No buying weed twice in one week. No cereal in the house, ever.
These rules will last for a time, but soon I’m back to smoking multiple times a day. Going sober is an attempt to eliminate the problem without fixing it: It doesn’t make me a stronger or more balanced person. It doesn’t give me more control over my behavior.
For the past two months I’ve been doing consistent crunches. Before, if I had to do any exercise that involved balancing on one leg, I would fall out of it within seconds. But after taking months to build the muscles of my core, I can finally hold the position. I can hold myself up.
So what’s the crunch for my mind or my heart, to strengthen that core, so I can indulge sometimes, party and get trippy, eat my heart out, drink and sweat and spend, and still be able to return to my baseline? I want my vices to be vacations, wonderful and wild, but then I want to come back to balance. I don’t want to need weed. I also don’t want to need complete sobriety. I want a stronger core.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” My father said that so much when we were growing up that I thought he, not Oscar Wilde, had coined the phrase. I am not a moderate person, and I have no desire to be. At best, being moderate feels like being average, not sure enough to go one way or another. At worst it feels like diluted truth.
But maybe I don’t have to be a moderate person to achieve moderation. Maybe moderation doesn’t mean diminishing my passion or energy but rather redistributing it. If I pour more of myself into the parts of my life that heal and feed me, I’ll have less to pour into the parts that numb and distract me. I’ll have less time in my day for sitting and smoking if I use more of my time to go write at the library, bike around the park, find new music, meet with other artists, stretch and pray and light candles, cook for my friends, call my mom.
If smoking is my ritual, then I need other rituals. If smoking is my therapy, I need other therapy—maybe even actual therapy. If smoking is my mood-stabilizing, anti-anxiety medicine, then I need other ways to center, quiet the negative self-talk, worry less, and enjoy more.
Only then can I trust that what I do, what I smoke, is not an attempt to escape but a way to keep exploring.
If you have concerns about your marijuana consumption, you can get support from the National Drug Helpline at 1888-633-3239
Quitting weed is something I think about a lot but I'm not a moderate person, and I have no desire to be. Maybe I can still achieve moderation.
Is weed good or bad for your mental health?
In honour of 420, we asked what you think…
There’s always been conflicting stories about the effects of weed – one minute it’s fucking up your sperm and making you paranoid, and the next it’s actually good for you. There’s a plethora of information out there, and if you look hard enough you could find every worry you’ve ever had confirmed – or find those same worries refuted.
Arguments about legalisation and the health effects of weed go round and round in circles, with laws varying hugely across the world. Everyone’s heard of how ‘one time my friend’s friend had a bad reaction’, but everyone’s also heard: ‘I smoke all the time and it’s never affected me.’
So, as stoners across the world take to the streets to celebrate 420 today, we wanted to find out what you, our readers, really thought about weed’s effect on your mental health – so we asked you in our Dazed Group Chat.
IT’S BETTER IN MODERATION
“I don’t smoke as much as I used to, only because it increased my anxiety tenfold, and would then be worse for weeks. Now that I’ve cut back I’ve been able to enjoy it so much more in comparison to when I was younger. For me personally, I can enjoy recreational drugs when I do them in moderation.”
Maudie Osborne via Dazed Group Chat on Facebook
IT’S ADDICTIVE AND CAUSES DEPRESSION
“For me it got really bad; I smoked for eight months every day and night before bed, and had used it for years a little less heavily before that. I was in denial about the harm it was doing to me, I depended on it and couldn’t get to sleep without it. I couldn’t focus on anything and started to feel depressed. Finally I had to bite the bullet and stop smoking a couple of months ago, now I wish I’d seen sense earlier – some people can manage to use it and get on with their lives, but personally I couldn’t.”
Jack Carleton via Dazed Group Chat on Facebook
“If you already have mental health issues I definitely think weed can exacerbate them” – Rik Clarke
IT DEPENDS ON THE TYPE OF WEED
“It depends on your mental health, what you’re smoking and at what age. Sativa makes my anxiety worse, indica grounds me, and smoking CBD-rich weed helps kill pain but still keeps me functional.”
Britleaf Carpenter via Dazed Group Chat on Facebook
UK LAWS HAVE DRIVEN PEOPLE TO STRONGER SKUNK
“We’re not all the same and will have different reactions to the same substances. Prohibition in the UK led to the rarity of the mild hashish and grass variants available, which was replaced by the stronger skunk type varieties which is where most of the problems lie.”
WEED IS NO WORSE FOR MENTAL HEALTH THAN ANYTHING ELSE
“I smoked a lot of hydro from the time I was 18 until I was 30. I had a bong next to my bed, I smoked weed during work – I was literally stoned for 12 years. One day I woke up and thought ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’, and haven’t had weed since. Saying that I never once had any mental health issues, I never stopped myself from living an active and full life. Some people have no problems, some people fall down a wormhole, but I don’t think weed is any worse or better for mental health than anything we face in daily life.”
Lance Nichols via Dazed Group Chat on Facebook
IT CAN BE RELAXING
“I’m a bit on the fence as it’s made me less tense and anxious and actually relaxes me, but once it wears off I can get a little paranoid. I haven’t really smoked consistently for a specific amount of time to really know how it’s affecting me though.”
Clamae Vizcawa via Dazed Group Chat on Facebook
SMOKING IS CONNECTED TO ANXIETY AND PARANOIA
“In my personal experience I needed to quit smoking; every time I smoked, I started to feel anxious, paranoid and a bit introverted. Depression, insecurities, and self-doubt also tended to come out too.”
Felipe Cassaniga via Dazed Group Chat on Facebook
WEED HELPS CREATIVITY
“It has changed my creativity in a positive way – it boots my inner expression and will to act. When I don’t smoke, I’m lazier and lack enthusiasm. If it was possible, I’d prefer to be high all the time but without needing to smoke, as too many doubts and mental health issues block my mind (when sober).”
Jāzeps Podnieks via Dazed Group Chat on Facebook
“I don’t think weed is any worse or better for mental health than anything we face in daily life” – Lance Nichols
IT DEPENDS WHAT MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES YOU HAVE
“It really depends from strain to strain, and your own mental health circumstances when smoking. If you already have mental health issues I definitely think weed can exacerbate them, but it will depend specifically on what you have. It’s certainly helped me when I’ve been depressed, but I can’t imagine it would be good if I suffered from anxiety. In my experience just stay away from skunk strains as they do nobody any good.”
Rik Clarke via Dazed Group Chat on Facebook
IT’S ALL DOWN TO THE INDIVIDUAL
“Weed can be bad for an individual’s mental health, but it depends on the individual. A far more valid question would be: ‘Is weed bad for society’s health?’ In which case I think the answer is no, not especially.”
Comments have been edited and condensed.
In honour of 420, we asked what you think…