I have no weed
I can’t believe it — I passed the 90-day mark. 90 days without smoking weed, after 20-plus years of smoking every day. I’m finally free. I say free because now I’m out of the golden cage.
I definitely loved the whole experience of getting high — breaking up the buds, the lift-off as it goes into your lungs, the cotton mouth and the light-headed feeling as you float on a cloud unbothered by anything in the world. Once you’re in the cloud you don’t have problems, you just lay back and relax. Some of us need that, especially as Black people living in a world of stress and anxiety that daily debases and devalues us. I fully respect the desire to smoke in order to keep on keepin’ on. But some of us — me, definitely — take it too far, allowing it to become too big a part of our lives, the discovering that we can’t stop. There were times I knew I should quit, or at least cut back and smoke less often. Instead of helping me recover from the world, smoking weed became one of my biggest problems. Yet I felt powerless, as it shaped too many of my choices.
I declined parties because I’d rather stay home alone, smoke and zone out. I saw any hole in my day as a chance to smoke. I saw any emotion as a reason to smoke. If I was happy, I smoked to make me happier. If I was upset, I smoked to alleviate the pain. I say “I,” but what I really mean is “The Voice.” The Voice was the sound of the addiction, editing every plan I made by saying, “First, let’s smoke.” To The Voice, everything was a reason to smoke: if I had to write, it said let’s smoke to be more creative. If I had to do the dishes, it said let’s smoke to make the task less boring. The Voice knew how to justify anything. It was insidious, smart, chameleonic and in control, because the reward it was offering, the joy of being high, was so delicious.
By comparison, The Other Voice — call it the voice of maturity, or the voice of resistance — was quiet, feebly mustering up logic by saying, “You smoke too much, you’d write faster if your mind was clearer.” But that voice was drowned out by the bacchanalian, bully dictator whose prompt to every moment was “First, let’s smoke.” The Voice knew just what buttons to push, and it was selling a killer experience. My addiction had a lobbyist inside my mind, who was constantly pushing me to smoke more, buy more, and ignore the voice that was saying I was hooked.
Make no mistake: I was addicted. I couldn’t stop. I tried several times. I went to Marijuana Anonymous meetings, I tried to institute rules for myself. But after the kids left for school, or went to bed, The Voice said, “Let’s go,” and off I went to the window with my tin to get high. Several people might now be saying, “But you can’t get addicted to weed” and produce some scientific “fact” that “proves” this. Well, I’m here to tell you that I was compelled to smoke even when I recognized it wasn’t that much fun anymore, and knew I would be better off without it. It was so deeply ingrained in me that I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t say no. I have no problem not drinking alcohol or stopping myself from having more than two drinks, that’s my limit, but weed was beyond my ability to grapple with. I was in it’s grip.
Then one day, three months ago, I said, “I feel like I’m kind of a spectator in my life. I’m spending too much time floating above myself in the weed cloud, while avoiding emotions, decisions, and reality. It’s time to do better. and participate more fully in my life.” In my umpteenth effort to quit, I wasn’t simply removing something — I was embracing sobriety, I wanted to move to a new tribe. I felt like I’d stayed too long at the party, and that now, in this chapter of my life, being sober would be more interesting.
The clarity of mind that came from not smoking was more calming than being in the cloud. Getting off the roller coaster — going up and down, into the high and then washing out — seemed more relaxing. I would deal with my stress and anxiety without running away. Suddenly I had a strong feeling that I was improving myself. I could be a better writer, dad, husband, and athlete (serious tennis player) if I just didn’t smoke. When I was armed with a desire to be clear, The Voice grew weaker, and the Other Voice stronger. When I was stoned or craving the high, I was weakened and The Voice could defeat my maturity and resistance quite easily. But once I had a week away from weed and my mind was calm, the Other Voice stepped up with a logic that silenced the desires to overindulge. The Voice was now unmasked as a frat boy leading me astray, while the voice of resistance and maturity was the adult leading me to the more refined pleasure of inner peace.
I am not saying everyone should quit. Most people can integrate weed into their life and aren’t controlled by it. Good for them. I also am definitely in favor of legalization, because people shouldn’t be criminalized for what they put in their bodies. Weed is not inherently bad. But for those who suspect or know that they’re relying on it too much, know that you’re not alone. I don’t know who exactly needs to hear this but you know if it’s you. You don’t need to smoke to deal with life. Things could be better without it. You could be happier without it. You have the power to quit. I know because I did it. There are Marijuana Anonymous meetings that might help you. They didn’t help me, but you can’t quit until you are ready. And if you can find a strong reason outside of yourself, that makes it easier. If you can avoid not only weed, but also the friends who you get high with — that too can help. Or tell those friends hours before you get together, before The Voice kicks in, that you’re trying to quit. Real friends will respect the request, and not make your effort harder. Recognize that The Voice goading you on, and that this voice isn’t you — it’s the addiction trying to stay alive. You can take control of you and be happier. Weed is not the source of your happiness. You are.
I am still tempted. I can still hear The Voice saying, “Hey, let’s smoke!” But now I have the strength to swat it away. Over the first 30 days I had to be more conscious about shutting down The Voice, but now it’s becoming easier. I expect to have this internal battle going on inside me forever, but where it was once a massive conflict I was losing, now it’s more of a skirmish with a weakened enemy that I am winning. I’m still taking it day by day though.
After a lifetime of listening to the "Let's Get High!" voice, Toure writes that it is possible to move on.