Trigger Warning: If addiction or self harm are a trigger for you, caution with this post. If you are feeling distressed, please see my “getting help now” page. This post is not all gloom; there is some hope.
I sit here, staring at my still fingers on the keyboard. I remember the freedom and the energy of last night. I am aware of the lethargy of now. The ease of social conversation with strangers versus withdrawal and reclusion. My addictive thinkings are rocks swirling, bruising, pulling, whispering promises.
I’ve been sober from weed for 11 months now. But last night I had 2 lines of coke and now my mind is comparing how I felt when I was high to how I feel now in my state of depression. Sure, the 2 drugs are very different, but the numbness from the negative thinking was the same, and so, so tempting. It was a false and hallow feeling, yet I was free of self-doubt, if only for a short time. I need to remember the shit that I went through for 9 months to hold the temptation at bay.
Weed was a social drug for years; only done with friends and maybe once a week, or, once a fortnight. That changed though during a darker period of my current depressive episode. I was living alone and only working casually. I smoked nearly everyday, mostly by myself, to numb the painful thoughts I was drowning in. I rationalised that because I didn’t smoke the night before I had to work (so my performance wasn’t affected), that I was in control and it wasn’t an addiction. I was just making my life more enjoyable … but I was dragging myself deeper into the quicksand.
Shame, partly, fuelled the addiction and self-destruction. The more I smoked, I was numb to my thoughts, but there was still shame from smoking weed so much, so I smoked more. I justified the behaviour, from only smoking at nights, to in the day if only I didn’t drive. Social anxiety would overwhelm me, so I would smoke for relief, even before my niece’s 6 year old birthday party. I did not think that I was addicted: people can’t be addicted to weed.
Being high soon was not enough, or was not appropriate all the time. Alcohol compounded the escapism. I would drive whilst high now, but not drunk, though tipsy, yes. I was lucky that I never hurt anyone, but that does not negate that what I did was wrong. I did think about hurting myself though, a lot. I never wanted to hurt someone else, but I would wish terrible things on myself. I was growing more disconnected and I could feel the distance between myself and my nieces (whom I love dearly). I knew that I no longer had control and that I couldn’t function without being high or drunk. Something had to change.
I did not consider myself an alcoholic. So I found a Marijuana Anonymous meeting near me in Sydney. The first time that I tried to go, I parked my car on a residential street near the community hall where the meeting was held. Anxiety coursed through my body as I sat in my car. I think it was raining. I couldn’t go in. I went home and got high.
The second time, though, I walked in, and took a seat at the back near the door. A kindly woman in her 40s welcomed me. She could probably see how nervous I was, the haunted look of shame in my eyes. I looked around the room. Everyone was different, mostly in their 30s, 40s and 50s; probably half female and half male; but just ordinary looking people. I heard each of them declare that they were an addict, without deep shame. Some had been sober for months, others, many years. They created in my mind, a human face to addiction, chipped at the stigma, showing that addiction can affect anyone, not just the dramatised image of a junkie. I am an ordinary person, just like them, and I am an addict.
I heard their stories, veins of similar experience through all of them. Anecdotal proof that one can be addicted to marijuana, which I didn’t really believe before. Yet all of them had managed to stay sober. Sure, it was struggle, but I had hope that it could be done, even though I thought I was in a bottomless circle of addiction. They were kind to me, offered me support, and I came back.
The 12 step program, which is the model for AA, NA, MA, etc, benefits many many people. It didn’t really for me at the time, though my addiction journey is not over. In all 12 step programs, I believe, they use the word “God” quite a bit, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a religious deity (though it can be). Rather, it represents an external concept to whom the addict is accountable to and can draw support from. As an atheist, my stubborn disdain for any organised dogma kept me from committing to the program. I don’t know if this is good or not, but there was another atheist there, and it worked for him. I tried to interpret the word “God” as humanity or my community, and the 12 step program may have worked eventually, but I stopped going to the meetings after a little while.
I feel more stable and grounded after writing my story. The temptation has diminished, but is still there with the lure of abandon. I think that I have the strength to ride it out. I declined smoking a joint last night, but still, I was drunk and high. I may be sober from weed, but not with everything else, though I don’t drink nearly as much. Maybe I’ll go to another meeting …