Smoking Weed Doesn't Feel Good for Me Anymore, and It Hasn't For a Long Time
which I acknowledge is not particularly newsworthy
I’m from Connecticut and like a lot of states CT has a history of absurd “blue laws” regarding alcohol. In particular, my early drinking years (read: from 18 onward or so) there were made much more annoying by the fact that you couldn’t buy beer after 8 PM or on a Sunday, and this caused many a major drag when people were together and wanted to drink and couldn’t. Then they overturned those laws! … right before I moved to Indiana, which I believe was the only state left where you couldn’t purchase alcohol on a Sunday. Womp womp.
I kind of feel the same thing has happened with me and weed. We’ve reached a place where in much of the country marijuana possession is effectively decriminalized, and in some places is actually legally decriminalized for both medical and recreational use, although it remains illegal under federal law. I don’t know the current status of New York’s glacially-slow marijuana reform effort, but that’s only because it’s not really relevant to my potential consumption; I’ve had access to a delivery service for years if I want to buy flower, and I can walk up the street to a place that sells all varieties of gummies and other edibles. (I’m reasonably sure this is illegal, but again, the law doesn’t seem to much care.) And at most smoke shops the guy will make an incredibly thinly-veiled hint about buying. (Which is definitely illegal). The problem is that all of this unprecedented level of availability and (quasi-) legality is coming right as I am admitting to myself that I just don’t enjoy getting high anymore, at least not with the consistency I would need to feel casual about doing it, to not worry - and what’s the point of doing something to relax if it makes you worry? Womp womp.
There’s a jar of gummies sitting on my desk as I type this, and I have not officially entirely quit. I would like to find a way to occasionally enjoy marijuana consistently, a casual thing that I can take to relax. Low-dose edibles might be that solution. But the reality is that, while everyone says that you just need to find the right strain, I will find a strain that I like and enjoy it for awhile but eventually have a bad time. By “a bad time” I mean something pretty consistent: I become ruthlessly self-critical. I fixate on my flaws and I can’t stop fixating on them. I focus intently on all of the things that I don’t like about myself, and I interpret everything I say and think and do in the most unsparing, least-sympathetic light possible. I judge myself for things that I would never judge anyone else for. And this is after having smoked several metric tons of weed in my life, so I’m not inexperienced. People often talk about tolerance with weed and I acknowledge there’s something like that, but in my experience it’s a very different animal than tolerance for alcohol.
I first “smoked” weed when I was 13. I found some in my dad’s dresser and lit it on fire - no pipe, no anything, I just burned a bit of it in my hand with a lighter - and simply from the smoke rising off of it I got outrageously high. (I know many people don’t get high the first time, but I was lifted.) I didn’t encounter it again until some of my friends started smoking regularly when we were 16. From there I smoked for the next 15 or so years. My consumption varied. Sometimes I’d go three months without smoking at all; sometimes I’d go months of smoking every day, first thing in the morning and all through the night. Mostly though I’d reach some sort of equilibrium where I’d smoke every weekend with my friends at parties or whatever and where I’d smoke to help me go to sleep most nights. When I started grad school, I decided I had to stop smoking regularly. The truth was that it had long since become a chore rather than relaxation, it cost money I didn’t have, and also that was during one of my many false dawns regarding my mental illness, when I was finally admitting to myself that I had it and was committed to staying on meds. That didn’t last long. But I did spent the six years of grad school largely abstaining from weed; I would say I probably didn’t smoke more than 30 or 40 times total in that whole span.
When I got done with school and got a job in Brooklyn, I wanted to reintroduce smoking to my life. (Or vaping, really.) A friend hooked me up with the delivery service, and that convenience made it so easy that I would order frequently - you would call a number, they’d say “we’re on our way,” and an hour later someone would be in your apartment with a sack full of several different strains. In keeping with my habit from years past, sometimes I’d smoke every day for long stretches, sometimes I’d go months without thinking to smoke. I’d buy strains that I liked more and strains that I liked less; one of the downsides of the continued legal confusion is inconsistent supply of various strains. I developed a few favorites and most times I would just get enjoyably high before bed. The dictates of a 40-hour a week office job also prevented me from getting into old bad habits like smoking every morning when I got up.
But whether I was smoking a strain I knew I enjoyed or not, sooner or later I would smoke and get that intense self-critical thing happening. This probably wasn’t more than once every four or five times I got high. But it was unpleasant enough that it outweighed my desire to smoke, especially after I finally got medicated for good in late summer 2017 - that intense negativity plus my weight gain from meds plus my underlying body dysmorphia was a brutal combination. I would look in the mirror and see the most unlovable creature on the face of the earth. It’s hard to say if this is mostly a dynamic of the seemingly never-ending arms race to grow more and more potent strains, but certainly the shitty weed I smoked as a teenager was a lower-stakes proposition in every sense. (Although I don’t miss picking out stems and seeds, let me tell you.) Worth saying, perhaps, that these negative feelings I tended to experience are most often discussed in our culture in terms of paranoia, but that’s not quite right for me. Certainly there has been some of that when I’ve smoked in my life, but these negative events for me are not really fears about others but simply intense negative fixations on myself. And they happen just frequently enough that I’m constantly resolving to throw in the towel entirely, before I eventually decide to try again.
(I appreciate the advice, but yes, I have tried Indica and it hasn’t really helped.)
It should go without saying: the continuing federal criminalization of marijuana is absurd, cruel, and capricious. Enforcement of federal and state laws banning it has always been unequally applied, in various ways, and even today criminal penalties associated with possession can often be far harsher than many assume. Millions of Americans regularly consume marijuana as a means to combat specific ailments, to ward off aches and pains, to help them sleep without addictive prescription medicines, or simply to relax and have a good time. And while effective decriminalization in some places is better than blanket illegality, it still allows for all manner of selective prosecution and inconsistent punishment, which contributes to the underlying injustice. When federal decriminalization finally happens, as it inevitably will, the country will be much better for it, and hopefully that spurs even more states to remove their antiquated laws from the books.
That said, my perception is that there are a lot of other people who quietly feel the same way I do - smoking weed isn’t fun for them, anymore, and in fact it’s often deeply mentally injurious, but it’s hard for them to publicly quit, to stop and to be open about stopping. Hard because they’ve developed a psychological dependence and fear not being able to unwind or sleep without it; hard because it’s been a tool to avoid alcohol or other drugs that are more dangerous; hard because admitting to the downsides of smoking could perhaps be contributing in some way to the continuing criminalization and stigma associated with marijuana; and most of all hard because of the vague but powerful sense that quitting would be a capitulation to aging, that it would mean the party’s over. Indeed, it’s likely someone will tweet this out and say “haha Freddie’s getting old.” And as juvenile as it may be, I think many people have a visceral fear of being a “lightweight,” of somehow not being experienced enough to handle it - of not being cool. Again, I think that idea involves porting over the notion of a linear tolerance from alcohol to weed that simply doesn’t apply. But either way, feeling compelled to maintain an image of yourself by continuing to do something you only do to feel good, when it doesn’t actually feel good anymore, is dumb. I hereby free you from your obligation to be cool.
And anyway, I am getting old, and even if I believed that an inability to enjoy high-potency weed was a mark of weakness I am in fact old enough not to care anymore. My rational brain also reminds me that I have a psychotic disorder, take four psychiatric medications a day, and have prescriptions for three more to take when necessary. I don’t feel like I’ve had any bad interactions, but it’s probably for the best just not to put anything else into my brain.
Still, I have had many wonderful memories while high, and if I’m being honest I probably won’t completely abandon the effort to find a way to consume the right weed in the right amounts to, every once in awhile, get pleasantly high. But I suspect that’ll be a two or three times a month thing, if I ever find the magic formula, and that’s cool. If you enjoy getting high then of course there’s nothing for you to change, though if you’re still combusting you should at least consider switching to vaping to preserve your lungs and throat. I suspect that there are also some among you who still smoke and don’t really know why, and perhaps it’s time to really ponder if it’s adding any value to your life. Inertia is powerful, as is self-image, and it’s always worth airing out the laundry once in awhile to think about how we really feel. I am a big proponent of vices; I think they make us human, and life is hard enough that we sometimes need to do things that are a little bad for us but make us feel good. Just don’t be afraid to admit to yourself when it’s not working for you anymore.
I’ll go back up mushroom mountain in a heartbeat, though, if I ever get a chance. That’s a drug you should be able to buy at any grocery store.
I have smoked a lot of weed in my life, and known a lot of stoners. I think it's a significantly riskier and more addictive drug than it's made out to be. There is a low probability but pretty clear link with psychosis. For people who don't have dramatic negative effects, addiction can sneak up on you. It's a weird drug, it's low-risk in so many ways that it doesn't make sense for it to be illegal. But to depict it as harmless medicine seems wrong to me as well -- and I'm concerned that's the message kids are getting. I'm not completely sure what to tell my kids about it when they get older.
Here is my weed story. I smoked a little in HS and college, even smoked some with my dad in late teens, early 20's. It doesn't relax me. I get giggly, somewhat paranoid and I perseverate. (I'm probably a total bummer to get stoned with. LOL)
I voted for legalization here in CA for every reason Freddie mentions. My older son has had anxiety/depression his whole life, was in and out of therapy, and at 17, we caught him smoking with his girlfriend. Absolutely not, we told him. At 18, due to CA's new laws, he spoke with some "doctor" on the internet, got a medical MJ card and could purchase legally whenever he wanted. This time was characterized by (probably normal, but still difficult) adolescent rage and hostility. He went off to college - small liberal arts school in Oregon. LOTS of MJ. Daily. Dropped out March of freshman year. Depressed, anxious, hostile, still using. Needs it to sleep. Terrible time. Summer of that year (he's 19 at this point) - psychotic break. Not just paranoid. We're talking delusions about the neighbors and family, hallucinations, hostility. Bad, very bad. Is he bipolar? Is this mania? Please, dear God, not schizophrenia. Meds (lots), psychiatry, inpatient facility. Stayed 2 of 4 weeks, detoxed from use. Home, not using. Psychosis clearing. Spacy and tremor from meds, wt gain. Slowly better. Pastry school. Promises never, ever to use MJ again. Pandemic -good for him. Needs that time to kind of recover. His brother and friends all home too.
Now. Working at a restaurant. Meds tapered to very low dose. Happy, funny, no hostility, paranoia or delusion. I thank the universe every day. He still has some trouble sleeping- said he was trying CBD. I'm anxious, but told him to speak with his psychiatrist and therapist about it. I hope he never, ever uses again.