This month I am celebrating my 2 year anniversary of not smoking marijuana. That’s right, 2 years ago, just before Halloween, I finally made a commitment to stop smoking pot. Today I am sharing my experience with you.
My weed story
I tried weed for the first time sometime between the ages of 15-16 in Belarus. Some older guys convinced me to try it. I agreed with almost no hesitation since I wanted to be cool and accepted by their tribe. I had never experienced anything like it before. My brain and body entered a euphoric state. I couldn’t stop laughing that night. I remember not feeling my feet, it was weird but I liked it… Why would I stop? When I moved from my hometown to Minsk (the capital of Belarus) I began smoking more often - usually every other weekend. It wasn’t easy to buy pot in Belarus. You can easily get 5 years in jail for possession. (Full disclosure - the people who introduced me to weed are in jail now in Belarus.)
At the age of 21, I moved to America. I started smoking weed on a daily basis during my first winter in the United States. At that time I lived in a small town an hour from Cleveland, Ohio and worked as a roofer. It was impossible to work on a roof during the winter snowy season. I was out of job for several weeks, and pot became my daily entertainment.
A year later I moved to San Francisco thinking that I would stop smoking when I was away from my depressing Ohio environment. But I was completely wrong, I started smoking even more. It seemed that everyone was smoking in the Bay Area.
Often my week looked something like this:
It is Monday and I am excited to start my week and work on my online business. Then the doorbell rings, I open the door and see my “friend’ with a bong in his hands. He walks into the kitchen and puts the bong in the freezer because it is nicer to smoke a cool bong. I let him do it. I go to my office/living room/bedroom and try to focus on work. Dude hangs out and all I hear is “relax, beard man, take a break”. Finally I agree with him, we sit outside on the couch hitting the bong and the next thing I realize is that it’s Friday. The week is over; it is a weekend. Who works on weekends? Yeah, let’s smoke again…
I got to the point that I wouldn’t leave my house without getting high. Even my very first yoga class I took being super stoned. ( I almost passed out the second time I took yoga.)
Fast forward, I had been smoking weed for 8 years almost every day. I was so addicted to pot that when I did my first water fast, I smoked pot 4 days out of 6. I thought it interesting to cleanse my body and observe the impact of my marijuana usage. On day #4, I had finally poisoned myself so badly and felt so shitty that I physically couldn’t continue smoking. (Ironically it happened on 4/20 in Golden Gate Park where thousands of people were enjoying their high.)
That day I realized that my marijuana addiction was much stronger than my quest for wellness.
For years I didn’t think about quitting. I loved it. I loved the way it made me feel. I loved the way it made my brain work - my imagination and creativity were skyrocketing. Marijuana was helping with my chronic headaches. Or perhaps it was helping me not to think about my pain? I was a drummer in a band, I loved playing drums being high; It gave me energy during late night rehearsals.
I thought that smoking weed at night was advantageous since it made me active and productive. (Even though I felt like shit in the mornings and couldn’t wake up till 11am.) I loved practicing yoga being high and told myself I was connecting to my inner child. On the other hand, I didn’t want to deal with my shipping business which was my primary income source and I ruined it completely. That’s why I smoked - it made me relaxed so I didn’t have to think about my problems.
Slowly but surely I began to realize that smoking marijuana brought me more troubles than joy.
Finally I understood how much it was holding me back from creating the life I desired. Every morning I used to wake up with no energy, telling myself that I wasn’t going to smoke tonight, but when night came, you know the drill… Almost every night I wrote in my journal “What could I do better today? - don’t smoke pot”. Did I mention I was a raw foodist bent on exploring a healthy lifestyle?
Moreover, despite being lazy and not wanting to wake up in the morning, I really started having identity issues and major mood swings. Who was I? It wasn’t fun at all. I realized that pot was damaging my brain. Once I did a little experiment. I got high and tried to write down everything that was going through my mind. It was complete mess. My thoughts were jumping from subject to subject. I was completely distracted and not connecting the dots. After 2 years of non smoking I can finally be more focused and put my ideas on paper in a clear, logical way that makes sense.
I knew it was time to stop but I was hooked... I was trapped. It’s like when you are getting a credit card with 0% APR - you are excited that you got extra money “for free”. You are enjoying spending, thinking that you will pay it off later, but then life gets busy and 18 months later you get the bill for the deferred interest charges that you don’t remember anyone telling you about upfront. You are trying to fight with the agent but all they say is ”it is on your agreement”. I didn’t sign any agreement when I began smoking. I just thought it was the cool thing to do…
First attempts to quit
I attempted to quit several times. However, all my friends were stoners and they say, "you are the average of the 5 people around you each day"… I was in a band and playing late night shows didn’t help. It seemed like every person I met thought that it was his/her obligation and responsibility to buy me a drink or offer up a joint. I didn’t have any problem saying “no” to alcohol but I couldn’t say the same about weed. ( I stopped drinking years ago because, not dissimilarly, it interfered with my “healthy lifestyle”.)
Also, when the shit hit the fan and we had drama with our record label, I couldn’t deal with reality; weed was my #1 escape option. I was too weak emotionally to deal with life sober.
How to stop
I failed several attempts to quit on my own. I decided to try something that I heard many times before but never mastered - accountability. I knew that my girlfriend was super anti-drug. I had never told her that I was smoking pot. Finally I decided to talk to her and I told her the truth. I knew that it would upset her a lot, but I knew that she was the one who could help me. I knew how much it would upset her if I started smoking again. She was really kind about it and very supportive. We had a deep and meaningful conversation. I made a commitment.
Every time I wanted to smoke I talked to her and she helped me figure out what was going wrong in my life and why I was looking to escape. She was supporting me on every level - like sending me articles on how marijuana affects brain cells. I didn’t really need to read them because I could feel that my brain was getting fucked up. Spending less time with my pot smoking friends helped a lot as well. I began to chase my dream with a clear head.
I told all of my friends that I was not going to smoke weed anymore. Most of them really respected my decision and were very supportive about it. Some of them even decided to stop smoking with me! However, I feel like there is always a guy/girl who will try to wreck you. Be aware! He/she is too weak to respect your choice; he/she is too weak to embrace his/her own issues and instead of rising to your level, he/she will be constantly trying to bring you down to his/her level. I feel like he/she doesn’t even realized that he/she is doing it ...
Life without weed
When I stopped blazing I was finally able to change my sleeping habits. Instead of hanging out until 3-4am, I go to bed early and wake up at 5-6am to meditate and write in my journal before I teach my first client. In two short years I was able to build a sustainable yoga business from scratch in a new city - Los Angeles. I wouldn’t never have accomplished it if I had continued to smoke pot.
I am much more productive and focused.
I am not lazy anymore and do my share of household chores (which makes my girlfriend very happy).
I enjoy caring for my dogs and they love me even more.
I need less time to sleep and recover.
I feel super good in the morning.
I finish what I start. I get things done.
I enjoy life on a different level. I am high without getting high.
I have less mood swings.
I am much happier and nicer to my loved ones.
When I travel I can enjoy myself and not have to worry about sourcing/carrying weed.
I can go to bed earlier following my biological clock. I wake up at 5:30am instead of 11am.
I live in gratitude.
Losing my addiction
Occasionally, I still miss the nights when I used to get high and practice yoga for hours. However, I always think about how I am going to feel the morning after smoking. I know that it takes me 3 days to recover and return to my normal energy level. The scary part is that during those 3 days, the desire to smoke could be so strong that I would probably give in and start smoking again on daily basis. I have a very addictive personality, (my father is an alcoholic) and I can’t maintain a lifestyle where I smoke once in awhile. I know the price is too high. I am not ready to lose everything I’ve built in the last two years.
I still make jokes about pot and the desire to smoke arises from time to time. Usually it happens when life gets hard. For years weed was my coping mechanism. I understand that we have options: deal with problems and work to fix them or get high and forget about it. Unfortunately, too often we choose to escape. It is easy. It is comfortable. It is NOT sustainable.
Truly happy people don’t need any substance to boost their happiness.
We were all born pure. We were happy and free. We cried, laughed, played outside in the middle of the street. We didn’t care what others thought. This is what yoga teaches us - to become free of fear and desire.
Unfortunately, modern culture teaches us completely the opposite - to feel good and be happy we gotta smoke and drink, eat sugar and deep fried foods, keep up with The Kardashians and self medicate. Fear and desire control us - weed, alcohol, food, social media, video games, shopping and TV are some of our escape mechanisms. And it is OK to use them sometimes, but how do we keep life in balance?
What are your thoughts about weed or alcohol? What demons are you fighting with? Do you even know your demons?
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