Need support cutting down on pot and booze withou giving them up altogether.
August 24, 2011 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to halt my unhealthy (for me) pot and alcohol habit without completely swearing off either substance. Is this do-able? Are there books or Portland, Ore., groups that can help me with this? How can I stick with this plan when all of the people I'm closest too are daily users of one substance or the other?

For the past 10 years, until about a month ago, I've either smoked a bowl, had 1-3 alcoholic beverages, or smoked a little and drunk a little just about every day. I've given up pot for weeks at a time when job hunting and successfully passed drug tests, but drank more in the interim. I gave up drinking for six months for health reasons a few years ago, but smoked more in the interim. Having experienced physical withdrawal when I gave up coffee, I'm confident that I'm not physically hooked on these substances, but psychologically and emotionally is a different matter.

About a month ago I ran out of pot and couldn't get more for two weeks. I decided to restrain my drinking, and despite the intense longing for a buzz I felt the healthiest and most alert I have in years. I decided I wanted to feel like this more often. Then my dealer called back, my best friend came over, and we got very stoned.

My best friend responded to our dry spell by deciding that she never wanted to go so long without pot again. My brother, to whom I am also close, is also a daily smoker. And my husband, who is bigger than me with a slower metabolism, continues to drink 2-3 beers or glasses of wine each day, and to enthusiastically encourage me to join in.

I don't want to give up pot or booze altogether, but I'd like to limit myself to moderate Friday and Saturday social use, with occasional weeknight pot the 5-6 times a year I get bad headaches.

Here's what's mostly working for me so far: I bought a box with a combination lock that all my drugs and paraphernalia now live in. The lock seems to be enough of a barrier to force me to think twice before smoking. I've also invested heavily in fancy bottled juices so I can still have something fun to drink while forgoing booze.

It's mostly working, but I feel emotionally alone and unsupported, and this isn't always easy. My husband thinks I'm being overly neurotic about my substance use, since I don't consume large quantities, don't feel physical withdrawal, and tend to be neurotic in general. My best friend admits that she's addicted to pot but doesn't want to stop, and I feel like she's trying to sabotage my efforts.

I'd love to find some kind of support group, or even print or online intellectual/emotional support, but AA seems to be all or nothing with substances and I don't know what else to try.


(apologies if there are wording or formatting issues -- posting on the phone to avoid being monitored by my boss, and I don't seem to be able to scroll up and down in this box)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"... It's mostly working, but I feel emotionally alone and unsupported, and this isn't always easy. My husband thinks I'm being overly neurotic about my substance use, since I don't consume large quantities, don't feel physical withdrawal, and tend to be neurotic in general. My best friend admits that she's addicted to pot but doesn't want to stop, and I feel like she's trying to sabotage my efforts. ..."

Either you can moderate your use of drugs and alcohol to your own satisfaction, or you can't. If you can, by reasonable means, including moderate barriers, fine, I suppose. But if you can't, and need the support of others around you to do so, you pretty much, by most people's definition, have a problem large enough that you should be thinking of quitting altogether.

Also, taking use advice from users close to you, isn't exactly your best course of action. They're hardly disinterested arms length advisors, as you kind of recognize.
posted by paulsc at 2:09 PM on August 24, 2011

Moderation Management, Harm Reduction and Motivational Interviewing are all techniques that are designed to help people make healthy decisions about their drug and alcohol use, with an eye on minimizing the negative consequences but recognizing that some people choose to continue to use at some level. You should be able to locate online and local support/therapists through the links above.

This is a hard but very wise desicion. Good luck to you.
posted by goggie at 2:24 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Multiple drinks a night 5-7 nights a week isn't use, it's abuse. That is alcoholic territory. Why is your husband so resistant to you quitting, is it because he drinks so much and wants to be validated in his drinking by you drinking? My guess is it very well could be. Same with your friend and your pot smoking.

You should figure out why you need to drink and smoke so much and replace those with healthier outlets. Is it to unwind? Is it to relax? Are they stress relievers? If so, those are the WORST reasons to drink and smoke pot.
posted by TheBones at 3:00 PM on August 24, 2011

If you are interested in moderating because you can't countenance the idea of quitting then you should know that moderation from a non-moderating start point is very hard to do for sustained periods, particularly where intoxicants are involved.

Set very clear moderation guidelines. If you ever breach them then admit that it isn't working and do what is necessary.

I wish you well.
posted by epo at 3:35 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

One or two drinks between 5 p.m. an 11 p.m., and three on the occasional Saturday or Sunday, is now deemed alcoholism and abuse, TheBones? It seems as though it's well within recommended limits.

AskMefi has a known ... stance in this area.

Sorry, anon - I don't think there's an easy answer apart from talking to the people who are close to you and asking them to back off a bit.

From your description it doesn't feel like you actually have a problem with the substances, but rather with a lack of respect for your choices. So I'd focus on that.

Or invent an allergy diagnosis or something (i.e. say drinking/smoking too often gives you headaches) but you shouldn't have to lie about something like this.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:35 PM on August 24, 2011

Your friends and SO are probably asking you to join in so that 1) you still hang out with them and 2) they feel like they're having a shared experience with you. They may also be feeling suddenly self-conscious about their use while you are choosing to abstain.

FWIW, I think it's doable because you have been able to abstain without going nuts and it doesn't sound like use was otherwise affecting your life. I think it will be hard because it's become a habit for you--it's what you do with certain people, it's a signal of relaxation, etc. It sounds like this is rather like quitting smoking cigarettes: while there are ways to deal with the chemical cravings, the cues that smoking can represent are freaking powerful and hard to break, even years later.

I'd say keep on keeping on with your reduction of use since it makes you feel healthier, and find fancy non-alcoholic drinks to imbibe while everyone else is knocking back a few to be festive (a good friend of mine who no longer drinks always gets seltzer with a cherry and lime wedge when we're having a get-together at a bar). Good luck!
posted by smirkette at 5:07 PM on August 24, 2011

It sounds like you are doing the right thing. Is there a physically active hobby you can do that would also preclude drinking or smoking? (ie 'I can't have a drink now, I have yoga at 8' etc).
posted by bquarters at 12:12 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I second bquarters suggestion of finding other activities to occupy you. Getting stoned is a hobby, a pasttime. You need a new downtime activity to fill the gap. If it is a physical activity, even better. I feel horrible exerting myself after smoking, and exercise makes me feel like smoking less so it is a winning spiral.

I had a doctor once tell me 'recognise it is a craving and let it pass' and I wanted to strangle her, I thought it was the shittiest advice I'd ever received. Now I am in a place where I (mostly) say, 'I rather fancy a drink, but right now i'm going to have tea and do x' and generally I have forgotten about it in a few minutes.

Juice may not 'cut it' as a fancy treat for yourself all the time. Think about some other ways to indulge when you feel a bit miffed at the world.

If you want someone to be a cheerleader for you, mefi me.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:50 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

People are talking about finding hobbies to give you something else to do, but another point is to find hobbies to give you someone else to hang out with. If you're having a few drinks or smoking every single night, then chances are you mostly hang out with people who are the same way -- and who will find it unsettling if you try to change. Think of it like arriving in a new city. You need to find regular activities to do a couple of nights a week that expose you to new people, and commit to doing them. In your case, "new" people means "not smoking or drinking." So, take a look at advice for newcomers to Portland, look for Meetups, etc, and see if there are some exciting things you can start doing.

At the same time, of course your husband and best friend and brother aren't people you want to lose -- and they're not people who want to lose you, which is why they're afraid to support this change in the first place. So you need to be as clear as possible that you don't want to lose them, that you're committed to the relationships, but if they want to hang out on weekdays, they have to support what you're doing.

This is obviously important to you. It should be. You need to make it clear to the people who love you why it's important, why you need their help, why you still love them, and then take the affirmative steps to build a life where you've got things to do that don't involve smoking or drinking.

Sorry I don't have the practical support resources you're asking for -- maybe you could try calling AA in your area, explain what you're looking for (whether it's non-alcoholic softball games or moderation-friendly support groups or a mentor to talk with or whatever), and see if they can give you places to look.
posted by Honorable John at 8:30 AM on August 25, 2011

Don't judge AA until you go visit a meeting. Yes, the program is focused on total abstinence but there is a lot of individual leeway. An AA program is a personal thing and an AA meeting isn't program recruitment. Don't forget that addicts relapse. It's not like you fail out of AA class because you had a beer.

There's a very simple reason to head to AA meetings even if you haven't decided what you want to do yet. When you're in a meeting, you aren't using for that short hour. That's good enough, in a way. Hearing other addicts' troubles can put yours in perspective or see where an addiction can lead. And I guarantee, no matter what, you'll get a sympathetic ear at an AA meeting.

The other great thing about AA is there's always meeting somewhere. Near me there's an AA only storefront in a little mall. They have meetings roughly every 90 minutes so you can get support anytime you feel like you need it.

Yes, AA is not for everyone but it's a good place to start thinking about what you want to do. The people there will know a great deal more about addiction than you will and it's a safe place to listen and talk.
posted by chairface at 4:19 PM on August 25, 2011

Hi OP, there's also MA - at least their literature suggestions could be of use.

"Feeling alone and unsupported" may be caused or exacerbated by the subtle emotional effects of pot withdrawal. At least if you partly got used to a moderate THC level in your bloodstream helping you feel fine alone and self-supporting.

In my opinion 2 weeks not using doesn't quite give you the full idea of 2 years not using. E.g. the vivid dreams only start a week in according to this. For me it takes 1-2 months and then I "Get In Touch" (AA lingo cf. DF Wallace, Infinite Jest) with the reason I became a regular in the first place.

WRT moderation the thing which works best for me is lots of activities taking away from my smoking-time. E.g. evenings you don't want to smoke a bowl, go out do something with people who don't smoke. IMHO Your best friend (not judging here) wants to do everything smoking. Whenever you meet there will be smoking unless you meet in a cafe or whatever (and even then the possibilities for clandestine smoking etc). Keep it in mind. YMMV.
posted by yoHighness at 3:11 PM on September 4, 2011

PS thank you for asking this question and you have my total support at least FWIW! Bravo!
posted by yoHighness at 3:16 PM on September 4, 2011

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