In search of a natural high
July 22, 2006 6:12 AM   Subscribe

Help me kick the green, sticky stuff.

I’m currently in talk therapy and on Lexapro for anxiety and OCD (Pure O). Years before I found the terrific therapist I’m currently with and before I started taking Lexapro, I used marijuana as self-medication for my anxiety and OCD. It made me happy, slowed me down a bit, yadda yadda.

I quit smoking when I got onto Lexapro a little over a year ago. A few months after acclimating to the med, I started smoking again on a smaller scale. I'd like to quit, but I’m finding it hard to give up completely. I think giving it up is key for me to continue to take care of the anxiety and OCD.

No psycho-analysis or fretting about mixing anti-depressants and pot wanted - I’m open with my therapist about all that and we’re working on it. I would like to hear about healthy substitutes for finding relaxation, escape, enjoyment, even "enhancement". (Not that pot has been my only source for those states, of course, just an easy go-to and fallback.) Any tips on how to shake off this unhealthy habit?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Starting exercising regularly and eating healthy, minimally processed food. Nutrition and exercise can have enormous influence on mental health.
posted by rachelpapers at 6:24 AM on July 22, 2006

Here's an approach my grandfather used to kick his smoking habit cold-turkey. When he would get a craving, he would tell himself he'd have to wait ten minutes before he could have a cigarette. By the time the ten minutes passed, his craving would always have passed, too.

It worked for him. Maybe that would help you kick your marijuana addiction, too.
posted by jayder at 6:55 AM on July 22, 2006

I've found that daily meditation helped me curb my weed habit. After ten minutes or so on the mat, I experience a mild "body high" that reminds me of weed (with none of the mental effects, however).

Meditation isn't a perfect substitute, and it takes weeks to overcome the boredom and frustration (at least it did for me). But I've found that the urge to spark up has declined, and I think there's a real connection.
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:57 AM on July 22, 2006

If the main challenge to you is anxiety, why worry about something that apparently makes you happy? Tell yourself "I'm smoking a lot less, and I don't HAVE to smoke, but I always CAN if I decide to. And there's no need to be stressed about that."
posted by Meatbomb at 7:03 AM on July 22, 2006

First off, congratulations on taking these difficult steps towards taking back control of your life. I wish you the best of luck in your journey towards health and happiness. I'm on lexapro myself and working through anxiety issues. You're not alone, and you can do this.

You're doing a lot of hard work, and you probably don't allow yourself a lot of downtime, it's imperative that you give yourself time to play, to blow off steam. To let the kid inside you have some fun.

So what else in your life makes you feel alive? Are there any other things you have done in the past that really made you feel great? Did you like to play with legos as a kid? Maybe you can take a trip to the toystore. The example may sound silly, but it's the idea behind it that's important.

If you can't think of anything that really works, well then experiment. Take a yoga class, see if that helps. Or find some people to play horseshoes with or bocce (there are clubs dedicated to just about any pastime you can think of in most cities). Go to a pottery studio and make something nice for yourself. Understand that being good at whatever it is you're going to try isn't the goal, finding relaxation and enjoyment is.

Most of all, take care of yourself. rachel is absolutely dead on about excersise and healthy eating. It makes a huge difference.

Lastly, remember that change always happens gradually. Take baby steps toward being better and before you know it, the momentum in your life will have changed and you'll find yourself sailing in a much better direction.
posted by perelman at 7:06 AM on July 22, 2006

I'd like to second meditation. A friend of mine was smoking weed and kicked the habit that way, too. Meditation has so many other positive side effects that it's worth a try, even if it doesn't curb your cravings immediately.
posted by christinetheslp at 7:08 AM on July 22, 2006

Are you mixing it with tobacco? I knew a guy who was really into joints, but it turned out he was mostly addicted to nicotine.

Try and remove yourself from the presence of it when the urge comes, get outside for a walk or run, go for a drive, go see a film, hit the weights at the gym. Good luck with it!
posted by tomble at 7:11 AM on July 22, 2006

This is the most obvious advice ever, but take up a hobby. The only time I miss weed is in the evenings during the week, when I find I can't relax properly presumably because I associate smoking gear with relaxation, so I've started doing basic little electronics projects which require quite a lot of concentration, and so make the time pass quickly. (This only works with the mild cravings after you've already given up for a good while, though, in my experience at least.)
posted by jack_mo at 7:15 AM on July 22, 2006

I found that drinking a lot of water really helped. I bought premium bottled water as a "treat" for myself (fiji, evian, pelligrino). I just drank it all the time, kept it really cold, hot tea at night.

Seems to keep the body chemistry right when you're missing something. Also helped I started dating a guy who used to smoke but stopped. Now, I'll take advantage on occasion, when I'm out, but I have to tell you - my life has just gotten so much better since I stopped smoking it at home whenever I was home, unreal. I used to think it was helping, that I needed it - now I'm convinced that thinking its helping is part of the effect of the drug.

Maybe would help you like it did for me to start thinking of it as a party favor...

Good luck to you.
posted by mad_little_monkey at 7:22 AM on July 22, 2006

Depending on how hooked up you are: lose your dealers' contact info, and don't find new ones. Unless your entire circle of friends is constantly handing around bowls this will turn it into an occasional habit.
posted by little miss manners at 7:40 AM on July 22, 2006

Break your routine. Whatever ritual you have around smoking, be it time of day, physical equipment, or people you tend to smoke with, they all contribute to the behavioral aspects of your habit.

Plan to be busy with something at that time of day so you're just not thinking about what you might otherwise be doing. If it's after work in the evening, occupy yourself with dinner-related activities like cooking classes or try a "supper club" that will get you to try cool restaurants. Seeing movies is a great escapist activity for me. It's amazing the amount of fun money that will appear when you stop spending your dough on weed.

Bequeath or loan your equipment to a friend so it's out of your hands and you would have to ask for it or buy new gear in order to use it again. These are trivial barriers to cross, but they force you to stop and think about what you're doing.

Best of luck!
posted by nadise at 7:48 AM on July 22, 2006

When considering Meatbomb's advice that you keep on smoking but tell yourself you can quit at any time, keep in mind that he's coming at the question as a pro-pot propagandist.
posted by jayder at 7:54 AM on July 22, 2006

Lots of good ideas already.

Sometimes changing your smoking routine can help, essentially making the experience of getting high somewhat less enjoyable. Let your grass dry out before you smoke it (a sin, I know); change your intake method, e.g. if you currently roll then buy a shitty pipe; if you currently smoke in a comfortable place then smoke in a less comfortable place. These are just little tricks that helped me quit and certainly won't work for everyone.

And for some people a group like Narcotics Anonymous can help. I've never been a member but I have been told that NA, at least some groups, are a little less "zealous" than AA when it comes to the 12-step "philosophy".

Also, I second tomble's advice: if there is tobbaco involved definitely nix that. My uncle had exactly that experience and it was the nicotine that had him hooked, not the pot.

Good luck!
posted by persona non grata at 7:59 AM on July 22, 2006

Jayder: you've misrepresented my advice. We all have differrent perspectives on the issue. Let's let the poster come to his own conclusions.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2006

I might suggest various types of tea - can have a very mellowing affect somewhat similar to a very mild marijuana high and is extremely relaxing. One that comes to mind is Yerba Mate (google it for all sorts of info) from South America this is used regularly and described as a relaxing mellow happy feeling.
posted by JpMaxMan at 8:37 AM on July 22, 2006

The easiest way to stop smoking it is to stop buying it. Either smoke the last of your supply or throw it out, give it away, whatever. Just get rid of it. Also get rid of all your paraphernalia. Everything: pipes, bongs, papers, grinders, ashtrays, and so on. After you've done this, tell at least two of your smoking buddies you've quit smoking pot. It doesn't have to be a big deal, just say "it was time". If you want, get rid of anything that makes you think of pot, too. Your smoking music, that "Things To Read While High" bookmarks folder, certain friends' numbers... anything that might tempt you.
posted by Succa at 8:43 AM on July 22, 2006

posted by CunningLinguist at 9:14 AM on July 22, 2006

posted by hortense at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2006

Move, take a new job, cultivate new friends who don't smoke, eliminate your sources of the drug and it will be easy. Of course, the move will be difficult.
posted by caddis at 9:48 AM on July 22, 2006

Yep, during the times that I quit the ganja for extended periods of time, the trick was always (a) finding a substitution and (b) changing my situation.

The substitution angle is what people have mostly been talking about here. Fortunately, since pot isn't heroin, you aren't going to get physically addicted to it and your substitution doesn't have to be methadone that you get at a clinic. It can be as simple as an enormous glass of water or doing five minutes on a treadmill or just having a nice wank. But when that impulse comes to fire up, do something else instead... Ideally, it should be something that offers you the smallest bit of "transcendence" (like the above mentioned activities), since that's what is so darned lovely about the zoot-weed in the first place.

Examine the situation you're normally in when you find yourself smoking? Are you one who enjoys sitting at home alone, getting blazed, and watching a movie? Or are you someone who enjoys passing the peace pipe with a group of friends and discussing the consistency of crayola colors? Either way, the trick is to give yourself less opportunities to BE in that situation. So much of drug use, like all behavior, is contextual... We act certain ways or do certain things because of the context we're in... Change our context, and we change our behavior.
posted by lucidreamstate at 10:43 AM on July 22, 2006

There are plenty of ways to find relaxation, escape, and enjoyment, some of which are mentioned above. But I think the desire for "enhancement" is a key part of the problem. Nobody will argue that enhancement doesn't feel good, but I think at some point you have to ask yourself why you need it. I think we feel this need when we aren't at peace with un-enhanced reality. If you're constantly trying to escape from one state of consciousness into another, that's a clue that you've got some balancing or reconciliation to do. If you can make reality good enough, the compulsion to escape it subsides.

This isn't exactly a quitting technique, and may also seem simplistic. But it's a possible perspective shift - a reframing of the whole issue. It's a way of getting at the roots rather than the "weed" above the surface. Ho ho. Ho ho ho. That was good. The point is that you might not even realize what it is you're trying to escape, but the compulsion to escape is the canary in the coal mine, so maybe that's a good indicator.

Anyway, if you're in talk therapy, it sounds like you're on the road towards something like this. But maybe if you look at your drug use in this light, maybe it'll help you make fundamental changes which will make the pot fall away by itself. Maybe that's all a long winded way of saying the pot itself isn't the problem so much, but rather what it represents. It's a possibility anyway, and it's something that helped me.
posted by kookoobirdz at 11:19 AM on July 22, 2006

Marijuana is not "sticky." Are you sure that's all you've been smoking?
posted by bingo at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2006

Marijuana is not "sticky."

Yeah it is.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2006

bingo: Unless the stuff you've been getting is very old/very dry, its quite sticky. If you've ever rolled a joint in your life you'll know that, compared to tobacco, its a bitch to shape, because it sticks to itself/the paper/your fingers.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:58 PM on July 22, 2006

Yeah it is.

Agreed, unless all you ever get is dried-out shake, in which case this misperception makes sense. Pitiable sense.

I find teas are good for obsessing. There are lots of different kinds, and many of the herbs in them are reputed to calm, heal, and enhance. There's a small ritual involved in making tea. It's often fragrant & delicious and it's always hydrating. Tea is a very very simple "fix" you can put in place of something that's bad for you. Try something with St. John's Wort in it.
posted by scarabic at 3:39 PM on July 22, 2006

considering Meatbomb's advice that you keep on smoking but tell yourself you can quit at any time

I'm not totally sure this correctly reads Meatbomb 100%. When you're trying to give up an addiction there is a big mental chasm between giving it up instantly and entirely, and moderating it down to an acceptably low level. The mental hurdle of "oh shit I can NEVER have it again in my ENTIRE life" is a tall one to leap all at once, and the addict's mind will rebel against the severity of such a rule with all its might.

I think Meatbomb probably is saying to some degree that there is no problem, and that's wrong because the asker thinks there is. But the advice to continue moderating the habit down without taking on complete abstinence might be a productive strategy. Having "permission" to light up a few times a year can be a huge comfort when giving up a vice.
posted by scarabic at 3:47 PM on July 22, 2006

I know that people have already suggested hobbies, I would just make sure to suggest a hobby from which pot detracts. Running, or any other serious athletics, for instance, if hard to get really into if you're smoking. Ditto stuff that you have to have your whole mind free to do.
posted by OmieWise at 4:31 PM on July 22, 2006

You could always go the harm-reduction route, and buy a vaporizer.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:20 PM on July 22, 2006

You could always go the harm-reduction route, and buy a vaporizer.

I'd have to endorse that.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:45 PM on July 22, 2006

Agreed, unless all you ever get is dried-out shake, in which case this misperception makes sense. Pitiable sense.

I've handled many varieties in many states of being, from the living plant to hashish to keef (all these occasions were either long ago, past the statute of limitations, or in the Netherlands, of course), and I don't ever remember thinking that any of it was 'sticky.' But if popular opinion really is to the contrary, then maybe I just have a different idea of what constitutes viscosity.
posted by bingo at 10:41 PM on July 22, 2006

Weird, man.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:52 PM on July 22, 2006

Try telling yourself the truth. I tell myself and others that I'd like to stop and want to stop, but this is clearly not true. The truth is I still want to smoke, and I will know when I really don't want to smoke because I won't be smoking.
posted by zackdog at 12:37 AM on July 23, 2006

There was a time in my life when my weekend recreation consisted pretty much of heading over to a mate's place, getting ripped and watching music videos until the wee small hours, and this got to the point where it was pretty seriously fucking up my work performance (embedded systems programmer) every Monday.

I became concerned that I might in fact be in some way addicted, so I decided to test that issue out by completely going without for one year.

After about two weeks, I started getting occasional headaches. That tapered off over a couple of months.

About four weeks in, I got a bout of mild depression that lasted for about another month.

After about six months, I bought a pack of tobacco cigarettes, smoked two in a week, and chucked the rest out.

A year later, I had a very nice smoke on a very nice bushwalk and enjoyed it very very much. I never got back into an every-weekend habit, and I feel better for that.

What made this work for me was (a) running it as an experiment - can I do this? rather than Oh fuck, I must do this; and (b) putting a time limit on the proposed abstinence period, to get around the "end of a phase of my life" thing.
posted by flabdablet at 3:22 AM on July 23, 2006

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