Non-AA/MA recovery options for marijuana?
April 16, 2007 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Are there any non-AA/MA marijuana recovery options? I'm stuck in a rut living alone in a town where I don't know many people, smoking daily, and I can't break this 15 year habit.

I want to kick pot because it makes me unsociable, isolated, gives me anxiety, and keeps me unproductive. I'm fine not smoking most of the day until late night when I'm bored and can't bring my impulse control in line to just not take a couple hits of the good stuff. The rest of the day I have no desire to get high, but I just can't seem to control the impulse myself and break this circle.

I do not want to attend AA because I'm a strong atheist and am not looking for "total sobriety", i.e. I drink occassionally and have never had a problem with alcohol. I'm skeptical of the whole 12-steps approach and the cultlike mindset it creates, and would really like to find a non-religious marijuana sobriety group (in the Austin, TX area) if one exists. I just really need some kind of social support or something, because I have very few friends here and I'm not getting this done by myself.

Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by HotPatatta at 9:47 PM on April 16, 2007

i was in your position once. for me, the answer wasn't quit smoking to change my life, it was change my life and quitting pot followed.

i can't say if you're addicted or not, but my quick take is that you need to go look at the threads here about introverts trying to get out more, and follow that advice.

do anything to change your life: find some new hangouts, move to a new apartment, maybe even move to a new town. shake things up.

to me, smoking a lot of pot is more a symptom than a cause. figure out what in your life is not working for you and start there. i don't think it's marijuana.

sorry if this is over-simplified or discounting your needs; all i know is what changed my habits. for me it was wanting a different life, and when i started implementing that, i went from a couple bowls at night to zero very quickly.
posted by txsebastien at 9:49 PM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Rational Recovery is a different approach to sobriety, from a non-religious standpoint, though it also goes for a "total sobriety" outlook.

They have a flashcard intro to their method here.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 9:52 PM on April 16, 2007

I'm not sure how helpful I can be, but I am also a pretty strong athiest (raised that way) and I did try MA a few years ago to try and give up weed.

It helped up to a point-- being around people who knew how hard it was, that it felt like losing a friend in a way. I came to them in a really low point in my life and I do think that going to the meetings helped. But having said that, I only went for a month or two, and have had periods back on and off the smoke since.

I didn't complete all 12 steps obviously, and for me, it wasn't really a very good fit. But during the crisis point it did help me drag myself on a little further.

I know what you're going through, those late night cravings, the feeling that you're overwhelmed by your lack of control. It's really scary.

I have quit a fair few times and it feel like each time, I do it for a different reason and with a different response. Sometimes I get angry with myself and try to force myself to quit out of rage with my weakness, and then I tend to have bad dreams, night sweats and panic attacks. The first time I gave up was like this, and that's why MA helped.

The most recent time I quit (yes, I have relapsed) I did it almost without thinking-- I tried to trick myself into not noticing or thinking about it. That felt a lot better but I still went back.

I know I keep going back because I am trying to fill holes and stop memories from within myself-- so in a sense "I" am the problem, not the drug. Without the drug I still have a lot of fear and low self esteem, and without it I still have the same life.

So I guess what this rambling answer is saying is, perhaps focusing on You and not the Drug will help you? Perhaps a stint at AA/MA/NA might help you transition? In my experience, one's 'problems' or 'issues' don't disappear when you stop taking drugs-- plan to meet these issues face to face and be brave when you do so. It might be the difference between relapsing and staying clean?

Hope this helps. Good luck.
posted by gerls at 10:36 PM on April 16, 2007

I've been researching this recently -- one buzzword for finding alternatives to the mainstream models is to search for "harm reduction."

I'm also trying to figure out (generally) if a non-AA-er can go to an AA meeting for social support on recovery -- can a non-AA-er attend AA cafeteria style? -- or is it too weird.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:39 PM on April 16, 2007

Yeah, there is one: Don't smoke pot. Just don't do it. No matter what. Stop being half assed about your impulse control, and stop smoking the shit. And don't eat it, either.
Get rid of the stash. Get rid of the gear. Get rid of the dealer, their cell phone number, their beeper number, any other way you contact them. Get rid of the friends that enable you, while you're at it.

I don't think you have an addiction. You have a ritual. I'm with txsebastien here, shake it up, shake it off, do different things. But most of all, don't smoke pot.
posted by disclaimer at 10:39 PM on April 16, 2007

Officially Non-AA people can attend "closed" meetings - AA members only - you qualify as long as you have the desire to stop drinking or using drugs.
There are people that use the meetings for social reasons only. Most of these people adopt a pretense of working a 12 step program to appease other meeting attendees. If you advertise that you're not really there for sobriety, you can expect to be shown the door rather quickly.

There are open AA meetings that are open to non-AA members. They generally are more socially-oriented than closed meetings are.
posted by disclaimer at 10:49 PM on April 16, 2007

God I need sleep. Let me clarify my first sentence:
Non-AA members can attend closed meetings as long as they have the desire to stop drinking. You are a member of an AA meeting when you say you are, there is no official "sign up" process or anything.
posted by disclaimer at 10:51 PM on April 16, 2007

if anonymous has an account and can see my email address, please email. i am in the austin area, and am happy to talk further. i am not knowledgeable about support groups in the area, but perhaps i can recommend more ways to get away from the habits in this particular town.
posted by txsebastien at 10:55 PM on April 16, 2007

List of books about harm reduction and alternatives to AA here.

disclaimer -- My wondering is whether a person who is working on sobriety can attend AA primarily for the social support on sobriety, whilst quietly & non-disruptively ignoring aspects of the AA model. Both from the perspective of the typical AA member/group (who might not know), and from the perspective of the non-AA attendee (who might feel weird, ala taking on a false persona).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:02 PM on April 16, 2007

How about trying to make it hard for you to procure pot?
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:41 PM on April 16, 2007

I want to kick pot because it makes me unsociable, isolated, gives me anxiety, and keeps me unproductive. I'm fine not smoking most of the day until late night when I'm bored and can't bring my impulse control in line to just not take a couple hits of the good stuff. The rest of the day I have no desire to get high, but I just can't seem to control the impulse myself and break this circle.

I'm confused — are you bored and unsociable because you smoke too much pot, or do you smoke too much pot because you're bored and unsociable? (Not trying to be flip here, I'm just trying to see if this is an endless cycle or if you're making excuses).

If you only smoke pot at night when you get bored, why not find some sort of social activity that keeps you occupied and busy during the times you're most likely to smoke. It's called diversion and it's often recommended for people who are trying to quit cigarettes too. This will work towards both of your problems — it will make you less unsociable and it will distract you form getting high.

(IANAD or pot smoker, so take this with a grain of salt. It's just an idea.)
posted by Brittanie at 1:38 AM on April 17, 2007

Some programs you might check out: Drug and Rehab Centers in Austin, Texas
posted by Carol Anne at 5:49 AM on April 17, 2007

Hey man, I really hear where you are coming from here.

Here's the thing, and I don't want to sound like an echo here, but you just have to stop.

This is the thing with pot.

It's such a relatively harmless drug, that it's difficult to measure its affect on your life in small quantifiable ways. It's the sum total that makes you step back and say wow.

Want a piece of advice that helped me?

Run some numbers.

Average what you smoke in a given week. Say, a quarter bag.

Multiply that by how much you pay for it.

Multiply that by the number of weeks you have been smoking (in your case quite a while).

Add up that number, and take a long hard look at it.

Now think of what you COULD have bought with that money.

Then stop smoking. Don't touch it again. Throw away your contacts, your paraphernalia, and your current stash.

Take the money you WOULD have spent on the pot, and find a new hobby, or an old one you forsook, and spend it on that instead.

Most of all, fight the impulse.

Good luck!
posted by lazaruslong at 7:08 AM on April 17, 2007

Have you thought of trying the Alan Carr Easy Way to Quit Smoking method? I used it three weeks ago to quit smoking cigarettes (and it has worked thus far) and I am sure it's worth a shot to try here.
posted by parmanparman at 7:34 AM on April 17, 2007

I totally understand your aversion to AA/MA which seems to replace dependence on alcohol/drugs with dependence on the group.

Have you tried skipping the pot one night? Two in a row? If you can do that, and you can keep busy as many others have suggested, I bet you can do it yourself as soon as you decide to. Decide to skip it one night and you will see that whether or not you smoke is in your conscious control. As an athiest you've got to make yourself realize that if you want to stop smoking, but then you don't, nobody else is going to do it for you. Decide.

Have you seen the Southpark about AA?
posted by putril at 7:40 AM on April 17, 2007

What others have said:

1) If you're smoking because you're bored, work on becoming less bored. Diversions: find hobbies and create other rituals. Go for long walks. Write a screenplay. That sort of thing. Also see point #4.

2) Stop buying weed. You can't get high if you have no supply.

3) You mention poor impluse control. It's extremely hard, but impluse control is something you can learn. Again, create diversions: channel those impulses into something else. There are many self-help books on this subject, which will direct you toward other resources (meetings, websites, etc) you could try.

4) You sound very lonely. Get out there and meet some people with similar interests. Seek out events that interest you and strike up a conversation with someone there. Meeting people will get you out of your own head and make it easier to break your 15 year long habit.

Good Luck!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:43 AM on April 17, 2007

I agree that you need friends and more social activities. A different set of habits will go a long way to making it easier to stopping usage. Keep your eyes open in making new relationships. I found it very difficult to quit while maintaining my friends and my social scene. I was successful in cutting back while maintaining my friends, but my usage prior to making a change was huge. Depending on how close your relationships (perhaps friends from your home town) are this can be really tough. This part of it shouldn't be as big an issue for you, but as you're getting out there be aware of that dynamic. I've lived in Austin a couple of different times and it's not like everyone is walking in a green haze, but it is present in a lot of different subcultures.

I have moved around a lot and for me the easiest times to go without are when I am new someplace and don't know anyone, so obviously we differ there. Still, it sounds like it plays a similar role in your life as it did in mine, a daily passtime and relaxation. Consciously doing things that relax you like meditation, may leave you more focused and a bit more, not keyed up, but ready to engage with the world. It's a good feeling and that's pretty much the opposite of how marijuana leaves me. So the contrast is motivating. Aerobic exercise is another passtime which shifts your state in a good way and to one that is very different from being high. Choose relaxation and leisure activities that require engagement, limit your passive consumption. I find it difficult not to want to smoke if I'm watching a movie and TV is completely inane without it (not that the inanity changes, but I can tolerate it better).

Also, consider that you have been self medicating. Are there conditions, perhaps psychological, perhaps psychiatric, that marijuana may have been helping you deal with? I saw a reference to a study a couple of months ago that smoking tobacco was of benefit to some neurological conditions. Marijuana is one of the most commonly used substances for self medication.

Good luck.
posted by BigSky at 7:54 AM on April 17, 2007

If you can, try some lithium, to prevent withdrawal. It worked very well in rats and in a test at lower dosage levels (relative to the rat study), worked alright in humans.
posted by daksya at 8:37 AM on April 17, 2007

Stop buying it. If you don't have it you won't use it.

Have trouble with that? Move to a new place where you lack a source.
posted by caddis at 9:11 AM on April 17, 2007

Give what you have away, and if you don't have anyone to give it to, throw it away. As in flush it.

Don't call your dealer anymore. Lose his number, stop being friends with him, make up some crap about having to take a piss test for work if he bugs you.

Establish new routines. You're bored? You've got a computer, right? Play a game, watch some porn, do something, and then go to sleep. Eliminate the reefer from your daily program.

You can email me, too. I'm in the Austin area and I used to smoke a bunch and I don't anymore. I'm still an occasional smoker, socially-like, but nothing like I was in college.
posted by mckenney at 9:22 AM on April 17, 2007

Having been in A.A, N.A. and Whatever A. for the past 27 years, I can attest to your aversion as an atheist. This is why A.A., N.A. and other 12 step programs have somewhat evolved to the point where you can find atheist meetings within the 12-step framework. I searched the Austin area's N.A. meeting list and nothing jumped out at me as being atheist-centered but they are out there. I attended atheist A.A. meetings in Seattle and it was more of a discussion group than anything. We didn't read from the big book or perform most of the normal rituals you'd find at a meeting and it was fantastic. The old-timer in me want to tell you "stop thinking your addiction is so special and get your ass in with a group of people who want to stop" but each person has their own path to recovery. I would encourage that that path include others who are trying to quit MJ as well.

There is a group called SOS (Save Our Selves) that was founded by James Christopher a few years back. In a nutshell:

SOS or Save Our Selves, is a self empowerment approach to sobriety. We believe it is each individual’s personal choice to use or not to use. We choose not to use, and not to drink, no matter what situations or circumstances arise. We hold all things to be separate from our sobriety. It is not dependant upon any outside influences, or a higher power, but simply put, a decision, to change our thoughts, change our habits and change our lives.

WE ARE NOT POWERLESS. It is within each of us to make the decision not to use, by means of rational and reasonable thought processes. We welcome all people regardless of spiritual or non-spiritual beliefs. We support each other in offering new ideas, and are open to free thought and healthy skepticism. Ours is a SOBRIETY GROUP and as such that is our MAIN PRIORITY.

There is an Austin chapter as well. Maybe this would be a good place to start.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:27 AM on April 17, 2007

As someone who has been clean and sober for almost 13 years I can say that I wouldn't be where I am without attending NA/AA. I was not/am not religious in any way shape or form. Although the program does refer to 'God' it was made clear to me early on that we were talking about a "higher power" greater than yourself - it could be a tree, an animal, a deep part of yourself, even some specific belief. It's just a representation of something that you surrender your will to, in order to get outside of yourself for long enough to take an objective view of your life and condition.

You have nothing to lose by going and sitting in on a meeting - you don't have to talk if you don't want to, you can just sit there. You don't even have to introduce yourself (although it wouldn't hurt). This doesn't have to be a lifelong venture - I have'nt been to a meeting in over 8 years - no matter what the steps say, some people need to go for life and some don't. I needed that support group of people that understand what I was going through. I needed a group of people I could hang around with who would help me to stay off the weed. I needed to learn some tools for how to live my life without weed and to confront and deal with the underlying reasons for why I was doing what I was doing. Regarding the God thing - take out of the meetings and the readings what you find appealling and interesting (and what works for you) and leave the rest.

I struggled with weed for many years, even though I did quit from time to time deep down I knew that I would start again. I always had excuses to smoke but ultimately I was lonely, had low self-esteem, was unsociable and in retrospect was not really living. Going to meetings for a few years helped me break that cycle. Life now is way beyond what my wildest dreams were 13 years ago - I just wanted to know how to stop smoking up.

Do yourself a favor - hit a few meetings, give it a couple weeks. If you can't take it, then try something else. The fact that you're trying is a big step in itself.

Good luck, in whatever you choose to do.....
posted by snatchos at 9:54 AM on April 17, 2007

Look for Cognitive and Behavoural Therapy (CBT) programs aimed at people trying to reduce or eliminate substance use. Where I live there is a group CBT run through the hospital (free) for exactly this purpose.

The sucess rate is good, and it has nothing to do with god. If you can't find a CBT group, one on one sessions are also an option.
posted by dr. moot at 12:40 PM on April 17, 2007

I would agree with the people who have advised just stopping altogether. When a person has an unhealthy dependence on something, I would guess that it would be very difficult for that person to be able to moderate their use.

I also think it would be a good ideas to check out all of the groups mentioned on here, if only just one time - you may be surprised. Also as much as AA/NA/MA people talk about religion, you theoretically do not need to be religious to belong. I have known people in AA who are athiests. It is just about finding the right group of people. All groups are different.

disclaimer -- My wondering is whether a person who is working on sobriety can attend AA primarily for the social support on sobriety, whilst quietly & non-disruptively ignoring aspects of the AA model. Both from the perspective of the typical AA member/group (who might not know), and from the perspective of the non-AA attendee (who might feel weird, ala taking on a false persona).

Claudia, you are allowd to attend any AA meetings as long as you have a desire to stop drinking, that is the only requirement. And many people do attend for social reasons, although I daresay it may be difficult/uncomfortable for you to attend for any length of time while ignoring the aspects of the AA model. In AA, as you can imagine, people are often quite grateful for what it has done for them and will talk about it quite a bit, so it may be difficult to ignore it. As far as how it would make the other AA members feel, I am of the opnion that if you genuinely want to be sober a good group will welcome you with open arms even if you are unsure/unwilling to adopt the prinicples at the time.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:23 PM on April 17, 2007

Burhanistan: Please do NOT try lithium as it is something much harder to get off of than marijuana because of the alteration it does to you brain.

I wasn't suggesting a regular regimen. Just for the acute withdrawal period, and with a prescription.

It should be noted, as the OP probably well knows, that there are no real withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana that need special medical treatment. It is kind of hard for a person to deal with clarity and extra time on their hands at first

posted by daksya at 12:56 AM on April 18, 2007

There is no "acute withdrawal" with pot. That's silly. Just stop toking and your mind will clear in a few days. Remove access and you will not start again. You do not need a self help group or anything else. You just need to make it more difficult to obtain so as to remove some of the temptation. We are not talking heroin here.
posted by caddis at 7:28 AM on April 18, 2007

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