When I started smoking pot as a teenager, I was looking for fun, adventure, and a sense of belonging. But now, looking back, I realize I was also looking for escape, and to “check out” from the discomfort of living.
And why was I so uncomfortable? Well, for one thing I was a teenager! But I was also developing this tragic sense that I wasn’t destined for happiness. I felt that the smart, cool, connected and attractive people were “doing it right” and their lives would work out, and the losers like me were screwing up and wouldn’t amount to anything or find love, happiness or success. That’s a lot of pain to carry around, and smoking pot let me deaden that pain and escape to a fantasy world where I was one of those cool people – for a while.
As the years went by, though, the ratio of fun and escape to depression and shame started to swing towards the latter, and by the end I was definitely that “furtive, neurotic bundle of unexpressed emotion” we read about in our book. And the “unexpressed emotions” for me were depression, anxiety, shame and fear.
Finally, all that was too much, and I got that sense of desperation over my pot use that brought me to recovery. But just as I thought smoking weed was the solution in my youth, I showed up at my first meeting thinking that smoking weed was the problem. As soon as I fix that problem, I reckoned, everything would be cool. I wasn’t even thinking about fixing the underlying problems of self-esteem and fear that drove me to smoke (and drink alcoholically) in the first place.
Happiness and joy? Forget about it! I was here for one thing: quit pot. And the people in the meeting started telling me how to do that: go to meetings, share honestly, take a service position, attend social events, get a sponsor and work the Steps. And I started doing those things.
The results of this process utterly amazed me. Not only did I quit smoking pot, but I also quit drinking, which believe me was not in my original gameplan. Beyond that, I was given real friends who knew me better than any I’d had before. I was also given a trusted advisor and confidant in my sponsor, the ability to discuss my feelings and problems, a spiritual practice, and access to amazing teaching traditions that enriched my life on many levels.
I used to think of these things as extras, beyond my simple goal of getting sober. But I slowly figured out that, in our program, all of that is exactly how we quit smoking pot. Our program, after all, is primarily about not picking up again. And we do that by looking at exactly who we are, accepting it, doing things for others, prayer and meditation, and all the other things we refer to as the “daily maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
Even more amazing than that is the change that has begun to happen deep within myself. I am slowly starting to accept, and really live my life from, the idea that happiness and joy are available to me. I don’t mean getting what I want; I mean being happy, joyous and free, and also facing life’s difficulties without spinning out into the old ways of thinking and behaving: my life won’t work out, I’m a loser, and I’m doing it all wrong.
Today, I am blessed with 13 years of continuous sobriety, thanks to this program. I am still blessed with that trusted advisor, amazing friends, my spiritual program, and a worldwide fellowship of peers who share my experience and speak my language.
But best of all, I have been given what I lacked way back when I first picked up a pipe: the sense that I am okay, right now, as I am. It’s a fleeting thing, and I still get into fear and despair, but thanks to the Steps I am not driven by them anymore. I actually have been given a life with hope!