Content Warning: This article openly discussed the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Please be aware if this is a trigger for you.

An unexpected sense of envy descended upon me as I listened to “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” the latest offering from one of my new favorite podcasts, The Cut On Tuesdays. In this episode, all sorts of women speak giddily about how weed improves their quality of life and enhances everyday activities. They speak about paying bills while high, one talks about taking her two-year-old child to the park while high, another speaks of doing chores while high, unpacking groceries while high, the list goes on and on. There are even adorations about the variety of methodologies to get high, under tongue (sublingual) THC oils, vaping, and edibles. 

The message in this episode is clear: Forget about the pot of yore (from the 70s, 80s, and 90s).  Today’s weed is a seemingly harmless product that enhances everything, relieves pain, cures insomnia, helps with anxiety, and can also help to put you in “the mood” even when you’re not feeling it (as it were). The message we’re seeing in the media is that this new weed has something for everyone.

Today’s weed is a seemingly harmless product that enhances everything, relieves pain, cures insomnia, helps with anxiety, and can also help to put you in “the mood” even when you’re not feeling it (as it were). 

After listening to the episode, I immediately thought: You mean I could have had a completely different parenting experience with this new weed? If what they’re saying is true, endless Blue’s Clues episodes might have been enjoyable if I could have eaten a couple of weed gummies? And you mean I could have just hit a weed pen when I took them to the Zoo for the fiftieth time? And don’t tell me that I might have just been able to add a couple of harmless drops of THC oil under my tongue when I needed to go to sleep – all without the fear of addiction. I know that I can’t do those things now, I’m in recovery, and that means nothing that alters me from the neck up. But then, back then — maybe weed, the way they’re describing it, wouldn’t have woken up that giant and I’d be eating edibles any time I wanted.

So why isn’t everybody eating, smoking, rubbing, vaping this wonder drug/herb, twenty-four seven? And why in God’s name would anyone who is able to enjoy the benefits of this new world of “stonery” ever, ever want to stop?

My history with weed dates back to the 1970s when my mother married a weed enthusiast named Kenny. One of my earliest memories was the sound of a matchbook cover, scraping along the underside of the shoebox lid where he kept his stash (I would learn later that he was separating the seeds from the smokable bits). Then he would transform from a regular, mild-mannered 25-year-old guy to the person I came to think of as “high Kenny.”

High Kenny was emotionally and physically abusive, red-eyed, menacing, and intense. It got so bad that just the sound of that scraping made me stop whatever I was doing and tense up like a rabbit hearing a predator approach them while alone in an open field.

Hiss, hiss, swish. Hiss, hiss, swish.

When I was twelve or thirteen, in a fit of desperation, I called the police and told them about the shoebox and its contents. Then I held my breath while looking out our living room window as I waited for the flashing lights of the police cruiser that never came.  

High Kenny was emotionally and physically abusive, red-eyed, menacing, and intense. 

Kenny and my mom finally got divorced when I was 15 but the damage was done. I hated weed and had a PTSD-like disdain and distrust for anyone who smoked it.

Later in my life, while high out of my mind on cocaine, I tried it once (okay, twice!) but each time I was disappointed. Smoking weed looked like freedom for its adorers. They loved the feeling, the high, the smell, the many rituals that went along with getting high — rolling it, smoking it, passing it. I felt left out, maybe even shut out because I couldn’t partake. I wanted to get in on the comradery I witnessed among my friends but it wasn’t the drug for me.  

Vicodin was the first thing that made me feel like, “Oh, here’s something I can get down with.” It took the day’s troubles away and gave me a sense of euphoric freedom that I had longed for my whole life. I’d come upon it honestly, taking two one day for pain after shoulder surgery and finding that space behind my eyes was suddenly flooded by a warm, floaty feeling, followed by this deep sense of calm that filled my whole body. WOW.

Ambien was next for me. I credit it for saving my life while my kids were little, allowing me to grab some much-needed sleep. All at once, I had the energy to play Sponge Bob with my kids over and over and over again, take them to the park, to the zoo, to museums, make dinner, do bath time and bedtime. What I didn’t know was that these two drugs (and the vodka I was washing them down with) were busy awakening my alcoholism, which was like this sleeping giant inside of me at the time. 

And when that giant finally brought me to my knees ten and a half years ago, I was blindsided, ashamed, bereft, and out of ideas.  

What I didn’t know was that these two drugs (and the vodka I was washing them down with) were busy awakening my alcoholism, which was like this sleeping giant inside of me at the time. 

There is a program called MA (Marijuana Anonymous), which is one of the many offsprings of the OG recovery program (of which I am a member). I’d never really thought much about it as I was never a pot smoker. But now, it has my attention as I’m getting all of this information about this new, legalized weed and the various sexy ways in which it’s presented to the public.

In the MA literature, it appeals to those with cannabis use disorder who have “lost control of their lives” (it even says something like, “while all our dreams go up in smoke”). According to the literature, one needn’t stop using any other substances, unlike the program that I’m in. But just like in the program I’m in, all you need is a desire to stop in order to be a member.

But I still didn’t know why anyone who doesn’t have to would want to stop.

So, I texted a friend of mine. He is a long-time pot smoker who recently celebrated one-year marijuana-free. Here’s what he said:

Reasons Why I Quit Smoking:

  1. I realized I was no longer the best version of myself.
  2. I’m a writer and smoking basically made things that should have taken 2-3 months to write take 6-10 months to write.
  3. I was snapping at my son a lot. I didn’t like how it was affecting our relationship.
  4. I tried to go a day without it for 2-3 years, and I couldn’t do it.
  5. I realized that I spent a lot of time thinking about smoking; if I wasn’t getting stoned, then I was thinking about getting stoned or when I’d have to go the dispensary and get more.
  6. The withdrawals were awful.

Say what? I know all too well about the horrors of opiate, benzo, and alcohol withdrawals, but I’d never heard of weed withdrawals. I wrote back to my friend and asked him about it.  He responded right away.

“It was like having the flu and also simultaneously wanting to crawl out of my skin for three weeks,” he said. “If you know that ‘jonesing’ feeling of going off nicotine, it’s like that times 1000. Plus mood swings, depression, and loss of appetite.”

That’s all I needed to hear.

In July 2008, I spent nearly three weeks of my 30-day stay in treatment enduring the most taking, humiliating, and horrific withdrawal period of my entire life. I was reduced to a crumpled, sobbing, pathetic mess at the end and was only able to face my life again because it held the possibility of staying connected with my children. Had it not been for them, I’m not sure that I could have survived it. I don’t ever want to go through anything like that ever again. Ever.

Recently, I listened to the beginning of that podcast again — this time with my dad, who has been sober for 34 years. And this time I heard everything differently. This time, I didn’t lament the fact that this brand of recreational weed wasn’t available when it might have been a “good idea” for me back when my kids were little. 

The weed of today might be okay for lots of folks, and more power to them — really. But I’m clear on the fact that it wouldn’t have been safe for me to use now or then. So, the messaging was actually wrong; the weed of today is NOT for everybody, because it’s definitely not for me. I’m good.