Look, I get it – smoking pot is one of the easiest ways to blow off steam, instantly relax, self-medicate and make almost any activity more enjoyable, errh, except maybe that first date.
Yes, it’s easy to argue that it’s way less destructive than it’s legal twin, alcohol. Oh booze, you go ahead and be the angry, sloppy, violent twin brother who is adored by the entire community! Never mind that little William Weed can be a huge source of insight, enjoyment, and creativity without ever picking a fight with a stranger. Yay pot!
That is, until getting high begins to drain the life force out of you and you start stumbling through life, day by day, in a misty haze of unconscious compulsions (Doritos!).
Starting to live outside of a stoned shell – facing life without the numbness that drugs and alcohol so readily provide – can be scary. But you’re not alone. You can overcome your addiction and start living the life you know you deserve. And you can find help in the most unexpected places.
“I Can Stop Anytime I Want To”
The first time I smoked pot, I laughed for 4 hours straight! I felt like the cop who came to our grade school and told us “drugs are bad and will ruin your life” lied his ass off. Seriously. What he should have said was “drugs will most likely NOT destroy your life, but you’ll definitely have a blast!”
Can you imagine such a frank officer of the law, waddling into my 5th grade classroom, all bulky muscles and pot belly?
Marijuana was a portal for me and led me both deeper into myself introspectively and artistically – and at the same time deeper into the dark side of the force: “harder” drugs, dangerous experiences and poor decisions galore awaited me on my path. This had more to do with the fact that I’ve always been attracted to intense experiences, and less to do with the fact that ganja can act as a “gateway drug”.
And it definitely helped mellow out my violent impulses.
I’ve already written all about my self-destructive rite of passage through drugs. But of all the substances I experimented with (mushrooms, acid, pot, ecstasy laced with coke, MDMA, heroin and speed, special K, PCP one time by accident, lots of shameful moments while drunk), pot was BY FAR the hardest one for me to quit.
Forget the medical definition of addiction for a second – we all know that there are mental and physical aspects to it all. I have a very simple definition for addiction – compulsively engaging in a behavior that doesn’t support your greatness, which is the highest expression of your personal truth and power!
When looking at addiction from this perspective, many things become addictions: pills, porn, netflix, sugar, and gambling clearly, but also checking email compulsively, constantly working out so hard that you hurt yourself (thanks to the militarization of fitness), sacrificing your health for your job, obsessing about food or your weight or how you look in the mirror, etc.
“Scientists are now characterizing behavior such as gambling, compulsive shopping, and even overeating in the same biological terms they use to explain substance abuse. The common denominator is an out-of-control reward system… All the things people become addicted to — alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, drugs, sex, carbohydrates, gambling, playing video games, shopping, living on the edge — boost dopamine in the reward center (of the brain).” John Ratey
That quote in itself should be a huge eye opener! We are truly a culture of addicts.
The World Is Your Classroom
I know. It’s just a little Mary Jane. No big deal. Weed’s like the weak, dorky nerd in the grade school classroom. It’s hard to be afraid of her when crack cocaine is over there roughing up anyone that comes near him and heroin is in the corner riding a mystical fucking dragon.
And perhaps that’s exactly why marijuana’s hold is so powerful on so many. It’s easy to underestimate her power. But the truth is, that nerd with the glasses is smart as hell, knows your deepest fears (paranoia!) and is unintimidating, so you let her in close, where she can whisper those fears into your brain box and manipulate you with you even realizing it. “Life is so boring sober. Pot is natural. It’s way less harmful than alcohol and has medicinal value.” And on and on.
Meanwhile in the cafeteria, everyone is being served soda, which is way more destructive than most illegal substances. What a fucked up grade school we all live in!
Healing Addiction 100%, Naturally
But you can break out of the addiction prison and be a real rebel.
That’s exactly what I did – at age 18 after a three and a half year roller coaster ride to hell and back, I finally had a moment staring into the mirror and said “I’m not a victim, I’m doing this to myself, so it’s up to me to stop.”
Many times before I’d wished to stop being “such a fuck up”, but this time I wished with my entire being – there was no part of me that held back or was secretly snickering “you loser, look at you wishing into a mirror like a child”.
That moment of clarity and awakening wasn’t the finish line, it was the crack in the door I needed to break out of my “addiction prison” and start heading toward the open prairie of freedom, glory and destiny! The path ahead was paved with three, and only three, things: movement, meditation and nature connection.
I didn’t go to AA meetings, and I don’t need to cling to the identity of “once an addict, always an addict” as I’ve totally healed myself. But let me make it clear…
I’m NOT Against Pot, I’m Anti-“Mental Slavery” and “Social Hypnotism”
Because that’s what addiction is – a mental prison that we construct to shield ourselves from both our fears and our power. We may build the prison with weed, beer, or porn, but in all cases it is an attempt to avoid living our lives fully, to numb ourselves from feeling reality and being aware of what is.
And because so many people have fallen into this trap, one way or another, it’s become not only “normal” to “live” your life as a hollow version of yourself, it’s expected of you!
There is a certain level of “social hypnotism” in our pop culture that makes it seem cool, even a goal, to be extremely obsessive, self-destructive and dependent on substances. This is our collective cultural pathology – our culture of addiction, where it’s cool to say you’re “obsessed” with something. It makes you feel special and intense. Admit it, you said that shit this morning. “Oh, that new BLAH BLAH BLAH song, I’m obsessed!” said with glee.
If you honestly love smoking pot, and it’s not a love-hate relationship for you, then more power to you! Roll a blunt with one hand while riding a purple buffalo into the sunset – that’s rad! But for others (including people like me who tend to be attracted to extremes), if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll recognize that instead of adding to your life (which it may have in the past), smoking weed is actually holding you back from living the life of your dreams.
And you deserve to live your dreams. But everything has a price and in this case the price is courage.
7 Steps to Busting Out of the “Addiction Prison”
Step 1: Admit you have a problem.
This is where courage comes in – taking a step back and seeing it for what it is. You may love smoking pot, but if you also hate it that’s a good indication you have a problem. When I first started smoking pot, it made everything more fun and enjoyable and was love at first light. But pretty soon that turned into “I need to smoke before doing anything.”
If you’re constantly tired, sad or trapped in your head, these are good signs you might have a problem. If you feel indecisive, chronically depressed and forgetful, those are good indications too. Also, if you’ve read this far in this article, that might be another great indication. LOL 🙂
“I can stop anytime I want to, famous last words that came back to haunt you.” MF Doom
Step 2: Decide if you’re really ready to quit.
You’ve got to want it, so bad. Of all the steps, this is by far the most important one and the only one that really can’t be taught. You’ve just really got to want it and that desire has to come from inside of you. If part of you wants it and part of you doesn’t, the battle inside of yourself can wage for a long time and play out in every aspect of your life.
For many of us, this “inner battle” phase is an important and protracted phase in the recovery process. Many never get past this point.
“Sometimes it is necessary to live a lie to its fullest before we are ready to take the next step into truth.” Charles Eisenstein
At this stage, there is a very important trap that many of us fall into. We feel like there is something wrong with us that needs to be fixed. You may have many problems, and some of them may stem directly from your addictions, but problem-solving only leads you back to square one.
And what is square one? Square one is “feeling like you are not enough”, it’s the hole inside of you that you’re trying to fill using pot. Even if you succeed in quitting smoking weed, you’ll just start filling that hole with another addictive behavior.
This was my path – I went from a pot addiction to a workout addiction to a sex addiction (sixteen year old me would have loved to skip right to the sex addiction phase, but didn’t have any game until he started building muscles and confidence in the gym) – arguably I was going in circles, but most likely it was a spiral with each loop leading me a little higher into my personal power.
So getting rid of the “bad” isn’t enough. You have to create the good out of the bad. (Read “The Path of Least Resistance if you want to learn more about how problem solving isn’t enough.) Are you really ready for that? Good, read on. Because you’ve got to want it. Bad. And for some of us, we have to hit rock bottom first.
Step 3: What is your WHY?
The “good” is your unique sense of purpose, that awesome thing you want to do with your life. What is your ninja mission in life, the reason you were born?
Figure that out and then you’ll know the direction you want to move in, not just the directions you don’t want to go in. Could you imagine trying to get somewhere by focusing on all the places you don’t wan to go? Never. Gonna. Happen.
“Don’t smoke weed, don’t smoke weed” just translates into “smoke weed, smoke weed!” It’s like “don’t think of a pink elephant. No pink elephants! No pink elephants!” Your energy follows your focus, right up that pink elephant’s butt. Pee yuuu.
So yes, you may need to focus on stopping the “bad” behavior, but you need to focus more energy on doing the “good” behavior and that totally depends on your purpose in life. You decide. You define good and bad, as it relates to you and the dream you want to create for yourself. I know, freedom is scary. You have to make decisions while heading into the unknown. Deal with it.
“There is no rigid script for this mad stage we are on… No matter how minor or how great, you must make choices each and every minute that passes. The irony of life is that it is a one-way journey. You cannot go back, you cannot make comparisons by trying one way and then another. There are no double-blind studies when it comes to your own life. Therefore, only wisdom will suffice to guide you.” Deng Ming-Dao
Frankly, not everyone needs to quit smoking completely. For me, I had to because I was a total pothead and it really made me feel week, socially awkward, overly introspective and afraid to take any chances. I’d always hang back and “hit the pause button” instead of just pushing “play” and welcoming the adventure and uncertainty that comes with living.
So what’s your big “why” and does your relationship to substances support it or undermine it? Do you end up in higher states of awareness or lower ones? Is it creative, destructive or both? What role does weed play on your path to wisdom?
Step 4: Don’t stop smoking pot, instead start moving your body.
Yup. You heard me right. Just “move” it.
I’ve created a specific 6-week plan below that is based on the science of how movement helps overcome addictions. All addictions – not just pot – light up the same areas of the brain, especially the areas that deal with survival (which is why so many people often end up trading one addiction for another).
But guess what? Moving the body changes the physiology of these exact same areas of your brain. Isn’t that wild! Why aren’t more people talking about this? They’re probably too busy twerking in a selfie video.
Exercise creates new neurons in areas of the brain that addiction lights up – so you can create new pathways, which means the opportunity for new behaviors. Engaging in the destructive behavior is a way to feel emotionally safe. This is why you can’t just tell someone “it’s bad so just quit”. You think they don’t know that already?
How many cigarette smokers don’t know that smoking cigarettes is bad? It’s really only that one Indonesian 2-year old baby that smokes, everyone else knows the deal. But they still can’t quit because they’re making an emotional decision that overrides the rational part of the brain that says “health is good, don’t do unhealthy things or you’ll suffer.”
You can begin to rewire your brain with movement. Just get your ass in gear – exercise is one of the most powerful and direct ways to work at the level of emotion. Have you ever noticed that the word “motion” is in the word “emotion”? It’s not a coincidence.
If you want to read more about the science of using exercise to overcome addiction and transform your brain’s physiology, then read “Spark” by John Ratey, who is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In his words:
“Exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function.”
Please note: this is not about working out super hard and suffering miserably in the gym. It’s about moving and feeling your body in any way that works for you and working up a sweat for at least 20 minutes, every day. (And if you have a workout addiction, that’s a whole new blog post waiting to be written, hopefully soon, but you can start here.)
Step 5: Start keeping track of how much you smoke and how much you move.
In the first step, you admitted you had a problem and in the second step you decided you really wanted to do something about it. In step 3 you got clear about what your goal is in life (at least a little bit, this takes time and is a process) and recognized that it’s not just about stopping smoking pot, but about filling the void inside of you with things that support your greatness and moving away from the things that make you a forgetful numb skull. Then, in step 4 you made a commitment to start moving your body daily.
Now in step 5 you start keeping track of how much you move and how much you smoke pot – because what you measure improves. You can use the 6-week plan that I’ve already outlined to do exactly that – download it from the link below and update it daily.
Step 6: Celebrate your victories and acknowledge your successes, even small ones. Be kind to yourself.
Small improvements are especially important to acknowledge and recognize – so even if you still smoke weed, but now at least you only do it on the weekends or after a long day of work instead of needing to do it to start your day, it means you’re making progress and that should be celebrated. How? By smoking pot! Just kidding.
By doing anything you want that is fun AND supports your greatness, anything that makes you feel alive with no negative side effects.
And please be kind to yourself during this process. You are both the victim and the perpetrator, but you’re not the demon that society wants to make you out to be. There’s nothing wrong with you innately.
Step 7: Get high naturally.
The final step of breaking out of your very own addiction prison is… learning how to get high naturally, without any of the adverse side effects, risks or self-destruction. Oh yeah! 🙂
Getting High Naturally, Without the Shitty Side Effects
Getting high just means “feeling fucking awesome in your body” and sometimes even “outside” of your body, too. There are many things that can satisfy this definition and when you do it without being dependent on any external substances, you’ll feel even more satisfied and more self-reliant – and that is the way of the ninja.
It could be art, surfing, rock climbing, running, yoga, Tai Chi, or spear fishing. Any activity that allows you to move your body – while being very focused and practicing a skill – will immediately engage your whole body-mind, generate inner happy chemicals and will eventually lead to states of “flow”, where the activity becomes a moving meditation. And you WILL feel high from it. This is one way to fill the “hole in the heart” while becoming a more awesome, healthier version of yourself.
The Inner Medicine Cabinet
We tend to think of endorphins as a watered down version of the “real stuff”, but the truth is that they are natural opiates! That’s some hard core shit right there and it’s inside of you already just waiting to be released. As you probably know, the “runner’s high” is a state of intense bliss after running or workout. But endorphins are not the only “happy chemicals” that are released when we exercise.
For instance, our bodies also create endocannabinoids (the body’s natural version of cannabis) and exercise raises them a ton.
“Endocannabinoids are to THC as endorphins are to morhpine – substances produced in the body that elicit the same effect as the drug… It turns out that marijuana, exercise, and chocolate all activate the same receptors in the brain.” John Ratey
There is no drug they can synthesize that doesn’t already exist in a natural, more-kick-ass form already in the body. Why? Because synthetic drugs have to fit the “receptor” cells in our body, otherwise they can’t be absorbed and will have no effect. And all this time you thought you were doing the good shit, it’s just been a watered down version of the stuff that’s already inside of you.
You want to be a real hardcore junkie? Well, then learn how to open your inner medicine cabinet.
There is one way to get super high – naturally, in a way that is healthy – that works for everyone quickly and is totally accessible: breath work. You want to change your state of consciousness? Then just change your breath rate.
Slow your breath down to just 4 breaths per minute, do that for 3 minutes, and you’re guaranteed an altered state of consciousness (and tons of happy chemicals that will make you feel relaxed yet powerful, you’ll feel good in your body.)
Not feeling comfortable in our own skin is one of the biggest drivers of addiction – we self-medicate and numb ourselves to the imbalances and uncomfortable sensations within ourselves. But you’ve got to “feel it to heal it”, no doctor ever saved someone’s life just by numbing them. They had to perform the surgery too!
When you practice conscious breathing, you are rescuing yourself. Otherwise, our senses stay dulled and we make the same habitual, socially conditioned mistakes, over and over again: the addiction prison.
There are many breath work systems out there, like Holotropic Breathing, pranayama (yogic breath work) and other kinds – play around and find what works for you. How do you know it works? When it feels good, it’s that simple. Then just keep practicing that.
It won’t give you the “oh wow, far out man” experience of first getting high, at least not right away, but it will alter your state in a powerful, novel way that feels awesome.
“While exercise may not provide the immediate rush of a snort of cocaine, it instills a more diffuse sense of well-being that, over time, will become a craving in its own right.” John Ratey
Exercise for Addiction Checklist
- Aerobic Exercise: 30 minutes 5 – 7 times per week. Intensity level: 7 – 10 (just below getting out of breath). Swimming is great for people with access to a pool and need something low impact. So is walking. Running is a great choice for many people too, with many health benefits – from easing depression to better skin – but you should build up to it gradually.
- Strength Train: 3 – 4x /week, 30 minutes. Focus on getting stronger, not getting tired.
- Create you own breathing meditation practice. Do it every day before you go to bed and/or first thing in the morning.
- Engage your community for social support.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Move your body daily in a way that feels good and works up a sweat. Keep it simple.
- Don’t equate movement with pain and suffering. Find ways to move your body that feel good and keep doing that.
Living In Captivity
It’s the sad truth – we are all living in captivity. We are all addicts. We’ve become entirely dependent: on media to entertain us, on drugs to help us feel happy, on violence to feel strong, on doctors to feel healthy, on sex to feel intimate, on technology to feel impactful, on authority to tell us what to do, on processed food to feel full and on and on. This is the collective prison our most recent ancestors have constructed for us in the last 200 years and we are all helping perpetuate it; civilization is our cage.
“The things you own end up owning you.” Fight Club
There is nothing wrong with society and civilization – the issue is that we’ve become over-civilized and lost our direct connection to the wildness that lives within each of us. We are animals designed over countless generations of evolution to live, move, survive and thrive in the wilderness! The key to health is balance and yet we’ve come to fetishize reason, rationality, science and the brain at the expense of art, imagination and the body – and it’s literally destroying us.
Here we are, “living” in captivity – we’ve forgotten how to be wild/free/spontaneous, how to heal ourselves and make ourselves feel good without being dependent on foreign substances, all because of the social hypnotism that gets conditioned into us from our earliest days. Our education system welcomed us into the prison, confining us to an unnatural room for THE most vital and defining years of our lives, in many cases for two decades! We’re human robots before we even head for the corporate cubicle work environment.
Most of the people you know will be born, mate and die in captivity, having never truly lived free and not even knowing it. Money is our cigarette barter system and hilariously/horrifically enough, most people just fight to get a better prison cell. “Mine is made out of gold bars and says Trump on the wall!”
Your movement practice (exercise, when done consciously) is like a little chisel or hammer – every day you can dig a little, creating a tunnel to freedom. With every new day that you train, you gain a little bit more power and mobility, moving closer and closer to the open prairie of the wild unknown! And that is how to use exercise to quit smoking pot!
And I Hope One Day…
We’ll meet out there out in the wild and you’ll tell me with a huge smile on your face “you know, reading your blog post about exercise and pot changed my life”. And we’ll both share a moment staring deep into each others’ eyes, laughing uncontrollably, suddenly realizing we’re both high as hell.
Until then, and as always,
Graphic Designs: Resonant Fish