Some Thoughts on Self-Medication

I am not shy about my lifestyle. I smoke my fair share of pot. In fact, I smoke a lot of people’s shares. Something changed for me this week, though. I watched Super High Me, a documentary with a similar premise to that of Morgan Spurlock’s provocative Super Size Me. Super High Me explores the effects of being stoned 100% of one’s waking life. The documentary follows a reasonably scientific approach, with the test subject (standup comic Doug Benson) abstaining for a month and subsequently being super high every day all day for the next month.

In describing his expectations, Benson reveals that he anticipates the pot-free month to suck and the super-high month to induce the so-called burnout phenomenon, where the user gets sick of being high and wants to be sober. As expected, the pot-free month was not fun for him, but was also not anything like the withdrawal people generally experience with serious drugs, like cocaine and heroin. The first few days were uncomfortable, but not even close to unbearable. The surprising thing was that his expectation that he would burn out and get sick of it was not realized. In fact, he remarks near the end of the film that the experience was “awesome.” Granted, he’s a comedian, so he’s likely to embellish the story to get a laugh, but I don’t believe there was all that much exaggeration involved.

This topic is highly relevant to my lifestyle, as I have spent much of the last 5yrs stoned, albeit not high all day every day. I don’t believe my job has been negatively affected by this, but I do believe my pot smoking played a role in the end of my last two serious relationships. Frankly, I’m not sure whether it’s a matter of judgment (the perception that it’s unhealthy or immoral), jealousy (because I could do it and she couldn’t), or annoyance (that she had to “put up with” my goofy stoned ass). I suppose I’ll never know.

What I do know is how I feel about it. I find pot to be an excellent mood stabilizer. When I’m a little high, I’m generally kinder, more patient, relaxed, and mellow, and I don’t tend to feel extreme emotions that I sometimes experience when I’m completely sober. Also, I find it expands my creative capacity immeasurably. Lately, though, the pattern I’ve noticed is that I don’t get just a little high. In college, I could smoke a little before going to school and the day would go by with grace and ease. Sometimes, I’d smoke again when I returned home in the afternoon. Sometimes, I would only smoke once a day, or even less often. More recently, though, I’ve been finding myself indulging with reckless abandon, anywhere from 3-10x a day. This culminated in my realization this week that I’ve smoked almost a gram a day for the past three months.

At the moment, I’m feeling pretty good about things, as I have not smoked in a few days. The first day after I ran out of weed was challenging. In fact, much of this week I’ve been craving it. I’ve been feeling melancholy (not depressed really, just a bit down) and lonely (I work at home and live alone). I’ve also been having a very hard time concentrating. I joke with friends that pot has the reverse affect on me as it does on most people. The vast majority of folks I’ve seen turn into lazy idiots who mostly want to play video games and fuck when they get high. (That’s not really fair, because I like to play video games and fuck whether I’m high or not.) They acknowledge that they couldn’t possibly focus on finishing a sentence, let alone being productive at work. I am the opposite. I get hyper, chatty, and excited about work whenever I’m high. In an IM conversation with a good friend recently, I said something like,

“it’s funny. everyone else seems to be incapable of working when they’re high. i seem incapable of working when i’m not.”

I don’t know what it is. There’s something about my body chemistry that works differently from everyone else. Another key factor for me is my general feeling of intellectual superiority over just about everyone I’ve ever met. My mother told me many times as a kid that I was smarter than the other kids. Clearly, that stuck, much to my dismay. Consequently, when I’m sober, I walk around feeling like everyone around me is a giant fucking moron who couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag, let alone drive adequately, follow rules, share with others, vote, think for themselves, or just about anything else people do in their daily lives. This attitude is quite transparent to those around me, which tends to lead to their developing the opinion that I’m an arrogant dick. And they’re right, for the most part.

When I’m sober, in my mind, I’m a superhero, capable of nearly anything I decide to do. Unfortunately for my ego, I’ve generally been right about that feeling throughout my life. I’m very successful, and I consider myself the best at what I do. I can count on one hand the number of things I tried to do and didn’t do well. When I’m stoned, I still feel most of those things, but I don’t express them to those around me, leading to much more balanced social relationships. I can have conversations with others without eliciting the “this guy is a condescending douchebag” response.

As I write this, I am completely sober, and for the first time in years, I want to be sober. I don’t have any pot to smoke, so it’s difficult to know if I’m saying that because I have no alternative or if it’s what I actually believe. I like the idea of being a little high (once or twice a day at most), but lately I’ve been unable or unwilling to self-moderate. Presumably, that’s because I’ve been going through a lot of changes in my life, and I felt the need to escape into chemical bliss as often as the opportunity presented itself. I went through a phase like that after my marriage ended, but I self-medicated mostly with alcohol then, and that caused enough problems that I made the conscious choice to set a hard limit at three drinks. In this phase, I am discovering that I need to set a hard limit with pot also, though I don’t yet know what that limit is.

In the end, it’s about balance. I have not been living a balanced life for a long time, and I am finding that balance now. I’m eating well. I’m exercising every day. I’m not letting work dominate my schedule (far from it, in fact). I’m socializing a lot. I’m finding time for movies and books I enjoy. I’m keeping up with household chores and paying bills. I really love almost everything about my life. The only thing that’s really missing is family. I miss my son all the time, and I miss the closeness and companionship of my ex-girlfriend like we broke up yesterday (even though it was 8mo ago). Weed barely factors into any of that. It’s mostly a luxury that I’ve been fortunate enough to have in plentiful supply. That is, until this week, when suddenly all my sources dried up at the same time. Such is life. 🙂