An old friend stopped by today. He asked me how I was doing, and how I was staying away from pot, considering my husband and non-program friends all smoke it. He and I used to smoke it together, back in the day, and he still smokes it now.
The thing is, although for long periods of time I used to smoke it several times a week with my lovers, friends, and later my husband, pot is the one drug I never had a problem putting down. I never craved it when I wasn’t smoking it, and on many occasions I would stop smoking it for months on end with no issues. I never stole to get pot, I never spent my rent money on it, I never prostituted myself for it, and I was almost always honest about my use of it (excepting at job interviews). Once I joined a 12-Step program, however, that all changed. I stopped consuming it altogether, partly out of respect for people who did do those things to get pot, and partly because I believe in the fundamental principles of the program in treating the disease of addiction.
You see, I don’t really have a drug problem, I have a reality problem. The drugs I took were just a poor method of dealing with reality and my resulting feelings. Almost anything can take the place of drugs in an addict’s efforts to not face reality – sleeping, eating, shopping, gambling, shoplifting – anything that can give a little thrill that allows us to ignore what we really feel about the way things really are.
The whole point of drugs, for me, was that I was willing to go to any lengths to change my perception of reality into something different, to numb my feelings so that I wouldn’t have to face them the way they were. Feeling depressed? Overwhelmed? Irritated? Lonely? Angry? Sexually frustrated? Instead, I would focus intensely on my next “score” (what some programs call “chasing the bag”) that would get me the drugs I wanted, so I could feel “better.”
Eventually, the drugs stopped making me feel good, and instead just made me more miserable. I no longer got “high,” but I was so deeply enmeshed in the habit of chasing drugs – doing drugs – chasing more drugs, that I had alienated myself from any remaining resources (family, friends, therapists, case managers) for other kinds of real help. I had managed to change my reality so completely that I had become an outsider to everything and everyone, especially myself. The last thing I was willing to do was to wake up and face all the damage I had done to myself and all those close to me.
At the end of the road, I spent countless hours contemplating suicide. I started shooting without cottons (extremely dangerous and deadly), I tried to overdose a few times, without success. The thing was, a small sliver of my conscience remained, despite all my efforts to ignore and destroy it so that it wouldn’t bother me anymore. I couldn’t kill myself. I couldn’t get high anymore. I couldn’t get numb anymore. Drugs only increased my misery… yet I couldn’t stop, not on my own.
See, thinking about a problem will not solve it. Only action can do that. I had trained myself into countless methods of avoiding responsibility for my own behavior. I couldn’t think my way out of the prison I’d placed myself in, no matter what I tried. My thinking had become flawed, by my own unintentional design. I thought of everything I had lost because of my drug usage… and that only made me want to use drugs more.
So anyway, back to pot. Pot is not my problem, but if I smoke it, I get loaded. Allowing myself to artificially change my reality in any way allows my “stinking thinking” to get going, to say that if one drug is okay, then the others might be okay too. It’s a slippery slope. I know, intuitively, that getting baked, or tipsy on alcohol for that matter, would allow it to be all too easy, with my lowered inhibitions, to think “just a little” of another drug would be okay. Just “one hit” of crack, of meth “a few” whip-its, or pills, one slip-up leads to two, and then a thousand. I know this.
There never has been a time, since I started hard drugs, that I could do “just a little” of anything. Stopping is always a gargantuan task for me, once I start I must move heaven and earth to get myself back to ask for help stopping again. I’ve relapsed so many times in the last two years that I know all too well what “just a little” would cost me. Everything.