My name is Bradlee and I have a substance use disorder.
Every night it was the same routine. I’d lock the bedroom door and climb into bed, reach into my nightstand, and find one of the sleek silver and white cannabis vape pens tucked out of sight.
Then I’d press the button with a relaxing end-of-the-day sigh and wait for the steady glow to let me know it was working and take my first hit. I’d pass the vape pen over to my husband so he could join me, and continue with my nighttime routine.
Pop a multivitamin, smear on my favorite overnight lip mask, and alternate sips of lavender tea with dozens of additional five-second hits from the vape pen.
We would usually end up having some damn good cannabis-enhanced sex and eventually make our way to the kitchen for a snack — because the munchies are real!
Back in bed, I would fell asleep almost as quickly as I could pull the covers up.
I loved and craved that part of my day.
There was no laying there contemplating my life choices or ruminating over mistakes made during the day. No post-coital pillow talk with my husband about what we would accomplish the following day or how we planned to spend our weekend.
I would simply slip away into the sweet oblivion of cannabis-induced slumber.
This was the routine of my addiction
It was the same night after night for five years before I began to recognize the destructive path this routine had torn through my life.
For a long time, I refused to believe cannabis addiction or cannabis use disorder was real, and I certainly wouldn’t be convinced I had it.
I told myself I’d never been addicted to anything in life. I hated cigarettes, only drank alcohol occasionally, and any pain medication stronger than Tylenol gave me nightmares.
I was absolutely certain there was no way I would ever become addicted to anything. I didn’t even drink caffeinated beverages for fear of becoming hooked on the caffeine rush.
But my addiction felt real and it was wreaking havoc on my life.
I was using marijuana to numb my emotional pain and was addicted to the escape it provided.
All of the justifications seemed rational at the time, but with my career derailed and my life in various states of utter disorganization, it was obvious I was avoiding what was right in front of me.
I’d unknowingly crossed the line into a substance use disorder.
Criteria used for diagnosing substance use disorders:
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you meant to
- Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
- Cravings and urges to use the substance
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use
- Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use
- Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger
- Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
- Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance
Smoking pot was never the actual issue, it was the fact that I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t take a hit (or 10) every single night. Even after losing my job, countless friends, and watching my potential shrink right in front of me, I still kept smoking.
…and I kept it a secret that only my husband knew about.
When my brain made smoking pot a priority, all of my other priorities started falling to the wayside.
My addiction was the issue, marijuana was just what kept me numb.
Acknowledging my addiction
After finally admitting my frequent marijuana usage to my therapist, things finally started to change.
I felt a sense of relief at letting someone behind the curtain and finally having a sounding board for what I’d been experiencing.
We talked about how my addiction had limited my life, and especially my emotional capacity.
Over the past five years, I’d been constantly shifting between despair and euphoria, with no stability in the middle. After years of managing my emotions with a substance, I no longer had the tools to face the inevitable challenges that life threw my way.
We began to work together toward a path to recovery, and I started to slowly come alive again. I was finally honest with myself and willing to accept life as it came, instead of avoiding it entirely through addiction.
I learned to stop blaming weed for my problems. Sure, it was my dependence on it that negatively impacted my life, but my life choices couldn’t be blamed on a plant.
To be clear, I’d never advocate for denying the world of a dried plant as some misguided path to eliminating the potential for dependency.
Marijuana didn’t force me to light up, I chose to.
I’ve never believed it to be some terrible drug that should be illegal, either. Using it incorrectly ruined weed for me, but many other people use it responsibly and never encounter any issues with dependency.
I’ve been cannabis free for 6 months
Sometimes I’m happy, and sometimes I’m unhappy.
But that's life, right?
I still go to counseling regularly, mostly because I’m relearning how to manage my feelings and emotions. When I was getting high all the time I could easily bury my emotions and numb my feelings, and that’s just not an option anymore.
Sleep does not come as easily for me anymore. There’s no more marijuana-induced deep sleep, but I have been waking up to vivid dreams that have been pretty fun to analyze.
I’ve also started to recognize my body's need for exercise and physical movement. Exercise typically wears me out just enough to get a good night's sleep, too.
My drug of choice may have successfully helped me numb out and sleep like a baby, but it also wreaked havoc on my emotions as I allowed it to steal my motivation and potential for over half a decade.
This path of recovery has taught me that anyone can become an addict, and denying an addiction will only lengthen the pain and suffering.
Marijuana wasn’t responsible for my addiction, I was.