Each New Year brings New Year resolutions, and as the crowded gyms of January are empty and unused by February, most attempts to quit smoking, drinking or drugging fail in similar short order. While we at SC support any drug habits from curious dabbler to full-blown junky, there comes a time in most stoners’ lives when they have to cut back for awhile. No problem, it’ll always be there when you come back.
Despite all the things we hear about weed being physically non-addictive, it can still present some tough obstacles to people trying to quit. Especially if that person is the type that includes weed in nearly every activity and aspect of their daily life. Many smokers believe that weed is nothing less than a life-enhancer, and they apply it in all occasions. That can be true, but when marijuana (or any psychoactive) is treated like that it can create ties with life and happiness that become very difficult to untangle.
Wish it, Want it, Do it
Sobriety can be a perfectly enjoyable lifestyle, and frankly when you smoke weed 24/7 sobriety has a tendency to end up being the more unique perspective. But the very first and most important step to quitting is to genuinely want it. If you’re trying to quit for someone else, you are simply wasting your time. You have to recognize the negative effects in your own life (even if they’re mild), and have the desire to eliminate them.
Of course, it’s easy to tell yourself in the midst of a hazy high that you’re better off sober, but breaking the habit is another story. Things will come up that make you say “oh man, I want to stop smoking but I can’t miss out on being high at this concert” or “this party is next weekend so I’ll just stop after that.” But you’ll find that as the goalposts keep moving further and further back, it becomes easier to find justification to put off quitting. “This week at works sucks, I definitely need a bowl” or “listening to music is so much better stoned, I just have to do it tonight.”
Set a strict end date for yourself, and stick to it. Having the willpower and determination to stop is about 99% of the battle. After all, there’s no magic pill that will end your cravings. And if there is, well it’s probably addictive.
If you stop smoking but never fill the void with anything productive, and continue doing everything in your life exactly the same as you were, you’re setting yourself up for failure. As creatures of habit, our minds are trained to want and to do certain things at certain times. If you always eat dinner at 7pm and go to sleep at 12, your body will crave food at 7 and will get tired at 12. If you always smoke a bowl at 5 as you sit down to watch tv, well your body is naturally going to crave weed if nothing else in your life has changed.
So make a commitment to change certain aspects of your life, at least for a month. Instead of sitting down and smoking a bowl when you get home from work, go for a jog, hike or bike. Or hell, if you don’t want to exercise, just change up your routine and take a leisurely drive through the country. Anything you can think of that isn’t related to smoking, and isn’t something that leaves you sitting around wishing you were high.
When your mind starts to stagnate, that’s when your sobriety is at its most vulnerable. So it’s important to find something engaging that you enjoy doing, and use it to occupy your mind.
Social situations involving drugs can be absolute deal-breakers for sobriety. Most of us have friends whose names are basically synonymous with smoking. If you’re trying to get sober and you go hang out with Snoop Dogg, even a tee-totaler would probably lapse into drug use. For someone who already likes the drug and is trying to quit, you can forget about it.
Just as a recovering alcoholic should avoid the bar scene, a recently sober drug user should avoid their normal smoking/doping crew. After you get some time under your belt you can re-assess, but at first you should definitely make an effort to put yourself as far away from drugs and drug users as possible. If you don’t know anyone who isn’t a user then this is probably a good time to expand your social circle. Engage in a hobby you haven’t picked up in awhile, or maybe just work on some personal projects where crowds would only distract you.
Sadly, you might consider staying away from Stoner Culture, and other drug-related websites and forums. Reading about drugs online can be just as tempting or troublesome as talking to people in real life. So lay low for awhile and keep yourself out of harm’s way.
Had Enough Cold-Turkey?
Going cold-turkey off of drugs can be jarring both mentally and physically for many people. Especially if you work a lot of hours or live in a situation where a major lifestyle change is not possible, tapering off can be a life-saver. Tapering is a very simple method, where you take a normal amount on day 1, then half that on day 2, then half that on day 3, and so on until you are totally done. You can put more time in between your tapers, but you get the idea.
To avoid stretching out your taper indefinitely, set a strict goal for when you want to quit. For example: if you normally smoke half a gram a day, take your last eighth and say “after this I’m not buying any more weed.” Smoke two bowls on the first day, then one bowl on the second, then a couple hits the next, and then just one hit each night until it’s gone. By the time you’re done with the bag, you’ll be smoking such a little amount every day that the loss won’t be very jarring to you anymore. The same method can be applied for any drug, and if you want some personalized advice on a tapering program simply comment or email!
No Pain No Gain
Discomfort or irritability is common when quitting drugs, even those with supposedly “no withdrawals” like weed. Some people can go from 24/7 toking to total sobriety without so much as a headache, but for others it can be a rather uncomfortable experience. Know that any unpleasant feelings you have within the first 3 days or so of quitting will be very temporary. You will be past the worst of them before you know it, and they will disappear completely within a week in most cases.
Use them as a motivator, and as a reminder of why you’re quitting in the first place. For most people and most drugs there is a magic 3 day number, and once you get past that hump you’re pretty much set. For some people it may last only a day, or sometimes up to a couple weeks in the worst case scenarios (like with harder drugs like opiates, benzos or amphetamines). But don’t let that be a detractor, every day you feel shitty is another day you’ll feel good in the future. Plus it serves as a good reminder not to use drugs for awhile, lest you reset the withdrawal clock.
Take Off the Training Wheels
Recognize and avoid replacement drugs, they will only create more problems and complicate your issues. Sometimes it will happen without even noticing, you might stop smoking only to realize you have two glasses of beer or wine every night instead.
Some people advocate marijuana maintenance in lieu of drinking alcohol or doing other harder drugs. As much as I love weed, I can’t help but feel that you’re simply trading one habit for another. Perhaps in severe situations it can be a positive experience, but for the most part it’s best to avoid muddying the waters with a trade-off like that.
Lastly, take some time to determine what factors led to you using drugs “too much” in the first place. If you are just quitting for awhile to reset your tolerance, that’s a bit of a different story. But if drug use or addiction is negatively impacting your life, try to find out why you started and continued using them. If you’re like me, there could be underlying depression or anxiety that you are self-medicating.
Also, take some time to research exactly what you’re getting into. While weed smokers will have effectively no issues after quitting, quitting other drugs like benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, etc.) and alcohol can have very dangerous after-effects. If you have a strong alcohol or benzo addiction, you can face seizures or even death if you try to stop too quickly or under bad conditions. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stop, of course, it just means you should make sure you’re doing it in a controlled and intelligent manner.