Content warning: Suicidal thoughts, self-harm, addiction, panic attacks, binge-eating, substance abuse, alcohol, marijuana/weed, self-harm
I have been an anxious person for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I constantly worried about being the perfect oldest daughter who got good grades and set a great example for my younger sisters. As I got older, my feeling of failure expanded to other aspects, like when friends and boys thought I was “annoying” or “too much.” In my mission to sacrifice self-care in an attempt to save others from feeling as miserable as I did, I coped with my inability to stop beating myself up for not being those things by eating. I would mindlessly and endlessly consume the food in our kitchen cabinets, the feeling of anxiety and self-loathing too overwhelming to deal with.
Once I started dating my ex-boyfriend, my eating disorder turned into an addiction to weed. While I’m usually very cautious with substances, he normalized smoking every day until I was smoking every second, not able to feel the high I originally felt when I first started. It was a gradual dependence, one that began with only smoking every once in a while. Then I was smoking three to four times a week, and when I’d tell him I wanted to smoke he’d say, “it’s just like having a glass of wine every night to unwind” which–in retrospect–is not healthy behavior (but that’s another issue).
That summer I was smoking every day. At this point, the weed was doing more harm than it was good: I was way more anxious, depressed, and likely to have a mental breakdown at any given moment. I was especially prone to all those things when I wasn’t high, as I would wake up immediately anxious and spend my time under the influence, paranoid and restless. I would have panic attacks much more often, and my self-harming was out of control given my severe mental instability. This meant crying a lot and regressing to my high school self, who had constant suicidal thoughts and was extremely self-loathing and insecure. At one point, after my boyfriend broke up with me, I was hell-bent on overdosing on a bottle of pills, convinced I would kill myself that night.
Eventually, I started smoking every day, at which point I would live only to get high. I’d wake up in the morning and immediately want to smoke, but I’d have to do things and get things done. I wasn’t really happy until I smoked and then, at that point, it was an alluded sense of happiness because it was just my addiction being done nagging me. I would call my ex-boyfriend in tears saying I was sad and lonely, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt completely powerless and so did he because there really was nothing that could be done. Once he and I broke up, things got really bad, as I just kept reaching for my dab pen in order to cope with the breakup. I found myself smoking the minute I was able to, which meant getting home from classes and immediately getting high, becoming paranoid and miserable and completely ruining any chance at being productive, but I couldn’t focus on anything until I did smoke because of my addiction.
It got to the point where weed wasn’t enough, and I had become so used to it that my body didn’t really get high anymore. I started searching for fulfillment in other empty things, like sex and alcohol. This is when I realized that weed was never going to be enough and that I needed to detox. Once I detoxed, it became clear to me why I was smoking: my anxiety. I was able to start exercising and implementing daily things that made it easier for me to deal with not smoking and also living in a society that likes to advertise alcohol and weed, especially as a college student.
I am now three weeks sober and definitely don’t want to smoke again. I do have horrible days that make me want to use or binge-eat, but it’s usually because I’m tired or hungry or some other thing. But once I’m able to identify that thing, I can use one of the many coping skills I’ve been work-shopping with my therapist and social worker. For example, when I’m feeling restless I’ll try going for a walk, or doing jumping jacks if a walk feels like too much, instead of reaching for food or weed. Or, if I get frustrated with myself, I’ll take a break to do some self-care, making sure I took a shower or did the dishes that day. It’s weird to think that less than a month ago I couldn’t fathom a life without weed, and while it’s still hard to stomach at times, taking it day by day has taught me how to be happy again.