I started on a Monday morning, or rather I stopped: nicotine. I picked the 15th as an auspicious date, my birth date, the date I quit drinking alcohol five years ago, and the day of a full moon this year. All good signs. I stayed up late smoking joints till I felt sick and could no longer stomach the taste. I OD’d in preparation for the drought.
My motivation was a dream. A few weeks ago I’d dreamt that a snake coming out of my nose confronted me in bed, leering at me with menacing eyes, and threatening to kill me. In shock, I fell out of bed and tried to push the snake away but the snake was in me, killing me. I couldn’t breathe. I woke up knowing I would die of emphysema if I didn’t quit smoking tobacco.
When I got up on Monday morning, I went straight to the kitchen and smothered some bread in cannabutter, wolfing it down, not even giving myself the chance to get straight. By ten a.m. I was in the gym, and wasted, finding it difficult to concentrate or even make eye contact with fellow gym-goers. This was the start of my week. From here, things went from bad to great, and then seriously downhill.
They say quitting nicotine is as hard as kicking heroine. I’ve never done smack but can tell you that quitting tobacco is a bitch. The cravings, restlessness, edginess, dogged sense that something is missing. All of it is a fucking nightmare. But there are lots of upsides, and as the week progresses, I begin to remember them. I go into them in more detail below.
How to Not Quit Tobacco Using Cannabis
Monday was messy. After the gym, I spent the day munching on infused brownies, and was mostly floating, if not full on tripping all day. I realized quickly it would not be possible to spend every day this zoned out. I got no work done that day, too busy eating, and by nighttime, I was so frustrated, I smoked two joints with tobacco.
The next day, I went in search of alternative options, and on the advice of a friend, bought some dried mint and eucalyptus leaves. The first joint I smoked with this mix was disgusting. I persevered, but found that the taste of the leaves overpowered the taste of hash, making it a harsh smoke. Also, too many hot rocks. Mixed with flower, it wasn’t so bad, but I smoke hash. On Tuesday night, I smoked one joint with tobacco.
By Wednesday, I was already feeling way more clear-headed because of smoking less tobacco, but still wasn’t able to sit down to work. Determined to find a way to consume cannabis that matched my taste and high expectations, I visited another friend who had a vape pen with oil. I tried some. Lovely. Perfect.
I managed not to smoke any tobacco that day, and had one of the best night’s sleeps I’d had in months. However, by Thursday night, stress got the better of me, and I ended up buying tobacco to get the fix I wanted. It was a beautiful smoke, and after three days of being on edge, I was finally able to get some work done.
On Friday I made the decision to get a hook up for some oil, as it was my favourite toke of the week. However, getting the hook up would take time. Typical. I got some CBD vape oil instead, and some nice golden lemon hash. I’m continuing to smoke tobacco till I get the oil but I’m smoking less than half of what I was previously. That’s progress.
In the gym, I’ve learned that changing habits is a process, and going slow is a better way to ensure long-term results. That attitude is what has allowed me to improve my physical health over the last five years. Quitting tobacco is the final hurdle. There’s no question it’s going to be the hardest jump. That means putting the right support in place before making the leap.
The mistake I made was not having the right alternative in place before making the switch. I hoped I’d be able to smoke mint leaves but it didn’t work. My cannabis preference is hashish, meaning switching to flower is not a viable option for now. Plus, for me, there are benefits to smoking, and breaking the habit will mean addressing them, too.
The Highs and Lows of Smoking Cannabis with Tobacco
It’s ridiculous that after twenty-five years of smoking cannabis I should still get so excited about getting stoned, but I do. Every time I feel that luscious smoke cradle my mind, my spirit soars. But there’s a price. There always is. The price is addiction to nicotine. Over the years, I’ve learned to balance the trade-offs.
I have mild ADD, and use hash to help me sit still long enough to write. I can sit at the laptop all day, as long as there’s a joint, rolled with tobacco, in the ashtray. It may sit untouched for hours, but while it’s there, I can concentrate. Take it away, and my writing process switches to a more breaking and entering style, slipping into my chair for ten minutes of furious activity, grabbing words where and while I can before my mind wanders to some other urgent task, and I’m gone.
Tobacco also helps me manage my food obsessions and tendency to overeat, a habit that started before I became a smoker. Like most women, I’ve using smoking to control my weight over the years, and on the last two occasions I quit, gained more than 10kgs. In the last two years, I’ve lost more than 12kgs through diet and exercise, and I’m super slow to give up that progress.
The worst thing I do when I smoke joints with tobacco is stay up late. I stay up for one of two reasons, either to write, or to have a little party for myself. Inspired, and in a stoned bubble, I write into the morning, on a roll, in the flow, unaware of time passing. Or I watch TV, eat, get stoned, hang out. Have fun. All. By. Myself.
However, the next morning I wake up grumpy, sometimes with an inflamed stomach, and in pain, due to my IBS. This is the famous hash hangover; I call it a fugover. Plus, I’m in a bad mood all day, tired, and inert. I’m only interested in working out, and my next joint. This pattern of staying up too late is the one that does the most damage, as it messes with my mood, immune system, hormones and muscle recovery.
Reasons to Quit Tobacco
That pattern is the first thing that changes when I cut tobacco out of my life. Like most smokers, I believed smoking tobacco relaxed me, and was a sleep aid. This is not true. During week one, when I didn’t smoke tobacco for a few days, I was in bed early, and woke up feeling refreshed for the first time in months. This was my experience when I quit tobacco in the past, too.
The mind-racing I experience before bed is nicotine’s last loud scream before the abstinence of sleep. Without it, I’m too tired to think in the evening, and can’t wait to hit the pillow. Good sleep is the basis for good health, and until I fix the problem of going to bed at a reasonable hour, all other efforts are compromised.
I’m hoping my nutrition knowledge will help me avoid weight gain this time when I quit smoking but good sleep is essential for weight regulation. Not only does it keep hunger hormones under control, it gives the body time to repair damage, fight infection, and metabolise food. Without it, weight gain is guaranteed.
I know I’m going to eat more as soon as I quit tobacco but with the right training program I can turn those excess calories into muscle. That’s my goal. In recent months, I’ve lost muscle mass due to illness, have been trying to up my daily calories, and failing. Sometimes, it’s just as hard to gain weight as it is to lose it.
To gain muscle, we have to eat more. That’s the law of physiology, and there’s no getting round it. Once tobacco goes, my overeating habit will kick back in. This means I’ll suffer with a bloated stomach and sluggish bowels for a period of time. I’m not looking forward to this, but also know that it won’t last. This will be my body adjusting its set point.
To counteract the imbalance, I’m going to include more cardio in my workouts, and focus on eating whole foods, along with those sweets I won’t be able to resist. However, once I start eating more, my body is going to fill out, and my hair and skin are going to shine. Combined with training, my lean muscle will grow, and my physique will tone up. There are only benefits to quitting tobacco.
Next week, I may take myself off into the forest for three days to wait out the withdrawal in nature. Big changes demand drastic action. Watch this space.