I think back to my drinking days and what I remember most is the anxiety of an impending social event. Back then I didn’t have the gumption to say, no I won’t have another shot, instead agreeing to every suggestion and always being the last to leave a party.
And in the days leading up to the event, I’d think about all the things I wouldn’t get done that week, fretting over how many days I’d lose to my recovery. To cope with this anxiety, invariably I drank more. Your typical vicious circle, and at the time, two underlying problems compounded the situation.
One, my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) meant alcohol was poisoning my body, making my hangovers demonic. Two, I was using alcohol to pretend to be someone social. I also drank to forget about the projects I hadn’t finished. And I could add the guilt of that to my hangovers to ensure maximum misery. What a hot mess.
Quitting alcohol is one of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done. If I known how drastically my life would change, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have done it. But I didn’t do it alone, I had help. I used cannabis to ease me into sobriety. Let me rephrase that: I wouldn’t have achieved sobriety without cannabis. It helped me move from a chaotic to a controlled environment.
CANNABIS AS ISSUE
Before quitting alcohol, I was not a daily user of cannabis, and the idea would have been alarming. For many years, I was a recreational user. Friday was usually the day I went in search of a hook-up, an event I’d look forward to all week. And yes, there were times I’d score on a Wednesday or a Monday, but it wasn’t a regular thing. Not till I started working in the industry.
Suddenly I was exposed to the benefits of the plant and the millions of people who consumed on a daily basis. I could say my old people pleaser habit kicked in, or I caved to peer pressure and started consuming daily as a way to join in. I could say that but it wouldn’t be true. Yes, I was literally high on the chance to come clean on the habit I’d hidden for years, and cherished the endorsement that it was okay to use cannabis more. But it’s still not quite the truth.
For me, being vulnerable is a struggle. I will lie through my teeth before letting anyone know something is wrong. Not that I can’t play a good victim role. I’ll latch onto some minor issue and pretend it’s the problem, blowing it out of proportion to any sod unfortunate enough to listen. In many ways this habit is linked to my cannabis use.
First of all, I grew up in a house where being vulnerable courted punishment so it’s not in my nature “to share.” Second, I sort out most of my problems in my head while smoking a jay. I prefer it that way. It means I don’t have to expose myself, don’t have to trust someone enough to confide in them. However, cannabis doesn’t resolve problems it highlights them. And in the wrong mindset, this can quickly become an issue. The line is fragile.
CANNABIS AS IDENTITY
In learning to hide my cannabis use, I learnt to hide myself. Actually, I was prepared for the role thanks to early life experiences, and wonder how many other stoners would say that’s true for them too? For how many of us did some experience trigger our attraction to cannabis? Is there a particular quirk in that attraction that’s unique to us?
It’s said authors can trace their creative urges to a bad relationship with their mother. Is the same true of cannabis users? These are the kind of studies I’d like to see carried out on cannabis users. Let’s get under the hood of our psychology? There are some interesting studies beginning to emerge, such as this one, reported on by Iris Dorbian in Forbes, which shows the majority of users are parents with young kids.
Studies such as this one show that the old tropes are irrelevant, and the idea that the average stoner is a young dude in a black hoodie is flying out the window. Not that those dudes don’t exist, they do, I’ve seen them at my dealer’s house, but the audience is much more varied, and skews older. The real audience for cannabis has yet to be recognized. But it’s beginning to break through.
For years I’ve been frustrated by the emerging cannabis industry, and annoyed that the community I felt most drawn to had zero understanding of my reality. That lack of connection is the hollow bone that haunts all my dealings in the industry. There are days I want to post rants in all caps exposing the latest insanity. But I don’t, I’m a professional, I keep it cool. Quiet. Hidden. It’s my way.
Cannabis is so new, so volatile, there’s so much to say. But how best to say it? Is anyone listening? Will it make a difference? Why am I doing this? I pour this conflict into my writing projects, and am grateful for having a story. Because without conflict, there is no story, another reason that makes the world of cannabis so fascinating. It’s all conflict! On every level. No escaping it.
This is what birth looks like, a struggle. The building and shaping of a new industry is human nature at its finest. This is how we’ve survived millennia. And yet, I grow wary and weary. I’ve never had so many prospects string me along for so long only to ghost me. Never seen the work of so many colleagues stolen, only to be replicated in haphazard ways. Never had so many people ask me to work free. Never seen so many companies so hell-bent on pushing their agenda before understanding market demand.
Besides the obvious legal hurdles, a big problem is the persistence of the Reefer Madness narrative. Researchers are so hung up on proving cannabis causes psychosis or damages teen brains, they’re blind to other questions and trends amongst users. As a result, nuanced perspectives of cannabis use are drowned out, cutting the real stories from the conversation. The result is we no longer know what cannabis is.
What we have in the cannabis space is a budding industry attempting to capitalise on issues surrounding mental health. Nobody says it like that of course. Can’t. Law and stigma won’t allow it. Not that it matters. The stories around cannabis and mental health have to come from personal experience, have to come from users. When we learn how to tell those stories and the places to share them grow bigger, that’s when the conversation begins.