You guys know by now that whenever I step back from social media for a bit, I’m coming back with a vengeance to hit you with a post about a personal experience or realization that may be scary to share, but also very necessary. I believe that being vulnerable is the reason I’ve been blessed with this community & the connection that I have with you guys, so I ALWAYS want to use my platform to get into the nitty gritty. When you’re vulnerable, it gives others the strength to share from the heart – so here it goes.
I’m sure you’ve seen countless posts on your timeline the last week or so about the full moon, lunar eclipse, and the accompanying energetic shifts. Even my friends who couldn’t care less about the damn moon have been telling me how they’re experiencing emotional ups & downs, old fears reemerging, crying spells, and this overwhelming feeling that something needs to CHANGE. Despite how confusing this feels, it’s a GOOD thing – we need to get uncomfortable every now and then so that we take the plunge and propel ourselves into the next phase of our lives.
Last Monday, I made a post for @livingearthjewelry asking what you need to let go of right now… what you’re settling for that isn’t TRULY serving you. Now I want to share with you what I’M personally letting go of, in case anyone out there can relate. That would be the herb we know & love as cannabis.
This may come as a surprise to some of you for 2 reasons:
- a) you may not like/understand it, and don’t get why I started using it in the first place, or
- b) you may be the opposite and you’re well informed of the benefits (i.e. how it can safely replace harmful medications & how it’s a potent cancer fighting substance – check out @cannabis_patients!)
In the case of (b), you might be wondering why I would want to give it up. Let me be clear that I’m NOT against it and never will be; I just want to bring an honest perspective to the table when it comes to personal use. Because it’s becoming widely legalized… because millions of Americans are using this plant to heal and support their bodies… and because it’s a hell of a lot safer than alcohol, most of what we see in the media is (finally!) positive. This is well deserved, as cannabis contains countless beneficial plant compounds science is only beginning to discover. However, I learned the hard way that just because something has benefits doesn’t mean everyone should consume it. Remember Newton’s Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I will always choose herbs over medication whenever possible, but that doesn’t mean I should forget that the herbs I’m taking are still foreign substances that didn’t come with my human meat suit when I was born. Using these herbs means I will experience biological/chemical
Because it’s so incredibly benign and low-risk physically, there is no rulebook on how much cannabis is too much psychologically, spiritually, and most of all individually. We’re all figuring it out together and the lines are blurred, which is why I want to share my two cents. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t personally know (and hear from via social media) hundreds of people who use this herb quite often and wonder about how it could be affecting them.
In my experience, the herb will tell you when it’s done with you. When I didn’t listen, it became more of a habit than a medicine. Here’s why.
Let me start by saying that the main thing I’m working on ‘letting go of’ is actually FEAR – however, that ties into my use of cannabis which I’ll get into in a moment.
The first thing that started coming up for me this full moon was an old fear I thought I squashed eons ago, regarding financial stability. With a growing business, the costs that come with hosting our website, upgrading/maintenance, paying our employees, product development, actual production, etc. are sky high! Although we are thriving thanks to this incredible community, I’m human and doubts creep into my mind when I least expect it.
Part of this is because I sometimes can’t wrap my head around the fact that this is really happening. I am able to do what I LOVE and help others with both my products and my writing… and honestly, it feels too good to be true. I’m always waiting for the ball to drop – for someone to jump out and say “JUST KIDDING!” My life-long self worth battle tells me I don’t deserve this, even though my logical mind knows how hard I’ve worked and that my products are damn good. Whenever I have writer’s block, or need to take a few days for research/tedious office work rather than active posting, I feel like everything I’ve worked for will disappear. These are completely irrational fears that have more to do with my childhood than actual reality, but those of you who deal with anxiety know how real they feel at the time!
When I first started using cannabis several years ago, a major driving force behind my decision was to combat this stress and anxiety. Becoming a business owner at 21 (with somewhat of a Type A personality) was insane and exhausting. I didn’t know how to “turn it off,” and cannabis helped me do that. I liked the constant battle that came with striving for success, and I convinced myself that I ‘work best under pressure.’ That may be true, but it unfortunately included the pressure that I put on myself. If I wasn’t working 12 hours a day, I thought I simply ‘didn’t want it bad enough.’ I refused to let people help me or hire anyone. I held the belief that it took pushing myself TOO far (aka punishing myself) to ‘deserve’ success. I took on guilt from the fact that people I knew were working their asses off and still getting paid minimum wage, so I felt that the only way to justify my success was to suffer while earning it.
When I would close my emails at midnight, cannabis took ALL that worry and negativity away. It helped me laugh at a time when play was so absent from my life. It helped Nick and I grow closer than I ever thought imaginable, because he was able to express his emotions in ways he never could before. It was like the herb tore down the walls of ego in between us. It helped us resolve arguments from a place of love rather than resentment, and gifted us some of the greatest memories we’ll ever have. It gave me something to do that didn’t include work, worrying, or taking myself too seriously.
As cliche as it sounds, I do feel that it helped me open up my third eye, because when I smoked I could see people and things for who and what they really were. I remember watching TV and seeing for the first time how manipulative commercials were, especially those about pharmaceuticals/food. I realized why the government kept this substance illegal for so long, and learned everything I could about corruption or what some call “conspiracy.” I spoke to people who used cannabis as a medicine for everything from epilepsy to cancer. I shuddered at how the medical system wasn’t investing a dime into research due to its federal illegality. I thought I had found the holy grail, and I never planned to stop. When the risks were low to zero, and the benefits were endless… why would I?
That first year or so with the herb was absolute bliss. You couldn’t tell me for a second there was a single drawback to my newfound habit – I had every (valid) argument in the book ready to educate my opponents. I was excelling in college, growing my business, and having fun with my friends. (I still am, and would never blame cannabis if I wasn’t. I simply want to illustrate how functional one can be while using this herb daily. No one would have guessed I was utilizing cannabis if I didn’t tell them. For this reason, it was hard to notice any subtle changes).
From time to time, little things would come up that planted a seed of curiosity in my mind. I noticed that whenever I took a break for a few days, one of my health practitioners (who had no idea about my habit) would comment on how strong my body/”Qi” was compared to the week prior. This happened several times, each time I stepped back from the herb – and each time she had no knowledge of me stopping (or even starting in the first place). And no, I wasn’t smoking blunts with cheap street weed; I was vaporizing organic buds at 175 C specifically because of the health benefits/least amount of risk to my lungs and body. That was the first nudge that made me want to reevaluate my habit, but I pushed it to the back of my mind.
Fast forward to a year (or two?) later, and the paranoia began. When I first experimented with weed in high school, I was against it because it made me feel so crazy and anxious. That didn’t happen when I began smoking consistently this time around, so I thought I was in the clear. Nope! Out of nowhere, I started getting a ton of anxiety and a racing heartbeat almost every time I smoked. I was bummed because it was something I loved so much, and from what I could tell it wasn’t negatively affecting me in any other way. That was the first of many times that I tried to stop, but I always ended up going back to it (sucking up whatever paranoia came with it) because it was so much a part of my routine and social life. I hated not being able to sleep and having vivid dreams whenever I tried to quit, so it was easier to keep going and enjoy the benefits. I knew I had more energy and needed far less sleep to feel rested when I would take breaks, but I loved everything about the herb. I still do, and I don’t think that will ever change. The only thing that has changed is that I’m now thinking logically about what habits will serve my highest good in the LONG run… rather than which habits will bring me instant gratification and relief. We’ll talk more about this later!
Time continued passing, and life was great. Nick and I would always toy around with the notion of quitting for good, citing the fact that the herb had given us so much wisdom and we were ready to go out into the world and apply it. This is what I mean about the herb showing you when it’s done with you, by the way. We had so many epiphanies and creative solutions come to us thanks to the psychoactive effects of the plant. It helped us see what actions we needed to take in order to get to where we wanted to be, and it helped us reframe our thinking by viewing problems as challenges. My time with cannabis helped reshape the way I view the world (to a much more positive mindset), and for that I’ll forever be grateful. The only issue was, we were probably doing more cannabis-smoking than action-taking. It got to the point, for me at least, that I would rather explore my mental world with the help of this beautiful herb than go out and explore the physical world. This isn’t a bad thing, because I’m already a very ‘mental’ person (no pun intended :D) – meaning I love books, alone time, and being in my own head. However, it started to feel like I was turning down participation in the real world so that I could continue my personal relationship with cannabis at home or with fellow enthusiasts.
From Medicine to Habit
Last summer, I decided to take a survey via Snapchat to get a feel for how my readers felt about cannabis, why they used it, how often, etc. I created a series of Snapchat images with numbered questions, asking people to screenshot each question in order to cast their vote (since I can see the number of screenshots from my account). Here were the results:
1. Screenshot this if you use cannabis daily or weekly – 242
2. Screenshot this if you use cannabis just once in a while – 197
3. Screenshot this if you never use cannabis – 282
4. Screenshot this if you feel cannabis has positively impacted your health – 240
5. Screenshot this if you feel cannabis may have negatively impacted your health mentally/physically – 200
6. Screenshot this if you have ever felt dependent on cannabis – 133
7. Screenshot this if you’ve been smoking 1 year or less – 50
8. Screenshot this if you’ve smoked for 1-3 years – 193
9. Screenshot this if you’ve smoked for MORE than 3 years – 250
I received messages such as this one….
….yet I received just as many messages from people who were immensely helped by the herb.
I found it intriguing that many of the same individuals screenshotted both questions indicating positive and negative impacts on physical/mental health. This mirrored my experience exactly: the herb had given me so much, but I was beginning to notice the negatives as well. I realized that a lot of us must struggle with this debacle when it comes to personal/’recreational’ use. Is it helping me or is it hurting me? Do I need it or do I just want it? When is it time to stop, or is there ever a time? For me as an individual, can I use it in moderation and be fine, or do I have more of an addictive personality and tend to get carried away? What is considered moderation, anyway?
There is such a fine line here and the answers to these questions are highly individual. Jerry next door might be able to use cannabis once a week and function like nothing ever happened, whereas Lucas down the block may be more prone to making it part of his daily routine. I have friends that continue needing more and more weed to get the same high, and openly tell me that it’s tough for them to stop. I know others that can stop at the drop of a hat and go on about their lives.
Again, the very same people who cast their vote for both positive and negative impacts also screenshotted the question regarding feeling dependent on cannabis at one point or another. Personally, I do believe there came a point where I was dependent on the herb – not necessarily physically, but emotionally. I use the word “dependent” because I feel addiction triggers a strong reaction in people, and I want to reiterate how benign cannabis can be when used wisely. I wouldn’t want to undo how far we’ve come as a society since the days of “reefer madness” and the fear surrounding cannabis being a “gateway drug.” That’s some serious propaganda and I’m just trying to be real here about my experience.
What I mean when I say dependent, is that it was providing my body with a biological/chemical/mental change that my body got very used to. I was relying on cannabis to relieve my stress, and it was certainly effective for that purpose. At the same time, this meant I was sort of ‘cushioning’ myself from having to go through the effort of participating in other healthy coping mechanisms that took more work than smoking, such as meditation or exercise. I’m not saying that I didn’t actively do these as well – I simply would reach for cannabis first when the stress hit!
These other coping mechanisms (meditation, exercise, therapy) have lasting stress-relieving effects that extend into your daily life even when you’re not actively using them. You don’t have to immediately do them to feel the benefits – you just have to be consistent. Cannabis is more of an instant fix, and one that you don’t always have on hand. Then when you don’t have it, you can become stressed about not having the stress reliever!
Again, I want to emphasize that anything can become an addiction. Television. Sugar. Exercise. Sex. iPhones. Cannabis is similar to coffee, in that it can be something you get used to incorporating into your day. It’s accepted, and since it’s so mild, you rarely think of how your life might change if you didn’t use it.
Aside from stress relief, I also got used to cannabis making food taste better, making hangouts with friends more silly/fun, making movies more interesting, etc. I wanted to rediscover being able to enjoy these things without enhancement. I didn’t want to be a slave to something outside of my body.
I had this desire to be fully present. That’s when I knew it was time to stop.
When I would finish work for the day and feel the slightest bit of boredom, I would always think of cannabis first. I mean… it was so easy, pleasurable, and accessible… and I could always pair it with other activities such as drawing, cooking or singing. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, but I began to wonder: with my endless human creativity and potential, what else could I be doing to fill this space of boredom? Is it really boredom that I’m feeling in the first place, or is there a void I’m trying to fill? I didn’t want to rob myself of finding out the answer.
I once heard the quote, “All addiction is an active practice of self aversion.” This resonated to my core. I thought I was using cannabis to get closer to myself, but at this point it was disconnecting, desensitizing, and at times straight up paralyzing. “Boredom” feels uncomfortable because it forces us to sit with our deepest thoughts – the ones we’d rather be distracted from. I believe this is part of the reason why I started getting paranoia, as I mentioned earlier. You can only run from yourself for so long until your body and mind physically rebel. It got to the point where all the fears I was using cannabis to get away from were only intensified when I smoked. I knew I had to publish Instagram posts HOURS before I planned on smoking, because if I smoked first (or even right after publishing), I would get severe anxiety and self-doubt. I would become overwhelmed with fear of what trolls would say, people not liking what I wrote, etc. These fears were coming from a lower vibration/fear-based part of my psyche. In a sense, it’s helpful that cannabis brought them to the surface (“when you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself” – Bob Marley). However, consistently using cannabis meant they were ALWAYS there for me to look at, and I would dwell on them rather than act to change them. This is what I mean about using cannabis correctly – once it helped me see these parts of myself, I should have taken the next steps to deal with them.
There were several other negatives I noticed that I’ll get into in my next post where I cover Traditional Chinese Medicine’s view of the herb’s properties. The growing fear and fatigue I felt after smoking, along with my increased salt cravings, were clear red flags that my adrenals were getting burnt out from the continued use of a substance, no matter how benign. Any psychoactive material that alters the mind and increases the amount of energy consumed by the brain weakens the “kidney meridian” in TCM’s perspective. I noticed I was becoming hypersensitive to loud noises or even mildly startling stimuli, which again ties into the adrenals and nerves. When Nick quit (a few weeks before me), I felt so weird having to smoke every night when he was free from its hold (and much, much happier by the way!) I saw the change in him and felt like a straight up drug addict having to alter my mental state to relax and enjoy the night. He became a mirror that allowed me to see how different I really was when I smoked, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way that I just wasn’t myself. We didn’t ‘vibe’ when I was smoking and he wasn’t, because he was sober Nick and I was high Olivia. I guess I realized I wanted to be just Olivia – and that was enough.
It Comes Full Circle…
I want to connect all of this back to the fear I mentioned in the beginning of this post. As I said, the reason I started using cannabis in the first place was to help me with the stress of starting a business, and the fear of not being good enough that came with it. This fear was that I somehow didn’t deserve success, or that it would magically disappear. As much as cannabis helped these fears at the time, I’m not going to fool myself and say they weren’t still there underneath the surface. If so, I wouldn’t be dealing with them today (thanks Mercury Retrograde! :D)
I know from experience that when these self-worth related fears exist on any level, they have an effect on the decisions you make and the things that you accept from life (like the classic saying, “we accept the love we think we deserve”). I knew that if somewhere deep down, I still felt that I didn’t deserve the best in life and in my business, then that would be reflected in my daily habits and what I settled for. This lack of self-worth is where self-sabotage behaviors come in.
At this point, I had to sit down and ask myself: here and now, is my habit of using cannabis truly serving my highest good? Or am I simply holding onto it as a crutch? Is it keeping me from doing OTHER things that would make me just as happy/entertained, but in different ways?
If I subconsciously feel that I don’t deserve success or that it’s ‘too good to be true’, is my use of cannabis just another way that I’m inadvertently suppressing/sabotaging my true potential?
These are hard questions to ask. For me, they resonated just a little too much. As I said before, I had this desire to be fully present in my life, in my business, and in my fight for personal growth. It was time, once and for all.
When I stopped smoking, I had what felt like a ‘pleasure void’ – that means I felt EXTRA bored (hello drop in dopamine!) – and I had to start finding activities to fill my time that would entertain me just as much as cannabis did. Those activities turned out to be a little more expensive (such as going to the movies with my boyfriend after work), and BAM! Everything clicked. It all tied back to the money fear!
Remember how I said that during this full moon I was dealing with anxiety surrounding money and financial stability? I realized that cannabis was playing a part in satisfying me just enough to where I didn’t have to truly invest in more expensive, yet more rewarding and productive hobbies. For example, I grew up studying opera, and sang both recreationally and competitively for most of my childhood. Singing was my entire life; it brought me so much joy and fulfillment. I knew that resuming voice lessons would make me just as happy (if not more) than a night of relaxing with my good friend Mary J. The only difference was that voice lessons are a solid $60/hour, whereas a night of smoking with my friends cost me $5! (Thankfully for my pockets, I never had issues with my tolerance increasing and was always very sensitive to cannabis in small doses).
In my head, I chose the smoking because:
- it was comfortable
- it was fun without requiring much effort on my part
- it didn’t demand that I value myself enough to take the plunge and invest $$ on something purely for personal growth and enjoyment such as a voice lesson
- it took my worries about money away in the first place!
Life is Nothing But a Series of Habits
At the end of the day, life is simply a series of habits. You get in the habit of waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth, you get in the habit of making it to work on time, and you get in the habit of eating healthy (or not!) Whatever habits we choose consistently, we get better at. The key is to choose those which serve our highest good, rather than those which bring us instant gratification.
For me, replacing my habit of cannabis with voice lessons, more writing, reading more books, and spending more sober time with my friends/boyfriend has been invaluable.
Of course I miss the senseless laughter, the ‘high thoughts’ (aka perspective change), and the overall pleasure that comes with the herb.
But I LOVE that my writing is better and my thoughts are clearer. I adore the fact that I don’t feel as sluggish in the morning. I enjoy that I no longer need a substance to fall asleep. I like the fact that I’m forced to look for pleasure in other places, because I’m rediscovering childhood hobbies. I notice that I’m more likely to socialize (and more comfortable when doing it).
All in all, I’m grateful for my time with cannabis. I’m even grateful that my usage went too far for my personal taste, because it taught me how much I want to be present and active in my life. It taught me that I can enjoy activities even more without this substance, as long as I choose healthy ones that are in alignment with valuing and investing in myself. It also taught me that moderation really is the key to life, and if I’m a person that can’t practice it, I need to be honest with myself and know my limits!
I’m not saying that I will never use cannabis again, because as I’ve emphasized, it’s FUN, relaxing, and generally harmless when used correctly. Plus, it’s a lot safer and healthier than alcohol! I AM saying that I know better now than to make it a part of my daily/weekly life and think there will be no repercussions, no matter how small. I hope that one day I can use it again, sparingly and with intention, if and when my body asks. For now, cannabis and I are cheering each other on from afar, and I support him in his quest to heal the world medically.
I will be doing a post (or hopefully a video!) soon regarding Traditional Chinese Medicine’s view on the herb and how it affects the body on a purely physical level (experience and emotion aside). I just figured I would relay my personal story first before I go into the facts and properties.
I hope my experience was helpful to you, as we are all each other’s teachers. If you’d like to share your own below, I’d love to hear from you.
Organic Olivia <3