Before I started coaching with John, I’d been smoking marijuana for 20 years.
It had grown from a weekend accompaniment with friends to a solitary practice that began as soon as I woke in the morning and lasted until I passed out at night.
Smoking pot was how I alleviated the stress of a corporate job I’d had for 14 years but couldn’t stand anymore. Smoking pot was how I managed to meet my commitments to the various communities I was a part of and how I supported family members and friends who were going through hard times and needed my emotional support.
Smoking pot was how I got by with all of the stress in my life.
Please note, I was highly functional. I took Pilates 4 times a week and walked in the California sunshine. I was fully employed, well-paid, highly respected, highly educated and well-loved. With all of this proof, I kept saying to myself, “Surely, I don’t have a problem with pot. Do I?” That question kept coming to mind and I had to continuously point to my achievements and commitments as evidence that I was living a proper life, a good life, the kind I was “supposed” to be living.
Inside though, I was crushed under the weight of self-judgement about my habit.
I was embarrassed of how much time I spent thinking about pot, even when I was out doing something that should be fun.
I was appalled at how much money I spent on pot and knew there were other, better things I could do with those funds. I was spending more than $500 a month.
My sleep was not restorative.
I ate balanced meals during the day and binged on unhealthy food at night, further disrupting my sleep and digestion. I poured thousands of dollars into working with nutritionists and whole-body healers to help my digestion and lousy sleep, but never told them I smoked marijuana because I knew they would tell me to stop.
The stress of an unsatisfying job and the disappointment of many personal relationships just made me unhappy and made life seem like “too much.”
I didn’t think I could live without pot.
It was the one thing that I viewed as a treat, a reward, something just for me, something I deserved for all the challenges I stepped up for in my life.
I hated myself for smoking pot but could never quit for more than a day or two before something would happen. It could be something good – and then I’d want to celebrate with pot. Or It could be something bad, and then I’d need the pot to soften the harsh edges of whatever had happened.
Either way, afterward, I’d feel terrible about smoking, or over-eating, or both and listing my accomplishments wouldn’t allay my fear that my habit was out of control. My inner critic would tear me down and beat me up...and I’d end up smoking more to escape the self-hatred and judgement.
I started working with John after taking a week-long spa retreat that helped me see that when I wasn’t in my toxic work environment, surrounded by needy people, and bombarded with digital media, I slept better, had fewer food cravings and managed to use very little marijuana.
I had proof that there was a lifestyle that didn’t necessitate me constantly numbing myself out to deal with it...but how could I live at a spa on retreat 24/7? I couldn’t, it was just way too expensive.
John helped me realize that I didn’t need live at the spa retreat center, I just needed to “awaken to desires that were incompatible with drug use.”
I needed to focus my attention in a new direction.
John didn’t tell me I had to quit smoking pot. He gently, calmly, regularly encouraged me to drink water, eat whole foods, connect with loving people, with nature, with animals – anything that fed my spirit.
And he never, ever judged me about anything. Between weekly sessions, I’d set lofty goals for myself and not achieve them. I’d want to skip the call with John because I felt so bad about “failing” the week. But John encouraged me to keep the session, and he was always happy to hear from me.
He rejoiced in every microscopic shift and reflected to me the myriad ways I was changing, even though I didn’t think there were any. John asked me thoughtful questions like, “Would it be useful and valuable if I did more of what I’d learned to take care of myself in regard to my sensitive-empathic nature? If I did those things, might that assist me in ‘taking the sharp edges’ off the world? If I ‘smoothed some of those edges’ might my desire to smoke decrease a bit?”
Slowly, surely and with more loving than I thought I deserved, John helped me ponder those questions and discover the answer was YES. Slowly, surely, and with loving instead of self-hatred and judgement, I started adding more positive and rewarding things into my life so that I started smoking later and later in the day.
We worked together on holding and creating boundaries.
We talked about creativity and spirituality and I started to experience the more I took care of myself – in real nurturing ways – I felt better. I experienced high value from acting before-hand (before I got too low), to prevent needing to use my addiction and was able to make my stash last longer and longer without feeling desperate and afraid.
In one journal entry I noted, “I just had some crumbs. It wasn’t enough and it didn’t taste good. I actually preferred the way I felt before I smoked.”
In the 4th week of working together, I wrote, “Honestly, I didn’t think I could ever feel this way again – free from the compulsion, free to make choices – much less after only 4 weeks.” John reminded me how to be gentle with myself and modeled genuine compassion that helped the hurt parts inside me get heard.
I started showing up differently at work, in relationship with others, and even with myself. I was more positive, optimistic, and my self-hatred was decreasing as my self-compassion was increasing.
I felt less beholden to the negative entanglements I thought were just part of life and had the courage to consider letting go of things if they didn’t “fill my cup” - like my job. I updated my LinkedIn profile which caught the attention of a recruiter and began preparing a portfolio and participating in a rigorous and lengthy interview process. During that time, I decided I wanted the new job and a fresh start more than anything.
I started looking forward to what was coming instead of trying to numb out to what was present.
I had a powerful dream that showed me that nothing I’d done in the past would work for me now that I was in this new, expansive place. I realized I didn’t have to be a victim or a martyr. And I needed a new kind of nourishment to sustain me. That was 27 days into a “bud fast” - longer than I’d gone in years.
John was there for me during the detox which was not fun.
John guided me through all the new sensations and realizations that came forward in that time and supported me as I moved out of state to pursue a new opportunity. And I started writing poetry and even dabbled in writing stories. I rediscovered the joy of creativity and life actually became more of an adventure.
It’s been almost 9 months since I last used marijuana and I don’t even think about it anymore.
Let me say that again: I don’t even think about it anymore.
I never thought that was possible. And, the really great thing is: My life is full enough of things I love and desire. The thing is I don’t need something to try and make me feel good because I already feel pretty good already. And, when I don’t feel good, I know how to get there without using. I no longer need it.
M.K. (A Woman in her Late 40’s)