Why I Quit Smoking Weed
We talked with some longtime smokers who had to give up on ganja after it left them locked up, bloated from the munchies, or mumbling to themselves in the fetal position.
Illustrations by Nicholas Gazin
With decriminalization and legalization sweeping the country, it's easy to assume that everyone is becoming a pot evangelist. But there are still plenty of folks out there who don't worship at the altar of ganja. For some, herb represents their rambunctious past as a petty criminal making bad choices. For others, smoking the stuff strips them of their sanity and leaves them mumbling paranoid non-sequiturs to themselves while they cry in the fetal position. We're pretty used to talking to potheads who think smoking weed could stop the polar ice caps from melting or solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So we thought it was about time we heard from the other side—people who just can't stomach a slice of space cake or handle a one-hitter anymore.
These are their stories.
After college, I really got into weed and other psychedelic drugs. I was smoking pot every single day, and it was awesome. But then things started to get really weird. Out of nowhere, I began having some intense reactions to weed. The first time it hit me was at a Phish concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I was standing with friends having a good time, puffing on some weed, and listening to Phish play "Reba." Then, out of nowhere, I could see the world closing in on me. It was like the sky went black, and I fainted.
As fucked up as that was, I still wasn't ready to give up weed. But a similar thing happened to me when I went to Jazz Fest in New Orleans later that year. I felt the same way after hitting a blunt (luckily I had a place to sit down, so I didn't straight up pass out). But I also started to get these crazy delusions. My girlfriend was supposed to pick me up from the concert and she was a few minutes late. I became convinced that she was late because she was off screwing some other guy. Then I was certain that she was dead and I left the festival to search for her body. She had no idea where I was at and found me hours later wandering down the Bourbon Street, totally out of my mind.
I really think it had something to do with the other psychedelics I've taken over the years. But pretty much every time I hit a blunt now, I just lose it to the point that it's no longer worth it for me to even risk smoking. It's ruined too many moments of my life that I'm cool with just drinking a cold beer when I want to unwind.
I quit smoking weed after one crazy night when I was 19. Basically, I spent several hours toking up with a towering, harmonica-playing homeless man in an abandoned house with no electricity. My djembe-carrying friend and I had met the crazy dude while we were busking on the street. And being hippie stoners, it didn't seem weird at all for us to follow him back to a creepy bando and spark up. But by 2 or 3 AM, my friend, the djembe player, had abandoned me to drop another one of our friends off. So I was just sitting alone in this decrepit building with my new acquaintance, who resembled a wizard and would have stood around 6'6" if he hadn't been hunched over with an enormous tree branch walking stick.
I was really fucking high by the end of the night. So I'm not exactly sure what happened next. Either Gandalf produced a knife, was talking about producing a knife, or was reminiscing about people he had knifed back when he was in Vietnam... Whatever it was, I was suddenly certain that this veteran was bent on gutting me like a fish and playing catch with my vital organs. Eventually, my friend returned and drove me to his parents' house, where I slept off my high in one of his mom's guest rooms. I haven't picked up a blunt or listened to Phish since. Being a hippie is fucking dangerous.
When I was in college, drinking on weeknights was my shit. My only problem was being hungover in class—until I discovered that smoking weed was just as fun without giving me a rippling headache the next morning.
So every night, I would smoke pot with my stoner roommates. Everything was perfect until I started working at a bougie-ass bakery that sold fancy pastries. When I'd get off, I'd bring home about $50 worth of baked goods that I told myself I'd share with my roommates or eat over the course of a couple days. Of course, that never happened. Instead, I'd get baked and then tear into all the croissants, artisanal hot pockets, and loaves of miche, a French-style country bread, like Chris Christie at a Golden Corral. It was disgusting.
Eventually, I had to quit smoking because eating all the baked goods made me so fucking full and bloated that I would have sugar nightmares. And then in class the next day, I would be constantly going to the bathroom to shit my brains out. So yeah, I stopped smoking weed because the munchies were wreaking havoc on my colon.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
I smoked and sold a shitload of pot back in college. I mean, it only makes sense—if you're going to be a weed head, you might as well be a weed dealer, too. I wasn't Nino Brown or anything like that, but I'd buy about a half-pound every week and use the profit to pay for my habit. I used to be slick about it and keep my shit in a fly, black leather briefcase.
It was great—until I got caught.
I was rolling around with my dudes, who just looked like they did a lot of dope, and of course we got pulled over. The cop thought we were "suspicious" and called for a fucking drug dog. I had about an ounce in my briefcase at the time, and the pooch sniffed it out.
I was lucky though, because in Vermont, if you have under two ounces and you're under 21, you aren't considered a dealer in the eyes of the law. So I didn't face any jail time. I just had to go to this thing called Diversion, where I was given regular drug tests and paired up with a therapist.
My first therapist was terrible, but my second one was actually really great and is responsible for me quitting weed. Up until I met him, I was sure that once the drug tests ended, I would get back to doing what I was doing before. But he made me think about it in a different way by just stating the truth: There was no way I was going to know whether my life was better with or without weed unless I quit for a bit and compared the differences.
Later on, after Diversion was over, I realized every time I smoked weed I was dissatisfied and anxious and paranoid. I was making bad decisions and I couldn't think clearly because I was smoking that shit every day. So I stopped and my life improved. My grades improved and I was more aware of what I was doing and where I was going in life. I'm not saying everybody is negatively affected by weed, but it had my life fucked up. It's been ten years since I smoked any weed, and I haven't looked back.
FLYING OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
I think acid ruined my weed high. I had a terrible trip once that did something irreparable to my overall outlook. I did the trip with a friend at my parents' lake house, which looks like a cabin that sits right on the water. It's an idyllic little place, but it brought some seriously dark and repressed feelings out of me. Maybe it was because the house is filled with all of my mother's bird houses and weird little trinkets? When I was tripping, something about them made me feel incredibly sad and detached. The feeling was so deep, it's hard to even put it into words. I felt like a child in a bad way, like I was not the one in control of my destiny or my decisions. The trip was so traumatic, I moved across the country to shake the lasting effects of it.
Unfortunately, ever since that trip, every time I smoke weed, I return right back to that intense and terrible feeling. A hit of a blunt puts me into something that is kind of like a panic attack. It's like my thoughts are out of control, they start racing and I can't reign them in. Everything I think gets perverted, even things that I used to have positive feelings toward. I start asking myself, Why are my friends my friends? They are really just trying to use me... It's really overwhelming and it makes it so that I can't cope with other people. Imagine having these intense feelings when you're just hanging with a friend who wants to share a joint in the park and you end up curled in a ball mumbling paranoid shit to yourself. I'm good.
All illustrations by Nick Gazin. To see more of his work, check out his Instagram.
If you are seeking treatment for drug abuse, find helpful information at the website for the National Institute on Drug Abuse.