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In my second year of university I had a lot of pain to hide.
I was completely clueless of where I wanted to go with my life.
I was lost.
I felt like I didn't have any direction.
I didn't know what I wanted to do.
I didn't know what I was passionate about.
I didn't know what job I want.
And what did this all mean?
'Sam, there is definitely something wrong with you.'
I felt lost because I was.
In grade 12, I nearly died.
I fell asleep driving on the highway.
It happened because of sleep deprivation from working too much.
I was pushing myself to my limit, and then some.
Since that point, I was scared to really push myself again.
I didn't want to die.
By second year, I had cut the difficult stuff out of my life.
I did this to avoid the stress that brought me the sleep deprivation, and my almost-death.
I was scared for my life. And for my future.
This lovely concoction, mixed with the freedom (at last) of living on my own, let me to explore new ways of dealing with pain.
I was used to dealing with it by working. But I couldn't do that anymore, since it would kill me.
So, I chose what many young men seem to choose at university at some point or another:
I chose to smoke weed to hide my pain.
I had more pain than I knew what to do with.
And life was without difficulty. I was bored.
You're telling me there is something that will soothe me, entertain me, and make me feel amazing - without any immediate consequences?
I'll take as much as I can get, please.
Over the next year, I indulged in the stuff.
A typical night might start out at 8pm when I would take my first toke. A couple hours later, I might skidaddle down to the corner store where I would buy up to $40 of ice cream, chocolate, candy, chips, licorice (always at least two of the thick red ones that cost 25 cents). I would retreat to my cozy apartment, toss on netflix, and bathe in the comfort of another toke, the sensational flavours, the effortless entertainment, and the feeling of satiation. a couple times, i would eat until i puked. Often, i was so incapacitated that I would sleep on the couch because i didn't have the energy to move to my bed.
I never forgave myself for this behaviour.
In the summer, I wouldn't do this anywhere near as often, but the program was always in my head.
Now and again, when I would find myself with a free night, I would put in the program, get high, and eat myself sick.
The following year, I cut it out for the latter half of the year, with a couple slip ups.
The following summer, I would slip up a little more often. Playing the program when I could.
It was all I knew to do with my pain.
In fourth year, I hated myself for it. I stopped drinking, which made it easier to stop smoking.
In the back of my mind, there was so much shame.
I just couldn't shake it.
I went to Bali, wrote a couple books, and obsessed over the shame.
Sharing that much of myself with the world so quickly made me feel scared.
And how else could I hide it?
Click, whirr. There goes the program again.
I went back to my old ways.
Since a local told me they shoot people who have weed, I opted out of that.
But almost weekly, I would binge on candy, chocolate, the whole 9 yards.
'But you wrote three books! You're so great!'
When I had to finally release these books to the world, the pain came back.
In amounts greater than ever.
I tried so hard to hold back.
I'd been so sober for so long. (over a year at this point)
But this was the scariest thing of my life.
And everyone around me was doing it (smoking weed).
I'll stay off alcohol, but weed's harmless, right?
Here I was, nearly three years later, doing the same thing.
'Why can't you learn, Sam!'
And then I did.
I asked for the world for help, and I received it.
I found out that there is an area before addiction called dependency.
I didn't feel like I was addicted to weed, but I definitely didn't want to go more than a couple days without it.
I wanted its warm hug at night after a long day.
I wanted its acceptance when I couldn't approve of myself. When I wasn't getting the approval of others.
But I wasn't addicted.
I just liked it.
It took completely removing weed from my life to notice its trickle-down effects on my overall energy. I was sleeping better, eating healthier, more compelled to go to the gym, more stable in my moods, and feeling more in control of myself.
WHEN I WAS SMOKING WEED, THE CONTROL IN MY LIFE FELT LIKE A WAVE. I WOULD BE MOVING TOWARDS MY GOALS IN THE DAYTIME, BUT ONCE I SMOKED WEED, I TOOK A FEW STEPS BACK.
NOW, WITHOUT WEED...
IT FEELS LIKE I'M ONLY TAKING STEPS FORWARD.
There are three main reasons I'm sharing this with you.
1. You're not a bad person for smoking weed.
I know I'm definitely not a bad person. I'm actually pretty neat. And you are too.
Whether it's weed, alcohol, sugar, porn, drugs, prostitution, online shopping, Netflix, YouTube, Instagram...
Becoming dependent on something means there's a problem with how you use the thing. Not the thing itself.
As a society, we accept some dependencies (like alcohol) more than others (hard drugs).
And sometimes we change what we accept (like the legalization process of weed).
Regardless, if you're dependent on anything, you're letting it control you, not the other way around.
And only you know what's best for yourself.
When in doubt, cut it out.
2. Hiding pain isn't feeling pain.
You're going to have to feel the pain eventually.
Why not feel it sooner, so you can sooner experience the strength you'll gain from overcoming it?
I mean, you're going to die, and what if that happens before you suck the strength out of your pain?
A cool thing happens once you remove your pain-hiding outlets.
You're forced to start actually dealing with your shit.
You start to grow.
And isn't that what this whole 'life' thing is all about?
3. Pain is your guide, not your enemy.
Comfort is the enemy of growth.
If your goal is a cushy life, you won't find a cushy path to getting there.
Life is full of shit. Pain. Suffering.
It's a fucking hard game to play.
So embrace it. Lean into it. Love it.
The sooner you can find the value in your pain, the faster you will grow.
The longer you hide from it, the more fragile you become, the slower you'll go.
Be honest with yourself about your goals, and what it takes to get there.
There are no painless journeys to anything you want.
So start your journey now. Follow the pain.
I've been clean for a little over two weeks now, but I'm not counting.
Or maybe I should be.
Maybe I shouldn't write this article until I'm years out of the hole.
Maybe I shouldn't tell you about who I actually am.
Because heaven knows you'll find out that I'm a terrible person.
I stopped caring about 'should's.'
If you do too, you might find yourself left with 'are's'
But be careful.
You might expose yourself too much.
Only to realize this:
There's nothing wrong with you.
(Click, whirr is stolen from Influence by Robert Cialdini)
(If you want to hear my friends dig deeper into the seductive
nature of cannabis, check out this podcast episode at 56:15)
What an honour it is to share yet another couple minutes together.
My friend, if you have any thoughts to share, any stories of your own that you'd be generous enough to tell, do tell them.
I'm here, listening to you much closer than you're able to listen to me. I care about you more than you can realize.
Just like when you talk to your friends in real life, it's a conversation, keep this just like that and send me an e-mail.
Do you have any dependencies you're struggling with? Any friends you're worried about? Paper airplane me a note, and let's get talking.
Because we both know keeping your worries in your head isn't doing anything to solve them.
Oh, and are you subscribed?
I'm trying to reverse the aging process. I'm getting back to e-mail. All this social media stuff these days is giving me a headache.
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Talk to you soon, my beautiful, smart friend.