More about shooting up cocaine and quitting pot

Why do we do these crazy things? Well, we want to feel different!

Published June 13, 2010 11:01PM (EDT)

Dear Reader,

Friday's column mentions how I once shot up cocaine. The piece ends, "I thought I was getting in touch with the gods." That was meant ironically.

But you know what? All this talk about my prior drug use is giving me the willies.

Every time I get fancy things start to fall apart. I know how to talk one-to-one to people who are in pain or confusion. That's what I know how to do. So back to the basics.

Dear Cary,

When I found pot it was as though I could finally breathe. I loved it. It helped me make friends and to bring me out of my shell. I tried coke, mushrooms, acid -- really, whatever was in front of me. And I drank a lot. But I adored pot. I figured I'd stop or cut way down after I graduated from school. That didn't happen. As the years went by, I would roll out of bed each morning and go straight to my bong. I had to get high. I wouldn't eat lunch at work. Instead, I'd get in my car, head home, do bong hits and go back to work. I spent more than $50,000 on pot by the time I finally got help to quit at age 37. The first few days were terrible -- I sweated like crazy during the night. My skin crawled. When I didn't want to scream, I felt like crying. But I found people who had quit using all drugs (including alcohol) and did what they did. I am clean today, over four years later.

I realized that for me it really wasn't about the pot. It was about trying to feel different. In college, I'd admit to smoking pot because "I was bored," but never said it was because of how I felt. Being gay, I had always felt like an outsider and pot finally put me on the inside. I don't need that anymore to feel part of a group or like my life is OK. I was stoned almost constantly for about 19 years -- at work, during sex, eating lunch. I never thought that was how it was going to go, but I became dependent on it to live. I don't have to live like that anymore and for that, I am grateful.

Thank you for your writing. I enjoy it very much.

Former Friend of Pot

Dear Former Friend of Pot,

The key for me is when you say, "I realized that for me it really wasn't about the pot. It was about trying to feel different."

There is wisdom in that sentence. There is much misery in life. But our misery is compounded by our inability or refusal to accept how we feel. We want to be comfortable, we want to live with the illusion that we fit in, we want to believe that people like us and that the world is a nice place, we want life to be interesting and fun, we want to be understood, we want to feel alive, we want, we want, we want, we want, we want, and all this wanting and itching and casting about for more comfort and security drives us ever farther into addiction and distraction and illusion.

The truth is that right here right now what is going on is all there is to it.

You could get everything you think you want but it wouldn't make you happy. You could smoke all the pot you can stand and get drunk and fall down but it wouldn't change anything. The world is just the way it is. 

When we "quit using all drugs, including alcohol," and especially if we have some kind of program for living that puts us into radically direct relationship with others, we find that whatever "reality" is, we grow closer to it; whatever this remarkable pulsing, buzzing universal music is, this mystery, whatever it is, we grow closer to it. We go farther inside it.

We find ourselves at home in the world for the first time.

Layers of illusion and expectation and adamant belief and judgment and self-regard peel away and what shows up underneath is luminous and surprising and profound.

Drugs are not the problem. Our nature is the problem. Our obsessions and compulsions and will to dominate are the problem. Our making of laws to regulate the personal lives of others is the problem. And sooner or later we have to make this leap of faith and imagine a world in which we allow people to seek out what they need for their own growth. If we actually lived lives of radical faith in the rightness of the moment, if we actually lived as though what we profess to know were actually true ... we might find that the myriad transgressions we expend our lives prosecuting are like little puffs of smoke in a loud, vibrant jungle. They are nothing.

We have to find ways to live with how we feel. It's hard. I am glad you're able to live today without having to get high. In fact, your letter just really cheered me up. I was struggling with the column, trying to make sense of things, when all I really needed was just one good letter from somebody. 

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By Cary Tennis

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