I'm smoking too much pot

I know I'm going to have to quit once I get pregnant, but I need it for the stress relief

Published February 13, 2012 1:00AM (EST)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I'm a 25-year-old female, I work two jobs, I'm engaged to a great guy.

Right now, both of our full-time jobs suck. We're stuck with bosses who don't appreciate us, even though we are both inherently hard workers. So we are trying to support each other and have jointly decided to move 2,000 miles away to another city where there are more jobs, and where we both have some family.

We like the city we're going to move to no more than the one we are in, except for more opportunities, cheaper taxes, and great access to the mountains. I have moved cities several times in my life and I enjoy the thrill of the change, and this move does feel right. So, hopefully our job issues will be resolved in a few months in a new setting.

I am very eager to have babies with the man I love. With us now moving, kids are on the back burner because we won't have health insurance until one of us lands a job with benefits. We had been trying to get pregnant until the decision to move was made because I have decent benefits with my current hateful job. (One of the reasons I haven't quit, the other main one being that I'm trying to hold this job out till we can move.) I really want kids soon; I have wanted to be a mother since I was 5. But the stress of life and my failing body seem to want other things for me. I had injured my back at work and now am in physiotherapy to heal it, yet I'm still obligated to work my full shifts. Those eight-hour shifts literally drain me. I haven't had a period in 3.5 months (my doctor insists it's stress-related). And most recently, my pap test came back with abnormal cells on my cervix. No further tests have been done, but my doctor thinks my back, lack of period and abnormal cells are at least partly because of too much stress. Hard not to be stressed when all these symptoms have made me worry and fret even more about never being able to have children! The more that I worry, the more stressed my body becomes. The more symptoms of the stress I experience, the more I worry. (A huge catch-22.) One of my worst fears is to end up being barren.

On to my other issue. My fiancé and I both smoke marijuana regularly. I will note here that we do not smoke cigarettes at all, nor do we drink alcohol very often. Although I have heard that it can prevent couples from conceiving, I only "slowed it down" when we were trying to get pregnant. My fiancé seems to have his usage under control. He is able to use on a part-time basis and not every evening and every weekend. I am a different story altogether. I use (abuse) marijuana for stress. I rush to get home after work to have the bad memories of the day dissolve into higher thoughts. I am not high at work, but evenings and weekends are full of my usage. It's the way I've taught myself to deal. Although I don't think marijuana is an "evil drug" that "leads to other drug usage," I know that I am misusing it. I have never felt the need to try any other drug (besides alcohol and caffeine). But I barely even notice the effects any more. Despite that, I can't imagine quitting it altogether. I know that if I were pregnant I would not smoke at all, because there is another human being involved who would be affected by it.

But without marijuana, how would I deal with life's stress? Plus there is some part of me that feels like marijuana is not bad. You ought to know that in my family, a few other people smoke marijuana. My aunt and cousin probably use it once daily, and my mom and brother once or twice a week, and my dad on occasion. While they never permitted any drug usage as a teenager, I found out and smoked with family after turning 19. Obviously this is a huge part of the reason why I can't seem to convince myself that marijuana is "bad."

This new city will not have any marijuana contacts for my fiancé and me, and it is my plan to stop smoking when we move. But really, I don't want to stop at all, and I feel like I'm lying to myself by thinking that a new city will stop me from finding a way to do it. Plus, my fiancé is moving first, and we will be apart for a month (we've never been apart for longer than 10 days in the past four years). I know that with him gone, I will want to smoke even more. Especially because I feel like I want to get as much smoking in before I "can't" anymore.

I know several people who use marijuana more than I do and who firmly believe that no one can get addicted to it. I guess I'm not so sure about this, but I would like to believe it because then I'm just a hippie and not an addict. I worry about the usage affecting the physiotherapy on my back, but since we aren't trying to get pregnant, I still smoke whenever I want to. My fiancé knows that I smoke too much, he knows that I KNOW that I smoke too much too. But month after month he still brings it home for us. I have tried to quit before, asking him to keep it all hidden and out of sight. This always fails, because I will find it and sneak some or bug and bug him to get it out of hiding for me.

I don't think I can stop until he stops bringing it into the house and we get rid of all the marijuana paraphernalia that is around our place. If my fiancé doesn't want to quit with me, I would be disappointed. But as long as he kept everything out of our house and cars, I think I could do it. I really do want children in the long run and better physiotherapy results in the short term. What do I do?

Moving and Shaking

Dear Moving and Shaking,

You are using marijuana to relieve stress.

Stress is your problem. Whether you stop smoking marijuana or not, you need to learn more and better ways to relieve stress.

Start doing tai chi; start doing yoga; meditate; take naps; breathe deeply a lot; do biofeedback. If you are doing any of these activities already, don't conclude that since you're doing it a little it must not work. Instead, do it more.

You may need higher doses of yoga to get relief. Also, if you are consuming lots of caffeine, see about cutting back. Try substituting some herbal teas for caffeinated beverages now and then. Notice the difference. Especially in the afternoon, cut out the caffeine so you can get a better night's sleep.

You will notice things about yourself this way. You will notice the different qualities of consciousness that arise from various techniques. It will be entertaining and interesting. You will notice a gradual improvement in your ability to go through life in a relaxed, worry-free way. Unpleasant activities like work and dealing with power-hungry blockheads will go more smoothly.

During this time, you might want to experiment with not smoking for a time. Pick an occasional time when you are stressed out, and instead of smoking, do 15 minutes of meditation, or some tai chi or yoga.

Don't try to quit all at once, especially not on your own. Just learn some better relaxation techniques. Take it easy. Look for gradual improvement.

Once you've found other ways to relieve stress, you may not feel so fearful about the idea of quitting marijuana for good. Try going without for a few days at a time and see how that goes. You can always smoke. But experience what it's like to handle life without it. Try to get accustomed to that feeling. You may feel slightly on edge, but take a deep breath of fresh air instead of a hit of weed.

The thing is, whether you call yourself an addict or not, changing habitual behavior is hard, and it's especially hard to do alone. It's hard to do without a program. It takes time, effort and support, and there are ups and downs. So I wouldn't recommend trying to stop smoking marijuana on your own, or just with your fiancé.

As you say, for a variety of reasons, you are going to want to quit. So what I'm suggesting is that you prepare, in these ways, for the day when you will need to quit. I'm sure marijuana gives you other things besides stress relief; it probably gives you a heightened sense of the beauty of life, of tastes and sounds, and of general well-being. These things you may need to seek out in life; I find that there are other ways to feel these momentary highs. Seek them out.

For quitting things, as you probably know, I favor the 12-step method because it has added benefits: It helps you get your life together and is a lasting program of living. It is a community. It works for a lot of things.

When and how you quit is up to you. I can say that based on experience, it is definitely possible. You can quit and lead a normal, happy life, when you're ready to. My bottom line is just that A) You should acquire new stress-relief methods first, before trying to quit, and B) what was B? Oh yeah, B) Don't try to quit on your own. If and when you do decide to quit, do it with a group or a program behind you.

And, hey: Good luck. You sound like really nice people and I wish you the best in life. And say hello to the kids when they come. And say hello to the mountains.

By Cary Tennis

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