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The post below, originally published at The Fix, was written by Rebecca Rush who attended a She Recovers retreat in Bali earlier this year. (This fantastic picture is a favorite from that trip!)

“I knew something needed to change in my life and originally signed up for the Bali retreat to take a break from weed,” Rebecca told me. “She Recovers has given me a tribe of women with who I can feel genuinely care about me. I feel loved, I feel part of something greater myself, in a real way, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. After a life of feeling misunderstood, Dawn and Taryn and the women I met – they really got me. Staying in touch with them post retreat is a huge part of my recovery. We can’t do it alone.” 

Legal Marijuana: Enough Dope to Hang Yourself With

When they handed me my medical marijuana license, I thought, “This is what my wedding was supposed to feel like.“ I smoked weed for 23 years – and planned to smoke it for at least 50 more, if not for legalization.

The first time I was getting admitted to rehab the technician handling my intake asked me what my drug of choice was.

“Everything.”

“If I laid out all the drugs on the table and you had to choose one, what one would you pick?” She tried again.

“I would distract you and then I would grab everything.”

I was too ashamed to admit that marijuana–little, ineffectual, not-a-drug marijuana–was my drug of choice. My favorite quality of any drug was how it intensified weed.

In fact, a large part of my motivation for quitting cocaine was that it made smoking pot not work. Cocaine: the dirty mistress that distracted me from my one true love. After all, my ring finger hadn’t been broken at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday morning because I wouldn’t let go of the last bag of marijuana.

A few cocaine relapses, a divorce, and a holy-shit-I’m-almost-30-and-live-with-my-insane-mother later, I began attending 12-step meetings and seeking out the people in the program who still smoked pot. They aren’t too hard to sniff out. Marijuana was definitely not a problem. It wasn’t what led me to pee my pants while I was getting booked for a DUI and then spend hours slamming my body against the door in the drunk tank.

I continued to lurch from crisis to crisis and began doing stand up comedy. I felt so uncomfortable around other comedians, but I felt that if I shared my weed, my presence was of value. And how else would I trap people into conversations about myself?

More than once a program friend pointed out the obvious – that my maintenance program didn’t actually work. I binge drank about every six months, most notably spending Christmas in the psych ward last year after attempting to fly to LA. on a significant amount of everything except sleep. It was no big deal, I maintained after I was released, I’m Jewish. I also took hallucinogens in the summer and various pills whenever offered. Once the door is open to drugs, it’s simply open. There is nobody at the door with a guest list that only has pot on it.

Weed felt like an integral part of my identity. I swore I never wanted to quit – but underneath that I was scared that I couldn’t. I procured Adderall prescriptions to balance out the tiredness and hunger, and then rushed from room to room in my apartment feeling productive and anxious and forgetting why.

However, this was all somewhat kept in check by the simple fact that there is only SO much traditional weed one can smoke, and that, even though I had no problem openly sparking bowls in Times Square (what a revolutionary!) or even a bar bathroom more than once (why!?) you really can’t do it everywhere. My maintenance periods were a lot less destructive than my drinking binges.

As medical and then recreational marijuana became a thing in the Wild West, new products began to trickle across the country and into the hands of dealers where I live now, NYC.

I was introduced to electronic pens full of concentrated oils and candies made with wax instead of traditional butter. I finally had an easy way to smuggle weed internationally! I left my new eyeglasses in a yoga studio in Costa Rica, which was fine; I thought I had left my drugs. Weed carries severe legal penalties in Thailand? Then it must be hard to find; better to bring my own to fill in the gaps.

Standup comedy soon brought me to LA. I went mostly to get my medical license so I would know that my mood alterers were prescribed by a doctor when I shared in meetings.

The appointment was over too soon. I was shown a list of problems to choose from, shuffled into another room to fill out some forms, and that was it. I was trying to explain how much weed helped me to the Doc who understands, but he cut me off and shooed me out of the room.

Soon I was standing in a dispensary that looked like a Sublime album cover had exploded, waiting for a ‘budtender.’

“How is this not a drug?” a voice inside me whispered.

I spent over $1,000 and marched out of the dispensary into a week of gulping THC laced lemonade while smoking pre-rolled blunts dipped in hash oil and smoking chunks of moon rocks – buds dipped in oil rolled in kief, while adding more hash on top. I put on sunglasses so I wouldn’t singe my eyelash extensions when the copious mix blew fireballs back at me like crack.

The next week I was in San Francisco–to do comedy but mostly to continue my dispensary tour–and they were pushing microdosing. It’s a way to get people who otherwise would wait until they were done with work to get high to consume product all day long. One by one, regulars stopped by after their day to sit on a long bench and vape from devices they could sign out from the front desk.

“It’s legal if there’s no combustion,” an employee explained.

“How is this different than bar culture?” I pondered as I signed my name.

I told myself that driving and smoking weed was safe, but I got lost in my Zipcar all over California, missing turns, swerving to hit a bowl, and spacing out at lights. It was stressful, but not as stressful as trying to get by with only edibles and the cannabis oil pen inside of Harry Potter World, where I had taken a program newcomer, the car stinking like the blunt I had ripped before I picked her up.

Through the fog it was becoming clear, but how could I quit now? I had just won a golden ticket to the chocolate factory.

I flew back to NYC, bags full of products: flower inside of socks, a dozen oil cartridges in my makeup bag that I swore looked like anti-aging serum along with containers of hash, kief, and wax that looked like loose eyeshadow. I cruised through security while a Hasidic woman’s breast milk got examined behind me, wearing my white girl privilege like an invisibility cloak.

I celebrated 60 days “sober” later that week with a bowl packed with all of the above mentioned things, and then went into a meeting directly after hitting a special creativity concentrate I had picked up in SF.

“Do you smell weed?” One guy asked.

The next week I found out my dealer was now selling wax. I bought the proper handheld device, and every time I hit it I pissed myself, failing to make the connection between pissing my pants and unmanageability. Instead, I altered my shower routine to accommodate it. I would shower, then before putting on underpants, sit down on the toilet, hit the wax, or ‘dab’, and piss in a more acceptable setting, unless my square roommates were home. I didn’t really need that pink IKEA desk chair anyway.

I had always smoked too much weed, and by too much I mean more than I wanted to or could afford. At the height of it I spent around $250/week while rotating two $20 hoodies to wear to comedy shows. For decades I made plans with myself to only smoke at night (except on weekends) but it would only last a few days until the list of “exceptions” would grow and grow until I got over trying to control it. Anytime anything I didn’t like happened I took to my bed with enough edibles to knock out just like I had with booze.

The insanity became too obvious to deny. I threw out the Adderall after trying a few days off of it and coming back with a vengeance to snort the entire three days worth in a single shot. Days after that I threw out all of my pot paraphernalia, only to dig through the trash for some of it 12 hours later.

Still, it wasn’t nearly enough, and so I drank, one final howl of pain that lasted for weeks.

Detoxing with pot one last time I whispered to the pipe, “this isn’t even working, this doesn’t even work.”

It was never going to be enough. But maybe I could be.

I went to a meeting, grabbed someone after, and for the first time, I dropped the story of “I smoke weed and it’s nonnegotiable,” and said, “I smoke weed and I know I need to quit.” Within 48 hours, with the help of two people, I put it down for good.

Suddenly I was present, and it wasn’t terrible. The insulation of weed protected me from certain things as a young adult, and I’m grateful to it for that. But those things aren’t happening anymore. Now truly sober, I was able to make connections in meetings, instead of sitting in the back wondering why I couldn’t.

There’s a whole world outside that cloud of smoke. And thanks to legalized marijuana and the many people who are making their fortunes figuring out ways to get people to use as much of it as possible, I finally flipped it all the way to the other side. I’m free.

In the end it turned out that my medical license was less like my wedding and more like my marriage actually was – just because the government says it’s okay doesn’t make it healthy. And against all odds, one day I found the strength to walk away.

This post originally was published at The Fix.

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