If you are in recovery and thinking of trying marijuana, DON’T. I’ve been there and I’m certain I would have spiraled back into active heroin addiction if I hadn’t recognized the addictive behavior that trying marijuana had triggered and taken steps to help myself.
In the summer of 2017, I celebrated eight years in recovery from heroin. I was balancing graduate school for social work and a demanding job, so there was a lot of stress in my life. I knew people who said that marijuana eased their stress and anxiety. I started to think that maybe my brain was different now and that marijuana would make the pressure manageable.
I bought marijuana with a friend who didn’t know I was in recovery. I smoked for a couple weeks on and off, though not every day. The first time I smoked was fine, but I soon noticed how my brain, behavior, and body had relapsed to active addiction. My thought processes were off, I felt physically ill, and my behaviors were more erratic and impulsive. Marijuana had put me in a very, very dark place.
I realized if I didn’t stop, I would eventually return to heroin. I was so proud of my commitment to treatment at Caron and my ability to achieve long-term recovery from heroin. I thought about that girl who shot heroin into her veins and hated herself so much she couldn’t look in the mirror or stand to be around other people.
I didn’t want to die. I couldn’t imagine abandoning my family and friends and this new life I created. I needed to act fast and tell my support group what was going on. So, one night I gathered up the courage to share everything. They were incredibly loving, and kind and immediately helped me get back on track.
I also had to work on myself. I had to look deeper into the parts of my history I was holding onto or didn’t want to address -- and include them in my present recovery if I wanted to stay sober. It required rigorous honest about how I came to this place of relapse and needed another thorough inventory on myself. What makes Liz act the way she does? What makes Liz want to hide and run, and what is she ashamed of? I had to fully understand myself.
I also worked to stay connected with my friends in recovery, because one of the first signs of relapse for me is thinking I don’t need my friends. Frankly, my stress and anxiety stemmed from being disconnected from my recovery friends. I was not taking care of myself emotionally, and I started to blame everyone else for my problems. Everything suddenly felt impossible. I felt overwhelmed, and that had led me to think marijuana would help me to relax.
The worst thing for an addict and alcoholic is to become disconnected from the world around them. In my active heroin addiction, I had struggled with feeling connected to friends and family, and it stopped me from reaching out. Reconnecting with my recovery friends helped me stop using marijuana.
Tragically, a friend in recovery who believed he was “successfully” using marijuana died of an opiate overdose last year. I know I’m one of the lucky ones, and I don’t take that for granted.
If you are in recovery and thinking of using marijuana, don’t. My brain reacted the same way it would if I drank alcohol or used opiates. It put my years of recovery at risk.
The truth is that addiction is a disease and I’m never going to be cured. And I’m okay with that because I know I’m not perfect, but I’m committed to working on myself every day. I want to empower others to ask for help and not feel ashamed if they relapse. We are a community and we can help each other recover.
I’m excited to share that my mom, Anne Lucas, wrote a play entitled, “Recovery.” It explores three mother/daughter relationships as they work on their recovery from #addiction. The play premiered on October 11th and will run until the 28th in New York City.
The Hard Facts on Marijuana
By Kate Appleman, MA, LPC, CAADC, CSAT, CCS
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Breakthrough at Caron