In a room packed with frisky 20-something-year-olds, all gripping their glasses, I stand composed as I survey the silliness of the scenario. A cloud of smoke hovers over the heads of my peers as they holler nonsensical jargon across the foot-long distances between one another. Unlike my sweaty, sloppy and mentally impaired peers, I am completely content in my state of sobriety.
It may come as a shock to many that I can have a good time in college without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. I have never been much of a drinker, but even less so over the past couple years.
Of course, my substance of choice was always marijuana—weed. Its ability to lighten emotions and create illusions of revelation was the only reason my friends and I thought I was happy at 18 years of age and 238 pounds. Although many describe marijuana as a “non-addictive drug,” it was a much more difficult to forgo than alcohol.
The first time I smoked pot was when I was 17 years old. Sheer boredom and curiosity was my inspiration to make my first illegal purchase. I wanted to see if I was immune to the substance’s effect, and if not, what it felt like. Five of my close friends and I sat in a circle on my bedroom floor. Two of them were more experienced and gave instructions as we struggled confusedly to light and inhale the bud from a pierced aluminum pop can. The process seemed complicated at the time, but I didn’t expect to become such a pro at the art of toking.
Although I didn’t achieve a high after my first try, I decided to give it another shot before I graduated high school. It was after the second time that I discovered how much I loved being high. I felt giddy, joyous, and completely riveted about every thought that entered my mind during my altered state. It was as if I had discovered a sort of magic in one of earth’s most condemned substances. To me, the magic was in the fact that just by simply smoking a herb I could remove all my negative emotions and replace them with incessant revelations that mimicked a love for life.
And I was particularly desperate for this illusion of happiness coming out of my senior year of high school.
Due to a series of unfortunate, self esteem-attacking events, I steadily packed on the pounds after volleyball season. As my weight number surged closer and closer to the 200s, my self-image really began to plummet. And as I dabbled in the beginning stages of getting high, the amount of sitting and eating increased even further. But because my hometown of Canby, OR wasn’t nearly as conducive to buying marijuana as Eugene is, I managed (somewhat) to maintain a weight of about 198 pounds.
I didn’t have to put out any effort to find weed my first night at college. Weed found me. Just about every girl on my floor in the dorms had mentioned that they were going to smoke later that night. Just by walking around campus I heard countless students prattling on about their plans to get high and/or drunk that evening. It seemed as if everyone around me was in on some premeditated plot to rebel against the establishment with drug and alcohol use the minute that college began.
Needless to say, I made a lot of friends in my dorm who also smoked pot. After about a week of college, I had found a stable dealer and settled in to a daily pot-smoking routine. Every night around 11 o’clock my friends and I would find a place to smoke. The group with which I smoked constantly varied. Sometimes it was just my two closest girl friends and I. Other times it was a few guy friends from the floor below me. Because smoking in the dorms was out of the question, I got into the steady habit of driving to park somewhere off campus, and then ‘hot boxing’ my car. Ironically, this solution seemed like the safest option. Of course, ‘safe’ to my friends and I meant a lower risk of getting caught.
I also feared my ‘safety’ in terms of my mother finding out I had been spending a lot of money on marijuana. I figured she also wouldn’t be ecstatic about my skipping class regularly due to the fact that I was consistently staying up until 6 in the morning, and sleeping until 5 in the evening. But I knew she wouldn’t understand that smoking weed had become my only portal through which I could allow my true self to shine. I just couldn’t see another way of coping with my depreciating sense of self-worth. I hated w hat I saw when I looked in the mirror, so I used escapism to forget and alter what I truly thought of myself.
Still, everyone loved me when I was high. I was hilarious, confident and deeply insightful. Although people have always thought I was funny, I felt that everyone liked me more when I was high. Perhaps this was because my real true self was suppressed when I was sober because I subconsciously restricted who I was at the time. Although my highs may have created the illusion that I was happy, carefree, and self-assured, I was really a very depressed (and just VERY fat) person when that little baggie ran out.
By spring term, my weight reached an all time high of 238 pounds, (the highest that I know of anyway). It was an unsightly and unfortunate progression that was punctuated by late night munchie binges and a stubbornness to stay stationary in my oh-so-frequent stupor.
After my rock-bottom freshman year, I’d finally had enough self loathing. I decided to make a drastic lifestyle change; I was going to lose the weight. And I did! On June 1st, 2007 I followed through on my plan to get healthier. I stopped eating unhealthy foods, and began working out at least four times a week. By September I had lost forty pounds and counting. My friends were ecstatic, and impressed by my weight loss and newly found confidence. I was becoming a completely different person.
As I continued with my weight loss into my sophomore year, I continued smoking pot regularly. Sometimes I would smoke a bowl and stupidly workout while high. My friends were unable to keep up with my pot-smoking schedule, which sometimes required two to three sessions per day, so I usually smoked alone.
My highs had changed from enthralling and fun to sleepy and barely present. Instead of having lively interactions with my friends, I would instead sit on my computer and surf the Internet in a trance. My highs were no longer a fun or happy escape from real life; they had become my sad reality. High had become my normalcy. I was also noticing that smoking was limiting my ability to reach my fitness goals. My lungs were getting the wear and tear that I always feared they would.
To switch up my routine and cut back on smoking, I dabbled in drinking culture just a bit to see what all the fuss was about. I took shots as if I were smoking bowls: frequent, incessant, and quick. My drinking experience can be summed up by a lack of self-control, which led to a few miserable nights of puking, an alcohol poisoning scare, and a discovery that binge drinking is not worth the consequences.
After I got in to a serious relationship with someone who didn’t think he could date a smoker (of anything), I decided to try to quit smoking cold turkey. To the almost-detriment of my new relationship, I relapsed a couple of times, had literally been playing with fire, and then lied about it. After relapsing, I discovered how difficult it was for me to imagine not getting high anymore. It was then that I realized I had an addiction to the supposedly ‘non-addictive’ drug, marijuana, just like I had been addicted to food.
Although spending time with my boyfriend made me infinitely happier than being high did, I felt out of place and awkward in social settings. I had to re-teach myself how to have fun and be myself without the crutch of drugs and alcohol. It was a strange idea to me at the time because none of my friends did anything for fun (Wednesday through Saturday) that didn’t involve inebriating themselves.
Many of my friends were perplexed, disappointed, and even angry about my decision to stop using substances.
A group of my closest girl friends hovered over me with concerned expressions as I shamefully wiped tears away with my T-shirt. My first relapse with smoking had caused an issue in my relationship, and I was devastated over how to handle it. One of my girlfriends sat on my bed with me as I cried into my hands. With a concerned voice she said that I “wasn’t being myself,” and was changing who I was for my boyfriend. Statements like these further verified the fact that I had defined myself by my excessive drug use. (I would just like to add how appreciative I am that I have a partner who refuses to stand by and watch me engage in unhealthy, even damaging behavior.)
Throughout my sophomore and junior year in college, my friends continued to pressure me to smoke weed and drink alcohol, even knowing that I associated smoking pot with my deteriorating mental and physical health. I was constantly aware of my friends’ wishes for me to engage in their stereotypically college activities.
I haven’t smoked pot in over two years now, and I have no intentions of starting up again. When I stopped smoking I gave up all my unhealthy habits, and enabled myself to lose a grand total of 70 pounds. Although two years have passed since I last smoked pot, some of my friends still vocally encourage me to relapse and give up my healthy habits.
The fact that I don’t drink in party scenes confuses people and provokes them to quiz me on my reasons. I’ll have a drink on the rare occasion that I enjoy the taste, but I don’t drink to get drunk anymore. Why would I consume a beverage high in calories if I don’t even enjoy the taste? I think it’s hard for many people to understand that getting drunk is not the epitome of a good time for me. When I’m asked why I don’t drink, I don’t usually go too far into elaborating because there are too many reasons to verbally list off.
- I detest the taste of most alcoholic beverages.
- I also don’t find the experience of being ‘wasted’ very enjoyable.
- Drinking alcohol is a waste of empty calories, especially since they’re not pleasant to consume.
- I hate being disabled from driving.
- Drunk people are unattractive and annoying to be around. Those aren’t qualities I’d like to acquire.
- Every time I’ve awakened from a drunken sleep, I have instantly regretted my actions.
I don’t want to use alcohol the way I used to use pot: my only source of fun and happiness. My decisions to not drink and smoke are not a statement of judgment toward other people, but rather a reflection of my own negative personal experiences. Substances remind me of my pathetic and desperate need for escapism to be happy. But I just plain don’t need them anymore! The use of drugs and alcohol are not conducive to weight loss and fitness. That being said, I’m glad that I experienced what rock-bottom feels like, because I am now the person I am today. Without hitting rock-bottom, I may have continued to be moderately overweight for the rest of my life. I cringe at the thought.
Without the prevalence of these substances in my life, I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been. But I’m not stopping there.