I am an enthusiastic consumer of marijuana. This has been true since the first time someone smoked me up when I was 19.
For the four years I spent dating the first man that ever got me high, I mostly smoked with him. I thought about weed like I thought about drinking. It was a fun weekend activity that gave me a break from my own brain.
At the time, my brain was being woefully under-medicated for a disorder with which I hadn’t yet been diagnosed, so getting drunk or high was a break from my racing thoughts. An opportunity to just exist in my body. A chance to be with my boyfriend without seriously considering the ways in which he was mistreating me.
As a grown-ass person and diagnosed anxious-American, I feel so much warmth and pity towards the dumb little baby I was in my late teens and early twenties. I spent that whole period of my life with a thousand concerns that all felt equally urgent and relevant. It made it impossible for me to see the difference between freaking out because my weird brain convinced me that I had to listen to the same song on repeat or I would ruin opening night and freaking out because my weird (but perceptive) brain thought my boyfriend was definitely cheating again and gaslighting me about it.
So here we are, more than a decade later, with a firm grasp of my OCD/General Anxiety, and heavy-duty meds, and a bunch of weed. In addition to traditional medical intervention, I’ve acquired intention behind my marijuana consumption that wasn’t there when I was a confused teen. I get high when I get too anxious — to help stave off panic attacks. I get high when my mystery hives are super bad — to help me sleep. I get high when I want to make something and I’m feeling super blocked — to help get past my internalized imposter syndrome.
I’m a little high right now, for all three of those reasons, actually.
My favorite vacation from my own brain is to have a weed gummy and lie in the dark listening to Marconi Union’s album Weightless, which was neuroscientifically designed to help you chill tf out. It gets me a kind of high that borders on tripping — and that’s the space that feels safest for my anxious mind to think scary thoughts. I can dip into scary feelings or memories and then dip back out. I guess I should explain that part of my OCD is: once I start a train of thought, I feel obligated to finish it. My brain can convince me that finishing the thought might keep the thought from coming true, or make it more likely to come true, or keep me from getting heartburn, or keep me from spontaneously combusting, depending on which of those outcomes I’m most interested in at the moment. But when I’m high, I’m more flexible. I can opt out of such prompts as “think of the saddest thing you can imagine or you’ll never feel happy again.”
Much like most living things, I am more inclined to sit still and take stock of my surroundings if I don’t feel trapped. So the unproductive thoughts I fight so hard against during the day — did my ex-girlfriend love me? — are stripped of their potency and rendered, well, helpful: what have I learned about how I want to be loved?
It feels like deciding to dip my toe in a swimming pool instead of deciding to dip my toe in a vat of acid. I can pull my toe back out of a pool and it’s not hurt, so there’s no reason for me to be mad at myself for trying in the first place. And if I do that enough times, maybe I can dip my whole foot in — did deeper. Or maybe my foot is still in when I wake up and I learn the traumas and anxieties I let myself explore are actually are an acid that can be neutralized.
It’s been a real gift to me and my anxiety to see marijuana become socially acceptable as a therapeutic resource. I recognize how much privilege is inherent in that statement. I can speak honestly and openly about weed because I’m white, and I am my own boss, and I work in a creative industry, and I have parents that could have afford to help me out if I’d gotten arrested, and no one cares that much about searching my bag under most circumstances. In recognition of the injustice that Black folks have experienced as a result of the War on Drugs and our carceral state, I’ve donated to The Last Prisoner Project, which is working to legalize marijuana federally, get folks out of jail, and get their records expunged. I’m also a dues-paying, card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialist of America, which is committed to police abolition and ending the carceral state.