I’m forty soon and I’ve been smoking weed for over twenty years. I fucking love weed. I’ve never smoked like Snoop; never grown my own supply; never been a dealer, never owed a dealer and never felt like weed has been a hindrance to anything I’ve ever tried to achieve. So why do I feel like now is the time to let weed go for good?
Imagine if you will, some wibbly lines appearing in the air around you, whilst a ripple of muzak plays on a loop as if inside your head. Don’t freak out, it’s not drug-induced psychosis, it’s just a movie-style flashback so I can fill you in on some background colour and detail.
As a young ‘un, I was oddly puritanical about narcotics but I don’t think the source of my dogma is difficult to pinpoint. By the time I’d turned 14, my mother had married three times and made three subjectively poor choices. Her rap sheet lists two alcoholics and one intravenous speed user, with an impressive hat-trick bonus of all three asshats being twisted of mind and violent of fist. So, growing up, my experience of hard drugs and alcohol was tangible, ugly and somewhat off-putting. I can’t pretend that none of that feeling persists, a healthy sliver still does, but Mary Jane nonetheless got, and still gets, a free pass from me.
I started smoking weed a few months after I first arrived at university. I had left the lager loving world of Port Talbot rugby clubs behind to join the spliffed-up metropolis of Luton and my new peers chose weed over beer every time, so from that point on, I did too! Early doors at least, it was nothing more than an occasional treat – I couldn’t skin up without making a cack-handed mess and I didn’t care. I only smoked with friends and they were happy to knock my joints up for me. I was sufficiently self-aware to know that stoned me was a joy to be around compared to the prick I became after drinking, so I swapped vices almost entirely. Quickly, it became a single dark rum for special occasions perhaps, but a ‘phatty boombatty’ for everything else. Even though I used and still use, a little tobacco in my joints, I managed to avoid ‘gatewaying’ into smoking cigs without weed and this remains true today. Weed was simply my social lubricant of choice and nothing more. My one and only true vice.
I had met the girl of my dreams just prior to setting off for uni, and after a year of trying to make it work long-distance, she moved to Luton so we could be together properly. Although as steadfast about saying ‘no’ to drugs as Zammo and Nancy Reagan (sorry kids – Google it!), she didn’t mind that I had started having a spliff now and then. No fucks were given either when I started using the attic room to blast Kanye’s College Dropout while attempting to roll ‘tulips’ and build DIY bongs with my new best mate Jim. But we hadn’t got married then. We hadn’t had kids either!
So why do I still smoke now? Why haven’t I already grown out of it and moved on? Easy, I’ve simply never found anything that compares to the fully comprehensive cover of a spliff. I smoke when I’m stressed and it helps. I smoke when I’m in pain and it helps. It just so happens that I’m stressed and in pain a lot. I could have accepted the advice of many a doctor and spent my adult life throwing back opioids and anti-depressants instead, and if I manage to kick the weed, I might yet have to spend the rest of my life doing so. Why? Because my shitshow of a childhood was hilariously/cruelly exacerbated by my being born with a condition called ‘clubbed foot’ and by the subsequent twenty-two orthopaedic procedures deemed necessary to give me a pair of almost feet-like-feet! The cosmetic objective was met but at the expense of mobility and balance plus the bonus of constant pain in every bone and joint south of my nipples! The stress comes from a litany of circumstances that I believe would try the patience and sanity of anyone reasonable. The bliss of being new parents, recently married and happily employed was shattered when we learned the day before our baby’s first Christmas Eve, that she had cancer. Our lives were unexpectedly upended and relocated back to our little Welsh hometown. Two and a half years were spent living with in-laws, eight years were spent supporting our daughter while she fought to live, helping her to beat cancer three times in total. No time at all was spent raising our son who instead had to cope with being shunted from gran to aunt to cousin to friend while his parents lived in hospitals miles away. Twelve years were spent working as a teacher in a school I hated but dared not leave for fear of not finding another employer willing to gamble on a guy who often had to take time off, and who was sometimes only on-site in body and not in spirit. Things change however, circumstances improve and time marches on. Our daughter is now thirteen and as healthy as she could possibly be. I’ve left that school and we’ve even bought a little house. It’s true that most of the problems are problems no more, but the peculiar thing is, I coped with them better while they were still problems! It’s as if I was waiting for confirmation that things were truly ‘okay’ before I dared breathe out. Before I dared to pause and reflect, and as soon as I did, the full force of a decade of shit hit me like a tsunami. Five years later and I know I’m still not right, and guess what, weed really helps with that! Weed just makes my brain and body hurt less.
Smoking weed hasn’t caused any seismic rifts in my marriage so far and having been married for sixteen years, together over twenty, you’d be forgiven for assuming that it’s not worth worrying about anymore. Surely, I’ve proved that weed does not negatively impact our life in any serious way, so, what’s the problem with me enjoying a spliff every day? Well, apparently, I haven’t proven anything! My girl says it’s become a serious financial drain; says it stinks, says I’m a better dude when I’m not high. She says it’s blocking me from pushing forward in life and following through on the ‘big ideas’. She says it fucks with my libido and sleeping patterns. She says it’s become daily. It’s become a crutch, a compulsion, an over-reliance. She doesn’t call it an addiction or scream ‘junkie’ at me because she loves me and is rational and supportive. She has never made demands or issued an ultimatum but I sense in my bones that there’s one coming sooner rather than later. A portentous feeling of dread hangs on the periphery of every shared moment, edging closer like the malevolent force from ‘It Follows’. Now, each time I offer a weak apology for choosing weed over responsibility (“What do you mean you can’t drive? It’s only 4pm!”) I worry that it might be the final straw for her and if I’ve learned anything up to now, it’s that as much as I’ll miss weed, I’d miss her more.