The first day I showed up to my very first real assistant job in the music industry, I was 21 years old. A badass old dude with a few big clients had hired me, and his Malibu-based management company operated out of an office on the sand. After having his morning caffeine and before we started rolling out calls, my new boss fired up a modest bong. I remember seeing that for the first time and thinking to myself, holy shit—I’ve made it: This is the promised land.
That was almost 10 years ago, and now I work for myself. This means every day I’m charged with the task of resisting a morning bong load, since time has proven to me conclusively that this is no way to live, much less work. I’m sad to report at this time that I’m failing miserably. This is why I’m spending my weekday nights at MA (Marijuana Anonymous). I’m in a room full of addicts at a church in the Valley instead of watching movies with my friends or a cute boy, because in Los Angeles in 2016, literally everyone I know is a stoner.
Being a junkie or an alcoholic who turns themselves over to a 12-step program, the sober lifestyle, God, whatever, registers at the David Bowie end of the addiction spectrum. Being addicted to weed barely registers as laughable and there’s no one in my life I feel comfortable talking to about it. As the era of marijuana prohibition in this country seems to finally be coming to an end, what is the popular discussion surrounding appropriate use? How much is too much? How do I stop if I want to but can’t?
Let’s go all the way back to the very first time I smoked, and I could not make this shit up. It was at a Creed concert freshman year of high school and though the joint met my lips, I did not inhale. The second time in my sophomore year was very different. By then, most of my friends had gotten into pot and one of them took me to the Bob Marley festival. I got high as fuck and had to go see my 10-year-old sister perform in a recital with my parents immediately afterward. I felt chronically behind: Everything was happening 10 seconds faster than I could keep up with. It made me feel anxious, and a few times I full-on hallucinated various paranoid visions of people chasing me, or trying to put out cigarettes on my clothes. It was terrible, but my friends kept on smoking and so did I.
By senior year, getting high was fun, and by college, it had become the ultimate bonding mechanism. I moved from San Antonio, Texas, to L.A. when I was 18 to attend Loyola Marymount and quickly found that smoking weed opened me up to a network of instant friends. These weren’t entry-level dorm friends wrapped up in classes and on-campus activities—they were surfers, artists, and musicians who went to concerts. A kid named Michael Shuman explained to me what Coachella was after we got high in someone’s dorm room in 2004. Ten years later I watched him play that festival with his band, Queens of the Stone Age. It’s pretty easy to be seduced by the devil’s lettuce when the people you’re getting high with are quite literally rock stars.
I make that devil’s lettuce remark in conscious jest—there’s nothing evil about weed. Quite the contrary, the medical benefits are well documented, from pain and anxiety management to use in treating cancer treatment symptoms and even killing cancer cells in laboratory tests. I do believe we’ll look back at marijuana prohibition in this country 20 years from now much in the same way people look at our history with alcohol prohibition. Unfortunately—for me and the budding legal cannabis industry—I’ve lost my ability to use it responsibly, and there are many others like me.
Now that I’ve admitted to myself I’m an addict, am I going to continue to keep pretending I can smoke here and there and maintain balance in my life, or am I going to surrender? If I were waking up and drinking alcohol first thing in the morning and/or using other drugs to the point where I passed out every day, my loved ones would be extremely concerned about me and likely intervene. The use of weed doesn’t raise the same alarm because side effects of abuse don’t include death.
I’m definitely not worried about dying; I’m worried about living. I want to thrive. At this time a year ago, I was completely sober for 111 days because I convinced myself in a dramatic New Year’s resolution that if I went straight, I could make all my dreams come true. When I first got sober, I was attending Marijuana Anonymous meetings, but I didn’t like it and quit after the first 60 days. Everyone in there seemed so sick of themselves and at personal lows. I hadn’t hit that wall yet, but I did know I had more potential than what I was living up to both personally and professionally. Furthermore, telling people you’re in MA is stigmatized and embarrassing, and I was glad to be out of there just so I could stop lying about what I was doing on weeknights.
To fortify myself while sober, I rid the house of all things weed and made a strict no-smoking rule in the house with my friends and roommates. But once my sobriety mission had lost its early luster and I was out of the program, I discovered half of a weed candy in the fridge. With one nibble I was off the wagon. I took my dog hiking and got hopelessly lost for almost two hours right as it was getting dark. I did come up with a tremendous idea for a science fiction novel while wayward, which in my mind, totally validated the stress I’d brought upon myself after three months of peace.
My use crept back in slowly but surely, and by mid-summer, the weed monster had his claws fully back in me. I’ve given my addiction the identity of the weed monster because it helps me not beat myself up about it so hard. I see this creature as the Loch Ness Monster from South Park—it’s quite fitting that the monster always needs “tree fiddy” because an eighth is the standard weed purchase at 3.5 grams. The weed monster is charming as hell and makes me extremely popular at parties, but he constantly lies through his pointy, smoke-stained teeth. He makes modest rewards seem epic then softens the blow of fuckups, making a modicum of success feel like heaven and the loss of a great opportunity feel like whatever. That’s the problem.
So here we are resetting our sobriety app yet again as the monster looks on innocently. He’ll stay cute and sweet as long as it takes to make me think we’re still friends, but the minute someone sparks up near me, he’ll bear his teeth, grow 50 feet tall, start breathing fire down my neck, and make outrageous demands. I wish I could end this article by saying I’m firmly rooted in my decision to quit forever, but that’s not true, at least not yet. Like every recovering addict, all I can promise is to keep the monster at bay for today. My biggest mistake has been trying to convince other people my addiction is real when there’s only one person I have to convince to help me get better. I’m #blessed to be granted the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference—wish me luck.