The day I took 120mg of edibles and all I felt was a slight buzz was a wakeup call. The last time I took that amount in edibles, it was by accident. I was at a fancy work party and the night ended with me laughing so hard at the realization that I don’t know how to play chess that I collapsed on the floor and almost peed in my floor-length dress. My friend quietly put me in a cab at 6:30pm. (The party had started at 5:30pm.) To be able to ingest that amount now, many months into quarantine, and merely shrug it off? I knew it was time to consider a tolerance break.
I had some big concerns, however. Sure, the expected “Am I ‘strong enough’ to abstain from something I use every day?” thoughts came up. But considering I use weed to manage my chronic pain, anxiety, and stress, I had other valid concerns about this break, too. Smoking had become a huge part of my way of coping with the pandemic.
“Am I dependent on this?” was the first question I asked myself, which was quickly followed by my most prominent fear, which is: “Will I lose my mind?” After all, the pandemic was hard enough with weed. Did I really want to deny one of the few good things in this world during a very tumultuous time? Thankfully, my partner Evan (who’s also an everyday smoker) became my accountability partner.
Together, we were going to raw dog reality for 30 days and, well, see what happened.
The first few days were much easier than I anticipated considering we were both quitting cold turkey. After hearing about our break (and offering condolences), my friends were dying to know: Did I think more clearly? Run faster? Jump higher? Was I having withdrawals? I hated to disappoint them, but the truth was the first week was fairly anticlimactic. I guess I was expecting a big change, but nothing groundbreaking happened; I just felt like how I normally did during the day before I lit up at night. I was Sober Dana for 8 hours a day before this break. Now I was just her for 24 hours a day, every day.
We hit our first hurdle while trying to replace THC with CBD. I’d heard good things about how CBD can help with all the things I’d used THC for—anxiety, pain, stress—so I figured I’d give it a shot. Unfortunately, we found replacing THC with CBD isn’t as simple of a cut + paste job as we’d thought. Sure, we both enjoy the ritual of reaching for our vape (now filled with a CBD-only cartridge), but the after-effects were too uncomfortable to ignore. When my partner and I noticed both of us grinding our teeth more than an entire bachelor party in Vegas after using the fifth CBD product (all different brands and formulations) we’d tried, we decided to jump ship on the whole CBD thing altogether.
“Is CBD bullshit?” Evan asked me. I don’t know, but what I do know is: it does not work for us.
What also became apparent in Week 1 was how much I relied on cannabis to provide any sort of appetite for myself. Mine and Evan’s eating became erratic: we either couldn’t eat all day due to [gestures around broadly at the state of the world] or binging because we’ve realized we haven’t eaten sufficiently in multiple consecutive days. I had no idea how much THC helped regulate my appetite.
In Week 2, the first benefit finally became apparent. In an unexpected turn of events I, a lifelong insomniac, started sleeping better than I have in years. And I’ve tried everything. Over-the-counter meds? Aleve PM has been on my nightstand since I was eighteen. Herbal remedies? I’ve tried them all. Prescription meds? I undoubtedly have a giant, Ambien-induced hole in my brain from all the times I’ve gone on and off it. (Pro: I slept great. Con: I can’t remember anyone’s birthdays.) It came as a huge surprise when after getting everything out of my system—including THC—my body was able to go back to its natural circadian rhythm.
Unfortunately, Week 3 was when we both started getting antsy. What really helped was Evan and me sticking to our routine. We cooked a little bit more and always allowed ourselves to relax with a silly movie or tv show at night. Sure, I bet “Kroll Show” or “Class Action Park” would be slightly funnier with weed, I thought to myself, but we have a knack for picking out good things to watch. I still enjoyed the entertainment Evan and I consumed, so it wasn’t any sort of big loss, but I did find myself wishing I had the thing that typically bumps my enjoyment factor from a 9 to a 10.
I started missing it at other times, too, like times of crisis with my chronic back pain, anxiety, or well, whenever a (what seems like daily) “big” news story about 2020 broke, and I turned to a combination of things to cope. I downloaded a meditation app and started working through a mindfulness course specifically for people who experience chronic pain. It was sometimes helpful, but the real game-changer was a Theragun—the product constantly advertised to me on Instagram. It costs only slightly more than the amount I spend on weed per month and even though it looks like a jackhammer, it was the only thing that could break up my—and Evan’s—very tense muscles. When things were really bad, I took a Valium or texted my therapist. (Yes, she did encourage me to break my cannabis streak when RBG died because she’s a good doctor.)
Week Four—The Home Stretch
By the time Week 4 rolled around, I had put a countdown clock on my phone. “5 more days!” Evan and I would text one another until, finally, the last day of sobriety had come. We’d decided to break our fast with a limited edition preroll from Lowell Farms I may or may not have serenaded with “From This Moment” by Shania Twain when I took it out of the pack. Evan, always the gentleman, let me toke first. “How do you feel?” I asked after passing the joint to him. He told me smoking again felt “naughty” and I couldn’t have agreed more. After abstaining for 30 days, it felt weird! It felt wrong! We were like teenagers again.
The best part about the sobriety break though, however, was realizing I wasn’t a teenager anymore. I now have a helluva lot more coping skills than I did back then and realized I’d worked hard to not feel guilty about allowing myself to have things that make tough times easier. I felt gratitude for learning new things about myself (weed fucks with my sleep!) and more comfortable admitting THC helps with really important aspects of my life, like appetite and stress relief. There is nothing that can replace THC when it comes to my chronic pain or making the dumb Netflix shows I watch funnier— and that’s not a bad thing. I cut myself some major slack and realize I deserve some levity and it’s okay to have weed as part of my coping toolbox.
To honor this newfound acceptance and respect for weed as a helpful tool to ride out the pandemic, I subscribed to Nugg Club, a cannabis subscription box that arrives monthly. While I’m glad I did 30 days without nugs, I never, ever want to do it again.