How to Stop Smoking Weed and Get Your Life Together
Oct 6, 2016 · 11 min read
Marijuana is the drug of illusion. It creates the illusion that you’re thinking great thoughts and doing great things while you’re sitting on the sofa and growing a beard.
— John McAfee, who I concede is a jackass but it’s a good quote so whatever.
This is a guide on how to stop smoking weed, but I’d like to preface it by stating that marijuana is not a fundamentally bad substance. It’s a godsend for people who suffer from PTSD, cancer, neurological issues, chronic pain, and other afflictions. I also don’t think recreational use is a problem. There’s nothing wrong with getting high every once in a while. It’s fun as hell and feels amazing.
That being said, marijuana is n ot for everyone. Some of us like getting high a little too much. Once we start, we can’t stop. We smoke until our lives are in shambles, and then we keep on smoking.
This guide is for the ones who have to smoke before every social engagement. The ones who spend every sober minute thinking about the next time they’re going to get high. The ones who have destroyed beautiful relationships to inhale plant smoke and eat Cheetos on the couch.
The ones who know they need to change, but don’t know how.
This guide is for you.
Smoking To Escape
“Not feeling is no replacement for reality. Your problems today are still your problems tomorrow.” — Larry Michael Dredla
Humans feel a wide range of emotions. We feel happy. We feel sad. We feel relaxed. We feel stressed. We feel excited. We feel apathetic. The list goes on and on.
Some of these emotions feel good. Some don’t. Good feelings are nice, and obviously preferable. Unpleasant feelings need to have their day though, and you need to deal with them responsibly. That’s how you grow and mature.
Marijuana allows you to cheat that growth. It offers a pain free shortcut to the good feelings without the growth-inducing pain of handling problems in a sensible manner.
Getting high to avoid problems works in the moment. But when you come down… your problems are still there. In fact, because you didn’t deal with them, they’re a little bigger and a little scarier. And the bad feelings that come with them are bigger and scarier. So you light up and escape again. And your problems get bigger. And so on.
Eventually your once-manageable problems morph into awful Thought Monsters: Fear. Doubt. Inadequacy. Failure. They’re always lurking, waiting for you to sober up so they can flood your mind with waves of crippling anxiety and depression.
So you don’t let them. You ignite, and inhale, and high becomes the new sober.
Over time, getting high ceases to be an oasis from psychological storms. It becomes a prison. The walls of smoke no longer protect you from your insecurities; they just isolate you from love and joy. The contentment you once found here is long gone. Nothing remains but a hazy, lonely numbness. You want to break out, want to feel again. But how can you? The Thought Monsters are right outside the door, and you will be at their terrible mercy.
But you need to leave, because you need to feel. Without feeling you cannot truly experience what it means to be human, and that is a tragic thing.
Prepare For Battle
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln
Quitting a life-consuming habit is hard. Really hard. Reality is going to hit you like a truck once you stop getting high. Solid preparation will help you weather the storm and stay on the course to a better life.
Commit to quit.
Write down every pro and con of your smoking habit. You can use this Google Docs template, or do your own thing. If you need some inspiration, feel free to look at my list.
Be as objective as possible. This list won’t mean anything to you unless you know it’s complete and truthful. Keep it handy, we’re going to use it in a bit.
Get rid of your weed.
Throw it out. Flush it down the toilet. Make brownies and sell them to unsuspecting seniors at the local farmers’ market.
Just don’t smoke it.
You literally decided a few paragraphs ago that marijuana has no place in your life anymore. Smoking the remainder of your weed completely nullifies the commitment you made to yourself. Getting high at this point shows you’re not seriously devoted to getting your life together. And you need to be serious for this change to last.
Get rid of your smoking paraphernalia.
You need to make it as difficult as possible to smoke again. If you still have everything you need to smoke, quitting will be near impossible. Every time you get a craving you’re mere seconds away from lighting up. All it takes is a minute of weakness. Don’t chance it.
Toss your pipe, grinder, lighter, papers… if it helps you smoke, it needs to go. If you have a more expensive piece, sell it. Just do it quickly. You need it out of the house and out of your life. I don’t advise giving this stuff to friends; it’s too easy to ask them to return your stuff, and former smoking buddies will be more than happy to get you toking again.
If you’re serious about quitting, you’ll never need these things again. They’re basically trash at this point; they serve no purpose. Just toss them.
Get rid of everything else that connects you to smoking.
Delete your dealer’s number. Light your medical card on fire. Torch all dispensaries within a 50-mile radius (wear a gas mask… you don’t want to get high).
If you frequent forums like /r/trees or Grasscity, block them. The internet is a wonderful place, but having instant access to message boards with such overt enthusiasm for weed won’t help you in the coming weeks and months.
Explain to friends you used to smoke with why you won’t be lighting up anymore. If they really care about you, they’ll understand and support you. If they lash out or respond negatively, distance yourself from them. They may come around in time, but the last thing you need at this stage is someone influencing you to smoke. It’ll be tough enough to quit as it is.
Arm yourself with reasons to not smoke.
Print out that list of pros and cons you just made. Carry a copy with you everywhere. You’ll have a squadron of reasons not to smoke in your pocket, ready to gun down cravings at a moment’s notice.
When you get urges, you only remember the good times smoking gave you. You won’t focus on the reasons you stopped ‒ that’s why you need this list.
One Day At A Time
“If you can quit for a day, you can quit for a lifetime.” — Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Don’t quit weed for the rest of forever.
Just don’t smoke today.
You’re undergoing a massive lifestyle transformation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by thinking about the weeks and months ahead. Don’t do that to yourself. Focus on not smoking in the present moment, and let the compounding power of time work its magic.
In the first couple of days you’ll want to smoke every single moment you’re awake. If you followed the steps in the preparation phase, you should be able to get through this critical phase without running back to Mary. Even so, it’s worthwhile to minimize the urges and withdrawal symptoms as best you can.
Get out of the house.
Your mind associates locations with the activities you do in those locations. If you spend a lot of time where you used to smoke… you’re going to want to smoke.
If you usually smoke at home, get out of the house every time you feel like getting high. Don’t come back until the urge is gone. It doesn’t matter where you go. Take a walk down the block. Drive to the local library and go on your laptop. Get some Chinese food and season it with your tears in the parking lot.
Even if you don’t typically smoke at home, getting out of your house is a good idea. Abusing weed and isolating yourself typically go hand-in-hand. Try to reconnect with the people you pushed away in favor of getting high. If they don’t trust that you’re done with weed, don’t sweat it. Show them you’re making real strides toward becoming a better person, they’ll come around eventually.
You need to sleep. Quitting weed makes it hard to sleep. Here are some things you can do to make sleeping easier.
- Exercise. Working out has a ton of benefits, making it easier to fall asleep is just one of them. Do it in the morning if you can… working out in the evening can make it harder to sleep.
- Meditate. Meditation fights insomnia and help you sleep better. Try it.
- Take supplements. Melatonin, Valerian, Chamomile, and Magnesium will all put your cranky, weedless ass to sleep.
- Use lavender oil. I’ve found this stuff to be a relaxation godsend. Put a few drops on your palms or in a diffuser before sleep.
- Don’t look at screens an hour before bedtime. It keeps you up. Use f.lux to change the intensity of the light if you really need to use your computer.
A word of caution: Don’t use Benadryl to fall asleep. It may work in the short-term, but you’ll build up a tolerance quickly and might start sleep-walking.
The insomnia caused by marijuana withdrawal should pass relatively quickly. If it doesn’t, talk to your doctor.
Loss of Appetite
You need to eat. Quitting weed makes it hard to eat. Here are some things you can do to make eating easier.
- Drink protein shakes. Get some whey protein and throw it in a blender with some fruit and milk. This will give you a decent amount of protein and calories, and you can force it down your unwilling throat with minimal effort.
- Eat some ginger. It’s a great appetite stimulant. Chop it up and eat half a teaspoon before you try eating. If you don’t feel like eating it raw (like me), you can use an anti-nausea ginger supplement.
- Eat foods you don’t have to chew. Yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter, Cream of X soup, and applesauce are all viable options.
Like insomnia, this symptom is usually short-lived, but it’s important to deal with because you need to eat to live and stuff.
Anxiety and Depression
I’m not going to pretend that quitting weed is a cure for all of your problems. Anxiety and depression are serious mental health issues, and quitting weed alone won’t fix those. However, it will allow you to create a baseline of emotional stability from which you can work on these issues in a healthy and responsible manner.
That being said, almost everyone who stops smoking will deal with these feelings in some form. Here are some ways to lessen their severity:
- Exercise. There are a whole host of studies that show consistent exercise helps with feelings of anxiety and depression. Aerobic exercise is particularly helpful when abstaining from smoking. I don’t care if working out makes you curse every living thing to hell, it’s worth doing.
- Meditate. Like exercise, daily meditation can help with anxiety and depression.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Therapy can help tremendously when recovering from an addiction. Like I said, there’s a possibility you’re using marijuana to deal with underlying mental issues. A cognitive behavioral therapist can help you deal with these issues and get your life on track. If you can’t afford a therapist, you should at least use a CBT workbook to help you analyze your thoughts and change your behavioral patterns.
- Reach out. If therapy is too expensive, there are still plenty of places to find support. Reach out to family and friends, even if you’ve lost contact with them. Online support groups are a great place to go as well. The /r/leaves subreddit is filled with people going through the exact same struggle you are, and there’s always someone willing to talk. Marijuana Anonymous is another great option. It’s basically AA for stoners. They have a policy of complete anonymity, and meeting in-person with people going through this can help tremendously.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail .”— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Don’t get upset. Relapses are common; it’s rare for someone to quit an addiction without at least one.
Don’t let it spiral out of control.
It’s so easy for a Friday night toke to roll into a Saturday morning wake-and-bake, and before you know it you’re stoned all week and right back where you started. If you smoke, accept that you made a mistake and get back on the wagon.
Don’t think you’re “starting from day one.”
If you made it 10 days before relapsing you should say, “I have smoked once in the past 10 days.” In 10 more days you’ll be able to say, “I smoked once in the past 20 days.” Eventually you’ll reach a point where the number is high enough that you feel comfortable starting your count from the day after you last smoked, and your streak is resumed. It’s important to have a positive mindset. Addiction is a nasty son of a bitch; putting yourself down won’t help you beat it.
Learn from your relapse.
Identify what caused you to relapse and take steps to remove that trigger from your life. If you smoked because you got drunk, stop getting drunk. If you smoked because you were laying in bed all day and feeling depressed, get out of the house. You’ll have a better chance of success moving forward.
Build Productive Habits
“To break a destructive habit… you have to replace it with another, more positive one.” — Debbie Hampton
There’s a reason I titled this article How to Stop Smoking Weed and Get Your Life Together and not How to Stop Smoking Weed and Keep Living A Crappy Life. Improving your life is the goal. Quitting weed is just the first step.
You have the mind of an addict. If you want to better yourself, you need to rise above your addictive tendencies and channel that energy into something worthy of your time. You’re not going to improve if you stop smoking only to start drinking, gambling, or gaming to excess.
In order to truly be rid of these tendencies, you need to choose something productive to replace them. I think working out is the best habit to start with, but it’s up to you. Whatever you choose, work on it consistently every day. You’re going to see something amazing happen.
Your brain, which until this point was satisfying its dopamine cravings with weed, will start to sate these urges every time you partake in this new activity. Being productive will make you feel good. By rewiring your neural pathways to seek pleasure in productivity, you’re not only improving as a person but also insulating yourself against future relapse.
The Good Stuff
Weed is out of your life. Awesome. There’s a ton of stuff you have to look forward to now.
- EMOTIONAL STABILITY!
- No more brain fog!
- No more walking into the kitchen and forgetting what the hell you were doing there… though let’s be real, you were probably just searching for munchies.
- Articulating your thoughts and stringing together intelligent sentences!
- Responding to conversations in more meaningful ways!
- Improved relationships with everyone in your life!
- EMOTIONAL STABILITY!
- Vivid dreams!
- Disposable income!
- Time! So much time!
- Pride in your ability to take control of your life!
- Not smelling like weed!
- DID I MENTION EMOTIONAL STABILITY!?
Trying to Give up Smoking Weed? Start Here
Many assume cannabis is pretty much harmless. Maybe you occasionally get some weird side effects, like paranoia or cotton mouth, but for the most part it calms you down and improves your mood.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
While past research does suggest that cannabis may be both less addictive and less harmful than other substances, addiction and dependency can still happen.
Some people also experience unwanted effects, from physical symptoms to hallucinations to strained relationships.
If you’re looking to cut out cannabis — for whatever reason — we’ve got you covered.
Deciding you want to change your patterns of cannabis use is a good first step. Increasing self-awareness around the reasons why you want to stop smoking can help increase your chances of success.
“Our ‘why’ is an important piece because it provides information that anchors us,” says Kim Egel, a therapist in Cardiff, California. “Clarity on why we want to change can validate our decision to break habits and motivate us to seek out new coping methods.”
In short, your reasons for quitting can help strengthen your resolve to stop smoking and outline goals for success.
Maybe you started using it to relax or manage anxiety. Perhaps it helps you deal with chronic pain or sleeplessness. But over time, the downsides may have started to outnumber the benefits.
People often consider cutting back when they notice cannabis affects their quality of life, often by:
- becoming a go-to method for managing emotional distress
- causing relationship problems
- affecting mood, memory, or concentration
- reducing interest in hobbies
- becoming something to do instead of a solution to a specific symptom
- decreasing energy for self-care
There’s no perfect way to quit smoking cannabis. What works for someone else may not help you much, so it’s often necessary to go through some trial and error before you land on the best approach.
Considering pros and cons of different methods can help.
Maybe you want to do it quick, like ripping off a bandage. In that case, you might decide to try packing up your cannabis and going “cold turkey.”
If you’re concerned about withdrawal symptoms or think you’ll need some support to quit, you might decide to talk to a substance use counselor or call an addiction helpline for a few pointers.
If cannabis helps you manage physical or mental health symptoms, you’ll want to try smoking less without quitting entirely or cut back gradually. Professional support can help here, too.
Feel like you’re ready to stop using cannabis immediately? Here are some general steps to consider:
Get rid of your gear
Holding onto a stash of weed and smoking paraphernalia can make it tougher to succeed with quitting. By throwing it out or passing it on, you prevent ready access, which can help you avoid slip ups during the withdrawal period.
Make a plan to deal with triggers
Triggers can have a powerful impact. Even after you decide to stop smoking, specific cues you associate with using it may lead to cravings.
These triggers could include:
- trouble sleeping
- work stress
- seeing friends you used to smoke with
- watching the TV shows you used to watch while high
Try coming up with a list of go-to activities you can turn to when these triggers come up, such as:
- taking melatonin or a warm bath to help you sleep
- restarting your favorite comedy TV series to decrease stress
- calling a trusted friend who supports your decision
Vary your routine
If your cannabis use often happened at routine times, changing your behaviors slightly can help you avoid using it.
If you have a habit of smoking first thing in the morning, try:
If you tend to smoke before bed, try:
- enjoying a relaxing beverage, like tea or hot chocolate
Keep in mind that changing up routines can be hard, and it usually doesn’t happen over night.
Try experimenting with a few options, and don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble sticking to your new routine right away.
Pick up a new hobby
If smoking is something you tend to do when you’re bored, some new hobbies may help.
Consider revisiting old favorites, like building models or crafting. If old hobbies don’t interest you any longer, try something new, like rock climbing, paddleboarding, or learning a new language.
What matters most is finding something you truly enjoy, since that makes it more likely you’ll want to keep doing it.
Enlist support from loved ones
Friends and family who know you don’t want to keep smoking can offer support by:
- helping you think of hobbies and distractions
- practicing coping methods, like physical activity or meditation, with you
- encouraging you when withdrawals and cravings get tough
Even knowing that other people support your decision can help you feel more motivated and capable of success.
Get help for withdrawal symptoms if needed
Not everyone experiences cannabis withdrawal symptoms, but for those who do, they can be pretty uncomfortable.
Common symptoms include:
- trouble sleeping
- irritability and other mood changes
- fever, chills, and sweats
- low appetite
Withdrawal symptoms generally begin a day or so after you quit and clear up within about 2 weeks.
A healthcare provider can help you manage severe symptoms, but most people can handle symptoms on their own by:
- drinking less caffeine to improve sleep
- using deep breathing and other relaxation methods to address anxiety
- drinking plenty of water
If you use a lot of cannabis and smoke regularly, quitting abruptly might be difficult. Slowly reducing use over time may help you have more success and can also help decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Here are some pointers to get you started:
Choose a quit date
Giving yourself a deadline of a few weeks or a month can help you design a realistic plan for quitting.
Just keep in mind that picking a date too far in the future can make it seem far enough away that you lose motivation early on.
Plan how you’ll taper off
Do you want to decrease weed use by a specific amount each week? Use less each day? Use as little as possible until you go through your current supply?
Some dispensaries now offer lower-potency strains or products that contain lower THC content. Switching to a weaker product that produces fewer psychoactive effects may also be helpful to cutting back.
Keep yourself busy
By getting involved with new activities as you cut back, you’ll have an easier time continuing with these established patterns once you’re no longer using cannabis at all.
Staying busy can also help distract you from withdrawal symptoms.
“Therapy can be a great option when you want to develop new habits and ways of coping,” Egel says.
She explains it’s common to turn to substance use to cope with or avoid difficult feelings.
A therapist can help you explore any underlying issues contributing to your cannabis use and offer support as you take the first steps toward confronting dark emotions. They can also help you address any issues in your life or relationships that might be a result of your cannabis use.
Any kind of therapy can have benefit, but the following three approaches might be particularly helpful.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Most therapists have training in CBT. This treatment approach helps you learn to identify unwanted or distressing thoughts and emotions and develop productive skills to address and manage them.
For example, if you use cannabis when stressed, you’ve probably learned (both consciously and subconsciously) that it helps reduce stress and calm you down.
CBT can teach you to recognize signs of stress, challenge your desire to smoke cannabis, and replace the habit with a more helpful one — like seeking support from a friend or working through the problem that’s upsetting you.
This approach reinforces quitting behaviors. In other words, it rewards you for not smoking.
Someone participating in a contingency management treatment plan might, for example, receive vouchers for restaurant gift cards, movie tickets, or an entry for a prize drawing with each negative test result.
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
MET involves examining your reasons for giving up cannabis. Instead of trying to address any underlying issues that factor into your use of weed, your therapist will help you explore and prioritize goals associated with your use, usually by asking open-ended questions.
This treatment can serve as a first step to any therapy approach for substance use. It can be especially helpful if you know you want to quit smoking but aren’t quite sure why.If you're ready to stop smoking weed, we've got tips and tricks to help you navigate the process, regardless of your reasons. ]]>