My "love affair" with marijuana began two and a half years ago as a new and exciting way to spend an otherwise dull winter afternoon. I had been offered pot three times previously, and on the fourth I consented. I had been through DARE and knew all the dangers. But I also believed that one time couldn't possibly hurt me. In one sense, I was right; in another sense, I couldn't have been more wrong. The first time I smoked, I loved the high I got, so I smoked again. I found that it actually got better each time. At that point, I was nothing short of ecstatic. An entire world was opened to me. I was able to explore my thoughts in an exciting and simultaneously serene way, and it was great.

Of course, I felt guilty about lying to my parents, but I figured "I'm a teenager, right? It's what we're supposed to do." For the first few months, I lied pretty well. The web I was spinning only had a few strands, and I was free to spend most of my first "drug summer" in carefree stoner pursuits watching movies, swimming, or even just driving around listening to music, which I felt was greatly enhanced by weed.

Soon though, the honeymoon ended. I had been telling myself that I just liked to get high, but I knew deep down that I had other motivations. I smoked because when I was sober, the world was just so damn boring and depressing to me. It would take me another year to figure out that this was my fault, not the world's.

By the time, I had started getting into trouble with my parents. I worried about getting caught a lot more now, but that just made me sneaky, not sober. Deep down, something was gnawing away at me. I was deeply unhappy, but since pot had long since destroyed my ability to feel real emotions, I couldn't admit to myself how unhappy I was. Instead, I just looked forward to the next toke. I compare my use with a love affair because there truly was romance involved. When I was stoned, everything seemed larger-than-life. I felt like I was starring in a spy movie and comedy at the same time.

I kept getting busted, and was sent to a local treatment center, where I b.s.'d my way to a successful discharge with remarkable skill and ease. Then, I went back to pot. Finally, I ran into some very serious legal trouble just over a month later. My parents fortunately gave me more help than I deserved, but I felt spiritually dead. I had lost all hope and all my self-respect. I felt if such a thing as the soul existed, I certainly didn't have one anymore.

I entered an all day dual-diagnosis program at a local treatment center. I had been diagnosed with anxiety disorder as well as chemical dependency. Now I was forced to look honestly at my life; to not only feel, but also to express emotions that hadn't surfaced for two years. It was incredibly hard, but it made me feel clean. It made me feel healthy and hopeful about my life.

I've been sober for awhile now, and my relationships with my family and friends have improved. I plan to attend Notre Dame next fall; however, I know that I cannot use my parents or college as motivation to not use. Even the desire to stay out of jail will only keep one sober for so long. Lasting sobriety must be for oneself, not anyone else. I believe sobriety can give my life meaning. The emotions I feel now are not always good, but at least they are real. I'm now able to make real connections with other human beings, which I could never do before. I realize that the people in AA and NA whom I originally found scary are simply men and women who have been through hell and are now starting to figure things out. I value all these things greatly. They are what truly keep me sober. I can speak only for myself, but I think many others have had the same basic experience. I spent two years of my life chasing after happiness; after a "perfect high" that could never be caught. I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired, Drugs aren't a problem for all users, but they are an incredibly dangerous illusion for many. Just think about your life honestly, and you'll know which category you fit into.

A guy named Thoreau said, "I can't make my days longer, so I can only try to make them better." I'm pretty sure he didn't smoke weed.

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