By Sophie Saint Thomas
Illustration by Rachel Hortman
Nothing special happened the last time I drank. My dad was in town, I had some wine with dinner. I didn’t sleep well, as I didn’t sleep well for about a decade of drunkenness. Wake up at 5 a.m. in panic, pop an Ativan and sail down the gradual climb of reduced anxiety and back to sleep as the benzo does its magic. Somehow, that morning, when I woke up I had enough. And for the past several years, thanks to marijuana, that’s been my last anxious hangover-fueled morning.
In AA they call it the “marijuana maintenance” program. In 12-step speak, it’s not a program you want to be a part of. Rightfully so, for some. From what I understand for some recovering alcoholics, weed can act as a trigger to make them want to drink, perhaps by association, or some say even the smell. However, for me, many harm reductionists, and a whole lot of 12-stepping secret pot smokers, cannabis is an excellent recovery tool. Alcohol drives me into a dark place. It makes me an asshole. I lose control. Booze, as I hope everyone understands by now, is the ultimate gateway drug. Rarely does one smoke a fat joint and decide to call up a coke dealer on a whim. That’s drunk shit. When you smoke too much, first and foremost, the human interaction required with a coke dealer is far too terrifying. One would rather stay in bed watching “Seinfeld” constructing a Freudian analysis of the characters.
After I had decided that cannabis worked within my definition of sobriety, I originally tried it to deal with PTSD symptoms as a result of a sexual assault. It worked. I had my sex life back. Gradually, it worked wonders for my social life outside the bedroom as well. I’ll smoke half a joint or enjoy a bite of an edible before a booze-heavy social function and it will take the edge off the social anxiety, anxiety that I would previously squash with overindulgence of alcohol to detrimental effects on both my health, reputation, and relationships.
Sure, I’m totally sober by 12-step speak. But you know what — I never wanted to be. I’d rarely encourage anyone to totally give up alcohol unless they really have to. Yet even for cutting back, try switching out a drinking night with a relaxing pot social. Stoned dancing is the best, and you’ll feel nothing but well-rested when you wake up.