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Monday, January 30, 2006

I Gave Up Cannabis

Today's answer comes from Linda.

A Problem:

This new year I gave up cannabis. I had a pretty heavyweight habit which grew over a period of 16 years into a 2g a day addiction. My partner and I want to have a baby and had heard that cannabis can effect sperm motility. Also recently I would have coughing fits when smoking my bong. The combination of these two points is what has motivated me to quit. But the truth is I love cannabis and don't want to give it up. I have suffered from reactive depression in the past, often brought on by anxiety. I believe that cannabis has been really helpful as a stress management tool. I have been going through the usual symptoms of withdrawal, sweats at night, short and fitful sleep, overtiredness, clammy hands and feet, being easily wound up by nothing much at all, loss of appetite. These are hard enough to deal with. But I'm also worried that if I stop smoking cannabis, I will start worrying and stressing. I know this could well end up being a self fulfilling prophesy. My freinds all give me rational advice in support. But when I'm feeling like this I don't care about the rationale of giving up which I am all too familier with. I just want to feel relaxed and comfortable. I want a space in my day when I can unwind and switch off like I could with cannabis. I could so easily pick up the phone and go get another oz of the smelly stuff. I don't really know what my question is but I am finding this all sooo hard.

[There is more on this problem here, where the correspondent has added some up to date info]

An Answer:

It seems as though there’s a lot going on in your headspace!

I’m sorry to hear that you’re still experiencing uncomfortable moods, but it is early days in your journey - consider how long you were using. But given your struggles, well done for the abstinence which you’ve said is your goal, and for being positive enough to notice that the withdrawals have improved.

The issues you’ve described, i.e. past and present anxiety/anger stuff makes me wonder if there’s something going on at a deeper level. I don’t want to get too Freudian on you because we’ve all got our deeper level stuff. However, if you addressed this I think it could make a difference in your life.

After a period of abstinence from a heavy habit of any substance, it is normal for prior feelings and states to return. I wonder though, what’s at the heart of your feelings? Gaining some insight into this and exploring ways to manage your current thinking, feelings and behaviour could be very helpful. Maybe you always had tendencies towards anxiety and short-temperedness throughout childhood, or maybe they were reactive feelings. Either way, if you weren’t supported in managing them it’s understandable that you eventually looked for ways to suppress them (with cannabis in this case). Also, lack of understanding from significant others might have led you to the view you’ve expressed here of wishing to be different, i.e. ‘laid back’. I’d gently suggest that it’s important to accept yourself, as you are, the whole package. Imperfections (as you see them) and all!

Your mention of self-fulfilling prophecy shows insight. Indeed if you look forward to a life of worry and misery it is much more likely to be what you get. If on the other hand, you choose to think you will get better and your life will improve then there’s a really good chance it will. Put another way - you don’t say how you’ve achieved your period of abstinence but I’d suggest you notice what works and do more of that. It’s important to view your goals with positive self-talk i.e. don’t say, ‘I’m giving up cannabis.’ Say ‘Instead of using cannabis, I will….’ It’s important that you do something instead, or you may feel a void or sense of loss.

There are techniques you could use for anger/stress management. They won’t necessarily offer the fast fix you get from cannabis but with practice they will work and be long lasting. The bottom line is: If you can reduce your feelings of anger and anxiety, or manage them better, or both - you may not want cannabis.

I’m not qualified to comment on cannabis’ effects on sperm motility, but as I’m sure you know, there’s plenty of info on the net if you want to do your own research and become better informed.

I’ve also got these suggestions:

1 It’s worth being on that waiting list for counselling. Some brilliant counselling work can happen six months down the line, when you feel like you’re in a good space and don’t need it!
2 Browse the self-help section of your local bookshop, where you’ll find amongst the rubbish, lots of good books on relaxation. Also hypnotherapy CDs on anxiety and stress management.
3 Try auricular acupuncture to help with anxiety.
4 Try meditation, if you are a novice start with 10-15 minute sessions. Again there are some good resources, which may help with this.

Good luck, you’ve taken on a tough challenge and I sense you have the strength to cope and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for your successes!

By Linda.

(Linda works as a 'drug and alcohol practitioner' for people who have problems with various forms of addiction)

[There may be more answers to this problem here]

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