For many people, with recent legal changes, marijuana is not something considered to be a problem. After all, when was the last time someone was rushed to the ER for a pot overdose? And when did someone ever steal a car to pay for marijuana?
Is it less dangerous than heroin, cocaine or meth? There can be no doubt. But that does not mean that there is no danger, or that it isn't harmful. After all, alcohol is legal and there are something like 90,000 alcohol-related deaths per year in the USA.
The people I have known in my life who have had problems with marijuana were people who worked jobs they hated, lived in homes they really didn't like and spent most of their time and money getting high. The danger is not as acute, but the danger of a life lived as meaningless, endured rather than enjoyed, is spiritual cancer. Never mind the danger of inhaling things into one's lungs, the ongoing and cumulative effects on brain health and growth and that past clients have educated me that marijuana sometimes contains fentanyl.
A life worth living saves us money and helps us spend it on meaning and significance, not on just getting by. I want more for you than just getting by: I want a life free from anxiety, distraction and pain; an empowered life lived to the full. It doesn't take a needle full of heroin to ruin a life. Like T.S. Elliot said, sometimes the world ends not with a bang - but a whimper.
We use substances to help us deal with pain: emotional, relational, physical, etc. That means sobriety brings pain to the surface - the pain that we have been medicating away. But it is pain that prompts us to change. People don't come to see me when things are going great. People don't go to rehab because they have fifty thousand dollars to spend and eight months to kill.
So if we're newly sober and spending time with the same friends, a few things may become apparent:
How much they drink, smoke or use drugs.
What they are like when they do those things.
Maybe they are more enjoyable to be around when you aren't smoking, drinking or otherwise high - you can actually connect with them.
Maybe you find yourself the brunt of more jokes than you like.
Maybe, without the substances, you just don't have that much in common with them anymore.
Most of these experiences are unpleasant. The temptation can be to go back to drinking or using substances. Or we can let these unpleasant experiences prompt us to change. Change is scary and difficult but, without it, relapse becomes quite likely. We may have to ask ourselves - what kind of people do we really want as friends? Where will I find them? How can I befriend them?
Ultimately, the pursuit of sobriety and recovery becomes a question of identity. Anyone I have worked with who has done well, the conversation eventually turns to a question of identity: which means it is a good, if challenging, place to be.
Let the pain prompt you to change.
Often, to get the best possible care for a loved one, family will spend enormous amounts of money on an expensive, frequently out-of-state rehab center. While there, a client goes through so many wonderful treatments: yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, massage, gourmet meals, swimming, CBT, wolf or adventure therapy (I have seen it!). Then they move back home. And all the wonderful things they were doing are, often, no longer available (or even affordable).
And relapse becomes quite likely.
Realistically, someone who is receiving all this wonderful care seems much less likely to use while they are there - who would when life is suddenly so lovely? It can be a set-up for disappointment: treatment was wonderful but life is suddenly hard again. And the treatment center's support is gone.
Residential rehab can be effective treatment, but before spending tens of thousands of dollars- consider a more local, less expensive place with compassionate staff that works with and allows for a client to make their own decisions and build a support network post-program.
At some point, your loved one will need to make their own decisions anyway. Might as well help them learn how before they leave treatment with 24/7 staff support.
Alcohol and drugs turn us into super-people. Pain pills turn us into workhorses on the job. Alcohol gives us liquid courage. Take those away and we are left with something unpleasant.
Without the alcohol, we may not know how to socialize. Or we may discover we really don't like the people we tend to socialize with. Maybe we discover that we actually hate our job or that it is destroying our bodies or minds. If those things don't change, then the impetus to still use remains. Relapse then becomes, probably, a matter of time.
Take the pain away, and the urge to use becomes easier to manage because triggers are being removed.
In a word, that's what I do when I sit down with someone to help them change their relationship with alcohol or drugs. All substances are pain-killers, however they effect the brain. Sobriety brings pain front-and-center.
The best relapse prevention really is a life worth living.
Let me help you find that life.