How cannabis helped kick bad habits

Dan Vanderpool says now that California has legalized cannabis it’s time to normalize it.

Dan Vanderpool says now that California has legalized cannabis it’s time to normalize it.

Photo by Maria Ratinova

Hi. My name is Dan. I’m an alcoholic.

This is the part where you say, “Hi, Dan.”

OK. Pleasantries out of the way, let’s begin.

I only mention my issues with substance abuse because I have a not-so-secret secret that I’ve been trying to come to terms with: Can I really claim to be sober if I use cannabis?

Since my decision to attempt to clean up my act in July 2017 and live a more positive existence, I’m constantly checking my habits. I evaluate what is truly bringing positive value to my life. Sobriety is, after all, about bettering yourself, which in turn is hopefully going to lead to a more peaceful life.

So I don’t drink. I don’t do illegal drugs. I don’t even smoke cigarettes anymore. But since legalization happened last January, I do use cannabis. (Edibles being my favorite method, but that’s for another time.)

I grew up in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. “Just Say No.” DARE. Red Ribbon Week. These were common themes in rallies all throughout elementary school, along with the infamous “This is your brain on drugs” TV commercial. The messages were constant and consistent in my young mind: As soon as I smoked cannabis, I’d end up on harder drugs, ruining my life as well as those around me.

So when I walked into Harborside, a dispensary in Oakland, on New Years Day 2018, it was as someone wanting to witness history. The War on Drugs was beginning to crack, or at the very least change shape. But something happened that day that I did not expect—I bought a vape pen. And exactly two weeks later, I ran out of cigarettes. This time though, after 15 years of smoking, I didn’t buy another pack. I still haven’t had another cigarette more than a year later.

I’ve lost many to the ill effects of tobacco, most notably my father six years ago. You would think witnessing what the end of my story would look like if I continued smoking would have been enough to quit cold turkey. Nope. I kept puffing away.

Running was a healthier habit that I picked up as a way to improve my lifestyle, while also expending the incredible amount of energy and aggression that was constantly brewing after I quit drinking. But with that sort of high impact came pain. But even over-the-counter pain relievers are hard on my body. With cannabis, I don’t have to worry about the adverse effects when I stop using.

I guess what I’m coming to terms with is there is a difference between self-medicating and self-care. Being mindful of what I put into my body has empowered me.

Quitting alcohol can be the best thing I ever did without that vape purchase being the catalyst to my undoing.

We’ve legalized cannabis, but I’d like to see it normalized.