Taking Back Your Power
I wrote the below piece six years ago for mindbodygreen.com--and it went viral. It pissed a lot of people off. Since then, a lot has happened, and I've made a lot of mistakes--but I'd say my opinion on any form of numbing out has remained the same.
I've edited and updated it here to reflect all the changes six years can bring.
A few days into the new year on a Sunday morning, my mom called to tell me, tears choking her words, that my estranged father was in the hospital dying from a drug overdose. My mind spun and recalled how, just a few minutes earlier, I had been imagining how the day would play out, with plans to lead a private yoga lesson to good friends, then enjoy a lovely lunch together on the local beach.
Minutes later, for the first time in years, I was by my dad’s side; he was unconscious with plastic tubes coming from his throat, his arms, his nose. Nurses kept coming in, trying in vain to find an uncollapsed vein to determine if the septic bacteria infecting his blood had let up. My father also had an outrageous fever, caused by the pneumonia wrecking his body, one failing liver and two destroyed kidneys, and a heart that was down to 30% capacity due to the severe coronary it had suffered.
The ICU physician came in, told me the grim prognosis, then turned and said, “You’re the next remaining kin. I guess that gives you power of attorney.” My vision tunneled. Here I was, standing next to my father, whom I hadn’t had a relationship with in twenty years, and I was to say when to pull the plug.
Way back when, as a little girl like most little girls, my father was my hero. Never mind the fact that drugs had already ravaged his life in multiple ways, I loved him. Blindly and innocently. My fondest memories are when we talked about God, love and infinity—conversations that changed my life and which no other adult had had the courage to broach with me, an inquisitive and intelligent 8 year old. Soon after, the drugs took total control and I didn’t see my dad again until it was up to me to decide when he would die. That day another veil lifted for me, and I started asking myself serious questions about my own mindless habits my ego tended to justify.
Up until that point, I viewed marijuana as mostly benign. I saw how it stripped some people (including myself) of ambition, motivation and drive, and contributed to a “coasting” kind of lifestyle where I never knew how much I could accomplish without the crutch—but it never killed anyone or anything, right? I mean, maybe it was the gateway drug. But then again, maybe it wasn’t. The appeals to ameliorate marijuana’s liability go on and on—and have been setting up shop inside our cultural consciousness for decades now.
[NB: When I first wrote this article, most of the marijuana in the States came from Mexican drug cartels. A lot has shifted since then; now, it comes mainly from California--with a whole host of serious environmental impacts as this HuffPo article illustrates.]
Addiction runs deep in my family and the allure of numbing out, of sublimating my feelings and self-medicating with weed, has always been a difficult siren for me to drown out. I suspect the same is true for many people who smoke pot but otherwise choose a conscious lifestyle. Are there exceptions to everything? Yes. Do some people receive substantiated relief from smoking pot? Sure. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those of us who mindlessly smoke pot and mindfully practice yoga, eat organic and take pride in our “pure” lifestyle and connection to Source.
This topic isn't black and white, cut and dry, and to smoke or not to smoke can be a truly difficult choice to make in the moment because NUMBING OUT CAN FEEL SO GOOD SOMETIMES. Regardless, before you fire it up again, I encourage you to ask yourself with compassion—“Do I really need this? Is it worth all the consequences?”
Without judgment, without condemnation, have the courage to ask yourself: Does this own me? Or do I own it? Where is the seat of this choice within me? From empowerment or from servitude? It can be about literally anything--clothes, food, relationships, exercise, sex, alcohol, cleaning, drugs, etc. But just give yourself the space to answer with integrity, and if you find the answer is "Yes, I am choosing this out of fear," you've reached the first step of love and care for yourself: awareness. Then, move beyond that awareness, that truth, and resolve to love and care for yourself as you've never done before.