Ep. 1 - A Dream Deferred (Confessions of a Marijuana Addict)

Ep. 1 - A Dream Deferred (Confessions of a Marijuana Addict)

My name is Charlie and I'm a marijuana addict. Join me on my recovery journey – in search of pipedreams and Paradise Lost – in the heart of California's San Francisco Bay, where nature and the elements hold the key to unlocking an inward calm and healthy functioning Endocannabinoid system. Learn the 5 things that have kept me clean for 6 years and counting.




[00:00:00] My name is Charlie, and I'm a marijuana addict.

[00:00:12] It's been hard to pin down exactly what I want to share about my experience – in particular, this idea of the California dream.

Don't we all have those dreams of utopia? Of sunny skies, and days of leisure and relaxation. But somewhere along the way, the California dream, just like my version of it, was frustrated. I can't say the marijuana was entirely to blame, but I would say that it had a tendency to fuel a certain sort of ambition, which wasn't bad in and of itself – the ideas and creativity that seemed to flow when I smoked marijuana spoke to something genuinely good about human desire – about my desires – and even about the possibilities of what these dreams entailed.

And yet at the same time that I was having all these epiphanies and ideas, many of which I wrote down in these little notebooks on my shelf and I. I'm glad to have a record of these because they, take me back into time. To, to where I was mentally. When I was having some of these ideas around what I wanted to be, what I wanted to become.

[00:01:29] And some of those dreams, I'm actually happy to report. I've actually begun to achieve. For example, I got my captain's license a couple of years ago. But it wasn't before being clean for, I think, four years. That I was finally able to accomplish that it was a long-term goal. It took a lot. Of planning and, really just repetitive effort where day in and day out, I had to get on a boat.

[00:01:56] And log that sea time. 360 days to be [00:02:00] precise. And I think that other people could probably benefit from some of my experiences. Since I stopped smoking marijuana. Over six years ago now. It was right around this time of year. I actually initially gave it up for lent as a little experiment.

[00:02:16] And in the process of that 40 days of abstaining, I, realized a lot of things about myself and about the nature of this addiction. I won't say that those 40 days gave me the clarity that I was hoping for to then embark on the path of getting my captain's license or any of the goals and dreams that I had.

[00:02:38] But they showed me. What it was like to function without this substance that I'd become so dependent on that is cannabis. Cannabis is, it's, baffling cunning. And I forget what they say in AA about alcohol, but it's all these things and more. That alcohol is with respect to

[00:02:56] getting the hamster wheel going in our head, the [00:03:00] rationalizations about how it benefits us and gives us more creativity maybe helps us unwind. And all of these things may be true. They're true. Especially when you first start smoking. And you get this sudden burst of energy. Uh, And creativity of novelty that everything around you is suddenly hilarious and joyful. Many people just spend the first couple of times that they get high.

[00:03:24] Just laughing and they're not even sure why they're laughing, but everything seems funny. Everything seems almost more real. But that which goes up, must come down and for every action, there is something of an equal and opposite reaction. People understand this when it comes to the hangover of alcohol.

[00:03:43] But with marijuana, we're not necessarily accustomed to thinking along the same lines. And there isn't the same sort of hangover that you get from alcohol, with the headache and upset stomach feeling like you can't get out of bed. Instead, you're left with a feeling, my friends and I, we used to just call it being [00:04:00] washed. I don't know if the kids still use that terminology today, but it's oh man, I'm super washed right now. You're just

[00:04:06] you're flinching a little bit from, from reality and from the. World around you, everything might seem a little bit duller, and your mental edge is just slightly not there in the same way that it would otherwise be. But in general, it fades and, being washed is not so debilitating that you can't.

[00:04:25] Hold down a job, keep up your studies. If you're in school. Like I was during most of my heavy using period. Throughout my college years. But. It comes to take on the form of, one doctor called, the mild pervasive detriment. The opposite of an increment. It takes you down a notch instead of putting you up a notch.

[00:04:44] He just cuts you down. So if you're here, Mentally, terms of your acuity. You'll just get cut down a little bit. You're not going to suffer a withdrawal from smoking a couple of times, but if you make it a part of your habit, As I did, it became a part of my [00:05:00] daily routine.

[00:05:01] Became a part of my mental edifice, the thing holding my whole psyche together. Was this substance that. Artificially inflated these sentences of creativity quote unquote. And in, in a weird way, it actually fueled my ambitions. This is not the stereotype of the pothead or the stoner. That we get from the media. The sort of lazy couch potato.

[00:05:25] But in my case, The richness of these visions that I had when I smoked. I would scribble down notes about things that I wanted to do. And, I'll just find an example here because there's countless of them. The sort of half finished aphorisms where I'm talking about my values and my goals. Here's one where I'm talking about. Oh yes, here we go.

[00:05:47] This one says Mount doom or bust. This was a plan that I had to hike up Mount Lassen, and that never happened. Just one of many things that, that I wanted to do. Oh, here's another one. [00:06:00] That's fun. When I was doing a little bit of accounting and suddenly realized that, after what I owed on my credit card bill and some upcoming slip fees, I only had about $5,000 in net assets to my name.

[00:06:14] , and I also owe taxes that year. So this was October 16th, 2015. , just a couple of months before I quit smoking in 2016. And it's really revealing to look back on this. To think about where I was and hopefully how far I've come. But I recognize that I still have a long way to go towards achieving some of those original visions of.

[00:06:36] Financial and creative independence. Having a thriving business of. Sailing and doing what I love on the water. I've gotten closer. I'm now doing six pack charters on my sailboat sun kiss. You can check it out at a SB Sunkist on Facebook. But. I'm still not where I want it to be when I was still feeling the excitement before it became [00:07:00] this mild pervasive detriment. There were a couple of years there where maybe my using seemed manageable. And then eventually it became less and less manageable. And, ultimately I actually had a series of rude awakenings that led me to see that this was not sustainable at all.

[00:07:18] That I could not manage my using. And as much as I tried as much as I said, I'm only going to smoke in the evenings or on the weekends. Or maybe after 4:00 PM, then that became 3:00 PM. And before long it's, 10:00 AM and then it's, I won't smoke before work

[00:07:34] and I was. living dangerously. I don't want to understate the severity to which it impaired my overall cognition. Things like managing complexity, your executive functioning and any kind of learning that you would otherwise. I be gaining from your everyday life. Go out the window.

[00:07:55] We all know. Potheads forget things, lose their train of thought. But beyond that what's [00:08:00] really happening is that. It's dulling the pain of the consequences. Normally we learn things by making mistakes. Feeling the consequences, the embarrassment or the shame or the, monetary, loss. And then that translates into a sort of awareness around that set of circumstances that, I don't want to do that again.

[00:08:22] I'm not going to subject myself to the humiliation of, messing up in this particular way. A lot of this is happening subconsciously we'll tighten up around certain tasks. Our sympathetic nervous system will turn on. But marijuana tends to keep us in this more parasympathetic state.

[00:08:39] A rest and digest mode, as opposed to the sympathetic, which is more of the fight or flight. And we need to have a balance, we can't be in the sympathetic state all the time. Otherwise we burn out. But we also can't be in the parasympathetic state all the time.

[00:08:55] Just always chilled out because. We need to learn. We need to realize when our [00:09:00] actions are leading us. Into the ground. That awareness wasn't there for me, for the period. When I was using most heavily, there were all kinds of signs from my dwindling bank account to this long list of dreams that I wasn't accomplishing.

[00:09:13] To the relationships that I was leaving in a shambles, all these things got left behind and I still felt okay because I had this exogenous chemical telling my body, telling this endocannabinoid system. That everything was okay. This. Inner, cannabinoid system that we have is always pulsing at.

[00:09:31] At some level, there's a phrase in physiology. Tonic. Pulsing versus phasic pulsing of our neurons the signal gets sent across the synapses at a certain rate. And there's your baseline tonic rate that those signals are getting sent, but then there's also a, what's called a phasic response, which is, in response to something that's the situation that comes up or it could be that you start bombarding, those [00:10:00] neuro-transmitters with some . Exogenous external source like cannabis. So smoking weed falls under the category of bumping up your phasic response when you smoke, you're going to make the highs higher and then the lows lower.

[00:10:14] When you come out of that, your endocannabinoid system is really all mixed up and it's not calibrated the way. That millions of years of evolution have honed our physiology to make us good learners and to make us responsive to our environment, whatever that environment may be. And this is really what the intelligence of the human species is based around is the ability to incorporate patterns and information.

[00:10:41] And many people report that, on marijuana, they sort of start seeing patterns in all kinds of places. Same thing with a lot of psychedelics too. You your pattern recognition goes a little bit haywire. It's not a matter of shutting down brain activity. It's actually increasing brain activity, blood flow, things [00:11:00] like that temporarily to parts of your brain that are normally less active.

[00:11:04] So that's where that feeling of euphoria comes from and creativity, that everything that comes into your mind is a great idea that you should act on later or that every. Joke or, little, Slip up, becomes a hilarious joke. When in reality. These might be very mundane things that you're noticing.

[00:11:21] But you're attributing to them more meaning, and you're attributing this pattern. That's actually not really quite there. So our whole mechanism of picking out meaning in the world, deciding what matters. This is the challenge for human beings, wherever you're born, whatever time and place.

[00:11:40] And today in, my own home state of California. There's never been more opportunities for a young person. It's a very exciting time, but a lot of people, myself included are buying into this lie. This really pernicious lie. That a marijuana is not addictive and that be. Even if it may be is habit [00:12:00] forming.

[00:12:00] It's a lot less harmful than things like alcohol. And I want to say. It's not, one is more harmful than the other. It depends on your cognitive type, whether or not you're prone to a dependency on a substance. Whether you're prone to these kinds of patterns that I was, where I really got sucked down a rabbit hole and wasted, years of my life.

[00:12:22] We're at the very least, There were times when I could have really spun out of control. If I hadn't had good people in my life, helping me get back on track and serving as the sort of external conscience, when my own conscience had stopped functioning. So just to reiterate. When we flood our body and our brain.

[00:12:42] Our nervous system with these exogenous cannabinoids, our endocannabinoid system, the internal. Neuro-transmitters that we automatically have, at all times that are just acting to make us basically feel good. Th that's linked with [00:13:00] our reward and sense of motivation. We get a boost in our endocannabinoid system when we exercise.

[00:13:07] When we get closer to our goals, all these things. When we get into a flow state, all these things trigger our endocannabinoid system to some extent. When we flood them, exogenously where we're actually, even though in the short term, boosting. How good it feels in the longterm. We are, diminishing their potential.

[00:13:26] To deliver those same rewards. Deliver them in a way. That's actually linked with action, either good or bad. So for me, the real discovery process has been figuring out how to get back on track with a well calibrated endocannabinoid system. And I think that the process, whether you're a marijuana addict or just someone who's struggling with.

[00:13:50] Motivation. Who is trying to reach your goals and finding that you're frustrated by your inability to do so. The best advice that I can give. [00:14:00] Is to get back to the basics of calibrating healthy endocannabinoid system. And I don't know why there hasn't been more discussion about this because it really seems to lie.

[00:14:11] At the center of not only overcoming addiction and. Independency, but also just living a happy and meaningful life. So in my case, I've had to go back. Through these old notebooks. And pick out. What are the things that are meaningful to me? What are the things that I find both rewarding and, physically satisfying, but also that can be sustainable, that I can do longterm And derive whether it's monetary benefits from it or physiological benefits.

[00:14:43] And I just want to touch on a few things that for me have been particularly helpful in this journey.

1. Natural Outdoor Movement

The first one has been outdoor, natural movement. I really swear by a system called move. Nat, which stands for movement in nature or natural movement. [00:15:00] And it's about getting back into our more primal environment where we're reading cues from the environment and subconsciously adjusting our bodies. Big part of the philosophy of move net is taking away.

[00:15:12] Some of these buffers between our bodies and the natural world, whether that's thick cushion shoes or, a lot of layers for working out, if you can really get down to, T-shirt shorts, and either bare feet or a minimalist shoe, if you're not quite ready to make that jump. You're putting yourself in contact.

[00:15:31] With the elements, your skin is connected to the air. Your feet are connected to the earth. And this has profound effects on our physiology. As well as our mental health. Just having your bare feet come into contact with the cold.

[00:15:47] Moist earth. Is something that most people don't experience at all in a given day. If not, Throughout the year. This is something our ancestors would have experienced virtually every day and our early ancestors.[00:16:00] Didn't know anything else. They didn't even have shoes. So we actually have lost something by putting this buffer between us.

[00:16:06] And there's an analogy there between, the marijuana smoking serving as a buffer between us and reality. Where it might make us feel more in touch with nature. Initially, and if used in moderation, it might be able to do that. Just, lift you up to the higher highs.

[00:16:22] Without having such a, a pervasive. Lowering of the lows, but if you're using marijuana habitually, You're only encountering nature. In an intoxicated state, you sorta lose the ability to enjoy it in a sober state. So that's where natural movement for me was a way to immerse myself again in nature in a way that I could find stimulating.

[00:16:43] And also in the process of exercising, vigorous exercise is going to stimulate your endocannabinoid system.

2. Breathing Exercises

Related to this is breathing. Doing breath work like Wim Hoff style or a yoga breathing. There's any number of modalities. [00:17:00] Stan Grof actually has a method called holotropic breathing. Stan Grof was one of the early pioneers of psychedelic studies with LSD.

[00:17:09] And when LSD became illegal, he was looking for a way. To help his clients get high, legally. And he discovered that doing this sort of deep breathing, over the course of half an hour or an hour, controlled hyperventilation could put you into the same state of altered consciousness, that you get from taking drugs. But as Wim Hoff would say, it's getting high on your own supply.

[00:17:31] So breathing was another thing that would just get me back in touch with that parasympathetic state. If my sympathetic nervous system was feeling overstimulated

3. Exposure to the Outdoor Elements

And I can't, fail to mention here that sailing was a huge part of my recovery. Obviously I had encountered sailing back when I was still smoking and using, but it wasn't really, until I stopped smoking that I was able to a learn how to sail properly and do it safely. And. [00:18:00]

[00:18:00] Oh with confidence. But B also to come in contact again with the unfiltered environment. And you've got wind. You've got waves. You have to be paying attention. Your body is moving within this fluid, medium, where the boat is moving and you're moving within that motion. It's an experience that.

[00:18:19] I liken to the better part of getting high, although in the case of sailing, it's something that doesn't have a come down, you come back to the dock after a long sale. And you might be feeling a little bit shaky for a minute, but overall, what you experienced on the boat? It's something that you take with you on the shore in a positive way.

[00:18:44] I called this the even keel. It's the equivalent of a balanced sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. And this term actually comes from one of the four runners of the move net system named George had bear. And had, [00:19:00] there was a French Naval officer. Who observed Might say, primitive quote-unquote people on these, French Polynesian islands.

[00:19:08] The isle of Martinique was a place that he was stationed before the war. And advocated natural movement. As a way for his Naval recruits, when he was an officer to get in shape in this system, spread all around Europe and all around the world. As the most efficient way to produce a well-rounded soldiers who had composure under adverse circumstances.

[00:19:35] They trained in the elements they trained. On boats through wind and have bear was a big fan of this practice of intentionally exposing yourself to the elements in order to develop that even keel. Same kind of thing that you get from cold exposure with Wim Hoff style breathing. You learn to control your nervous system.

[00:19:56] Voluntarily you use your own. Kind of [00:20:00] willpower to, to bring it under your own. Voluntary control. When instincts would otherwise be kicking in. This speaks to a larger project than just overcoming any narrow category of addiction, like marijuana or alcohol, but I find it to be extremely rewarding.

[00:20:19] And it's something that I continue to practice. The even keel weather. Public speaking or, encountering some sort of new situation in which I might otherwise feel a lack of confidence. Knowing that I've trained for it. And that I can get myself into a state of awareness and composure. Even keel is a huge thing.

[00:20:43] And sailing has definitely played into that. So when I was first learning to sail after quitting smoking, it felt just horribly overwhelming. The sales are flapping wildly, and I don't know what to do, or the outboard suddenly quits when I'm trying to get into the slip. And I had to [00:21:00] improvise and I'm sure that, I grew some new brain cells in the process of what was a very intense learning process.

[00:21:06] This neuro regeneration. Is something that only happens when we put ourselves in situations where we have to adapt. And our brains are incredibly plastic when we make these demands on them. It's only when we shut off those demands and start expecting less of ourselves. That, that our brands say, Hey, I've got the day off. Maybe I can just, turn off some of these brain cells then I'm not using.

[00:21:30] So you've got your outdoor natural movement. You've got your breathing, your exposure to the elements, whether it's through sailing, maybe wind surfing or anything that gets you out into the. The unfiltered environment, maybe it's a hike in Yosemite where you experienced the awe of nature. And all of its grand jury.

[00:21:48] All these things. I think we'll start to recalibrate your endocannabinoid system.

4. Dietary Fixes.

And then I would also add a diet to this list. When you're eating poorly. You're just. [00:22:00] Causing stress on your body unnecessarily. Things like dark chocolate and raspberries, these really antioxidant rich foods.

[00:22:08] Can help boost and heal and overstimulated endocannabinoid

[00:22:12] .System. So that's another place that you might start if you're struggling with motivation is just fixing your diet. Not eating too much, especially early in the day or before you need to apply yourself to work. Just trying to go a little bit lighter.

[00:22:27] Intermittent fasting is another area where you can boost certain hormones like adrenaline or, nor epinephrin. Which are alertness hormones. And, you've got to be careful about this because you can also upregulate your cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone that puts you in that really sympathetic nervous system state.

[00:22:47] And, that oftentimes if you take it too far, can push you into that zone where you're just going to want to smoke to turn everything down. So there's this paradox in our modern world where we're constantly using stimulants like [00:23:00] caffeine. Some people might even use something stronger or some of these new tropics that are extremely powerful. They might be.

[00:23:07] Helping you do your work. Study aids like Adderall. Are very helpful for people with attention deficit disorder, but in my experience, there's a price to be paid for being on all the time. And that price is again, what goes up must come down. If you're always trying to be on your body is going to want to compensate for that by slowing down.

[00:23:28] That might translate into some cravings for the exogenous source. That's going to just turn everything down a notch.

5. Find Your Higher Power

[00:23:36] And then finally the last thing that I would be remiss if I didn't mention. In terms of how to unwind from a, an overstimulated endocannabinoid system. Is, is finding a higher power.

[00:23:49] As people who follow the 12 steps or who have ever encountered alcoholics anonymous will know that, This is basically step one of the 12 steps is, admitting that [00:24:00] you're powerless over, the substance in question.

[00:24:03] And that your life had become unmanageable. So the surrender. And the admission that we are insufficient on our own too. Overcome these incredibly strong forces within us. Is, something that takes humility, but for me, it was absolutely essential. There's a. One day at a time saying which for me was huge when I was.

[00:24:28] Coming out of my addiction really the first six months or so, all I could do was take it one day at a time. And even after that initial six months of sort of white knuckling, it took some time, being in a recovery group, a marijuana anonymous group, actually to start to really understand what it means to.

[00:24:45] Surrender and a to give it over. To a higher power of your choosing. And, I am someone who believes in a higher power. Not everyone uses the same terminology, but having something that's higher than yourself, who you [00:25:00] ask on a regular basis.

[00:25:01] To help you with not only temptation, but also to bring good things into your life, to help you to discover what it is that you truly desired, that you were using the cannabis as sort of a workaround to get to. But which now you'll be able to pursue directly or at least more directly because you have the capacity to learn.

[00:25:22] There's much more about the 12 steps that I could talk about, and I'm sure that I will in future episodes, but I just wanted to kickstart this because it's so easy to. Just continue. To, think about having a podcast. And I've been ideating this dreams and ashes podcast for so long, who am I going to invite on? How am I going to get started? But I'm realizing that to really get started. I have to get started and I have to put something out there.

[00:25:49] That shows that I'm serious about this. So the other day I, I did a little collage on my back porch. And I came up with the cover art for the show. And, this, I [00:26:00] mounted it on a piece of hardwood so that it would be permanent. Now there's no escaping it. These are just, some of the themes that I plan to explore throughout the series, weaving them into the insights that I've gleaned over the years and the insights of the guests that I'm going to be having on about what it means to really follow your dreams.

[00:26:19] And focusing on my own environment of California, which, needs more, dreamers needs more visionaries. We've got the internet and we've got all this energy around technology and yet, so far, most of what we have to show for it is just these smartphones in our hands that ended up taking us into virtual reality. Most of the time.

[00:26:37] And not always bringing us into the real world where these problems, the huge problems facing. Places like California and really by extension, the whole world, wherever you are. Your state, your country. Your locale more than anything where you can influence things. Needs you and needs you to be acting on [00:27:00] your deepest desires. And I do believe that the universe or God, or your higher power, whatever you want to call it.

[00:27:06] Is calling everyone to find a spot, to find a way to make a difference in this short amount of time. And we don't have time to just sit around. Smoking weed and hoping that it's all gonna fall into place because that's not how it works. So I hope that you'll follow me along on this journey.

[00:27:26] Dreams and ashes. Don't let your dreams turn to ashes. Follow your dreams. And make them happen. See you on the road.