Using cannabis for the first time was a hugely transformational moment for me. Life would never be the same following my inaugural experience that blissful afternoon; it soon became a personal staple. The way it eased my anxiety, opened up my mind to new perspectives, and bonded me to my friends made it hard to imagine what life would be like without it.
I was just starting college, a time of profound and sometimes overwhelming development, when I began setting patterns surrounding cannabis. It was my go-to coping mechanism for everything, no matter how big or small. It wasn’t until I was a decade deep in my relationship with ganja that I finally took a step back and reflected honestly on my attachment to it. Was I using it responsibly or was my usage becoming mindless and robotic? Were my habits healthy or were they holding me back in ways I was unaware of? Could I abstain for a few days without having a full-blown meltdown? This lack of understanding prompted a personal challenge of taking my first tolerance break.
It was time to get real and go inward. I had taken breaks before from alcohol, coffee, and tobacco, which all have some pretty hefty withdrawal symptoms associated with them, so why not cannabis? It was an opportunity to become mindful of the way my body reacted without it. I would look closely at my appetite, my sleep patterns, my emotional state, and my energy levels during this time, while keeping in mind external factors that might also influence those categories. Although the prospect of a personal challenge was exciting, I also knew that it might not be easy. I’ve heard about the “psychological” dependence some people develop and I wondered what my response would be. Regardless, I knew it was something I could handle and it was even recommended by my doctor during my annual recommendation renewal session.
Fortunately, but not surprisingly, my three week long abstinence experiment was not terrible. My appetite notably subsided, going from voracious to light. Thankfully, going to sleep wasn’t an issue and my dreams actually became more vivid during this period. Admittedly, I had more energy when I woke up with more mental clarity — an undeniable upside to waking up slowly in an edible-induced haze from the night before. On the flipside, my stress was a little bit more present. I began to notice where my edges lie, which made me realize how quickly I’d reach for my stockpile the moment I became uncomfortable about anything. But instead of letting my patience be tested, I went deep into my meditation practice. A positive trade off in my book.
The daily pangs of the sweet taste of Jack Herer in the morning persisted, but never gave me a headache like forgoing coffee does. When I yearned for the ritual of breaking, packing and then smoking delicious flower and the deep belly breaths from a good toke, I reminded myself that this wasn’t forever. I soothed the hankering by acknowledging the craving and then remembering that my brain’s endocannabinoid receptors appreciate the break and they would soon bestow the reward of a more potent psychoactive effect soon thereafter. These were also lessons in impulse control. Could I hold out on what I wanted now, for a nice payoff in the near future? The longing was apparent, but subtle. I missed cannabis like I missed a friend that went away on vacation. I knew she’d be back soon enough.
Some people have serious medical needs and cannabis is their primary treatment option. Many go through a great deal of suffering without their medicine, which became pretty apparent during my year-long stint as a budtender, consulting patients who struggled with relentless insomnia or debilitating diseases that made it impossible to move their bodies. So many people fight uphill battles like this every day and cannabis gives them a great deal of relief. I had to assess my own privilege to realize that I don’t need to consume cannabis daily. I have suffered from generalized anxiety disorder since I was a teenager. While cannabis is my preferred treatment option, there are other methods that work just as well for me as taking a puff from a joint. Focusing on a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, spending time in nature and my meditation practice were good places to start.
In the end, I’m glad I decided to go on a cannabis fast. Understanding this new aspect of myself was enough of a reward and week-long breaks, every 3-4 months is without a doubt something I can manage. I now have more reverence for the seemingly endless benefits of this intelligent plant medicine and my sacred bond with it. And if we’re going to be together forever, occasional time apart only serves to reinforce the relationship.
We wanna know — have you ever taken a tolerance break?