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Facing Addiction

Facing Addiction

by A.K. Finn

Copyright A.K. Finn 2016

Shakespir Edition

www.akfinn.org

Contents

Introduction

Going public?

Conversations with me high that helped me not get high so much

12-steps and rehab

DAY 1 | My name is and I

DAY 2 | Magic

DAY 3 | Less is more

DAY 4 | Inner battle

DAY 5 | Wrote while high?

DAY 6 | The test #1 (spiders and the sudden-sobriety fuzz)

DAY 7 | The test #2 (slowed down and in-between)

DAY 8 | Going in #1 (my going-nowhere woes)

DAY 9 | Going in #2 (Devil’s Lettuce)

DAY 10 | Making more friends

DAY 11 | Put me out

DAY 12 | Devil’s Lettuce—full circle

DAY 13 | That’s it

DAY 14 | “Final” blowout

DAY 15 | Cost

DAY 16 | When will I start? #1 (good questions collecting dust)

DAY 17 | When will I start? #2 (slicing off your bottom lip)

DAY 18 | Another movement

DAY 19 | When you’re ready #1 (unbearable feelings)

DAY 20 | When you’re ready #2 (integration potential)

DAY 21 | What we tell ourselves #1 (intuition or indulgence)

DAY 22 | What we tell ourselves #2 (which came first: the thought or the feeling?)

DAY 23 | What we tell ourselves #3 (how to always be right/wrong)

DAY 24 | What we tell ourselves #4 (from the future)

DAY 25 | Plans that never change #1 (the 10 times plan)

DAY 26 | Plans that never change #2 (that September)

DAY 27 | From the inside out #1 (too extraordinary to be a coincidence)

DAY 28 | From the inside out #2 (getting an education)

DAY 29 | Five day paragraph

DAY 30 | Dumb on purpose #1 (people)

DAY 31 | Dumb on Purpose #2 (conscience)

DAY 32 | Dumb on purpose #3 (music)

DAY 33 | Dumb on purpose #4 (timing)

DAY 34 | What do “I” do? #1 (good things do it for me)

DAY 35 | What do “I” do? #2 (the unpredictability factor; good things are everywhere)

DAY 36 | What do “I” do? #3 (shameful prescriptions)

DAY 37 | What do “I” do? #4 (snapping out perfect plan after perfect plan after…)

DAY 38 | What do “I” do? #5 (finding passion)

DAY 39 | What do “I” do? #6 (talents’ calling)

DAY 40 | What do “I” do? #7 (the space between talents)

DAY 41 | What do “I” do? #8 (art is fun)

DAY 42 | What do “I” do? #9 (the value of experience)

DAY 43 | Psychedelic training program

DAY 44 | Managing Yourself #1 (stabs at my experience)

DAY 45 | Managing yourself #2 (making goals fun)

DAY 46 | Managing yourself #3 (um . . . “self”?)

DAY 47 | Managing yourself #4 (test your methods)

DAY 48 | Managing yourself #5 (“help” your “self” imagine…?)

DAY 49 | Managing yourself #6 (silence)

DAY 50 | Managing yourself #7 (using your dichotomy of values)

DAY 51 | Managing yourself #8 (when you can’t not imagine…)

DAY 52 | Managing yourself #9 (using your addiction)

DAY 53 | Managing yourself #10 (the good, the bad, and my lunch break)

DAY 54 | Kicks ass

DAY 55 | One more step (before the 12)

DAY 56 | Final fumble

DAY 57 | Funny how I don’t hear myself

DAY 58 | Managing yourself #11 (one thing at a time)

DAY 59 | Throwing your convictions against a wall

DAY 60 | Managing yourself #12 (facing desire)

DAY 61 | Only what you do

DAY 62 | Trusting yourself

DAY 63 | A new perspective (ready)

DAY 64 | Your sequence

DAY 65 | Making the leap

DAY 66 | Sinking in

DAY 67 | Ghosts #1 (to see yourself change)

DAY 68 | Ghosts #2 (to share and grow)

DAY 69 | Ghosts #3 (to relax and face)

DAY 70 | Ghosts #4 (to know where voices come from and go)

Afterword | Who am I now?

[]Introduction

Video games, Math, and maturity all have this in common: You have to complete challenges at one level before you can reach the next.

This story is my example of how going public with the real experience of your addictions, compulsions, and other personal limitations makes the process of maturity unavoidable—the process of learning the same lessons as many times as it takes before actual change occurs.

[]Going public?

Whether you go public as yourself or through the use of a cool pseudonym, finding a way that works for you to share about your real motivations and hindrances just makes it impossible to keep comfortably putting off your core values.

Going public gives you direction, motivation, and connection with others like you who are on the same journey.

[]Conversations with me high that helped me not get high so much

This story is basically a series of conversations I had with my high self. These conversations took place near the end of my medical marijuana addiction, which lasted from 2011 through parts of 2015.

Preparing and sharing this story changed my perspective, enabling me to gradually grow beyond my addicted state to a state of balance and control.

I’ve divided this story into seventy days for reading if you like. You could read more (or less) than one chapter per day; but committing to something for seventy days might be a fun, helpful way to approach it as part of your process.

Get in touch with me at any point during your seventy-day journey or after. I’d love to hear your story.

[email protected]

[]12-steps and rehab

In this story, I mention 12-steps and other methods. I won’t comment on the role that chemical treatment or rehabilitation might play in reversing the effects of drug addiction. Certain chemical addictions might require chemical intervention or treatment, but that’s a question for a doctor.

It seems as though most recovery models (including mine) come into play after or alongside whatever other medical or chemical treatment is needed.

[]DAY 1 | My name is and I

My name is Andrew Knuon Finn, and I’m a…

About thirteen years ago, I met this girl through friends at a dance party. We both took ecstasy, something neither of us were that experienced with.

Certain moments from that night are still so clear in my mind . . . glimpses of the two of us playing out scenes from old movies, the pills melting our inhibitions as we merged with warm, endless textures of sound, people, and beauty.

Two days later, we planned to take more pills at a water park out in the middle of nowhere. On our way in the car, we both concluded that a full jar of ecstasy pills probably wouldn’t be the best idea for either of us. We each saw within ourselves a tendency to swallow first and ask questions later.

That was a mostly fun time in my life. I didn’t get hooked on pills or anything.

I’m now thirty-four. I have a wife, a kid, a career…

I’ve been using medical marijuana for about four years, though I’ve actually been getting high off-and-on since I was a teenager. Though certain weed experiences have felt irreplaceably valuable, I can’t deny I’m now addicted.

This story will be my search for balance. I want to see if I can return from the uncontrolled chaos of addiction to a state where I use only intentionally—only when I actually choose to.

Rather than just a play-by-play of my own relationship with weed, my wider focus will be on learning to face, balance, and control all addictions and compulsions.

Here’s something I once wrote while high about what I hoped this story could be:

I wish this really was as cool and spontaneous a cry for help as it might seem. It’s actually odd, and hopefully surreptitious (idk).

Maybe it’s something necessary in a safety-harness-for-the-fall sort of way…?”

Basically, I’ve felt for a long time that sharing publically like this would be my first necessary step in bringing my addiction under control.

Here’s another high thought I wrote down years ago about how I define addiction:

Addiction is [secretly?] doing what you tell yourself not to.”

It took me a long time to start working on this story because I thought it would mean having to commit to some strict plan for limiting my weed use. I’ve lost all confidence in plans like that (or in myself to keep to them).

I actually have a whole bunch of weed left. I’ll probably smoke some tonight after I work on this. That’s a funny thing to say on DAY 1 of a story about controlling addiction; but it just goes back to this intuition I have that sharing my experience will be my first step toward recovery.

I believe if I just concentrate on going public, my addiction will basically take care of itself.

If my quest fails, and I end up so far off the wagon that this becomes yet another memory of another failed attempt, I’ll know my high thoughts and feelings about balance and control were really just the wild projections of a delusional addict—someone blindly clinging against all better judgment to his drug(s).

If that’s the case, I’ll join a twelve-step or other recovery program. I’ll admit that I really am powerless to keep myself under control.

What do you think? Is finding balance ever possible after addiction?

Right now, I do feel pretty powerless to stop myself from getting high. I guess we’ll see how going public might change things for me.

Tomorrow: searching for magic.

[]DAY 2 | Magic

I had my first weed experience when I was about seventeen. I was staying with this friend who had a strict policy not to do anything mind-altering on school nights, so I went to smoke alone outside by his pool.

Months earlier, someone had given me a puff from what was supposed to have been a joint, but I hadn’t felt anything.

So, standing by the pool that night, I decided to smoke as much as I possibly could. I wanted to make sure it actually did something just so I could see what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

After inhaling a few times, I was hit by the normal bout of rough, scary coughs and hacks that’s common to all newbies.

I smoked some more…

I remember feeling pretty loose and relaxed as I made my way back in and up the stairs. It was just a breezy, cool sensation that reminded me of the music I was listening to at the time. Though this was the late ’90s, I was going through a classic stoner rock phase—bands like Doors, Led Zep, Jefferson Airplane…

Everything changed when my non-high friend asked me a question and I tried to speak. He asked if I was high or how I was feeling. I tried to say something like, “Yeah, I’m cool,” but what came out was more along the lines of: “Yyyeeaaaaaaoouuuu knoooowwwww thaaaaat wwheeeen Iiiii taaaalk liiike Jaaaaaaack Nicholson . . . theeeeen Iiii’m coooll…?”

I thought, ‘That was weird…’ as visions of Nicholson’s smiling face (complete with trademark sunglasses) split like a kaleidoscope and began to ping across my inner landscape.

From there, I shuffled to the bathroom and ate handfuls of toothpaste and water. It tasted amazing.

One sensation I can still vividly remember from that night was this feeling that my whole body was hooked up to some sort of rhythmic, circling machine. Inner vibrations like waves seemed to punctuate everything, even my thoughts.

I watched as my mind dissected in time to a wash of enchanting colors and sounds.

My friend was drinking and joking around. He put a movie on, but I didn’t feel like paying attention to anything. I just wanted to sit back in my big, soft chair and watch the world morph to a dazzling, pulsating swirl.

That night was half my life ago now. It was a magical experience I know I’ll never forget.

There have been many other magical high experiences since, as well as a few scarier ones.

For the past four years, I’ve been smoking, eating, and vaporizing medical marijuana almost every day. I know I’m addicted.

An important sign of addiction is tolerance. That’s when the same amount of something affects you less than it did at first, so you need more to get the same effect.

Before I started putting this story together, I’d often get high before work, at lunch, after work, before dinner, after dinner, and until I fell asleep (every day). The extreme tolerance I’d built up made magical experiences like my first high feel unreachable.

Yet being addicted, I was always driven to just keep using more and more.

Here’s something I wrote while high in early 2014:

I should remember the first time I got high and the magic of that experience.

That’s a reason not to let myself stay addicted, just like it’s a reason not to quit completely.”

If I can get high less often, then the experience will be more special and magical; then I won’t have to quit. That’s the balance I’m hoping and searching for.

Tomorrow: more on how less can be more.

By the way, I really enjoy hearing stories like people’s first high experiences, or your first experience with whatever you’re trying to balance or control. How has addiction changed the experience of weed or whatever else it is for you?

P.S. After writing today’s chapter, I got high and read through what I’d written.

Here were my thoughts:

I can still get just as high as I did that first time. I’m actually really high right now.

There just seems to be something special that happens when I use weed less.

That specialness (not the intensity) is the magic I’m looking for.

Like I said, I’ll share some of my more negative weed experiences as well.”

[]DAY 3 | Less is more

I love hanging out at guitar stores. I might spend hours jumping between all the acoustic basses and wooden six-strings.

Unbridled musical toy shopping can actually be an easy way for me to get myself in trouble.

I was surprised one day to find a good-looking nylon-string guitar online for only about $20. I ordered it, not expecting much. Truthfully, I’ve never found an instrument that sounds as beautiful or peaceful to me. It’s also my most comfortable to play.

How does my love for guitars relate to controlling addiction?

Well, we’ll come back to the massive financial costs of an addiction like mine later.

For now, here’s another story:

In early 2014, I somehow managed to make it through a few days without any weed. Then I discovered some shake I must have left (or hidden) in my car. Shake is just the thin, sparse leaves and stems from marijuana plants. It’s not as potent as the buds people usually use.

Since I hadn’t smoked in a few days, I was blown away by how high I got from just that little bit of shake. It was the same magical feeling I mentioned yesterday.

I wrote this about the experience (while still high):

My best time with weed could really be like my best guitar: simple and cheap.

It just seems like less can definitely be more—like what you’re compelled to do can be so much more beneficial if you wait for the right time for it.

It reminds me of that MGMT song.”

I was talking about the MGMT song, Kids, where the chorus goes: “Control yourself; take only what you need from it.”

I don’t know what Kids is really about, but that line sure stuck with me. I like the idea of having self-control so I can get more out of whatever I enjoy or use.

Even the Bible says, “One who is full despises honey, but to one who is hungry, even bitter food tastes sweet.”

Are certain experiences better or more special when you can have them less often?

Tomorrow: a “darker” weed experience.

P.S. After writing today’s chapter, I promptly got high and wrote:

Well, weed isn’t ‘bitter’ like the food in that Bible quote…

Oh well.”

[]DAY 4 | Inner battle

When I was twenty-three, I found myself at an odd religious get-together in someone’s living room. Almost everyone there seemed way too cool for me to even talk to; but there was this one friendly, charming guy who said he was bipolar.

As the group went . . . a different way, the bipolar guy and I began discussing our histories with weed, etc. He said something along the lines of, “Man, if you’ve gotten high, then you’ve had the most special, beautiful experience a human can have!”

I wish we’d become friends. I never saw him again.

I’ve always felt that weed can be very special, beautiful, and even helpful.

But I want to be careful not to share only my best high experiences with you. That would be dishonest.

I mentioned my first, euphoric high. I’ve also had scary highs, restless highs, exhausted highs, paranoid highs, silly highs, relaxed highs, hungry highs, sleepy highs, emotional highs…

There have been prolonged periods when smoking weed would mean being hit by waves of fear and inner turmoil.

Today I’d like to share about a particular experience that led to one of the worst of those frightful phases early on.

When I was eighteen, I wandered off into the woods one day with an incredibly simple goal: to smoke until I couldn’t continue. I was fully determined to see just how high I could get.

With notebook and pens in hand, I was ready for whatever could happen with weed.

After the ritual of burning through more bowls than I cared to count, my inner world suddenly fell black. Something like a battle erupted into being within my mind. It literally felt like good versus evil—the “good” being my desperate search for some way to stay sane and hopeful in the midst of an “evil” consuming darkness that tore at me to my core.

No-matter what positive idea I tried to fall back on, the darkness simply swept through and overtook me, easily wiping out my little stabs at hope like waves demolishing sandcastles.

Each time it happened, I shook and threw up violently.

Near the end, I remember trying to keep as still as possible, just waiting and longing for everything to be normal again.

When I came to, I found myself sprawled across the ground beneath a fern tree, covered in dirt and vomit.

I couldn’t comfortably get high for quite a while after that.

Here’s something I wrote while high in early 2013:

I don’t want to take any kind of official stand against marijuana or drugs.”

I do want to take the most objective look I can at the nature of addiction.

Do you think drug experiences can be special, beautiful, or valuable? What if you’re addicted to the drug?

Have you had any negative experiences you’d care to share?

Tomorrow: addictions vs. life goals.

P.S. After writing today’s chapter, I got high and wrote:

I was just a kid when I disappeared off into the woods that day.

I do still have negative experiences with weed sometimes, but they don’t tend to include any of the hellish, epic imagery.

Usually, I just feel sick and have to lie down if I overdo it with certain heavier strains.

There’s still sometimes that same feeling of just waiting in pain for the unpleasantness to end…”

[]DAY 5 | Wrote while high?

What have you always most loved or wanted to do? It’s okay if you’re not sure.

How might addictions or compulsions be hindering you from going after (or even knowing) your dreams?

When I was ten, I wrote this poem for school with my dad about an eagle. It was chosen to be published with some other poems from kids at nearby schools.

As a child, I spent much of my time imagining new video games. My parents probably still have boxes of old notebooks scribbled through with my little drawings and crude handwriting.

When I was eight, my teacher told me I was falling behind in most subjects, but that I wasn’t doing terribly in English. It’s funny the sorts of specific things you never forget being told.

I enjoy writing. I enjoy ideas. Fun, for me, is when I suddenly get a sense of how two seemingly unrelated worlds might connect. The work I’m most passionate about feels like excavating dinosaur bones—letting whatever’s buried be brought to the surface and reconnected with as little damage or interference as possible.

You’ve probably noticed all the high thoughts I’m including in this story. Well, I’ve actually been jotting down my high thoughts and intuitions ever since I started using medical weed.

Here’s one such high thought, recorded in early 2013:

Weed weaves itself into every fabric of my life. Whether I’m taking a shower in the morning, driving to work, going for a walk…”

I guess weed just makes those everyday activities more enjoyable.

But one of the biggest problems with being high all the time is it keeps me from accomplishing my writing goals. When I’m always high, I can’t seem to sit and focus on developing a story or idea.

Here’s another high thought from 2013:

My high intuitions are like unpolished daydreams—just random imaginations I feel compelled to capture whenever my mind wanders.”

About four years’ worth of high daydreams can make for quite a few notebooks, scraps of paper, Word documents, cellphone recordings, emails to myself….

But weed addiction keeps me from developing even the ideas weed itself helps inspire.

Here’s another related high thought:

There are lots of good things about weed, but using too much hinders me in ways I can’t be hindered for what I want to do in life.”

Do addictions hold you back from accomplishing (or even knowing) your dreams?

We’ll come back to this subject often, as I believe your dreams and passions can be some of the clearest signposts to reveal potential you’re currently being kept from reaching.

Tomorrow: when I can’t function without weed.

P.S. After writing today’s chapter, I got high and wrote:

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m holding up my high thoughts and intuitions as, like, Ultimate Truth, or some sort of cosmic revelation.

My high thoughts are just pieces of my real experience, like all the rest.

Maybe my experience will connect with yours.”

[]DAY 6 | The test #1 (spiders and the sudden-sobriety fuzz)

I was wandering around the garage one Saturday morning when I came face to face with this tiny spider, still and barely noticeable, on the daintiest of webs. It was right in the spot where I’d usually get high.

As I began puffing away on a joint, I started to feel for the little creature. I decided to send some smoke its way. I hope that’s not animal cruelty.

I got hungry a little later, and assumed the spider had the munchies too; but I couldn’t see how it would ever catch anything in its spindly little web in the corner of our dark garage.

Getting a fly into that web became my mission for the weekend.

Actually, I’m glad my wife was away, because I basically left the garage door open and the lights on for two full days and nights.

I’m not sure if the spider ever ate. It had disappeared by Sunday night.

My weekend with the spider happened to be the culmination of something I called The Test.

Now, my idea for The Test had been simple: I’d choose a random week to go from Monday through Friday without using any weed; then I’d get high again that weekend and record my experience.

That first day and night, Monday, was excruciating. I hadn’t gone a day without using in probably a year. I only slept about two hours that night. I remember having this vivid, chaotic dream about driving frantically back and forth between all these nearby dispensaries. In the dream, they were all closed.

Others have described well the jolting discomforts of sudden sobriety, and my experience was no different. I had insomnia for days. I couldn’t settle down. I felt like I was being annoyingly hyper at work.

As mentioned, weed seems to weave itself into every fabric of my life. When I’m not using, just knowing I won’t be able to enjoy my normal activities the same way leaves me feeling glum and sluggish.

Sure, I could watch TV, drive to work, take a shower, laugh with people, or do whatever else I might normally do high; I just don’t look forward to any of it the same way.

Sobriety feels like being away from a close, fun friend—kind of like the aftermath of a sudden, unfortunate breakup.

I once wrote this while high:

Do you ever feel trapped in a condition where you can’t think or function the same way without what you’re addicted to?”

During the week of The Test, I found it almost impossible to string together even the most basic thoughts and words. I remember thinking it would be awesome if my mind could just always do what it seems to do so freely whenever weed comes into play.

My hope was that finding a way to control my addiction would allow my mind to adjust, restoring its ability to reason and imagine without needing outside stimulation.

By that Saturday, I was broken. I had all these weird aches and pains. Muscles were cramping. I couldn’t get warm enough.

So I went in the garage, met my spider friend, and smoked…

Moments later, I wrote this:

The experiment was a success. I feel great. It’s been less than a week off of weed, and I’m super high.”

I was glad to see a few days sober had reversed some of the massive tolerance I’d built up.

I also felt good about myself for having kept my addiction under control all week.

Whenever I use weed compulsively, I feel guilty right away. The guilt starts to prod at my conscience as soon as the high sets in.

Afterwards, the fuzz of sobriety dims the subtle light of my convictions. Everything gets hazy and unpleasant again until I’m pulled back out of that mental fog by my old “fun” friend.

I feel great about myself whenever I don’t use for any length of time; but once I start up again, I seem to slip so easily back out of control.

That’s what happened after The Test and so many other times, before and since.

Here’s a summary of The Test: In May, 2014, I didn’t use weed at all for five days. I had a really good high when I smoked again. Then my addiction pulled me back (as always) and I continued using compulsively as before.

Was The Test a success?

When you tried to suddenly quit something, how did you feel? What happened next?

Tomorrow: a high thought from the weekend of The Test that led directly to writing this story.

[]DAY 7 | The test #2 (slowed down and in-between)

When I was nineteen, I flunked out of business school. I’m not even sure why I was there apart from just being overly impressionable. All I really wanted to be doing at the time was music. All I actually did was jot down thoughts on life . . . kind of like I’m doing here.

I also did a lot of drugs. Memories from that time are a youth-enriched blur of seedy houses, spaces under overpasses, crazy faces, trees rushing by, falling…

I might have even scraped by that semester if not for a random drug dealer at a bus stop the night before my first final exam. I asked if he had any acid. I’m pretty sure I caught a faint twinkle in his eye as he sold me a gram of weed and muttered something along the lines of: “Trust me…”

Now, when I’m high, I sometimes see these racing, shifting, oddly familiar images in my mind. I see them more when I use less often. If I’m high all day, every day, the images will burn out to nothing before they can really begin.

Well, that first night with the bus stop weed, those beautifully complex images were all I could see. The weed must have been spiked or laced with something else.

The experience wasn’t unpleasant, but it was definitely all-consuming. I was locked away in an inward world for about twelve hours.

The next morning, during my exam, I felt twisted and totally unable to focus.

So, I failed the exam, went home, and smoked some more of the bus stop weed.

That became my pattern for the week. There was a different final exam each morning, and I failed all of them.

I now see that week as a sort of foreshadowing, almost comical illustration of the detachment and self-sabotage that would later re-emerge and culminate in full-blown addiction.

One night that week, I remember sitting in this big chair at my parents’ house, incredibly high. I forget exactly what I was thinking about, but I clearly recall the sensation of my normal, conscious thoughts slowing and spreading to where it was like I could literally see in-between them. Details I’d never noticed about my everyday world suddenly seemed so obvious. Reasons for my own conclusions and reactions became inescapable.

What I wrote down that night (super high, about fifteen years ago) was:

This is the shit BETWEEN the shit.”

Perhaps weed just helps me appreciate my regular thoughts more. It certainly seems to help me imagine and daydream more freely.

Yesterday I brought up The Test.

During the weekend of The Test, I wrote the following while high after having not had weed for days:

It’s funny: This was supposed to be my big moment of truth; but I hadn’t even considered so many important factors: like the weed could have been weak.”

The Test was to see how a little weed would affect me after a break. But once I was high again, I realized I’d been so fixated on the details of my plan that I hadn’t even considered how my mood that day, the specifics of the strain I’d be using, and so many other variables might have affected the results.

It all seemed so obvious once I was high again.

I took out a 3-by-5 card and wrote something that touched all the way back to my experience with the bus stop weed all those years ago:

The thing I hate [love] about getting high is you immediately see all the flaws in [underlying reasons for] your normal, non-high conclusions.”

Writing that thought felt like a turning point for me. It was when I first had the sense that the high thoughts and intuitions I’d been recording all along might actually prove useful.

On the other side of that 3-by-5 card, I wrote:

I’m ready. I’ve trained (see the quote on the reverse of this card).”

“Trained” might be a little overdramatic. I’m imagining some sort of smoky montage showing bong hits, thoughtful stoned looks, and progressively cooler scribbles on paper—all backed, of course, by enthusiastic ‘80s music.

I was just excited about the idea that my high experience might be a valuable part of my story to share. It was like seeing a potential conversation take place—a conversation with another version of myself.

Now, my aim is not to hold my high thoughts up as some sort of authority. They’re not like arguments in a debate . . . quite the opposite.

Recording your convictions and intuitions over time can be like seeing sets of paintings in ever-closer detail. Being aware of the overarching “shit between the shit” just keeps the current confines of your conscious mind from distorting your vision.

Why do you get high or do whatever you’re addicted to? When you record your experience with the intent to share, you can’t hide from the fact that only by doing whatever it is in a non-addictive way will your initial reasons ever be satisfied.

To put that more simply: When you see objectively how your addiction experience plays out in time, you know on every level that you’ll never find what you’re looking for in whatever you’re using if you keep using addictively.

Preparing to share your experience forces you to be honest with yourself. It eventually makes all your own “whys” impossible to ignore.

Tomorrow: why I got addicted to medical marijuana in the first place.

[]DAY 8 | Going in #1 (my going-nowhere woes)

In early 2010, I lost about fifty pounds (twenty-two kilograms) for a weight loss competition. I didn’t start the competition with extra weight to lose.

Near the end, I was eating only a can of tuna or an apple a day (or nothing). I wrecked my stomach, replacing depleted nutrients with fistfuls of diet, colon, and water pills.

I didn’t even drink anything for the last two days. The idea was to rid my body of as much water weight as possible.

I spent the morning of the final weigh-in sweating out all my remaining hydration in a sauna. After that, I passed out and hit my head in the locker room. I wasn’t too worried though; by that point, I was fainting almost whenever I stood up.

My experience of not eating began with bursts of an intense and mysterious sense of determination. These leveled out to cycles of dull-to-excruciating pain. I daydreamed about food constantly, vividly picturing and yearning for whatever I could imagine.

By the end, I felt nothing at all—no determination, pain, or anything else. There was only an eerie, quiet pleasantness that seemed to separate me from my body and surroundings. Always just shy of unconscious, I drifted slowly through space and time feeling detached from just about everything.

Though I probably seemed quite tranquil and carefree near the end, everyone who knew me was more than a little concerned.

I wasn’t getting high at all back then, in early 2010.

By May of that year, I’d gained back more weight than I’d lost. I’d also reached an absolute standstill in terms of motivation.

Up way past midnight every night, I found myself staring blankly at empty pages on screens. I’d decided I was going to be a writer, but couldn’t seem to bring myself to launch. I’d somehow become convinced that something of an identity crisis had simply gone on too long, and that it would now be too late for me to try to choose a life to run with.

I ended up writing a lot about not writing—filling documents with thoughts like the following (this was recorded in May, 2010):

“Honestly, I feel like I’ve given up hope. I mean, I’ve never actually been able to do what I decide to do. I keep failing and getting older and more numb. It’s like I know I can’t just say, ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!’ and mean it. I feel incapable of deciding to become what I want to be, so I’ve sort of lost hope. I don’t believe I can do what I want to now because I’ve never been able to before. So what should I do? How?”

Looking back now, five years later, I see my burden in 2010 as really a needless struggle against an inescapable truth—the truth being I no longer had the vast future I’d once both taken so for granted and taken so much shelter in.

But go around any circle enough times and its lack of edges starts to get quite undeniable.

I wrote this exactly three years later—in May, 2013 (while really high):

I was so depressed by the end of 2010 that I went online to some random Q&A site and asked if anyone there could give any real reasons for someone like me to not take his own life.

I wonder how differently the details of that time would have had to have played out for there to have been a radically different outcome.

But thinking that way probably only adds layers of unnecessary complications like adding opposite terms to both sides of an equation.

I’d been mostly clean from drugs since 2003, but I felt like I had no more control over my own life than [+ something grown to be slaughtered+].

I’m glad the way I saw myself and my place in the world changed.”

2010 felt like a slow bounce, back and forth, between zanily crippling anxiety and dull depression.

But having been so concerned about not being creative seems somewhat selfish to me now. Looking back, I think the true tragedy might have been the damage I did to some of my closest relationships.

Tomorrow: what happened when I added a weed addiction to the mix of my unstable mindset in 2010.

How do feelings about your current state, your abilities, and your future (hopeful or hopeless) connect to your addictions?

Have you ever felt unable to move forward in life? Did your perspective change? How?

Honestly, putting this story together to share has made it clear to me just how wrong (or incomplete) my hopeless conclusions back in 2010 were. I now see myself moving forward as a person. I’m more naturally motivated to pursue my dreams than ever.

I guess what I’m saying is: No matter how you feel or what your circumstances are, nothing has to stay the way it is right now.

Even if you feel depressed, hopeless, anxious, or just stuck in any way, the life you’ve always wanted is still available to you.

It’s not too late.

After writing today’s chapter, I got high and wrote:

In 2010, I was thinking and acting sort of like a purposefully naïve child, trying to fix all sorts of meanings and…

Really, life is funny. It just kind of happens.

Now, years later, my tendency seems to be to grin about it all and sigh. I imagine there’s a twinkle in my eye as I do.

Life really feels like a treasure…”

[]DAY 9 | Going in #2 (Devil’s Lettuce)

I was half in a band for about six years. We rocked mostly garages and cheap studios.

I felt bad for never being as committed as the other guys. I’d do things like just flakily not show up to practice for months; then I’d appear again on a random Saturday morning all smiley and eager to play.

The others were always way too cool with my lack of dependability.

I showed up once to jam in December, 2010—my first appearance in over a year. The others had obviously been working hard. They sounded tight and brilliant. I was rusty, but loving the experience of jumping around like a kid again in that tiny, dingy practice studio, being all loud and everything.

We were talking after practice, and one of the guys mentioned how easy it had been get his medical marijuana prescription.

2010 had felt like a pretty dismal year for me, so the notion of legal weed as a real possibility was definitely appealing.

My friend from the band gave me a gram to hold me over until I could get my prescription. I was so grateful.

He actually let me choose between two different strains. The first, he said, was supposed to be more physically calming and loose; the second was known to be more energetic and mentally stimulating.

I chose the second, stimulating strain, called Devil’s Lettuce.

That night, I got high for the first time in years.

My plan for the night was simply to collapse to the couch and watch something funny on TV. Instead, I drifted like some reverse specter to my laptop where I typed up a dazed email to a friend, telling him something about as embarrassing as accidently sexting your boss might be.

I wrote that I wished he and I could learn to better understand each other one day.

I cringed when I realized I’d just pressed ‘Send’.

It seems kind of silly to me now to have gotten so worked up about the whole thing. Perhaps the Devil’s Lettuce was merely amplifying my then naturally paranoid perspective to epic proportions, highlighting its clash with my abiding naïveté and immaturities.

Regardless, it didn’t paint a pretty picture.

I frantically tapped out another email, claiming to have sent the first by accident. I tried to cover with a few lame jokes.

Next, I wrote the following note to myself in hopes of avoiding future embarrassment:

Just do what you set out to do. Have fun.”

I was essentially advising myself to only stick with TV and other forms of entertainment while high.

A bunch of other similarly awkward scenarios played out over the next few months.

One time, I got high and texted my brother-in-law, telling him he was the brother I’d always wanted.

Even if all my high sentiments were true, putting myself out there like that felt incredibly embarrassing, inappropriate, and poorly timed.

I felt like an idiot.

I gradually became too afraid to initiate social interactions on weed, especially with non-high people. Instead, per my own instructions, I buried myself in entertainment.

It got to where if I wasn’t being entertained enough, I’d feel like I was wasting my high.

Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with entertainment. I find weed can beautifully enhance TV, movies, music, food, sex, videogames, etc.

My problem was just that my rule about only having fun made me too aware of time passing by. I’d get all anxious and impatient, always feeling like I could be getting more out of the experience than I was.

For example, if I was planning to smoke weed, make some popcorn, and watch a movie, the time spent actually making the popcorn would feel unacceptably boring and frustrating.

In those early days, I hated the nagging feeling that a certain high thought or idea might be worth writing down.

The pressure to maximize my high time even kept me from sleep. I’d smoke late at night, watch the beginning of a show, smoke some more, keep watching, have an energy drink, smoke some more, watch another episode…

Here’s something I once wrote while high years later:

It’s kind of ironic: In 2010, I felt like I was supposed to be writing but wasn’t. Back then, I’d have seen entertainment as a waste of time.

Then I started using medical weed, and everything flipped: I felt like I was wasting my high time if I had to write or do anything other than be entertained.

In both cases, not doing exactly what I thought I should be fed into a cycle of anxiety and depression.

Eventually I wouldn’t be able to ignore how many times I’d told myself how crucial it was for me learn to really relax.

I think I gradually came to see just how uptight I was getting about my ‘relaxation time.’

Are ironies like that often the X’s that mark irrationalities in our lives?

It seems true that time + recording and sharing experience = less opportunities for irrationalities overall.”

So, once I smoked through that gram of Devil’s Lettuce, I went to go get my prescription.

I had an intense experience the first night I used after that.

I’d plucked off a few clumps from a jolting, energetic strain (such strains, like Devil’s Lettuce, are called Sativas). I’d also taken some buds from a smoother, more relaxing strain (these are called Indicas).

I coughed so hard after a few puffs from that first racing Sativa that I never actually made it to the second mellow Indica.

Going against my own advice about avoiding all but entertainment, I wrote down an imagined conversation with a distant friend.

I often imagine conversations while high—usually with those I wish I was still close to.

Feeling lost, impatient, sketchy, alone, and desperate, I next wrote:

People from the past are voices in my head. But I could never talk to them now. It’s weird.”

Throughout 2011, my chronic need for entertainment only escalated.

I was isolating myself without realizing, imagining rejection from everyone.

I’d almost convinced myself the reason for all my anxiety was that I’d been cursed for having wrongly chosen the Devil’s Lettuce strain in the first place.

It’s wonderful what a little objective perspective can do.

Have you ever felt cursed? Did it matter whether the curse was real?

How has addiction changed you?

Tomorrow: a cry for help.

P.S. After writing today’s chapter, I got high and wrote:

It seems kind of obvious now: Devil’s Lettuce is a Sativa strain; Sativas might be the opposite of what you’d want to use to ‘collapse to the couch’ and watch TV.

No wonder I couldn’t sit still that first night, but instead skittered to my laptop, fired off a heartfelt email, and then got all anxious about it. Sativas are naturally more energetic, warm, and mentally (emotionally) stimulating.

But I had no idea back then.

Part of the problem—the effects of the ‘Devil’s Lettuce curse’—could have just been misusing strains early on.

It takes time for those who’ve used illegally to get used to being able to choose between specific effects, which is one of the benefits of going to a dispensary.”

[]DAY 10 | Making more friends

In the mid-to-late ‘90s, my dad made all these new friends online. He’d get so excited sharing over dinner about connecting with collectors of certain rare naval knives or watches from whichever important periods.

I was in my mid-to-late teens at the time. The internet was fairly new to everyone. I’d go online mostly just to email friends or search around. Occasionally, I’d drift into the online dating scene for brief stints.

But I never connected with new people who shared my interests in any kind of real way.

My dad would actually meet the people he met online. He’d have them over to the house.

I’ve really come to admire that about my dad: He’s been able to form natural, lifelong friendships with likeminded hobbyists and others across the globe.

When I started using medical marijuana, I remember hoping it would lead to making more friends.

I’ve always loved getting high with other people. Some of my fondest memories are of hysterical laughter, interesting conversations, and just so many other cool experiences shared together with others on weed.

But instead of connecting, I quickly became isolated and dysfunctionally committed to “maximizing” my high time with only entertainment.

I couldn’t handle the feeling that my high words or actions might make me come across (to some) as this awkward, zany doofus.

I’d sometimes smoke and end up at weed-related discussion boards or social sites; but I was always way too anxious to join any of the conversations.

Watching my weed use escalate to full-scale addiction didn’t help.

Here’s something I wrote while high back in early 2013:

I think I feel bad because I’m addicted to weed and making all sorts of potentially irrational decisions.

I’m a little worried about whatever it might be that causes me not to take that fact seriously enough when I‘m not high.

Maybe I do take it seriously, but what do I actually do about it?

This is where research would suggest that ‘asking for help’ might have been a good idea back when I first realized I wasn’t following through on my own intentions.

Instead, years have gone by.

So, do I ask for help now? People say they need help for these sorts of things, right? Is help necessarily wrong?

No, I get that; but maybe there’s another way.

I mean, it’s not that I’m looking for sympathy, or for some group to hound me about keeping to my own decisions.”

I’ve been defining addiction as simply doing what you’ve told yourself not to.

I feel guilty whenever I get high compulsively. I usually write something down right away to remind myself why I shouldn’t be getting high so much. Then the high goes away, and I go into this fuzzy, dull state. All conviction behind my own written warnings and advice slips away.

When the compulsion for weed returns, I use again, feel a fresh sense of guilt, and then write all the same warnings in slightly new ways.

That’s been my addiction experience since 2011.

All my high self-advice (about why I shouldn’t be getting high so much) just keeps piling up, making what I’ve always wanted increasingly difficult to ignore.

Imagine seeing thousands of unopened emails from your own conscience, all basically saying the same thing.

What I shared above about finding a new way to ask for help was just the bare roots of a raw intuition at the time—an unjustified belief that going public would somehow help with whatever was missing when convictions lifted and things got fuzzy again in the dull light of dawning sobriety.

Has recording your intentions over time ever made ignoring them more and more difficult?

Has making your intentions known ever helped you follow through on them?

How has your addiction affected your relationships?

Eventually, I’ll share how my original hope—that weed would lead to making more friends—has indirectly been fulfilled.

Tomorrow: more on how going public with your real experience makes it harder not to live by your convictions.

After writing today’s chapter, I got high and wrote:

How would you expect weed to lead to more friendships?

I bet the way it happened for me was less direct than however you’d expect.”

How would you expect going public with your experience to make not living by your convictions more difficult? Tomorrow’s chapter might also surprise you.

[]DAY 11 | Put me out

When I was twenty-two, I joined this massive religious organization. I’d essentially lost everything I owned. A certain family from the organization helped me out a lot, even letting me stay with them for free.

Now, the idea at that organization was you figure out where you’re meant to get involved by considering a few factors together—basically: your personality, your interests, your intuitions, and where you tend to get the best results.

I signed up to answer phones on Sunday mornings at 5am in this freezing little room somewhere deep in the belly of the organization’s headquarters.

Eventually, volunteering led to a fulltime job answering calls, letters, and emails, which I’d say fit my personality and interests well.

As for results, occasionally people would call or write back to let me know how certain advice, encouragement, or information I’d shared had been helpful.

I also felt like having a different perspective enabled me to cut waste and make the place run more efficiently in small, practical ways.

That job felt like a good fit for me overall.

My intuition, however, was that I was supposed get involved with the team that went out to bars and clubs on Saturday nights to strike up salesy conversations with strangers about the benefits of joining the organization.

It was just a niggling sense that never left, though the idea of persuading partiers by getting in their faces was about the polar opposite of my personality, my aspirations, and where I’d always gotten the best results.

I got so frustrated by my unrelenting intuition that I created a pseudonym and wrote letters to my own organization and others like it, asking for advice. One place was kind enough to mail me a free hardcover book within a week . . . something along the lines of: Find Your Calling in Ten Easy Steps.

On a handful of occasions, circumstances and my intuition somehow overwhelmed my apprehension, and I found myself out with the sales team. I quickly found I could no longer hide behind my computer to write by day from a safe distance to those already interested enough to have contacted the organization in the first place.

Out with the team, I had to pitch lines at some who got angry, some who didn’t care, some who felt sorry for me, and some who just enjoyed having someone to talk to (I mostly approached loners sitting by themselves).

I never understood my strange intuition to do something that felt so unnatural for me, though it never went away.

Even if we could know for sure our intuitions were valid, how certain could we ever be of our interpretations of them?

Fast-forward about ten years.

I can now honestly say I could spend most of my life sequestered in a room with a laptop tapping out stories. Going by that religious organization’s take, I’d say writing suits my personality and interests well. It also seems far easier for me to make headway in than other creative endeavors.

But what about my unlikely yet unyielding intuition to join the sales team?

As I’ve begun putting my addiction experience together to share, I think I’ve stumbled upon an answer to that question—an answer that might also make sense of why I’ve felt so strongly that going public has to be my first necessary step toward balance and control.

I wrote the following while high in 2013, at a time when I was just starting to think about sharing my story:

Of course everything in me would much rather just go smoke and relax instead of doing this new uncomfortable thing.

But I’d say going public is my prime intuition right now. It’s what I feel my goal should be.

But how could this even work?

It’s not like I expect friends to track me down if I don’t share about my progress for a week or something.

I just feel like going public, itself, will help me.

How?

Going public serves the same need or purpose as joining that religious organization’s sales team.

Going public makes me aware of who I am in an extroverted sense. It gives me specific, important reasons and motivation to take care of myself and develop—to stop avoiding being the person I see myself saying I want to be.”

Simply put, as I continue to live and prepare to share my addiction journey publically, I’m able to see myself and my own experience more from without—as seen by others.

Having a more extroverted perspective provides practical motivation for me to follow through on my own publically stated goals.

There’s a big difference between the artist that paints in her room without ever letting anyone see her work, and the one that stands by her early paintings at an art show. Yes, it’s difficult when the artist knows she hasn’t developed her art to its full potential yet; but if she doesn’t put herself out there while still developing, I don’t think she ever will.

Though going public is easier now than it’s ever been, the idea of sharing about real weaknesses and imperfections (such as addictions) is particularly uncomfortable, scary, and even countercultural.

Why?

Perfection seems to be the standard everywhere you look today.

All along those free avenues by which you could easily share and connect, you’re inundated by a relentless surge of reshuffled media—contrived, elaborate displays which third parties pay for you to have the chance to identify with (and hide behind) so you can project a more perfect life.

Your real experience feels crude and useless against an overwhelming sea of superficial shininess and hype that most seem proud to want to be a part of.

But do any of us really like perfection as much as we think we’re supposed to?

Perfection is the clichéd script that’s sculpted to get the biggest response from a focus group. It’s ironic how accurate a representation of society those focus groups really are, since they tend to respond (while being watched) the way they think they should . . . just like we’ve all gotten used to always doing.

So as you ponder how you might best be a person in this world, consider leaving produced displays of perfection back with the bigwigs seated around tables somewhere—those important decision makers who will probably always be scratching their heads, wondering why factors that limit risk no longer seem to predict value.

I love what’s real. I think people are more interesting than productions. I find our real, ugly, unsure, everyday human lives incredibly beautiful.

A few years ago, my wife was told by her doctor she was at risk of becoming diabetic if she didn’t make some major changes. Instead of locking herself up in a room with a “perfect” fad diet book or exercise program, she reluctantly signed up to walk a half marathon later that year with a running group from work.

Right away, she started connecting through social media with others who were on the same journey. She shared about her training, how she felt, her challenges, and her progress as she slowly added miles to her routes each week.

After completing her first half marathon, she continued to share about running, health, and related topics. This naturally led to many new friendships in time.

Today she regularly competes in events, her health is stellar, her attitude is bright and cheerful, and she’s always being told how her imperfect example really does encourage other real people who find themselves somewhere along her same path.

Question: Considering the momentum my wife has publically built up through the years, is she likely to suddenly quit anytime soon?

Now, before you dash off to haphazardly fling the depths of your afflicted soul out to be displayed on some website or social platform, I want to emphasize something important: Being ready to put yourself out there in an honest way is the result of a process that can’t be rushed.

It starts with recording (seeing) your real experience as it naturally plays out over time.

Capture your hopes, thoughts, and intuitions until you start to catch glimpses of the seemingly undeniable ways those driving forces all come together and connect to the everyday events of your life.

Seeing those connections gives you perspective, and that perspective is what you share when you’re ready.

Going public holds you accountable to your new perspective; but it’s the process of recording and seeing connections that changes your perspective in the first place.

I mentioned how I unknowingly isolated myself when I started using medical weed. Well, I first had to see why I was isolating myself and what that was keeping me from. Then I understood the importance of what I’d really been feeling all along—a strong desire to make friends and control my addiction.

Certain mindsets and patterns have to change before you can actually do what you already know you should. That “gap”—between knowing and doing—is really what this story is all about.

Maybe it’s in the gap that we learn to follow our niggling intuitions (whether we’ll ever truly understand them or not)…?

Tomorrow: how my addiction experience came full circle, and why that didn’t matter.

[]DAY 12 | Devil’s Lettuce—full circle

In the early days of my addiction, I’d often wait for my family to fall asleep before sneaking downstairs to smoke weed and watch TV.

I remember flipping through channels one night after a few covert tokes when I came across a movie that seemed interesting enough; but the notion of giving my “precious high time” over to something I wasn’t absolutely sure about felt far too risky.

I resolved instead to re-watch Arrested Development (AD). Just considering the denseness of the humor and in-jokes packed into every episode, AD seemed like something weed might enhance particularly well.

High people seem to love Easter eggs.

Anyway, that became my routine: Each night, I’d sneak a few puffs and watch AD.

When all three seasons were done, I dove into another show.

That pattern continued for most of 2011: I’d choose shows in advance to then binge-watch by night while high.

While making my way through that first season of AD, I ended up eating all these expensive diet ice creams my wife was saving in the freezer. It was kind of a waste since I wasn’t on a diet.

From then on, my wife was kind enough to pick me up boxes of mixed non-diet ice-creams for my secret nightly weed and TV time.

The next two years were punctuated by a slew of failed attempts at controlling what was fast becoming a solidly entrenched addiction.

In 2013, a new season of AD was released on Netflix. I was so excited. I planned to make that new season my final blowout—the last thing I’d binge-watch high before quitting weed until I could start using again later in a more balanced, controlled way.

It felt like the perfect way to end a season of my life—the same way it had begun.

I also happened to find an identical box of mixed non-diet ice creams in the freezer.

Here’s something I wrote back then (while high) about how I thought things would all come together:

I want to have going public as a new, positive activity I replace my addiction with.

It feels like I’m coming full circle—the end of my Devil’s Lettuce cycle. I’ll watch the new season of AD, go through this big box of ice creams, and then go public and start controlling my addiction.”

Though circumstances seemed ideal, my perfect plan failed in a very non-spectacular way. I simply smoked right through that new season of AD, and on into whatever show came next, just as I’d been doing.

No matter how perfect any of my plans for controlling addiction were, I never actually successfully stuck with any for very long. I always just ended up ignoring intuitions or whatever else might have threatened my continued compulsive weed use.

But I didn’t see that pattern of perpetual, non-epic failure until I started recording and preparing to share my experience. Then I couldn’t ignore it.

Have you ever made plans to change that failed? Did it matter how perfect the plans were?

Tomorrow: more on feeling addiction’s devastating effects, wishing for control, and yet failing all attempts to change.

After writing today’s chapter, I got high and wrote:

On the roadrunner cartoon, the coyote’s plans never worked. But he never really stuck with any of them.

He only tried each plan once.

Why?

Was it really the plan that failed?”

[]DAY 13 | That’s it

Several years ago, a good friend went through a devastating divorce. We’d meet up all the time to talk about it.

Despite the deep pain and bitterness he felt, my friend decided to refocus his life on the positive. He took advantage of every opportunity to better himself. He called it “changing the game.”

That became our tagline whenever we saw each other: “Change the game!”

As years passed, my friend’s heartache began to dim; but he stayed just as passionate and consistent with all the good activities he’d added to his life. He blogged every day. He went back to school. He was working out constantly.

Our conversations would sometimes shift from his divorce to my burgeoning weed addiction. He was always so encouraging. Being around him made me feel like it might actually be possible to . . . well, to change the game.

But I didn’t change the game. Instead, addiction seemed to weave its hooks ever deeper into my life and psyche. I became increasingly isolated, spending time with most friends less and less.

In 2013, I ran into that same friend again for the first time in over a year. I honestly felt like I was looking at the polar opposite of myself. I can only describe his vibe as hungry. There was a firm look of resolution in his eyes, and he had this peaceful calm about him. It was like seeing a powerful storm being held carefully in check. He looked light on his feet, enthusiastic, managerial…

So I went home, got high, and wrote:

That’s it. I’m done. I know I need to go public now. I see how messed up things are, and it’s probably so obvious.

I’m paranoid, out of control, and distant from all the people I care about.

That’s why going public…”

I kept writing, only to pencil out yet another foolish, fool-proof plan—another perfect how-to-change to throw on the pile with the rest.

When I’m concerned about myself, my natural response seems to be to make plans.

Though quite comforting to make, my plans have never actually worked to change me.

Here’s more of what I wrote that day (while high) after seeing my friend and realizing I’d failed to change the game:

What happened to me? It’s time to go back. Is it after tomorrow I go back?”

My plans always seem to start tomorrow (or soon after).

Tomorrow: a closer look at why those tomorrows never come.

When will you do what you most want to?

[]DAY 14 | “Final” blowout

It’s Wednesday.

I sign my kid in at preschool, and then stroll back to the parking lot with a big, goofy grin on my face.

Today’s the day I’m finally going to start writing my Facing Addiction story, so I won’t smoke again until . . . Friday?

As I enter my car, it hits me that Friday is three days away.

I know I can make it. I’ve done it before.

Glancing from side to side out of habit, I notice things like how far I am from other cars, the angles of nearby apartment windows, anyone on the sidewalk (and where they happen to be looking)…

All clear.

It really is a beautiful day. I know what would make it even better.

Wednesday’s probably not the best day to start something new, anyway, right? I should probably just smoke through what I have left, and then Monday can be my official day to get clean and start writing my story for sure.

Of course Monday would be better.

What difference could a few extra days really make?

I lift a dented can, lighter, and prescription bottle from a fancy black box that rests on my passenger seat like a silent friend. Bending low across the center divider, I spark up the lighter and slowly inhale, watching as rings of flame spiral through the green that covers a series of small holes poked in the seared aluminum.

I do the same at lunch.

It’s now night.

I tell everyone I’m heading off somewhere to write.

Instead, I sit hidden in my parked car again, smoking and half-listening to podcasts.

It’s Thursday morning.

I realize I don’t have enough left now to comfortably make it through the weekend.

Since I’ll have to get more, I might as well just quickly smoke the rest of what I have.

Covertly puffing away, I slowly drift along a network of little side streets toward work.

It’s lunch.

Desperate as I make my way to a dispensary, I hazily attempt to map out exactly what I’ll need for the weekend.

At the dispensary, I choose three edibles, a gram of a particular strain, and a pre-roll (joint) made from whatever strain seems most unlike the gram.

At the register, I dip into a roll of precious bills I’m saving for projects.

It’s okay. This will be my final blowout.

The weekend goes one of two ways: Either I burn through everything by Saturday night, meaning I’m ready to unroll another crisp bill from my savings come Sunday morning; or, I make it through Sunday night with a little left to spare.

Either way, it’s now Monday morning.

I dimly wonder why all my dreamy ideals about finally sharing my experience and beating addiction seem so foggy and far away.

I have a little left over from the weekend, but I’ll just hold on to it. After all, my goal is to learn to be in control, right?

It’s Monday night.

I should probably just finish off what I have so I won’t be tempted.

It’s Wednesday (or later).

Well, this week’s lost, but that’s okay. I’ll start for sure this coming Monday.

Better head to the dispensary to get ready for my final blowout weekend…

The week I just described was almost every week from early 2011 through much of 2014. That’s almost four years’ worth of “final” blowouts.

It’s funny how I honestly never stopped believing something would be different—I always expected myself to somehow follow through on my intentions when Monday came.

I once wrote this while high:

I’ll plan to hold on to some weed for a while, but it’s always gone in a couple days. Then comes another final blowout weekend to get ready for.

It’s almost like I use the idea of a final blowout to trick myself (on some level) into getting high even faster and harder than usual, telling myself it’s so I can stop sooner.”

Here’s another high thought about one of the many perfect opportunities I had to start controlling my addiction and go public with my experience:

This is a good position to be in. I have plenty of weed to last if I don’t blow through it all.

So when do I start going public?”

I was always looking for some sort of official start date to stop smoking and start sharing my story. It was a day I planned for often, but one that remained fixed forever in the not-too-distant future.

Eventually, I started to wonder if it might be better to forget about official dates, and just start sharing my experience while still getting high compulsively.

Here’s what I wrote (while high) when that idea first occurred to me:

When I go public, I might not have to make plans to stop getting high right away.

I feel like I should just start putting my story together and see what happens—to publically state my intentions and start, and then let getting high or not getting high basically take care of itself.”

Much of this story is about how that particular notion has played out.

Are addictions something you can ever get out of your system by binging?

Tomorrow: how much several years’ worth of final blowouts actually cost.

[]DAY 15 | Cost

I had the coolest little bender back in the summer of 2009 when a friend gave me a clump of weed wedged into the corner of a tiny plastic baggie.

I’d hardly been smoking at all at the time, only every now and then with this band I was half part of.

The weed clump (probably about a gram) ended up lasting all that summer. I still have fond memories of just the sheer silliness and innocence of that time.

Later, during the steady peek of my addiction, I’d easily burn through a gram in an afternoon.

By early 2011, I’d put aside $300 in cash to cover my prescription and a starter stash.

My appointment with the medical marijuana doctor was set for February 4th. I remember staying up almost all night on the 3rd researching dispensaries.

The appointment and prescription cost $70.

The doctor also sold me a nice vaporizer for another $70.

Later that day, I had my first dispensary experience. I’ll share in detail somewhere else what it felt like as I gradually made my way passed a series of guards, intercoms, and bolted doors, following a familiar smell to a room filled with more weed than I’d ever imagined.

At the dispensary, I spent about $150 on two eighths, some pre-rolled joints, a canister of THC pills, and a marijuana chocolate bar.

I was psyched about the pills. The bar ended up being incredible. I’d never had edibles or vaporized before.

I was out of weed by June, so I bought couple more grams and another chocolate bar.

Then I started getting high every day for stretches of weeks and months.

In true addict form, I wanted to keep how much I was using (and spending) a secret; so I dipped into a college grant I hadn’t really needed yet. I figured a little off the top wouldn’t hurt.

Then a little more…

A little more…

An eighth of weed here, a quarter there…

The entire grant was gone within a year and a half.

Whenever I spent massive amounts of money on weed, I’d always tell myself, “It’s okay. This is the last time. After this, I know I’ll be keeping how much I use under control, so of course money won’t be a problem.”

I had plans stacked on plans for how I was always just about to start getting high way less. I guess now I see how much those plans were really worth.

In early 2013, I took my first hard look at how much I was actually spending on weed.

I wrote this (while high):

It looks like I’ve spent about $3,000 in the last twenty-seven months, plus a whole bunch of other money I haven’t even accounted for—the initial $300, plus every cent I’ve ever withdrawn, received, or found anywhere since.

I need some sort of weed budget.

I’m burning through precious resources that are supposed to be for my dreams.

STOP!

Remember to read this if I’m addicted.”

I find it almost hilarious that I wrote “if I’m addicted”; I was kidding myself to think I had any semblance of control at all by that point.

In fact, here’s another high thought I wrote a few weeks later:

I’m completely out of control.

It scares me to think of the huge amounts I keep spending on weed.”

Weeks and months of addictive use all melded together into one perpetual final blowout.

Woven all through my series of failed attempts at control were specific promises I’d make to myself, then break, and then restate in new ways as if the new words would have any more restraining power than those I’d just ignored.

Here’s an example of something I wrote (while high) about a certain $20 bill I was about to take to a dispensary:

I’ll have $8 left after I spend $12 right now. Then I’ll stop for a month and use the $8 for an edible.

It’ll be so good because…”

You can probably guess how long that $20 lasted.

But I’m happy to say it’s not all bad news.

Here’s a more positive story (written while high) from sometime in mid-2014:

Two weeks ago, I went to my new favorite dispensary and bought two grams. I’m not halfway through them yet.

If I keep going at the rate I’m going now, I’ll only be spending $20 or $30 a month on weed.

Last year, I was spending at least $75 a month (and that’s conservative).

I want to keep making progress like this and use even less than I am now.

Since I started working on this story, I’ve been getting high less and less. Just the actions involved in moving toward going public with my experience have, themselves, empowered me to use a lot less often than I was.

The more control I gain over my addiction, the less money I spend on it.

But saving money alone has never been enough of a motivation for me to force myself to cut back.

I know I’m not where I want to be yet; but it’s encouraging to see, even in these early stages of finding balance, that the progress I’ve made so far has been totally natural and unforced.”

Again, money and other motivations for controlling my addiction haven’t been enough to keep me from getting high at times I’ve told myself I shouldn’t. That’s why it’s especially encouraging to see myself taking natural steps toward balance as I prepare to go public with my story.

Do you spend more than you’d like to on your addiction?

Could you trust yourself with money (say, if you were given a large amount)? How?

Tomorrow: stuck in what feels like an impossibly wide chasm between knowing what to do and actually doing it.

[]DAY 16 | When will I start? #1 (good questions collecting dust)

Do you ever ask yourself questions?

Here are some good questions to maybe throw your own way every now and then:

“What would I do with most of my time if I had no restrictions or responsibilities?”

“Do I know what that person really meant, or am I just assuming?”

“Why should I trust the thought I just had?”

“When, exactly, did I break?”

Too many self-questions can paralyze you in a state where you’re so afraid of making wrong choices that you never actually make or stick with any.

As with using words in general, there seems to come a point when more self-questions or pieces of advice ironically prove less meaningful or impactful.

There’s no shortage of peppy little books to buy, all beautifully designed and jammed with contrived mantras. But do you really think the best way to get to the bottom of your true state is by trudging through someone else’s fluffy words, just hoping for the right line or two to jump out at you and stick?

In my experience, the wider the gap between honest and intentional—between real and contrived—the more you unconsciously teach yourself to stop paying attention.

Surrounding yourself with motivational noise makes you feel good for “trying to change.” Taking an unfiltered look at your real life and issues over time is incredibly uncomfortable; but that’s what forces you to actually change.

Others’ thoughts serve best only to frame, confirm, or ignite your own.

I’ll put it this way: If you’re reading or hearing this instead of getting ready to face your limitations by going public with your experience, please stop reading now.

I can’t change for you. No one can.

By contrast, the right self-questions—those honest ones only you would know to ask—can stick unnoticed in the back of your mind where they quietly collect the dust of thoughts and feelings as seasons pass.

In time, the dust clumps and hardens to form answers that cut to the very heart of your being. That’s when what you truly want becomes impossible to ignore.

One Wednesday afternoon back in early 2014, I sat down with some weed, paper, and a pencil. For probably the first time since my addiction took hold, I simply lit up and waited in peace and silence for whatever would come next.

The result? I was forced to stare myself in the face and demand answers to some of my own toughest self-questions, such as:

“When will I start controlling my addiction? Why haven’t I yet?”

“When will I go public with my experience?”

Here are the relevant pieces of what I wrote that day as I sat, high and alone, in my car:

This is the kind of final high I would have always wanted.

It’s so relaxing just sitting here, writing whatever. There’s no pressure. It’s so different from how I usually feel the need to be constantly entertained while high.

Could this be the last time?

Could I quit tomorrow if I chose to?

I think when you go public with your experience, what you want to do won’t let you go on not doing it for long. You see your real convictions ready to be shared, which makes it impossible to just keep putting them off indefinitely.

The clearer my intentions become, the more compelled by them I get, and the less able I am to comfortably let more time keep slipping by.

But what will be my breaking point? Do I need one?

Do I need to hit rock bottom before I can change?

Also, what could undo over twenty years’ worth of perceived ineptitude and regret for not making the progress I feel I should have made?

I think I believe the intuitions I write down; but if I really believed, wouldn’t I just keep going after what I say I want with everything I have until it becomes my reality?

I think of all the perfect plans I’ve made and then not kept to…

It could be that I do believe my intuitions, but just not in myself to follow them.

So, should I simply try again with sheer willpower to quit weed tomorrow?

Why should I believe I’ll actually stay consistent this time, whenever I do decide to quit?

I’ve never been able to successfully quit for long. That’s my reality.

Going public with my experience sort of feels like being forced to put all my own life hypotheses to the test. That’s quite a daunting weight to carry, especially compared to just thinking and planning.

But that’s the thing: My primary intuition (my main hypothesis) right now is that I just need to focus on going public.

Even though all I’ve done so far is record my experience and begin putting it together to share, my hypothesis is that that’s actually enough.

I feel progress—like the change I want to see is already taking place beneath the surface.

As I prepare to share, what I see as ineptitude in myself gets swept up into a grander, more transcendent process.

Even with all my failures and lack of self-confidence, just doing this (right now) really feels like it’s all I need to be doing.

It’s like one of my favorite songs, All Will Be Well, by The Gabe Dixon Band, where the chorus goes: ‘All will be well, even after all the promises you’ve broken to yourself. All will be well. You can ask me how but only time will tell.’

But going public with my experience is only really enough—all will really only be well—if I actually end up in control of my addiction as a result.

I mean, don’t I have to somehow DO whatever my part is (beyond just getting my story ready to share)?

How can I believe in myself to do whatever my part is, since I’ve never been able to follow my convictions before?

When will I start?

I’m out of money, burning through precious final resources, and damaging relationships.

I feel like I’m wasting potential.

When will I start?

Do I need an actual date?

Well, today’s Wednesday. I was going to smoke tomorrow morning…”

I see the high thoughts I just shared as sort of a snapshot of the winding components of what’s really a single question:

“When and how will I actually change, since I feel like I’ve failed at very attempt in the past?”

No one else could really ask me that.

Much of this story is just years’ worth of the accumulated dust of answers to such self-questions.

When will you start? Maybe you already have and don’t know it.

Tomorrow: A few days after recording today’s high thoughts, I had an incredible experience that never would have happened if I hadn’t first gotten high in my car and silently shouted my own toughest questions at myself on a random Wednesday afternoon.

It was also an experience that never would have happened if I’d kept to any of my previous convictions about “starting tomorrow.”

[]DAY 17 | When will I start? #2 (slicing off your bottom lip)

A few days after recording the high thoughts I shared yesterday, I picked up some hash from a local dispensary. Hash is basically just a stronger, more concentrated form of marijuana. It’s put through a process that makes it resemble little globs of dough.

The hash I bought that day was the best, most powerful I’d ever had. It was also an impulse buy, probably on a day I’d told myself not to use (since most days were).

I didn’t have my fancy black box of weed paraphernalia with me, so I stopped off at a gas station to grab some essentials: a lighter and massive can of lemonade.

I’ll never forget frantically chugging that big lemonade can as I swerved through traffic trying to scope out a quiet spot to stop and covertly smoke.

I came to an empty lot behind some office buildings, and pulled up under a few leafy trees. Then I stabbed the lemonade can with a pen to fashion myself a crude pipe.

I took this pic just before I smoked (I must have bought an edible and joint as well, since you can see them in the background):

After a zany smoking session (and probably eating the edible), I went for a walk with the same pencil and pad of paper I mentioned yesterday. I was excited about the idea of just capturing more thoughts while high.

As well as a few key insights on my struggles with addiction, I ended up writing down several crucial ideas for another story I’m working on—ideas that essentially brought the whole plot together.

Basically, I became a walking contradiction: My conscience was bothered because I was high on yet another day I’d told myself not to be; but the high itself seemed to be providing important missing pieces to my own inner puzzles.

And I was really high…

I mean, some of what I wrote that day reads like bizarre nonsense riddles, though it probably made perfect sense to me at the time.

For example, one of the first things I wrote was:

I’d planned to stop. These are ideas from the last night. They came from hash from a makeshift can.

“[_ This is a final revelation. For I’s eyes -_-” _]

I’m sure “I’s eyes” sounded pretty clever to me at the time; but that session was certainly not my “last night” of weed use. Neither were the ideas I jotted any kind of “final revelation” . . . at least not that I can tell.

As usual, I was somehow thoroughly convinced I’d never use compulsively again after that—that I’d sober up and find myself suddenly able to obey the full weight of my conscience for the first time.

Ironically, the next thing I wrote was:

Forcing myself to change has never worked.

Wisdom is revealed by her children. What wisdom would be needed, then, to result in balance and control?

I don’t know.

I don’t know how to do what I believe I should.

Well, here’s a foolproof method to quit smoking: Slice off your bottom lip.”

Now, that’s NOT advice (kids, don’t try this at home).

My point was just that quitting weed must technically be possible, since I could always resort to cutting off my lip if I simply had to keep myself from smoking.

As for “wisdom is revealed by her children,” I take that to mean you can only know whether an action or idea was wise by examining its results.

I mentioned yesterday that the comforting notion of all my past failures being woven into some grander, more transcendent process only ends up being true if that process results in me actually being in control of my addiction.

Here’s more of what I wrote that day (while walking high on hash):

The most essential highs could be those I told myself not to have.

If I’d stuck to any of my plans not to use, imagine all the high ideas and experiences I might have missed.

Would I have missed them, though?

Maybe it all would have come about some other way, I don’t know.

I know making plans to limit my weed use has never been effective.

The answer can’t be to try and change myself into something else.

But…

Okay, imagine you’re a young person that uses some substance because you like to have fun (or for another reason). Then you see yourself taking it too far. You feel like you’re losing control of your life. You admit to yourself and others you’re addicted…

But you didn’t start out as addict. You started out as someone using something for a particular reason.

No matter why you started using, you didn’t start using as an addict.

Forever taking on the identity of the addict you became would probably be better than always losing control to addiction.

But what if balance and control were possible?

In 12-step groups, you first admit you’re powerless to change—that you need the help of a higher power; then you trust that higher power, begin making amends and things…

The basic understanding is you’ll never be able to control yourself when it comes to using what you’ve been addicted to.

And that’s actually true just as a description of the way addictions play out: Unhindered addictions will naturally progress to take everything else from your life until they become your whole life.

I’m just not sure I agree with the 12-steps’ interpretation of what seems to be an accurate description.

Notice how the end result with addiction is the reverse of how it starts: Instead of you using a substance for fun (or whatever reason), the substance ends up using you for its fun.

But you don’t want that.

In 12-steps, members are accountable to each other to work the steps.

I believe going public with your experience harnesses the same power of accountability for motivation; but the accountability comes from being forced to see your life and intentions from the outside.

In essence, you become accountable to yourself when you go public . . . not so much to those you’re actually sharing with.

Yet here’s where my different interpretation of addiction’s destructive tendencies comes into play: If the goal can be control or balance, then instead of a group that keeps each other accountable to not use (because addiction is so dangerous and naturally all-consuming), what if we kept each other accountable TO use, but to use without compulsion?

Imagine a support system where we encourage each other to work, to save, and to follow our dreams so we can make the experience of using whatever we’ve been addicted to the best it can possibly be (instead of something shameful, unsustainable, and unfulfilling)?

It’s funny, but I don’t think anyone needs to create a world where that kind of support system is possible.

I don’t think there needs to be a new organization or club or anything.

We already live in a world where anyone can go public with their experience in whichever ways best suit their personality, desires, abilities, passions, etc.

I think it would be easy and would require no infrastructure to create a culture where we all share our real experience to hold ourselves accountable to the lives we truly want.”

I don’t want to start some new organization or whatever—meetings, borrowing for overhead, conferences, advertising…

The ideas I’m sharing are really quite simple and free for all to make the most of in whichever ways work best for each individual.

Just share your real experience however is most natural for you, and others like you will connect.

How did you find this story?

Well…

So, that was my zany hash day. I felt ashamed and discouraged going in, but by the end I was smiling. The experience felt irreplaceably valuable.

Tomorrow: Either sharing your experience really can hold you accountable to the life you want most, or this is all just one big lie I’ve been trying to convince myself of for years so my addiction can prolong its own existence through me.

We’ll see : )

[]DAY 18 | Another movement

I mentioned my time working at the giant religious organization.

Well, the leader and founder of that organization is about as charismatic and intimidating as they come. He speaks to thousands each week at the headquarters, and then to literally millions worldwide through TV and webcasts.

In person, that leader comes across as extremely genuine and down-to-earth. It’s obvious he cares a lot about people.

It’s hard not to respect someone like that—someone many consider important, yet who always gives so freely of himself.

That leader has now been a public figure for decades. He very deeply understands the power of his reputation, often mentioning the value of a good name in his talks. If he were ever caught doing something he speaks against, there’s no telling how many lives, careers, and investments would be negatively impacted.

But I don’t think his reputation is his primary motivation for staying integrous. Rather, I believe he is empowered by a particular dynamic that goes into effect whenever honest perspective and experience are shared publically over time.

You might not have millions watching and ready to hold you accountable to whatever you say. Yes, you feel responsible to certain individuals and groups, such as leaders, companies, dependents, higher powers…

You want to do right by those you love and respect; but your reputation and responsibilities really only influence your behavior about as much as a fear of getting caught. Such forces seem too indirect and too easy to negotiate with, put off, or ignore, especially when you don’t see the behavior you want to change directly affecting anyone but you.

To put that in perspective: I was pretty much high all the time while working for that religious organization. I felt bad for doing something I’d be ashamed of if everyone knew; but I just didn’t see my weed use directly hindering anyone there.

I was never confronted or warned. I never hit rock bottom. I could function well at work and get by.

Besides, I was always somehow convinced I was just about to quit weed, anyway.

Here’s something I once wrote while high:

Thought leaders are motivated to maintain their integrity by the fact that they’re sharing their thoughts.

But there seems to be a disconnect for anyone trying to maintain integrity for the sake of those leaders or anyone else.

Going public with your real experience enables you to tap into the same type (or source) of accountability thought leaders have—the same motivation for maintaining integrity.

It’s not accountability to others, but to yourself, and to what you see and hear yourself publically saying you want and believe.”

Millions of followers might never withdraw support from me if I smoke weed on a day I’ve said I don’t want to. But going public isn’t really about the power of reputation.

Going public draws the logic and reasoning behind your convictions out from the shifting, elusive space of your conscious mind. It makes everything about who you are and what you want more and more obvious to you in time, forcing you to see your life as objectively as possible.

I’ll close with an opinion about organizations like the one I once worked for. This is just a trend, maybe, that’s gone on over the last decade and a half or so:

In an interview with Larry King, Pastor Joel Osteen from Houston, TX, said, “How can we be moving our church into a basketball arena that seats 16,000 people? I mean, people are hungry for hope and encouragement . . . you look back 10 years ago, there was, you know, not that many churches that had over 1,000 or 5,000 people. It’s a different day today.”

It seems as though the organizations and movements that are naturally growing and thriving today are those where the focus is outward—on equipping attendees to go out and pursue their best lives as secure individuals in society.

Other, similar organizations with a more inward-driven focus—on drawing people in and teaching them to be responsible to the leader and to the goals of the organization—are fighting to build forced relevance on credit the way businesses had to a couple decades ago.

That trend could illustrate what I’m saying here: that being responsible to someone else might seem like a good enough motivation; but having your passion ignited to reach your individual potential becomes an inescapable force.

I’m certainly not trying to start yet another organization or movement. I’m not telling you to start one either. That would seem wasteful and unnecessary these days, no?

Tomorrow: being ready to find your path to destiny.

P.S. I later got high, read through what I’d written here, and wrote:

I mentioned how preparing to share my experience made me aware of an ever-widening gap of inactivity—a gap between realizing how much I wanted to change and actually changing.

Sadly, a gap like that can stretch as far as you let it. The only way to bridge such a gap is for your perspective to change.

But no rush. Going public isn’t any kind of snap-out plan. It’s not something to jump into like an artificial list of steps to follow.

It’s really more about the power of simply becoming your best self publically, which seems to be a more seasonal, sequential process.

It comes about as naturally as a brewing storm.

Stages in the process bring themselves into being on their own, when their time is right.

Just keep recording and connecting your intuitions, convictions, plans, motivations…

See each aspect of your own life and heart as many times as you need to, and for as long as it takes.

Now, I’ve been preparing to go public for at least two years. That’s after probably another two of realizing I should.

There are no ‘Five Quick Steps to Going Public’ or anything like that.

It’s all about your story as it feeds perpetually back into itself, eventually changing your perspective as your unique path to becoming who you want to be sparks itself together from pieces of everything you are, as well as all you learn and go through.

In exactly the place where my plans to change have failed, I now find myself moving farther and faster than I could have ever imagined or engineered.”

[]DAY 19 | When you’re ready #1 (unbearable feelings)

In the Arrested Development episode, Señoritis, Maeby Fünke repeats her senior year of high school several times in a failed attempt at getting her self-absorbed parents’ attention.

We see Maeby having deep regrets about her life choices when two guys she hasn’t seen in years start explaining their new ventures to her.

Maeby seems lost or dazed as her geeky cousin describes his antipiracy software. The narrator comments: “Maeby tried to hide her jealousy. But as she listened to her cousin discuss computer technology she had no understanding of, she lost that feeling of superiority. And her self-esteem plummeted as she started to question the entirety of what she had done with her life for the last several years.”

Later, as an old colleague shares with Maeby about his new business, we hear the narrator say, “And once again she found herself with someone who had not only moved on with their life, but done so in ways she couldn’t understand.”

I mentioned running into an old friend who had effectively “changed the game,” turning his life around from devastation to success in the face of bitter disappointment and heartache. When I saw him, I was struck by his focused, hungry demeanor.

But I never changed the game. Like Maeby, I only got older and more down on myself for having wasted so much time.

I often have this fantasy of being three or four years old again, but with my current understanding and memories, and dedicating my whole life to mastering some cool art form (like music).

The feeling of having wasted my most precious years—of missing important opportunities instead of reaching latent potential—has loomed often in the last decade or so.

I once wrote this (while high) about such unbearable feelings:

My fear is that I’ll never accomplish anything. It’s a fear of being frozen forever in inability and wasted potential.

It reminds me of these lyrics from The Unforgiven by Metallica: ‘What I’ve felt, what I’ve known, never shined through in what I’ve shown. Never be, never see, won’t see what might have been…’

I feel like I’ve somehow lost the ability to do what I most want to.

It’s a feeling like lost innocence, or a lost sense of adventure—of being unable to really live in the moment, or to imagine as freely, anymore.”

Seven year-olds can play with toys and make worlds of fun on the edges of their beds after school. They don’t really have to try.

How about a sixteen year-old?

Adolescents seem to emulate a tense, imbalanced mix of the two worlds they’re caught between. I think it’s all supposed to reconfigure and settle properly by adulthood . . . ideally.

Is there something seven year-olds have that eventually gets lost?

When I was twenty-two, I fell in love with this girl who lived far away. We messaged and emailed constantly, talking on the phone almost every week.

It’s funny how easy it can be to construct a perfect relationship from across the world. I ended up quitting my job, pawning everything I owned, and moving to where she was, thinking I was being romantic.

We were quickly forced to face the fact that we weren’t actually the people we’d made ourselves out to be. Yet being as immature as we were, our primary focus was on maintaining the illusion at all costs. Pressing the situation, we started to circle the idea of getting married as a solution to the mounting, unspoken tension.

A month later, she was gone. I was broke and stuck living alone in a strange new place.

That was over ten years ago now. Looking back, I’m so glad we didn’t push the situation far enough to force a marriage. That would have been the most immature reaction possible to the chaos of being unwilling to see our fantasies so coldly struck down by reality. Getting married would have been like doubling down into the roles we were still determined must be the right and only ones to play.

How does that story tie to lost innocence, unbearable feelings, controlling addiction, and going public with experience?

I guess I see now, for the first time, how all the years I spent beating myself up for wasting time weren’t really wasted at all. I see that in the same way I now see I wasn’t ready to get married at twenty-two.

When I was seven, the world was endless. My biggest dream was to be able to fly. In fact, I’d walk around wishing it so hard people probably thought I was communicating with the voices in my head or something (maybe…).

Then I grew up and did drugs, sensing something of an old freedom in the way they served to stimulate, slow, and re-open my mind.

But regardless of my state (high, drunk, asleep…), my mind has always continued to do what it’s really always done, and what it’s doing right now. I’ve never stopped thinking the way I think.

Recording my experience to share has made me more and more aware of the part of me that doesn’t change. There’s a definite, fixed sense of identity as I see the way my thoughts all connect to float upon a lifelong current of the same daydream pictures, showing me all those simple things I’ve really always wanted and why.

I’m so glad I never stopped recording my high thoughts and experiences along with all the rest. Maybe weed helps me appreciate my thoughts the same way it helps me appreciate music, food, or whatever else it might enhance.

Here are some related thoughts I once had while high:

I’m so glad I never made it before now. I wouldn’t have been ready.

You can’t ever be hard on yourself. You have to believe it all works together.”

I don’t think you ever need to beat yourself up, even if you feel like you’re wasting potential. It’s a beautiful thing to see your worst mistakes, tragedies, loss, and regrets all somehow woven into a far bigger, richer picture or story.

Another high thought:

When you’re ready, finding the path to your dreams is as natural as a child learning to walk.”

And really, you are ready. You’ve always been ready.

Not only that, but you’ve already started.

Do you beat yourself up for wasting time? Did you when you were seven?

Tomorrow: more on seeing your life as a whole.

[]DAY 20 | When you’re ready #2 (integration potential)

The philosopher, Des Carte, wanted to find if there was anything that could be known for certain.

We believe our experience shows us what’s actually real, but can we ever be sure? Couldn’t our thoughts and perceptions really be the intended result of some elaborate, cosmic trick?

It seems like countless explanations could account for our experience; yet for the experiencing itself—the perceiving, thinking, questioning—to not exist at all makes no sense.

Is this sentence not a question?

If experience must exist in some way, it would follow that there must at least be a reality.

How could absolutely nothing exist if this question exists?

Des Carte would say the certainty of experience proves that we too must exist in some way: “I think, therefore I am.”

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about why all my wasted years might really not have been so wasted after all. Recording and putting my experience together to share has shown me the part of my mind that’s always continued on in every state.

Now, my addictive behaviors didn’t vanish right away when I started putting my experience together to share; but my perspective did begin to shift and widen. I’ve since gained a far clearer sense of myself, and of the person I want to become.

On that note: I’m supposed to be writing about controlling addiction, right? Instead, I’ve been going on about relationships, feelings, identity, dreams, writing, philosophy, and so many other concepts besides just my simple desire to escape the awful consequences of compulsive weed use.

But I don’t think our lives can ever be compartmentalized in reality. We can momentarily consider individual aspects while looking either forward or back. We can examine each of our values and behaviors individually; but what we are is a uniquely integrated series of combinations playing out in time.

What we are ties physical experience to reason, self-esteem to opportunities, desires to limitations, memories (or art) to a sense of self, and so many other shifting worlds which all crash together, gel, split, and evolve (or devolve) simultaneously.

Seeing how life’s many parts integrate can be extremely helpful and beautiful. It also makes trying to sell any kind of valid one-size-fits-all solution impossible.

Or, it should.

I once wrote this while high and having a conversation with my wife:

Life has many parts. Either every part moves forward together, or one will hold the rest back.”

I wrote this another time (also while high):

Be aware of all your WHYs and which parts of your life they touch.

All I really want is to fully apply myself. I see that I can only reach my potential when addictions are controlled.

For me, a big part of reaching potential has to do with writing, but we all have potential to reach.

We all deal with limiting and addictive behaviors that hinder us from being our best selves.”

I have many reasons (or “WHYs”) for wanting to control addiction. I’d like to improve my relationships, and to be more effective at pursuing goals.

I only have one life to live, and I want to be the most efficient, dynamic me that I can be for the rest of it. I always hope to be moving closer to that ideal, even as the ideal itself shifts and expands with me.

As I record and share my experience, it becomes increasingly impossible to ignore exactly how my addictions and compulsions hold me back from being the person I want to be.

What are your reasons?

Also, what does the thing you’re currently addicted to give you? Do you experience more of that benefit if you do whatever it is in a non-addictive way—only when you choose to, and not compulsively?

If addiction is doing what you tell yourself not to, you’d surely get more from the experience if you could wait until you knew you should have it, no?

Is that a common balance to strive for regardless of the substance, chemical, or activity? Less is more, right?

Thinking along Des Carte’s lines: I can’t imagine a non-reality in which the questioning or perceiving that we come to take our identity from still occurs somehow.

If such a reality can’t be comprehended (and I see no reason to believe in it), wouldn’t it be safe to assume that your experience is something you can be more certain of than anything else?

What is your real experience . . . who are you?

Whatever you want to do or be, I encourage you: Record and then go public with your experience when you’re ready. Then, as you grow, whatever holds you back must either die off or evolve with every other combined part of you.

When that happens, it’s like seeing every aspect of the life you want ganging up on every hindering, limiting force.

Your addictions and compulsions don’t stand a chance.

Tomorrow: cutting through your conscious fog.

[]DAY 21 | What we tell ourselves #1 (intuition or indulgence)

I mentioned the time I frantically smoked hash through a makeshift pipe (a giant lemonade can stabbed with a pen). Well, two days later, I finally sat down at my laptop to start working on my Facing Addiction story.

All my plans for how I’d go public with my experience immediately went out the window.

I had folders and documents stuffed with rough bits and pieces spanning about four solid years’ worth of compulsive weed use. Scattered throughout were my thoughts specifically about addiction. My plan was to read through what I’d recorded every now and then, but basically just to write my story from scratch—to share whatever came to mind whenever I’d sit down to write.

I mean, that’s how people write, right?

So I clicked to open a new document, and just started typing…

It felt weird right away. I spent about an hour wrestling with wording for an intro story about meeting this girl at a dance party years ago.

After that, I clumsily sputtered through what ended up being a crude outline of my relationship with weed so far. I wrote that:

*I’m an addict who wants to find balance so I can keep using weed for the things it helps me with.

*I’ve felt the need for balance and control ever since I got my prescription back in 2011.

*Weed seems to help me find ideas, but then it steals the time and focused brainpower I’d need to develop those ideas.

*Addiction keeps me isolated and broke.

*I’ve tried to quit many times and failed.

*I need to find a new way to relax without weed.

*Going public with my experience feels like an important first step in learning to control my addiction.

*If my quest for balance fails, I’ll admit my need for help.

It took hours, and I felt like I was only circling around everything I wanted to say.

You could probably sit down right now and come up with a quick list of good reasons for every change you want to make in life; but how complete (or honest) would such a list really be?

Have you ever made lists like that before? Did they work to change you in the long run?

Anyway, I finished writing and promptly got high. As I began to slowly read back over what I’d written, I realized something important right away: Just typing whatever came to mind and hoping for the best would never result in my real addiction experience being properly captured and shared.

Instead of balance and control, I’d have only ended up more entrenched in hindering thought-patterns and habits.

Why?

Well, here are some of the high thoughts I wrote down that night while reading through my first attempt at sharing my experience:

“Trying hard to write something cool that I hope will capture my thoughts feels like the wrong direction for me to go with this.

“Instead, I just want to let my growing collection of recorded experiences and intuitions connect however they connect to basically show themselves.

“But do I really want to spend this time thinking and attaching ideas instead of just writing and sharing freely?

“It’s simpler than that, though, right?

“I’m missing something…?

“Writing the way I wrote tonight felt far too self-indulgent.

“I’ve already been capturing my real experience; now I just want to show it as simply as possible.

“I don’t want to explain my intentions or philosophies. I hope the pieces I collect can speak for themselves to paint an accurate picture. I feel like my part should only be to tie them together as little as needed.

“Let that always be my philosophy: as little as needed.”

The next night, I re-wrote what became DAY 1 by simply connecting a few recorded experiences and intuitions together.

But what does any of this have to do with actually facing addiction?

What I’m talking about today is the experience you go public with in order to face, control, and overcome your limitations and addictions.

I wouldn’t have realized how dishonest I was being if I hadn’t seen my own words as if through someone else’s eyes. That’s part of the magic of going public: You’re forced to see yourself more objectively.

Going public robs you of the ability to easily lie to yourself about your own state—something addiction both results from and causes, always.

Here are more of my high thoughts from that night:

“Self-indulgence weakens the power of your unconscious intuitions, ideas, and desires to naturally connect and bring themselves to life through you.

“Being self-indulgent puts you in your own way. You end up interpreting your experience through the filter of the very limitations you wish to overcome—seeing your life through the perspective you wish to change.”

Basically, sharing self-indulgently could sabotage the whole process of going public with your experience to face and overcome what holds you back.

What do I mean by self-indulgence? How does sharing self-indulgently differ from the type of sharing I’ve been encouraging?

My high thoughts from that night continue:

“Trying to explain exactly what I’m going through off the top of my head is what I mean by self-indulgence.

“Going public is powerful because the experience you share touches and connects various pieces of what’s currently unconscious and intuitive, gradually bringing those deeper truths to light.

“Going public turns your life into something like the creation of an artwork.

“Think of self-indulgent sharing as sharing in an overly intentional way—asking yourself specific questions, and then trying to run with what you think the answers should be.

“The type of experience I’m encouraging you to share is more like a connected sequence of what naturally occurs (or stands out) to you over time.

“Sure, ; but then let them sit. Notice things like how often you ask the same questions.

“The more connected recurring themes you see, the better.

“Of course there’s a balance; you’d miss out on living if you spent forever trying to fill in and connect every detail of your life.”

My Facing Addiction story is simply a collection of linked, progressive hunches or daydreams about life, identity, values…

Unconscious intuitions naturally connect and simplify in time, reducing and cancelling out needless fluff like terms in an equation. Conscious attempts to explain, on the other hand, can forever complicate the equation, keeping you from seeing what you already know deep down.

A marriage counselor might spend months helping a couple reach an eight-second conclusion about what’s really going on behind all the practiced noise and drama. It will be an answer both find they really already knew, yet one that neither had let themselves see for various reasons.

Sharing your real experience should cut through self-indulgent patterns and limitations just like effective counseling. Otherwise, it’s attempting to climb quicksand steps, or to lift yourself up by the seat of your own pants.

Cutting through the noise between your thoughts and intentions so you can see your life more objectively is the first step toward maturity and real change; but addictions and personal limitations are especially stubborn and tricky in that regard. That’s why tomorrow we’ll take a much closer look at the relationship between the lies we tend to tell ourselves and our addictions and limitations, citing several examples from Psychology.

[]DAY 22 | What we tell ourselves #2 (which came first: the thought or the feeling?)

I remember my mom driving me to school one morning when I was about sixteen. She asked if I’d unplugged the CD player in my room, saying she was worried it might start a fire.

I got all uppity and yelled, “That’s so stupid!”

She started to softly cry.

Neither of us said anything else for the rest of the car ride.

Later that morning in study hall, I couldn’t pay attention to whatever I was working on. I felt like my thoughts were caught like bubbles beneath dark, frozen waters of bleak emotion. Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to “think my way out” of the deep regret I felt for hurting my mom.

I jotted something down that day about how my thoughts always seemed trapped within my emotional state, and that there was nothing I could do (thinking-wise) to change my state or how I felt.

Behavioral psychology researchers, Flora and Kestner, claim your thoughts can’t change your state because they’re caused by your state, for otherwise “the cause [would be] inside the system, [and] what caused the cause to arise must [then] be explained.”

Flora and Kestner highlight what they see as a directional, cause-and-effect relationship between feelings and thoughts with this analogy: “To conclude that cognitions [thoughts] cause depression is analogous to asserting that delusions cause schizophrenia.”

Yet others have concluded that it is indeed possible to change your emotional state by intentionally changing your thoughts.

For example, Author and chronic disease specialist Catherine Feste’s personal empowerment program was tested at the University Of Michigan School Of Medicine, and was found to have clinically significant outcomes in a diabetes population.

Of the methodology behind her program, Feste states, “If you wish to change a feeling, see what happens when you change your thoughts.”

So, what does all this have to do with facing addiction?

I shared yesterday how my addicted state skews my conscious thoughts, limiting my perspective. Something I take in from the outside (weed) has overridden my mind. Its goal is to ensure I keep taking in more of it.

Where I once used for my own reasons, my addiction is now effectively using me for its.

If my thoughts are skewed by my addicted state, could my thoughts ever be used to change my state?

I believe the key to answering that question lies in understanding an important difference between conscious and unconscious thoughts.

Conscious explanations and interpretations are prone to self-indulgence and dishonesty. That’s because the state you’re in tends to affect what you tell yourself about it.

Much of therapy or counseling involves unraveling unhelpful conscious thought patterns to reach unconscious knowledge buried beneath.

We each deceive ourselves about our state in unique ways, though these can usually be traced back to how we learned to interpret important life events as children.

Private practitioner and substance abuse counseling consultant, Kay Freyer-Rose, says, “Many have said ‘my life isn’t perfect, but it’s better than it was.’ The recovering person must be supported in answering the question ‘Am I willing to settle for this?’ Recovery is a process of trading up.”

We trade up from limiting patterns we’ve convinced ourselves are acceptable to true desires we often hide from.

As Freyer-Rose explains: “Many children learn to be good actors, to pretend they don’t have needs, thoughts, or feelings. As adults, they find themselves affecting behavior that is not of their choosing but is what they know how to do. It has become a habituated, automatic response.”

Here’s something I once wrote while high:

“When I’m angry, addicted, or depressed, all the truth in the world goes right over my head.

“I mean, it sounds good. I can appreciate the logic of the steps.

“But I run from how I feel to go make some sort of epic plan to change.

“And those plans never work.”

The faulty thoughts I’ve unknowingly allowed myself to settle for are like a seedbed for the plans I run to in order to avoid facing and addressing my deeper core issues and desires. That means my plans are really just powerless short-cuts.

Plans like that are the million fad diet books that only make you feel better about yourself for having bought them.

My goal here is the same as the goal of therapy: to help you come to see the true unconscious knowledge you’ve become so adept at obscuring with state-specific patterns of limiting, self-indulgent thoughts.

Freyer-Rose sums it all up beautifully, saying, “Information emerging from the unconscious shakes and cracks the [false] foundation upon which the individual’s life has been built, [but] denial can undermine the entire process of resolution.”

Unlike quick-fix plans, reaching unconscious knowledge is not something that happens immediately or in much of a straight line. It’s a process of seeing your real experience as objectively as possible for however long it takes until you simply can’t let yourself stay the same anymore. That’s when your deeper unconscious intuitions naturally connect to your experience like puzzle pieces, revealing any false foundations upon which you’ve been building your life.

As you engage in that process, you change.

Just as self-indulgence perpetuates the lies that hold you back, seeing your real experience over time causes your perspective to gradually creep forward like sunlight over the horizon, bit by bit, until your life shines with the full brightness of a new day.

Tomorrow: a more practical look at how the lies you tell yourself about your state can’t ever stand against the truths you already know deep down once those truths are brought to light.

Sources:

Feste, Cathy. “Meditations.” Diabetes Forecast Mar. 2001: 111.

Flora, Stephen R., and Jane Kestner. “Cognitions, thoughts, private events, etc., are never initiating causes of behavior: reply to Overskeid.” The Psychological Record 45.4 (1995): 577+.

Freyer-Rose, Kay E. “Late recovery: a process of integration.” Addiction & Recovery 11.6 (1991): 20+.

[]DAY 23 | What we tell ourselves #3 (how to always be right/wrong)

It’s easy to always be right. All you have to do is never leave your own mind.

I was having a real problem at work. I have this thing where I hate not being taken to my capacity. I feel like I’ve wasted enough time in my life, and I don’t like the feeling of being a replaceable cog in someone else’s machine just waiting for a procedure manual to cycle through.

Actually, I’d be totally fine with a job like that if it wasn’t something I cared about. My job was right on the cusp of being something I could see fully committing myself to.

My position was . . . experimental. I couldn’t always be told exactly what was expected of me. Everyone else knew their responsibilities well. Our boss even said her priority was to help each of us determine exactly what success would look like in our individual roles.

I’d sneak off at lunch and throughout the day to go get high, convinced it was justified because I felt so frustrated.

I remember spending a lot of time stewing at my desk, having loud, imaginary conversations in my mind about everything I thought should be different.

For each day my role in the company wasn’t made crystal clear, I developed more of a contrary attitude.

Tensions began to arise between me and my co-workers. We’d once all been friends, but I’d convinced myself it wouldn’t matter to anyone if I left—that their work would continue on without skipping a beat, and that they wouldn’t even remember me before long.

Finally it all came to an anticlimactic head when my boss called me in to ask why I seemed so angry. I felt like I didn’t know where to start, so I told her I’d have to go think about it. I went away to sulk for a few weeks before marching back into her office with this massive list of complaints.

Even as I heard myself saying the words out loud, I started to see just how silly and incomplete my thinking had been.

My boss gracefully dismantled all my unreasonable jabs with a few straightforward questions. I left her office feeling grateful for her willingness to even continue working with me.

Again, all my arguments had seemed so valid while circling so furiously around my weed-addled mind.

Here are some thoughts I wrote down right after that humbling meeting with my boss (yes, I wrote these while high at work):

“I’d convinced myself I was in an impossible situation: that I wanted to do a good job, but was being tested without knowing what passing the test would even look like.

“I felt like my attitude was justified because my boss had promised to show me what success would look like for me.

“I see now how thinking that way has sort of been like playing dumb the whole time.

“If I’m honest with myself, I’ve known all along what I should have been doing at work. It’s obvious: I should have had a good attitude, worked hard, asked questions, stayed positive, and shown gratitude.

“Instead, I fluffed around in motionless anger.

“I had myself thinking it was such a bad situation because I could get fired and would never hear from anyone again; but was I participating in the social functions, or even making an effort to build friendships outside of work with those I actually got along with?

“It all seems so obvious now.

“I’ve probably been coming across to everyone as totally crazy.”

Another time, I got high and wrote:

“It’s obvious what I should be doing at work: work hard, have a good attitude, etc.

“So, since it’s obvious, I must be lying to myself for some reason?

“Why?

“I value honest, personal, real communication so much; but I lie to myself and everyone else just to account for my own bad attitude.”

I see the same self-deception dynamics at play in other areas, too.

Here’s another high thought I once wrote down:

“I get it. In a way, I’m really playing dumb all the time because I already know what I should be doing. It’s obvious.

“For example, I always think: ‘I so want my son to be happy!’ But my part in his happiness has really been clear all along: to spend time with him, to challenge him, to be involved in what he’s interested in…

“These high thoughts are intuitions that my current conscious (non-high) mind has kept me from seeing.”

But even just realizing and writing down your truest intuitions isn’t enough. Engrained tendencies to lie to yourself don’t go away just because you recognize them.

Seeing the truth about your life (say, in a counselor’s office) won’t be enough to change your life.

Not long ago, I found myself starting to develop that same negative attitude again at work. After isolating, stewing, putting out the angry vibe, going home, and then stewing some more (instead of working on projects or enjoying loved ones), I got high.

Then all the same realizations about my own self-deceptions and immaturities dawned on me once more.

I wrote:

“I’m not being fair with people again.”

My guess is that for every intuition or experience shared in this story, I’ve probably had and written down almost the exact same words at least a dozen times. That’s because my limited state both binds and blinds me to its perpetual confines.

Without having my whole experience laid out, I could stare at any individual intuition on paper and understand it perfectly; I could turn that intuition into the most perfect plan to change; I could commit to the plan with full determination; but I’d still fail for the same reason that there are no shortcuts to maturity.

For example, here are some related high thoughts I wrote down at different times:

“Feeling worried and anxious to succeed, and thinking everyone hates me, are probably things that won’t help me in my everyday life.”

“I intuitively feel like I want to be smart, cool, and relaxed.”

“I don’t want to expect all this stuff from other people all the time, but just to be understanding and fair with everyone.”

“I don’t want to get all uppity and demand things.”

Now, I could repeat any one of those intuitions to myself until I understood it perfectly; but then something might happen to make me angry, sad, or desperate enough for weed that the known logic behind my conviction would be overwhelmed and overridden.

On the other hand, seeing how all my related intuitions fit together in time forms a much wider context for perspective. Even when temporarily overridden by contrary compulsions, I can’t ignore the big picture of what I know I truly want.

With a wide enough context, no amount of feeling crossed, belittled, angry, bored, etc. can keep me from seeing my own immature patterns for exactly what they are.

Going public with your real experience can naturally empower you to rise up through the fog of your current limited state, resulting in your state, your behavior, your thoughts, your feelings, and your life literally changing.

Tomorrow: seeing from the future.

P.S. Going public with your experience is actually about more than just personal empowerment. I believe the power you and I can experience as individuals to grow and change is really evidence of something far more important happening in society.

Public attention has long revolved around having, spending, and making vast amounts of money. As a result, it’s long been held incredibly tight and narrow by a select few.

But the world is changing, and people are starting to realize they no longer need be forced to try to pay attention to whatever the powerful pay great sums to convince us all we should be interested in (both between and during commercials).

I believe real human experience is more powerful and valuable then anything produced or contrived.

Going public with your experience isn’t a competition for attention. A world of free information and expression need never be a zero-sum game. Rather, we’re coming into a world where all individuals can connect to build value together and for one another.

Following me online doesn’t keep you from following someone else.

I don’t want to sell you a new idea, or start a movement where I pull as many as possible over to my site to build a name for myself.

My message is the opposite. I’m saying: GO OUT! Share your experience for free through the avenues and space already available to you. See how doing so empowers you by holding you accountable to your values, and by forcing you to be honest enough with yourself to actually grow beyond your current limitations.

See the opportunities you have to chase your dreams, and be transformed into the person you need to be to reach them.

And keep in touch. I’d love to hear your story.

)

[]DAY 24 | What we tell ourselves #4 (from the future)

Time lasts forever when you’re eighteen. Each day is an adventure. There are no consequences, despite how important everything seems. Love is rich. The world is black-and-white—you and them. It’s beautiful, free, painful, fun, and most of all endless.

Did time really move slower when you were younger? Is it all downhill from here?

Cultures shift and you adjust. What you can and choose to pay attention to changes. You have your memories, sure, but even these are not immune to the shifting currents and patch-job tissue replacement called getting older.

We’ve been talking about self-deception. Many of the lies you tell yourself without realizing are actually fueled by your view of the past.

Contrary to assumption, memories aren’t fixed. They adjust as you do. They’re subjective.

Some escape to a version of the past they’ve created to avoid honest self-examination. Others do all they can to flee from a past they believe sets limits on what they could ever become.

Author and art critic Astrid Mania says of memory, “The retention and recollection of experiences are among the most unreliable and unpredictable of cerebral functions, and our ability to accurately recall events is affected by neurological, psychological, and cultural factors.’”

Memories are scattered snapshots of recollection pieced together with whichever interpretations you believe best fit your current state. It’s these faulty accountings you use to make predictions about the future.

Artist and teacher Rebecca Spiro affirms: “Our desire to resist the inevitable and preserve the integrity of our memories is so ingrained that rather than accept the malleability of our memories, we unconsciously forget, invent, and edit, resulting in a loss (or gain) of detail, a re-contextualization of experience, and a re-shuffling and re-combination of fragmented words, images, and knowledge.”

Memories can be treasures that give life special meaning. They can also tie you to distant people and events that should no longer have power over you.

As memories are altered to confirm the ticker-tape readings of your current state, your conscious thoughts are transformed into hard-wired excuses.

It’s much easier just to believe your thoughts than to have to always question their source (and every detail).

Trying to keep your thoughts and memories free from being influenced by your state is sort of like telling yourself to do perfectly in a video game.

As I record and prepare to share my experience over time, I see my limited state losing its stifling power. I become more and more aware of the big picture of my life, and of the progress I’ve already made.

Recording and sharing over time flips time completely on its head, disabling skewed interpretations of memories from further hindering your progress in at least three ways:

First, distorted memories can no longer be used to make you feel ashamed for not being as far along in life as you believe you should be.

Second, inflated memories can no longer be used to chain you to the “good old days”—feeling like you’re forever drifting from your best times.

Third, hijacked memories can no longer be used to convince you that you’re a victim of circumstance—a feeling that bleeds out in defeated thoughts, like, ‘If things had just played out a little differently. Oh well.’

Recording and sharing your experience lifts your perspective up and out of the murky past, allowing you to see your life from the future. What you want becomes inescapable as you watch similar themes emerge repeatedly from your unconscious mind to connect in more and more dynamic ways, snowballing in a progressive avalanche of purpose and empowerment.

For example: Some themes related to my addiction that have resurfaced again and again are that I want to use weed less, I want to connect with others more, and I want to find better ways to relax. These reoccurring intuitions have tied to each other and others in so many ways I’d say they’re fairly inescapable for me now.

When you can see your current state clearly from the future (instead of seeing the past and future through the muffled lens of your current state), you’re essentially seeing through the eyes of who you want to be.

Here’s a crude, incomplete comparison I once jotted down while high:

“Not following conscience = emotional discomfort.

Solution = obey for your benefit.”

But how?

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot more voices clamoring for your attention than just the voice of your conscience?

When you can see your life right now from the perspective of the future you want, you’re forced to reckon with the consequences of your actions ahead of time—whether you keep doing what you’ve said you don’t want to do, or do nothing, or actually do what you see yourself repeatedly saying you should.

Here’s something else I once wrote while high:

“You deepen as you simplify.

“Time will convince and ease you—time fulfilled that’s been committed.”

As mentioned, there can be a gap in time between knowing who you want to be and actually living as that person. The more clearly you can see through the eyes of your future self, the less able you are to let time keep slipping by in the gap.

That process, by the way, is maturity.

What one question would you want to ask your future self?

Tomorrow: the plan to end all plans, and why it failed.

Sources:

AstriftMama, “ScreeningMemory.”‘ m Kerry Tribe: Rceent Hisiory. Catherine.Nichols.ed. (Berim: American Academy in Berlin, 2006), 18.

Spiro, Rebecca. “(DE)constructed memory: the Transformation of subjective experience in the film and video art of Omer Fast and Kerry Tribe.” Afterimage Jan.-Feb. 2012: 17+. 27

[]DAY 25 | Plans that never change #1 (the 10 times plan)

I had this epic plan to only get high ten times in 2013. I’d even staked out all the most inspiring, beautiful spots to do it. There was a duck pond at a local community college, under a freeway overpass, at the beach, staring into the lights of our Christmas tree…

By mid-2012, I’d been getting high all day most days for about a year. I had this massive document on my laptop (about 60,000 words, or 150 pages) packed with high thoughts, story ideas, and advice to myself about addiction. My plan to only get high ten times the next year was basically a summary of all the self-advice in that document.

The basic idea was that, by only using ten times, I’d be getting the most out of each experience.

I’d failed every previous plan to reduce my weed intake at all. I’d watched addiction steadily consume more and more of my life, robbing me of time with loved ones, money, and all sense of balance.

The difference with the Ten Times Plan, I thought, was that it was basically the essence of all my plans in one, incorporating each of my core motivations into a single point of focus. It seemed to stem from a much deeper place than all my former, lesser, knee-jerk plans to change.

I believed the Ten Times Plan would be the plan that would finally make all the difference.

Here’s something I once wrote while high just before the Ten Times Plan was set to start:

“I’ve failed every attempt at controlling my addiction so far. But if I don’t follow this plan now, none of anything I’ve told myself will matter.

“It’s all riding on this.”

I’m sure you can guess what happened: 2013 came. January went particularly well. I spent hours writing each day. I didn’t get high at all.

By the end of March, I’d used up four of my ten allotted weed sessions.

I decided I wouldn’t get high at all from July through September, still determined to only use ten times that year.

By April, I was burning through more weed than ever before . . . as if making up for lost time.

Do you ever make plans? What would you do if you knew the plan you’d just failed had been the perfect plan?

In the face of your own inability to change, you could decide to spend the rest of your life running from all signs of what you’ve been held back by. That would, in essence, be to conclude that balance and control after addiction are impossible.

But I believe in balance and control. I believe you can become the person you’ve always wanted to be, and that your transformation can occur about as naturally as weather changing in season.

What I had to learn was that no plan I could find or come up with had any real power (in and of itself) to change me. It didn’t matter how perfectly the pieces fit, or how well the plan reflected the best possible way I could see myself getting to precisely where I knew I needed to be.

Plans, alone, are powerless to change you. They have to be transformed into something else, which we’ll come back to soon.

I recently discovered a bunch of lost journal entries from right before the Ten Times Plan was set to start. At that time, I was just beginning to connect the pieces of my own addiction experience together. I still had no idea how or where I’d share any of it.

Tomorrow: why reading through those forgotten high journal entries again years later was a huge learning experience for me.

[]DAY 26 | Plans that never change #2 (that September)

As mentioned yesterday, I recently discovered all these high journal entries I’d recorded back in September, 2012. As I read through them for the first time in years, I was shocked to see how directly certain themes from my Facing Addiction story would have tied to thoughts I’d forgotten even having.

It was encouraging to see how far I might have come along the same lines.

Just know that, since I didn’t know I’d be sharing these when I wrote them, they’re pretty raw.

Anyway, here are my lost journal entries from September, 2012 (written while really, really high at work):

September 2, 2012

“I find myself unable to focus on the podcasts I’m listening to. My brain will flash with something said every now and then, and I recognize it as being the kind of idea I should probably write down, but then I drift into a fog.

“The bottom line is I’m not making the best use of my time or the resources I have.

“But the cool part is I’m not about to delve into some haphazard schedule like I would have in the past.

“All the ideas I’ve written down in this big document seem to be merging quite naturally, which makes me hopeful.

“What is it about the frustration of wasted time that makes me want to jump right away into some new, half-assed plan or schedule?

“How can I help others allow their intentions to link together naturally (instead of forcing an unnatural plan) so they too can achieve their goals?

“Why do I still feel stuck in that fog?”

September 4, 2012

“I’m completely overstimulated. Everything I try to enjoy feels rushed or poorly timed.

“I need to relax. I can’t pay attention. I’m always high.”

September 5, 2012

“I think the idea of total sobriety scares me.

“I need to acknowledge my own cries for help, though. I’m always hinting to others that I do indeed have a drug problem.

“The idea of not getting high for long periods of time just feels . Then again, the idea of always being high and neglecting my own passions, self, and loved ones also strikes me as immensely dismal.

“Using weed after exercising seemed to motivate me to stick with my exercise routine this summer.

“I also get ideas when I’m high.

“I should hold up all the evidence—everything I’ve written, and everything I can find through learning and —and let whatever’s true speak for itself.

“I keep telling myself how terrible what I’m doing is, and that everyone around me probably thinks I’m falling apart, losing it, or depressed.

“But others can only believe what I show them, right? They can’t really see my thoughts.

“If I’m able to show them a balanced, satisfied person…

“It feels like I can tie fitness to overcoming addiction by using weed as a reward for working out. How about creativity?

“It’s really all about time. Weed takes my time, and it robs me of the mental capacity I’d need to develop even the ideas it helps me find.

“I’d feel more confident and have more self-esteem if I were able to keep my weed use under control and make better use of my time.

“It all seems so simple—how all these different areas of life relate to overcoming addiction.

“Maybe expecting too much of myself too soon gives me an excuse to give up right away.

“But it feels like I can’t handle even a fraction of the total sobriety mindset.

“Again, this summer I stuck to working out (without having to try that hard) by rewarding myself with weed during, like, the second half of the workouts. That happened to work for me as I saw myself doing it. It wasn’t a plan. It wasn’t me demanding anything of myself.

“It seems more like the right actions somehow piece themselves together as soon as I can see how they all fit with each other. They just sort of happen, and hopefully I can pick up on them.

“I guess writing it all out like this helps.

“I don’t know how yet, but I do believe everything will work out—all the things I want, feel, and have written down.

“Just writing that makes me feel excited and confident.”

September 6, 2012

“I get the same weird, woozy headache every day when I drink energy drinks to balance myself out at work after getting high on all my breaks. It feels like an instant rush and crash that spangles out through my brain like air into a balloon, swelling my consciousness in a completely artificial way.

“But I also feel surprisingly upbeat right now. I have a smile on my face.

“People at work are saying things I’d usually take the wrong way, but today I’m not.

“Seeing things differently can be the solution to so many problems—an outward moving circle of thoughts and purpose that incorporates increasing degrees of honest recorded experience into its sequence (to help make that bigger picture known, more and more, as it expands)—rather than the opposite.

“That’s how the ideas in the big document I’m sorting through seem to be coming together.

“Emoji.”

September 7, 2012

“I guess everything we enjoy could potentially overtake us if we do or partake too much.

“Right now, I seem to be at that getting-high-on-lunch-breaks-in-my-car stage of pot-headedness.

“The pleasure is at the beginning, when I’m waiting for it, and then in those first few puffs—the feeling of a fresh buzz beginning to take hold. It’s the excitement of watching my mind start to dance with the chemicals in whatever ways it does.

“Is weed bad?

“Is it only bad if it’s destructive?

“I haven’t lost my job or anything, so I’m really not sure how destructive it’s been so far.

“Some would set ‘destructive’ at ‘ever’ or ‘any’ instead of ‘clear signs of destruction,’ but that always seems to lead to .

“One thing I believe I know for sure: I don’t want to be bad. I want to be a good person.

“I suppose the question is really whether I can trust myself to be honest about seeing those ‘signs of destruction’ in the first place.

“I could obviously be a lot worse. I could be constantly strung out. I could have quit my job, or just not care what my family or anyone else thinks.

“I think I’m swaying somewhere a little above the middle when it comes to self-destruction, since I still care about myself, my family, my dreams, my future…

“So the answer seems easy: Don’t feel ashamed, but let those things I care about motivate me to control how much I use.

“I really am getting tired of thinking all the time, of the constant stimulation, and of even all the ideas I feel compelled to write down when I’m high . . . knowing I’ll just have to add them to all the rest.

“I’m now effectively giving my future self more work to do each time I use weed.

“I want to relax. I need quiet time.”

September 10, 2012

“Addictions feel perpetual, and too much weed seems to lead…

“…to discouragement.

“…to criticizing myself and feeling guilty for not moving forward.

“…to a lack of closeness with those I love.

“…to isolating myself.

“…to blaming myself.

“…to being truly sad.

“…to being concerned about my health.

“…to not enjoying fun.

“…to being a million miles away.

“…to forgetting.

“…to not getting things done.

“It’s not getting high that makes me feel that way, but lack of control over how much I use.

“I hate how ashamed and dysfunctional I feel whenever I see myself dominated by addiction.”

September 11, 2012

“I feel this flush like stiffening boards or tent pegs expanding to create a larger skull inside my head. My eyes feel numb.

“This is certainly a far cry from the silliness and magic weed can conjure when I’m not addicted to it.

“What if I could get so far beyond where I’ve been that even the memory of this time of imbalance serves only to heighten my resolve to conquer whatever I’m facing then?

“How much more would I enjoy everything if not swallowed up into anything?

“It’s funny how bad I seem to do with any of the schedules or plans I try to force myself to stick to.

“But how can I change without forcing myself at all?”

As mentioned yesterday, 2012 culminated in an epic plan to only get high ten times the next year. It was supposed to be the megaplan—all my plans in one.

The fact that I was relying on the mother of all forced plans is evidence I truly wasn’t ready.

Sometimes you have to relearn the same lessons many times before all the pieces of what you know click together enough to empower you to change.

Tomorrow: how illumination from the outside can confirm your path to destiny.

P.S. Have you ever come across an old diary entry, social media post, or email you sent, and been surprised by how your past words connect so perfectly to your current state?

Hopefully you see how far you’ve come.

[]DAY 27 | From the inside out #1 (too extraordinary to be a coincidence)

Have someone else’s words ever “spoken” directly into to your life?

You could be reading, or maybe listening to someone talk, even fighting to pay attention, but then all of a sudden it’s like a certain line or idea jumps out at you. It feels as though whatever you heard or saw was somehow meant to catch your attention—as if the whole world stopped to paint you a familiar picture, delivering relevant insight at just the right moment to touch on the current core issues of your being.

I call that illumination.

It happened a lot to me in college. I might have been exhausted after working all day, doing all I could to stay awake through some monotonous lecture; but then something said would cause me to light up on the inside like a neon sign, catching and consuming my attention.

When illumination happens, it feels too perfect to be a coincidence.

One night a couple years ago, I was thinking about how intuition might relate to art and creativity. I happened to hear the episode of Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF, where Marc interviews Thom Yorke from Radiohead and Atoms for Peace. The interview was fascinating enough, but then Thom said something that essentially cast a spotlight on the very theme I’d already been rolling around. He shared that his experience with making art has entirely been a process of learning to follow and trust his intuitions.

I got excited.

Later that night, I was reading Seth Godin’s daily blog post. Seth’s [+ point that day+]—painted as always in the most beautifully touching, simple word pictures—was that relying only on what’s worked before (instead of following intuition) is always a flawed approach to creativity.

“This rearview window analysis,” writes Seth, “is anathema to the creative breakthrough that we call art.”

It was as if Thom and Seth’s words that night had been fated for me to hear. The timing was just too perfect.

I took Seth’s charge at the end of his post very personally, where readers are encouraged to be “the few that have the guts to put great work into the world instead”.

Later that night, I got high and wrote:

“When it seems that something someone says speaks into your life, it’s like an inward confirmation that what you believe about the direction you want to go is correct, even despite circumstances that might make you doubt.

“I wouldn’t limit the scope of illumination; I see such connections happening everywhere, in different places for different people.”

How does any of this relate to recording and sharing your real experience so you can face and overcome addiction?

Well, you alone don’t see the whole picture. None of us were meant to live, and grow, and chase our dreams in isolation . . . at least not forever.

Even hermit crabs thrive within the found shells of others for a time. Despite their name, hermit crabs don’t do well alone for long.

Illumination naturally connects you to others who share your values—those already moving (or wanting to move) in the same direction as you.

I believe illuminations can be like signposts that serve to connect you with the specific people, ideas, and pursuits that are right for you to run with.

As for controlling addiction, illumination gives the experience you go public with weight beyond just what you currently know.

Illuminations are like confirmations that inspire you to trust your intuitions, even when life gives you reasons to doubt.

As you prepare to share your experience, be sure to maintain an outward focus as well as an inward one. You have to be somewhat outward focused once you actually go public, anyway.

Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. See your intuitions as leads to follow; then read, listen, watch, learn…

Don’t ever think you have the whole picture.

We live at an amazing time when information is fast becoming free. When I began college, you had to be a registered student to access digital copies of academic journals through the school database. Now those resources are available through public library websites and search engines.

One night, after fishing through Wikipedia for references related to a particular idea, I became aware of the term “self-actualization.” It seemed relevant to what I was working on, so I searched for information through several free digital academic journals. Even many of the search results that weren’t directly related to my original project seemed to speak perfectly to other ideas and projects I was thinking about.

In short, I’d set myself up through a little easy research to be “spoken to.”

If you want to experience more illuminations, listen more. Read and hear others’ shared experiences more.

Stay open. Connect. Hear every perspective you can.

Illuminations give weight to your hopes about how you think things should or could play out.

When it comes to facing and overcoming your current limitations and addictions, seeing the direction you want to go being attested to by others bolsters your expectation and willingness to commit to your goals.

Have you ever been “spoken to” by something you heard, saw, or read?

Tomorrow: what getting an education might mean today, and how to control for the GIGO factor in terms of your own perspective.

[]DAY 28 | From the inside out #2 (getting an education)

Imagine any conversation you’ve ever had or heard about education. I bet someone involved said something along the lines of: “Why can’t we just learn what we need to know for our career?”

The whole idea behind education is, well, to give you an education. That includes learning to think in terms of quantities and shapes, learning to think critically about ideas and how to communicate, learning how diverse human systems have developed over time…

An education is a basic taste of all that’s currently known in every important field.

But going to school won’t give you an education, just like studying a special someone’s love letters won’t give you a relationship. School can’t learn for you, even if you get perfect grades.

Certain topics spark your interest as they connect with your natural talents and passions. As you focus in on what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and what you care about, there comes a point when classroom education can almost get in the way of learning.

The process of pursuing knowledge—of following leads, finding relevant ideas and research, examining it all together, crossing out dead ends, and working with what you come back with to make it useful—is one that must be practiced to be mastered.

You can’t learn how to learn only from books.

The easier it gets to access information, the more irrelevant memorizing facts so you can pass a test becomes.

I believe you can say you have an education when classroom learning provides mere jumping-off points to get you started.

So, let’s bring this back to the power of going public with your real experience in order to face addictions and grow beyond limitations. Part of the power of going public comes from realizing you’re not alone. Others want to move in the same direction you do.

All you really know how to do right now is what you’ve been able to do before. To go public with your experience and move forward in life requires fundamental changes in your thinking and behavior. Otherwise, living only on the warped fumes of what’s proven valuable to you in the past, you open yourself up to the deceptive nature of your conscious mind in its current state.

Only by learning to look outward, and to follow illuminations that confirm and expand upon the intuitions and experiences you share, can you ever hope to recognize the barrage of competing forces constantly at work to influence your conscious mind.

Here’s something I once wrote while high:

“I don’t want to only exist on thoughts I recognize. That’s why I need to stay open, study, listen, learn…

“And it’s so easy now.

“Learning controls for the [+ GIGO factor+] in terms of ideas and interpretations of experiences.

“What should you be learning?

“As you share your experience over time, your combined thoughts and intuitions gel to form theses for you to research.

“Certain themes and topics repeat and connect, providing key words and ideas like trails for you to follow. Learning everything you can about these concepts shows you where your theses—your ideas, intuitions, and thoughts about your experience—are correct, and .

“Today you don’t need an expensive education to access good, balanced information.

“Be an idea hero. Don’t take your own thoughts for granted. Always be seeing where and how they connect to the cumulative thoughts of as many others as possible.

“Follow your own leads; never stop learning.”

In my opinion, the investment of a traditional education is no longer as valuable as it once might have been. With the resources freely available today, you can learn to think critically, to recognize credible information, and to consider and contribute to humanity’s current consensus on any given topic.

Learning is a self-correcting process; and it’s getting easier for all of us all the time.

Do you value education?

Tomorrow: a case study for going public; I’ll share five random days’ worth of high thoughts, and what I learned when I saw them all together.

[]DAY 29 | Five day paragraph

What if you could cut through all the fluff and noise that pass through your mind each day?

Imagine being able to hone in on only your truest desires and motivations. Then imagine seeing a whole season’s worth of those most accurate aspects (of you) all connect like puzzle pieces to reveal a clearer, far more expansive picture of where you’re really at in life.

That’s the basic theory behind my Facing Addiction story.

I’m now going to take a look a typical week’s worth of my own high thoughts. This isn’t something I’d planned on in advance, so what I’m about to share is just whatever happened to occur to me that week.

So, on August 3, 2014, I got really, really high.

After gliding to the restroom, I peered up at the mirror and felt oddly compelled to write:

“Relaxed eyes,[
__]pleasant[
__]Koala[
__]Dude, you’re so far from where you think you are.”

Next I paced back to where my laptop was and closed my eyes. My mind became a rich jumble of mechanical colors and quickly shifting formulations of the peaceful darkness all around. I was struck by the fact that I had no pressing thoughts to write down. The unusual lack of compulsion to do anything but rest in the experience was wonderfully calming.

About an hour later, I smoked some more, and wrote:

“I’m unbalanced.”

Out of habit, I responded to my own concern by scribbling out a throwaway plan about when I thought the best, most balanced times to get high would be.

The next night, I got high again and wrote:

“It’s already working. I’m not smoking as much during the day anymore because I’ve been working on this story at night.

“Now I need to start using less than every single night.

“I think that’s the thing: It’s not about trying to force myself to stop for any period of time, but just to get used to using only as needed.

“But how much is needed?

“Do I know?”

I got high again the next night, and my thoughts seemed to continue on from right where they’d left off.

I wrote:

“Making a goal public , but how do I know what the goal is?

“Does it come from intuition, or should I use what’s naturally worked for me before?”

I wrote this the next day, on August 6, 2014 (again, while high):

“I’d like to take some time off from weed. I need time to work on putting all my high thoughts together for this story.”

I didn’t get high the next day. I forget why.

On August 8, 2014, I got high again, and wrote:

“Maybe it’s best to keep the thoughts I write down as simple as possible—not to add to them or embellish, but just to write whatever’s actually occurred to me.”

So, here’s a basic summary of what I got from that random five days’ worth of high thoughts about my own addiction: I have a long way to go to find the balance I’m looking for; I want to share my experience in the simplest ways possible; my goal is to catch up to myself—to be able to share my experience as it actually happens; reaching that goal will be evidence of the balance I’m looking for; preparing to go public has already naturally enabled me to reduce how much and how often I use.

The underlying message to myself was: It’s happening; keep going.

Expect the details of your experience, how you record and share it, and how your intuitions and desires tie to your dreams and goals, to be entirely unique to you.

Gaining a fuller picture of what you want provides motivation and direction as you’re made more and more aware of how you’re currently being held back.

Tomorrow: The immaturities at the root of my addictive behaviors cause me to make myself act dumber than I actually am.

[]DAY 30 | Dumb on purpose #1 (people)

“Why would anyone think of quitting weed? If you see me, ask him.”
someone high

When I get high all the time, I can’t seem to stay on top of that many things. Even the most carefully plotted of schedules end up completely overlooked. I tend to drift through days, weeks, and months, hoping for reminders when important appointments arise or assignments are due.

I guess smart phones help when I make myself dumb; but I still never quite break even.

An old friend and I had agreed to catch up one night. Unfortunately, I got high every night that week and totally forgot. I ended up smoking right before he called.

I felt like I was all over the place during our conversation—zany, giggly, nervous, paranoid, dumb…

Have you ever experienced a specific type of paranoia that sets in when you try to engage in certain conversations high?

After talking with my friend that night, I smoked a little more and wrote:

“Weed sometimes makes me feel dumb when I have to communicate with certain people.

“That’s ironic, though, because addiction usually makes me feel the opposite way: like I can’t think as clearly when I’m straight.”

Another time, I got high and wrote:

“Being addicted, I feel much dumber when I’m not high.”

When I use weed addictively, high ideas seem to snap themselves together on different levels simultaneously; but then the high goes away, and thinking feels like lugging weights up a hill.

I miss being able to think, stay on top of things, talk to people…

Why choose to be dumber than I am?

Can seeing the effects of a series of dumb choices ever motivate smarter ones?

Tomorrow: why even the strongest of motivations might not be enough.

P.S. I later got high and wrote:

“Another way addiction causes me to make myself dumber in relationships is I end up putting myself in the most uncomfortable social scenarios imaginable, like being really high at work or around relatives.”

[]DAY 31 | Dumb on Purpose #2 (conscience)

I have lots of reasons for wanting to control my weed addiction. I become aware of those reasons when I see how my addiction causes me to make myself act dumber than I actually am.

My strongest motivation to change is my desire to actively and coherently involve myself in my son’s life. When I sneak off to go get high alone, I can’t help but think of all the important things I should be filling any necessary time away from him with—productive activities like work or working toward goals. I’m crushed to think he might be feeling neglected while I’m off getting my fix (or giving weed its fix of me…).

Here’s a related thought I once wrote while high:

“What would be better for my son than for me to be________(fill in the blank)?

“Rather than having to hit rock bottom, is it possible to see signs of destruction in advance and change?”

If you find yourself acting dumber than you are—stuck doing things you should know better than to do—the issue must really be one of maturity, right?

Even with all the best reasons and intentions, I don’t believe addictions can be fought off by force. I’ve sure never been able to will myself to quit compulsive weed use. That’s why this story is about the power of going public to face every detail of your life until your perspective changes.

Again, the goal is maturity. Maturity requires a change in perspective. That’s what maturity is.

Here’s something else I once wrote while high:

“There’s opposition to being the person you want to be because you’re .

“You’ll never JUST be your conscience, no-matter how loudly that particular voice might yell at you at times.

“I want to be taken to my potential.

“I want to be able to actually enjoy being high.

“Right now, my addiction keeps me from being the person I want to be. It also keeps me from enjoying or benefiting from weed the way I know I could.

“What I know I really want is to have fewer, better highs.

“I believe there are more mature outlets for the desires I currently fill in immature, harmful, unsatisfying ways.”

Tomorrow: using music to make myself dumber.

[]DAY 32 | Dumb on purpose #3 (music)

In the 2007 movie, Live Free or Die Hard, Bruce Willis’s character is asked how long it’s been since the music he listens to could have been considered contemporary. It’s a jab at the character’s age, of course, but I can relate to the question. Though I’m now in my thirties, I still tend to want to listen to artists from my adolescence much of the time. For me, that’s angsty ‘90s alt. rock, glum folksy tunes, rap…

As I get older, I find myself wishing to broaden my musical horizons. I can no longer connect to the careless negativity or ironic detachment captured and conveyed in much of the art from the time of my teen years.

How does music relate to facing addiction?

Well, here’s something I once wrote while high:

“I really liked Pandora back in 2010. Every time I made a new playlist, it felt like I was getting a little closer to the exact music I wanted to hear.

“I was discovering all these ambient electronic artists on Pandora, and then listening through their catalogues on YouTube and elsewhere. It was great music for studying and working.

“But why did I stop listening to that music when I got addicted to medical weed?

“It was like I slipped or retreated back to only listening to music from when I was a teenager again.”

Music is a good example of something I’ve used to act dumber than I actually am for immature reasons.

Not long ago, this became my nightly pattern: I’d sit down to work on a project; but instead of finding tunes that might actually help me relax and concentrate, I’d sabotage myself by blaring the tired soundtrack of my youth. Then I’d cycle through all the same concerts, interviews, and albums on YouTube until the wee hours of the morning.

It felt like selective, compounded stupidity: neglecting much needed rest to hold even faster to something I could no longer really enjoy the same way, anyway.

That sure sounds like immaturity and lack of perspective to me.

And it wasn’t like I was getting any younger

Anyway, staying up all night in my thirties to re-listen to well-worn glimmers from my glory days would affect my state and attitude at work during day, as well. Unable to concentrate, I’d rely on energy drinks and other chemical stimulation to keep myself going.

That led to upping my weed intake just to balance myself out.

One day, I was feeling especially stressed at work. Blaming everyone there except myself, I’d essentially been pitting energy drinks against weed and lack of sleep (every day) for months.

Is blame-shifting and refusing to take responsibility not more direct evidence of immaturity?

I wrote this that day (while high):

“I saw myself starting to paint this negative picture again of how things are at work.

“But then I knew that I knew better.”

A few days later, I wrote this (again, while high at work):

“I just don’t want any of the negativity anymore.

“I don’t want the cuss-outs, and the punishing with anger, and the silent misery of unresolved conflict . . . all of which so clearly need not be.

“I do see that people are more positive with me when I’m more positive with them, overall.

“Does it really all come down to making a simple choice to grow up and make better decisions?

“I want to be able to truly relax.”

That night, I found myself repulsed by the ‘90s artists I’d usually fall back to. I even tried picking one out of habit, but I believe the process I’m attempting to show had already gone into effect. I could no longer comfortably do the immature thing. The results of my actions had become too obvious to me. My perspective had changed.

I just really, really didn’t want to anymore…

After a few puffs of weed, I ended up at this YouTube channel, which features hours of relaxing spa music. As my high mind was touched by the peaceful, beautiful sounds, I remember smiling, sitting very still, and just feeling extremely relaxed for the first time in as long as I could remember.

In an odd way, it felt like I had actually caught up to my own age.

I went on to write this (yes, still high):

“This is so much better.

“Where does the tendency to seek out chaos and violence come from?

“This music calms me. It helps me relax.

“Do I resist making mature decisions about what to listen to because of some sentimental attachment to ‘90s music?

“Is it just because it’s easier and more comfortable to go with what I know?

“Is it the culture we live in—where society is basically a magnified version of high school, and everyone these days seems caught in adolescence in a way?

“Even some of the musicians I’ve been listening to since back in the day are perfect examples of that dynamic: To maintain mainstream success in the current industry, they feel (or are told) that they must continue to look, act, and sound as close to how they did when they were first successful as possible.

“Though the rest of us probably don’t face exactly the same outward pressures to never change, we should all be careful of that same basic motivation and tendency.

“Not growing is, of course, a lot easier.

“This relaxing music is not as entertaining. It doesn’t .

“Perhaps as we grow, our desires can quiet from a constant need for stimulation or fulfilment to…

“As we grow, we might see the role of . . . let’s call it silence . . . a little more.

“Imagine being able to just sit with your desires—to no longer demand any kind of stimulation at all.

“You can’t do it until you can see it, which is why this story is really all about maturity and perspective instead of memorizing some new method to then go out and abruptly fail.”

Do you ever feel stuck in the culture or mindset of your adolescence?

Tomorrow: The next step is revealed once you know you’re ready to take it.

[]DAY 33 | Dumb on purpose #4 (timing)

Having knowledge is sort of like having the right ingredients to bake a cake. Both knowledge and ingredients alone are incomplete.

Knowledge only becomes wisdom when its ingredients are mixed together properly and cooked in the oven of experience for the right amount of time.

The problem with that analogy is there can be no perfectly prescribed recipe for turning knowledge into wisdom—for turning goals, desires, and values into the mature perspective required to achieve them.

Following a quick “how to” recipe would be much easier than trying to incorporate circular lessons from a seventy-day story about a four-year journey.

But even without an exact prescription, wisdom and maturity are always sequential; and their sequence is something we can learn to pick up on and follow in time.

I once wrote this (while high):

“I’ve come to find that using weed every night isn’t really keeping me from working on this story. But I know there are other important things I have to finish before this story is complete. To do those other things well, I definitely need to get high less than every single night.

“All you really have to see is what has to happen next.

“Instead of trying to plan out all your different goals, just consider the timing of each next step—which next steps toward which goals must come before which next steps toward others.”

Overcoming your current limitations and addictions will improve every important area of your life. If you weren’t being held back in important ways, you’d have no reasons for wanting to change, right?

What you’re being held back from are your reasons and your goals.

We’ve seen so far that recording and preparing to share over time makes everything you’re currently being held back from (and held back by) inescapably obvious to you.

Call that knowledge.

To pick up on the sequence that reliably cooks knowledge of your current state into wisdom and maturity to change, you only need to pay close attention to which steps from which important goals must come before which steps from others.

Again, there’s no recipe. Each and every detailed requirement for all the steps you have to take can’t really be known or planned out in advance.

Here’s something else I once wrote while high:

“If even an omnipotent being can’t steer a parked car, does that mean you should just force yourself to follow some random course and wait to be ‘steered’ if the direction turns out to have been wrong?

“No.

“As you prepare to go public, all that’s really needed is to stay open, to , and to . Then you find yourself naturally wanting to move in all the right directions.

“It’s almost like watching something happen to and through you without you having to force anything at all—as if desires, passions, intuitions, and values use your life to flash themselves more into being, taking you with them (at least in part), however that specifically looks for you.”

The high thoughts I just shared remind me of these lyrics from the Green Day song, Good Riddance: “Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this test and don’t ask why. It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time. It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right. I hope you had the time of your life.”

You might wish you could predict in advance every detail of how your future will play out; but that’s just not how life works. Moving forward in life requires a momentum so wide and powerful that it sweeps through every disparate layer at once, harnessing deep and connected forces to transcend limited thought patterns by aiming at core values, etc.

The exact way your growth process plays out can only make sense as it occurs, in each moment.

Maturity can’t be planned. Recording and sharing just make the details and effects of your current immaturities impossible to go on tolerating indefinitely.

I still face a host of daunting limitations and annoying compulsive behaviors to overcome; but all I need to see is what must come next in my sequence.

For me to give up now would be like flinging myself off of my own staircase after having already been half-carried halfway up.

I can no longer ignore the importance of the next steps I’m being half-carried to.

What do I mean by “half-carried”?

It sounds a lot like I’m saying you don’t have to actually do anything, right—that your addiction will take care of itself as you see your own experience over time?

What part, if any, does willpower play?

That’s what we’ll start to look at tomorrow.

P.S. By the way, whenever I mention song lyrics, I’m not claiming to understand what the lyricist was actually trying to say. I can only share what the words have meant to me.

[]DAY 34 | What do “I” do? #1 (good things do it for me)

Fries or cheesecake are usually more appealing than steamed vegetables or raw almonds.

When would you be most likely to choose a healthier option?

I once wrote this while high:

“What if no one in the world chose to save money or eat vegetables?

“What if no one got up on time, went to the gym, or cleaned their house?

“What if no one ever did what they thought they should, or followed their conscience at all?

“Why are we sometimes able to live by our convictions, whereas other times we fail?

“When I could no longer bring myself to listen to music I knew was actually hindering me, I finally listened to helpful music instead. It wasn’t a matter of willpower or determination.

“Imagine arriving at whatever the final stages are of no longer being able to stand feeling out of shape. Wouldn’t reaching that unbearable state make diet and exercise all the more appealing?

“Decadent food eventually becomes too heavy or sweet to enjoy. That’s precisely when a cool glass of water seems most refreshing.

“Yes, I believe your attraction to the good things you want must exceed the pull of your addictions, compulsions, and immature tendencies. But those good things really lay just one step beyond all that’s currently keeping you from reaching them.

“You can see the good things so clearly when you can no-longer bear what you’ve been experiencing instead.

“The question is: How do you reach those good things from where you are right now?

“I often attempt to run from my limited state by tangling myself up in some newfangled plan for how to do exactly what I’ve never been able to do before.

“My attitude is: ‘Well, thanks [good thing] for showing me what I want. Okay, I’ll take it from here…’

“When you reach your own inability to change, I’d encourage you not to fight or run from that inability at all.

“Rather, just wait. Listen. See the potential for true change that exists within your disgust at the consequences of how you’ve been living.

“Don’t waste that potential by giving willpower alone another cheap opportunity to fail.

“Rather than purposing to jump and make changes, simply be still and let yourself see what you truly want.

“Then what?

“Nothing…

“Imagine this scenario: You’ve had an anger problem for years. The same triggers, people, sounds, and circumstances always seem to plunge you over the edge into rage at every worst possible moment.

“If you could see in time just how unreasonable your angry actions are, you’d also see how unnecessary their consequences have been. Then all your anger’s tightly held injustices would soon be left with no legs to stand on.

“You’d be so drawn to the appeal of learning to respond to those same triggers, people, and situations differently.

“I have lots of good reasons for wanting to control my weed addiction. As I prepare to share my experience, I can’t help but see what I’ll be missing if I’m still getting high every night next week . . . two weeks from now . . . a month . . . another month…

“I also see good things already working in my life. I’m not getting high all day, every day like I was. I’m spending more time pursuing goals and enjoying my family.

“It honestly feels like the good I want, itself, is calling me onward. I can’t comfortably stay where I am anymore.

“Do I trust this process?

“I’m still tempted to respond to any failure with shame, grit, and even more determination to make and follow even better plans to change.

“Why are shame and plans always my response?

“Why is perfection my standard?

“I think part of it has to do with the world we live in.

“Unfortunately, there’s always a great distance between your inner world and the expressions you see others choose to put out into the world.

“Not obeying your conscious can make you feel particularly ashamed in a world where everyone portrays their lives as perfect and perfectly in control.

“Alone, it’s easy to misinterpret the obvious distance between how you know you are and how others make themselves appear.

“Instead of beating yourself up for failing to live up to an impossible standard, just let yourself see how good your life could be one step beyond your current limitations.

“In other words: Instead of peering wistfully at an infinite distance above, see only from where you are how wonderful the very next step up could be.

“Seeing my experience come together here transforms the intuitions I’ve collected into values—good things I know I want in my life.

“Preparing to go public with my experience turns those values from concepts or ideas into an actual identity—a person I see myself becoming already as I grow and share.

“That’s when I start to believe in myself again despite all my past failures and current limitations.

“I hear passions I’d long forgotten whisper, daring me to be someone I gave up on ever being long ago.

“How could this amazing process be happening even though I’m still using weed more than I think I should?

“Doesn’t weed tie me to the very limitations it causes or stems from?

“No.

“Weed addiction hasn’t stopped the process yet.

“As for willpower, it can be extremely humbling when the good things you want instead of your current unbearable state arrest your attention and begin to work themselves to life through you.

“As you see yourself becoming the person you want be, you know you’re not the one initiating or controlling your transformation. It’s the good you want that reaches down to you (just where you are) and eventually pulls you up and out.”

Are you burnt out on the sugar and fat of your addicted state? Does the fresh, cool water of a better life call out to your thirsty soul like an oasis in the dessert?

Surely willpower must come into play at some point…? There has to be a choice made somewhere along the line, right?

We’ll keep exploring willpower tomorrow.

[]DAY 35 | What do “I” do? #2 (the unpredictability factor; good things are everywhere)

The world makes sense when we’re children: There are good guys and bad guys; we run around and have adventures, trying to defeat as many bad guys as we can before recess ends, or someone yells, “Dinner!”

We seem to wish to always keep the world so predictably black and white. Yet in life it might be best to discover that there really are no bad guys.

There are only people.

Sometimes people do awful things, having intentions that can range from understandable to seemingly absurd.

Human behavior is both incredibly simple and amazingly complex.

What we do, we do for reasons; and those reasons can be based on accurate interpretations of true information, or not.

Having reasons for doing terrible things doesn’t make those things acceptable. It only makes labelling the person “bad” too simplistic, rigid, subjective…

Here’s something I wrote in September, 2014 (while high and more than a little fed up with myself):

“How dumb do I have to be to just keep giving myself up to this shit?

“I know what I should be doing. I can’t keep doing the same immature stuff anymore.

“Inability to make better choices = immaturity = the need to keep making myself dumber on purpose without acknowledging it to myself = the inhibiting effects of weed addiction.”

Weed addiction certainly seems to help me unconsciously act dumber than I am.

As I record and prepare to share my experience, I can’t help but see a host of values calling me onward from just beyond my current limitations and immaturities. Seeing what I’m keeping myself from makes it impossible for me to comfortably go on dumbing myself down.

Today I want to share some good news with you: Even when you find yourself giving in to your addictions, compulsions, or immature tendencies, you can still find good in those “bad” experiences—the ones you’ve told yourself you shouldn’t have.

What do I mean by that?

We humans tend to take comfort in thinking we know exactly how our lives should be. I’ve often been pleasantly surprised when life hasn’t proven to be so predictable.

What if even the quicksand you’re watching yourself sink into could harden like a cement ledge, enabling you to climb out?

The beautiful failure of that analogy is that the good you find amongst the bad actually does at least half of the climbing for you.

Here’s something I wrote in August, 2014 (while high):

“The unpredictability factor:

“After I started listening to relaxing music , I noticed a new album from one of the ‘90s artists I’d been trying to wean myself off of.

“When I listened to that new album (after telling myself not to), I found pieces of ideas in the songs that tied so closely to my exact experience and motivations. It seemed . That album inspired to keep going on my journey toward maturity and change.

“I can’t count the number of times something I’ve told myself not to do has actually ended up helping me become the kind of person that wouldn’t do whatever it was.”

I suppose today’s moral is simply this: Don’t ever beat yourself up. There’s no point. Valuable aspects of the life you want can reach you from almost anywhere to help deliver you from every aspect of your current state.

I mean, I did write about half of this story while high at times I’d told myself not to be : )

There’s a humbling sweetness to finding good in unexpected places.

Have any of your worst experiences or biggest mistakes ever ultimately turned out to have been good for you? How?

Tomorrow: a closer look at why we beat ourselves up.

[]DAY 36 | What do “I” do? #3 (shameful prescriptions)

When I was a kid, my mom would regularly bring home all these bags of cookies and candy for some reason. I say “for some reason” because she always kept it stashed in secret spots my sister and I never found. We just knew it was there, somewhere, calling out to us.

Each Halloween, I’d return from another successful trick-or-treating campaign with a giant garbage bag filled with goodies. I’d usually stuff myself all that night and get sick.

So what happens when I’m around sweet stuff now? Do I admit my inability to manage myself, and then rely on something more important than me to empower me to flee temptation?

Or, is it simple willpower that keeps me from buying and eating huge bags of cookies and candy every day?

Could it be both, or maybe some combination of the two?

Here’s something I once wrote while high:

“I’m still confused about my part.

“The next steps for me to take have become too obvious to ignore. I can no-longer stand the thought of not doing what will bring growth in those areas.

“The good things I want instead of the results of my current behavior have made themselves irresistibly appealing to me. They’ve begun to bring themselves about through my life, causing actual change.

“Those good things are my reasons—my whys. They’re my values.

“The question is: When do I choose to go after those good things?

“I must at least have to respond in some way to the good things I see—making an actual choice in some specific moment to not do what I know I shouldn’t, or to do what I know I should, right?

“How can I change my perspective enough to make choosing those good things inevitable?

“I’m starting to realize that, at its core, a question like that is really just a reaction to the utterly black-and-white dictates of my conscience.

“My conscience only ever tells me where I’m falling short.

“I’m so grateful that preparing to share my experience has made me aware of a whole context of other voices, all speaking at once.

“If all you can see is your distance from perfection, it’s understandable why you might conclude that you’re incapable of change and worthy of shame.

“Now, guilt and shame are not the same, and neither are their effects.

“You feel guilty for the things you do that go against your conscience.

“You feel ashamed for being the type of person that would do those things.

“Guilt on its own merely shows you behaviors you wish to change.

“In fact, the feeling of guilt itself implies you could do better.

“Shame is an interpretation of your character when measured against the perfect standard of your conscience.

“Always seeing yourself fall short, you conclude that your flaws aren’t just mistakes based on immature or unwise choices, but cracks in your being that can only ever be shored up or outrun.

“Since all you see is what you do, you can only really judge yourself by your actions.

“But what you actually care about—the source of all your reasons for wanting to change—is the type of person you want to be.

“This is where the discussion comes back to willpower.

“Shame makes you feel incapable of ever being in control of your addictions and limitations, which are seen as ingrained personal shortcomings that will forever manifest as temptations you’ll have to fight to keep yourself as far removed from as possible.

“Shame tells you you’re always at risk of falling into addictive or compulsive behaviors whenever you have opportunity to.

12-step groups put the role of willpower at making the choice to flee—at using the steps and relying on something more important than yourself to empower you to flee all signs of temptation.

“If your standard is perfection, then behaviors that either cross or align with your conscience are as dark and light; it can only ever be one or the other.

“Your conscience, alone and unchecked, turns your life into a zero-sum game.

“You can try to ignore your conscience, but it never compromises its standard. It always exists to tell you where you’re not measuring up.

“I’m learning not to interpret my own distance from perfection as shameful—even despite the merciless tone of my conscience—because my conscience is no longer the only voice I hear. It’s just the loudest and least willing to reason.

“My conscience never ceases to thunder its judgments from a distance I know I can never reach.

“By going public with my real experience, I’m learning to balance and interpret all the inner and outer voices I hear, together.

“I still see myself doing things I regret, of course. I feel guilty for my actions. My conscience reminds me of my distance from perfection.

“But my standard now is only the next step I have to take toward those good things I value.

“I believe if you share your real experience publically, you become ; you see your own limitations, which makes your values all the more appealing; you experience those values despite your failures and shortcomings, which makes you acutely aware that you don’t deserve them; this makes you feel alive, as though life is finally actually happening (right now); you see yourself moving forward toward being the person you want to be.

“I’ve been describing how the life you want can pull you forward from the future no matter how often you’ve failed to push yourself there in the past.

“If always falling short of your conscience’s demands means you’re really worthy of shame, then going public with your experience to reach a state of balance and control shouldn’t be possible.

“Light and dark can’t ever be combined.

“But notice the common threads: In both views, you’ve seen your life hindered, and you’ve felt powerless to change. In both views, it’s something good outside yourself that empowers you to move beyond what’s held you back, spurring joys and freedoms you know you don’t deserve.

“Could all your current limitations be but competing forces among many others, all of which you can learn to work with and manage in time?

“Or, are your shortcomings a consuming darkness that will always exist within you to tear you down?

“It would be easy at this point to get swept away into a debate about how to interpret your distance from perfection.

“I could say something like: ‘I believe I should treat others with kindness since that’s something my conscience generally leads me to do.’

“Someone else could write my statement off by saying: ‘Well, since you can’t always show kindness, your conscience is merely a window to reveal how bad you actually are, and how much you need something greater than you to empower you.’

“In either case, I’ll never be able to always show kindness perfectly. I happen to believe that’s because I’ll .

“In both views, though, a value beyond just me must at least initiate delivering me from my limited state.

“And notice: I’m not telling you to ignore your conscience at all. I believe your conscience accurately reflects what you believe you should do.

“I know what I feel guilty for doing, and I know what I most want to do—what I think I should be doing.

“If I don’t want to argue about interpretations, why am I talking about 12-steps and shame at all?

“If both views incorporate similar dynamics to bring about effective results, why even bring up interpretations?

“Again, it all comes back to the role of willpower:

“Believing that the stringent voice of my conscience is but one of many voices means my guilt for not always obeying doesn’t have to be spun into shame.

“I still feel guilty when I go against my conscience, but I now believe I’m capable of making better choices.

“I feel like the 12-step view bypasses the uncomfortable uncertainty and ruthless humility required to deal with multiple forces at once. Its understandable interpretation of your distance from perfection replaces that uncertainty with a black-and-white prescription that says: ‘Admit you can’t, turn yourself over, and then use the resources to never again go near what you’ve been addicted to.’

“Living by such a prescription is the opposite of trying to find balance between competing forces, influences, convictions, temptations, ideas, and many other , all wanting to exist at once.

“Again, I’m not saying the prescription is wrong, or that it doesn’t get results. I’m just saying it might limit the growth that comes from gaining a new, more mature perspective as you learn to better balance every shifting piece of what you call YOU.

“You could make a child feel bad for eating cookies, and then lock the cookies away in a safe.

“Or, you could embrace the uncomfortable uncertainty and ruthless humility required to show a child over time the value of waiting for the best opportunities to enjoy things.”

Of course the 12-step method does require a great deal of humility as well. Admitting you’ve failed is always humbling.

But the “ruthless humility” needed for my interpretation is really just a constant awareness of how little you really understand of all the shifting forces forever at play (unseen) within yourself.

Take the example of the child with the cookies. You could tell that child, “You’re bad because you can’t control yourself, so we need to keep you away from sweets.”

That’s a prescription. Prescriptions are simple. Simplicity is valuable.

But the issue of the child’s “cookie addiction” is actually more complex than any prescription could allow for.

I think parents (and bosses, and other authority figures) are fond of prescriptions because prescriptions avoid the need for varying degrees of ongoing, unpredictable, honest communication and reflection.

We tell kids that breaking mirrors is unlucky because we don’t want them anywhere near our mirrors, right?

I see maturity as the result of many processes happening all at once.

Growth doesn’t tend to move in much of a straight line. There are often set-backs. It takes humility to honestly face each uncertain stage, and to stay open to adjustments in real time.

It would be much easier for me to say, “Here’s an acrostic for the word A-D-D-I-C-T that covers the six things you need to do to break your addiction in six months.”

But life doesn’t really work that way, does it?

Prescriptions are so much easier to applaud, to memorize, to sell, and to fall back on without ever having to question.

I don’t want to be disrespectful of 12-steps or other methods. If you’ve had an experience with a 12-step or other recovery program, I’d love to hear it.

Hopefully, hearing your story will make me more ruthlessly humble and honest.

By the way, I put together some further research on shame and addiction here, which I hope you find encouraging.

Tomorrow: the perfect self-help plan (how not to change).

[]DAY 37 | What do “I” do? #4 (snapping out perfect plan after perfect plan after…)

I bet most self-help plans would work if you followed them. There are millions of such plans available, though I’m not sure how much you’d be left with if you were to combine them all and cancel out the fluff and repetition.

With the access you have to information right now (enough to be reading this) you could compile the most effective self-help plan conceivable—an eclectic plan completely unique to you and what you want.

So, imagine:

It’s 4am.

The razor-edged alarm blare casts distorted ripples across pools of warm, chrysalitic stillness, tearing you from your dream’s final moments of resolution.

You awake to cold and darkness.

It’s time for your first morning run.

Your mind ambles back through all the weeks spent gleefully assembling stacks of color-coded binders, which now house your immaculate collection of running and eating charts.

You dimly remember the feeling of wanting to get control of your life.

You see the note-to-self-style outline taped to the front of your top binder. Bullets of text across the cover bear your “six inescapable truths” or “eight spiritual reasons.”

Will any memories you can conjure from your time of preparation be enough to drive you forward toward what’s now become the least pleasant of all options?

You think ahead to the next morning, then the next, feeling the full weight of a pending lifetime’s worth of grueling sacrifice and toil.

You wonder why you didn’t really appreciate the final blowout you had the night before.

You start to wonder whether the plan you chose might not have been quite the right one for you.

You consider doubling your efforts to search out or tweak a better plan—the one that will finally make all the difference once it starts…

What happens in those crucial moments of decision? What seems easiest not to focus on?

You’ve bought all the equipment, and spent countless hours getting organized. You’ve probably been talking about your plan non-stop to everyone in your world. You know you want to change. You know why. You’ve done all you can to put to paper your absolute best guess as to how.

Why do plans fail? Is it just that your desire for comfort in the moment outweighs a steadier, quieter desire for change?

Is it wise or even possible to follow a single plan forever?

Well, technically it must be possible. It’s also possible to never drop any crumbs. It’s possible to never say anything in anger you’ll later regret. It’s possible to do perfectly on every school exam.

I once wrote this while high:

“I know that to complete all the projects I’m working on now, I have to use weed way less.

“I always find myself leaping to plan exactly how much to use and when.

“It seems important to realize that the plan for how to do something is separate from the actual thing you want to do.

“A plan is only ever your current best guess as to how…

“As you share your experience, what you need to do next to get to where you want to be becomes obvious.”

I’ve made and bought many great plans through the years.

Whenever I get high more often than I think I should, I’m driven to make or find a new plan for how to change. The time spent preparing for my next plan always feels incredibly purposeful. Somehow I never stop believing that my next plan will be the one that actually changes me.

I have this middle-aged friend who’s never been in a relationship. He falls in love with every girl he meets. Somehow he honestly believes each time that this will be the one.

Do you have any examples like that?

I think identity crises work the same way: You arrive at an appealing new identity, and somehow you convince yourself that this will be the one that sticks.

Anyway, here are more of my high thoughts from above:

“Before jumping to hide behind more plans, I should consider what I’ve learned so far from preparing to share my experience.

“It seems the question has really always been: How do I manage myself to complete the current next steps in my sequence?

“Again, what part does willpower play?

“So far, the only real act of the will I’ve been encouraging is just to stay open, to , …”

My mind still jumps to how—to finding the perfect way to force myself to follow the steps I’ve so far been basically brought to without having to try.

Why?

My high thoughts continue:

“It’s ironic but understandable that self-help is all about what you do and how.

“The way you interpret what you do defines what you believe about who and what you are.

“Really, it’s what you are and want to be that matters.

“Since all you actually see is what you do, you jump to plans for how to do what you see yourself not doing.

“But what you are has to change before you can change what you do—before you can do what you see yourself not doing.

“I’m not telling you to quit making plans, but just to see your plans as signposts pointing you toward the kind of person you want to be.

“Let your plans remind you of your reasons for wanting to change.

“What you are changes when you’re unable to ignore your values for long enough. Your values are those good things that start to work themselves in and through your life undeserved—even in or from your current limited state.

“Remember: You’re not just something other things use—whether that’s addictions that switch roles with you and end up using you for their reasons, or good things that work themselves to life through you.

“You’re a thing too—a completely unique person that happens to be the result of innumerable combined pieces, ideas, forces, and influences, all coming together and reacting in time as you perceive the world and make decisions.

“Can you take credit for what you have to work with as a person?

“Can you take responsibility for your actions?

“I’ve never been short on reasons for wanting to control my weed addiction. Yet I see more and more from the experience I’m preparing to share that at the base of all my motivations is a desire to be a good person—a good parent, friend, writer, husband, employee, stranger…

“Good pieces of that primary motivation—this story, the , a , etc. have begun to work themselves to life through me as part of my new identity.

“I feel momentum moving me forward toward maturity.

“Stopping now would feel like the least natural thing I could do.

“After all is said and known, you’re a person. Becoming more the kind of person you believe you should be is maturity. Maturity requires you to see and grow beyond (or through) specific limitations which hold you back in specific ways.

“Why wouldn’t growing from what you are to what you want to be occur as naturally as a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly?

“Is it because you have different instincts, or different resistances and obstacles to grow through?”

When you see yourself stuck in that age-old gap between knowing who you want to be and living as that person, your instinct is to bridge the gap through willpower. But what you are (your character) has to change before your actions (your behavior) can.

Again, for that change to take place, the power of what you value must exceed the pull of your current compulsions and limitations.

We’ll spend the next few days examining some of the best, most powerful of those perspective-changing values.

Then we’ll be ready to see how perfect plans can become choices made in real time.

Only the person you want to be is capable of actually making those better choices.

[]DAY 38 | What do “I” do? #5 (finding passion)

I used to answer calls when I worked for this huge religious organization. One day, a woman called who sounded completely worn out by life. She said something along the lines of: “I really don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to change how I’m living. I don’t feel like doing any of the things I know I’m supposed to do.”

I’ve thought about that call often.

I once got high and wrote:

“The woman who called that day said she thought the leader of the organization would have understood exactly how she felt.

“Knowing that leader, I’ve come to conclude that I don’t think she was right: I don’t think he would have understood.

“I saw that leader filled with zeal and energy. I also saw him running on empty at times; but I never saw him stop or waver in his devotion or sense of purpose.

“Each time he spoke, his message was always brought back to sheer gratitude—his artful words painting a very real picture of freedom, joy, and the experience of having been set right from the uncontrollable messiness of his former life.

“Public figures are no longer .

“I think that leader would tell the lady who called that she could definitely find passion for those good things she didn’t feel like doing. He’d probably counsel her to develop a habit of hearing and considering words of hope (in his case, scriptures) until she experienced those words .

“I believe the process I’ve been describing is actually the same beneath the surface: As you record and prepare to share your real experience, you become acutely aware of the specific values your addictions and limitations are keeping you from.

“The more of those values you come to see, the more passionate for them you get.”

I wrote this the next day (while high again)

“I mentioned finding good in .

“Looking back, it seems like the religious organization I worked for was the perfect place for me to learn exactly what I needed to learn at the time. I never would have chosen a place like that to be my school; but some sort of attraction was taking place between values flashing themselves into being through me and the tools and resources I was learning to make use of.

“Does everything happen for a reason?

“Fate aside, I’m sure we can all agree that nothing happens for no reason.

“Every decision you make is between possibilities. You never make decisions completely randomly. Your decisions are effected by influences, pressures, emotional states, levels of maturity, etc.

“Going public with your real experience makes you passionate enough about your values to make better decisions.

“Despite how guilty I feel for using weed more often than I think I should, I see from what I’m preparing to share (this story) that everything in my life really isn’t falling apart. Good things I don’t deserve continue to compound and compel me, leading me beyond where I’ve always fallen short in the past.

“Will I always be in this position?

“Yes and no.

“Yes, because potential is a goal that expands forever outward in many good directions.

“No, because moving toward potential means always expanding the boundaries of all my limitations.

“Imagine your goals or values, themselves, as things desiring to exist. Consider your relationship with each of them. Your present limitations and addictions keep those good things from being able to fulfil their desire to flash themselves more to life through you.

“As you prepare to share your experience, you see the progress your goals and values have already made.

“Seeing that progress is seeing how you’ve already faced yesterday’s limitations in order to reach today’s.

“Why wouldn’t you keep going?

“When you see how for you’ve come, using willpower only to keep an open ear and prepare your experience to share, you find sufficient sustainable passion to keep going.”

Seeing your values bring themselves to life through you can spur incredible passion. Those values are all aspects of the life you want, and of the person you want to be.

Tomorrow: one of the most important and powerful components of your identity and destiny.

[]DAY 39 | What do “I” do? #6 (talents’ calling)

Seeing your values enough empowers you with enough passion to live by them.

Today I want to share why some of your most powerful values are the natural talents you were born with.

I’ve mentioned how addictions can hinder you from discovering and developing your talents.

Well, the latent potential of talent is actually something you can summon and harness from any state (regardless of how limited) to spur fascinating, unprecedented growth.

Here’s more of the high thought I began to share yesterday:

“Each part of your life affects many others, and each part affects the whole.

“What can bring each part together immediately to create a driving force for the whole are your talents.

“Your talents express the unique way you think and see the world. They reveal how and where you can excel, forming the core or blueprint of your potential.

“Your talents are the base around which all your other values rest and function.

“If you’re not sure what your talents are, I’d encourage you to look in places where things you find yourself consistently passionate about intersect with activities you find yourself naturally able to make progress in.

“You don’t have to try that hard in some areas to see vast improvements. In others, huge amounts of time and effort yield only minimal results.

“Be honest. Be willing to see.

“Since your talents exist where what you care about meets what you’re good at, I believe ideally you should work at making your talents the basis of your career.

“Everyone has talents.

“The way all of your various talents function together forms what I call your individual art form.

“A natural ability to do something you’re passionate about is something you don’t ask for or fully understand; but it’s something you can see working in your life regardless of your state.

“Without trying to fight your addictions or limitations directly, stepping into the current of your art form is like being gripped and pulled upward by the very essence or DNA of the person you want to be.

“You might have lots of more important reasons for wanting to face your limitations and control your addictions, but seeing yourself reach your potential is one of the . That makes it one of the most worthwhile and valuable to you—whether the goal is controlling weed addiction to be better at connecting and communicating thoughts, losing weight to be better at managing a project, controlling anger to be better at leading a tour group, or whatever other specific combination of competing forces best describes the direction you want to go and why.

“Today information and communication systems grow like vines across the globe. As each gains further ground and freedom, it becomes ever easier to find those like you with similar talents—those who think and see the world in similar ways, and those and who are hindered from reaching similar potential by similar addictions and limitations.

“Connecting with those of like talent, passion, and mind creates a rippling effect. Someone might see a video you create, or read a line you tweet, and experience illumination that confirms and encourages the direction they want to go in life.

“That’s when the same good thing, goal, or value (though always uniquely packaged) can flash itself more to life through another, then another, and so on…

“I believe maturity can only be developed through overcoming obstacles. You can’t become mature without first facing specific limitations that reveal exactly how and why you need to grow.

“Your current limitations are the source of your addictions and compulsions.

“You worry too much. You get angry. You get offended. You abuse drugs.

“You feel unable to do what you believe you should.

“When a value that literally encapsulates your potential reaches down and begins to create something real in the world through you, the person you see yourself becoming is simply too appealing to resist.

“That’s when you find passion enough to grow and face each limitation in turn with the power of your values calling you ever onward.

“Maturity in humans happens just like growth in plants or other systems. It takes time. We progress seasonally.

“Call it survival of the fittest, but with a twist: Our experience brings the fittest—our values—out of ourselves, as the rest—our immaturities and limitations—die off.

“I hope the fact that we all have weaknesses, limitations, and immaturities humbles each of us enough to show others the same undeserved kindness we experience as we see values we know we don’t deserve bringing themselves more into being through our lives.

“Maybe realizing we’re all only human can make us more empathetic and compassionate.

“If love and compassion could be the natural outworking of going public…”

I don’t think I need to finish that thought. You can see my heart in this. I want to help as many others as I can.

There’s so much more I’d like to share today, but I’ll leave it there for now.

Have you discovered and begun to live out your art form? I’d love to hear your story.

Let’s go public and face our limitations and addictions. Let’s grow together.

Tomorrow: why not to worry if you can’t narrow down exactly which talents reveal your potential.

[]DAY 40 | What do “I” do? #7 (the space between talents)

When I was thirteen, I watched this old Kung Fu movie about an ancient master who had to defeat a sequence of progressively tougher enemies. The master would use the example of each battle to impart sage lessons to a young pupil. One of the enemies kept switching between fighting styles, which gave him an advantage at first; yet the master held strong, won the fight, and said to his pupil something along the lines of: “His was the error of being moderately skilled at several things while mastering none.”

I’ve often considered that.

Through the years, I’ve found it extremely difficult to narrow down my focus to a single passion or goal. I can’t tell you how many times I switched majors in college, or jettisoned partially trodden career paths entirely.

It’s been disheartening to see so many friends and loved ones moving forward in life with such a secure sense of themselves and their choices.

Yet I’ve gradually come to realize that moving sideways isn’t necessarily less fruitful than charging ahead.

Yesterday: Your art form is a bridge that’s built where what you care about meets what you’re good at—a bridge that takes you from where you’ve fallen short to where you hope to be.

I don’t think you should ever pressure yourself to reduce your art form to a single talent if you believe you see more than one viable option; rather, I’d recommend staying open to seeing unexpected connections between various pursuits.

It’s been said that the best art exists in the spaces between impossibly disparate worlds.

I’d like to share how two completely different passions—both of which I loved equally and couldn’t seem to choose between—came together in an odd way as I prepared to go public with my experience.

In 2010, I thought I wanted to be a Math teacher. That was the direction I was headied in college. Looking back, I think what drew me to Math was something about the beauty of finding systems to reduce complexities to their simplest forms.

I loved how the theories of Geometry and Physics seemed so unmistakably fixed to the fabric of our universe.

I also loved Philosophy for the same reasons I loved Math.

I’d imagine people love Philosophy for different reasons…

Anyway, I have fond memories of sitting for hours at little desks in random college study halls, listening to ambient music as I wrote philosophical poetry after [or instead of] doing Math homework.

I may have loved the idea of Math and Science a lot more than I had the capacity for the actual work.

As mentioned, I was quite depressed at the end of 2010; then I started getting high and quickly found myself addicted.

I was still studying Math and Philosophy while using weed most days in early 2011, but I felt like I’d reached some sort of mental limit. All I was learning were more and more ways in which the beauty and order I’d always loved to see could be shown to be ultimately meaningless if philosophical functions meant to represent ideas were reduced to only sets of binary comparisons.

The work felt unnecessary, pretentious, ironic, dishonest…

I realized I still had to fill a language requirement to graduate, so I reluctantly signed up to take a literature class in early 2012.

That class changed my life.

I was shocked by how the rich, transcendent expressions of some of history’s greatest writers and thinkers clicked so deeply with my own experience and motivations, perfectly filling the unnatural space forced open by advanced Philosophy.

That semester, I experienced some of my most profound illuminations about the direction my life was going.

Looking back, the timing seemed way too perfect to have been coincidental.

I’d reached a place in my studies where endless formulaic sets threatened to splay out forever in needlessly hifalutin terms. Other Philosophy students seemed to love the exclusivity of their purchased understanding about how to reposition aspects of a language apparently detached from all original intended meaning.

Again, I saw tremendous value in all that was left to matter within the great divides of meaninglessness cast open by advanced Philosophy. For me, that value was art that captured and celebrated real human experiences, since I was becoming convinced our experience was all we could ever really know for sure.

I took more literature and creative writing classes. Being so sad and unstable at the time, the stories I was writing felt incredibly therapeutic.

I started to remember all the ways writing had always seemed like such a natural fit for me.

During my years of weed addiction, I learned to recognize worthwhile intuitions as they flashed through my mind like daydreams, most often when I wasn’t paying attention.

Rather than taking any intuition and trying to make it into something important, I learned to reduce them all to their simplest forms like a Math equation. I started to see where ideas might fit together to connect and cancel out.

Preparing and sharing my Facing Addiction story has given me a distaste for self-indulgence, particularly because self-indulgent thinking is inefficient and self-deceiving.

It recently struck me that what I’m doing right now is actually a perfect balance of my two primary passions—call them Math and Literature; or, maybe the beauty of simplicity and the importance of expression.

I could never have chosen to harness both aspects of my personality in what’s turned out to be such a balanced way.

I don’t think balance can ever be forced, and I don’t think it ever has to be.

Here’s something I once wrote (while high):

“Both of my talents and values together became my art form: the mature mathematician who simplifies and connects (while listening to peaceful music); and the dreamer whose inner child at play functions when he’s not even paying attention.

“The way both come together is so fun and fulfilling for me…

“But that’s just two aspects.

“When I started to see the sequence of all my goals together, I realized how many other factors of my personality have always wanted to come into play.”

If your interests and abilities seem to pull you every which way, I’d say not to worry.

Even if you try to force one of your passions over all the rest, you’ll probably later discover that the others had really always been there for a reason. They’ll resurface when they need to in whatever ways best fit for whichever stage of your journey they’ll be needed for.

Find magic and art between the boundary lines of your own impossibly disconnected worlds.

Who’s just one thing, anyway?

Tomorrow: why art is so much fun.

[]DAY 41 | What do “I” do? #8 (art is fun)

What would you do all day if jobs and money didn’t exist?

The activities you find most fun reveal a whole lot about your values; they’re a great place to start when it comes to discovering the unique art form comprised of your various talents.

Just a disclaimer: I’ll always be one to encourage you to find ways to move toward building your career (and life) around what you most enjoy doing.

It’s been said: “Do what you love and the money will come.”

When I was twenty-six, I sat down one day and literally asked myself out loud how I’d choose to spend my time if anything were possible.

My imagination first went to work bouncing comfortably between idealistic versions of the options I’d already been considering. Then, as if out of nowhere, a vision popped into my head: I saw myself sitting on a beach with a guitar, smoking weed and writing songs.

And I wasn’t getting high at all when I was twenty-six.

I tried to imagine other, non-weed-related pursuits that might be similar but more realistic.

Here we are, nine years later, and I find it almost funny how closely my life path has aligned itself to that random daydream about what I’d most enjoy doing.

How’s what I’m doing now the same as writing songs while high at the beach?

Well, here’s something I wrote (while high) back in August, 2014:

“Do I have to choose to write?

“Not really. It’s attractive to me to see ideas connect, and stories come together.

“For me, fun is having the freedom to dream, and then the tools to effectively turn those dreams into something real.

“My art form encapsulates the best of my most important worlds, drawing on . It makes me come alive.

“What about you?”

There’s just something my particular mind has always seemed to do or focus on if I let it. I don’t feel like I can ever take credit for the way I am, but I feel like it’s all I can really know for sure.

What I’m talking about is, of course, my experience.

How can we each have talents? Why would a certain occupation fit an individual so well?

It makes sense that we refer to our abilities as “gifts” because they’re capacities we’re born with and can later find so much joy in recognizing and developing.

That’s why I believe everyone is some sort of artist, and why I refer to the combination of your talents as your art form.

Even if you haven’t discovered your art form yet, I think you probably understand what I’m saying.

Your art form is perhaps the main reason you want success—to be successful at something.

I mentioned how your art form is the foundation of your best self—the cornerstone of all the values wanting to work themselves to life through you.

I enjoy my art form, and I always want to be getting better at it. To truly reach my potential, though, I know I have to control my weed addiction and other compulsions.

Your limitations and addictions hold you back from reaching your potential in specific ways as well.

Here’s more of what I wrote while high that day in August, 2014:

“I love you. Who and what you are is fun. Everyone is.

“I find being human incredibly comical.

“Let’s have fun together. It’s worth it.

“In the end, let’s all support each other to be ourselves. That’s all I’m really trying to do.”

Sharing your experience holds you accountable to your best self until your values become your identity.

What gives your best self purpose and direction is your art form.

So, where do you come alive? Is that a choice?

By the way, I believe the opportunity to develop and excel in one’s individual art form should be a basic human dignity or right afforded to all. We don’t choose the abilities we’re born with, so no one deserves the chance to reach their potential more than anyone else.

Tomorrow: the value of fun.

P.S. It might be helpful to remember that no one else really cares about you discovering and accomplishing your dreams, at least not the way you do.

Your talents and art form have a lot to do with your unique perspective; and no one else sees the world exactly as you do. Only you can actually do or build anything real from what you see, making a much needed “you-sized” difference in the world.

Taking steps toward living your dreams can be incredibly difficult when it seems like no one understands, and some even come against you.

In order to successfully discover and develop your art form, you must first grow to where you can’t ignore how important your values are to you, as well as the next inevitable steps you have to take (and the consequences of not taking those steps).

Then all you have to do is go public with that part of your experience. Find those like you who see things as you do. Listen to them. Read.

Hear as many different perspectives as you can.

Your art form, itself, will basically take it from there.

[]DAY 42 | What do “I” do? #9 (the value of experience)

On DAY 26, I shared a string of forgotten journal entries recorded while high back in September, 2012.

About a month after writing those journal entries, I flew across the world to attend an elaborate party hosted by my best friend. I’ll share more about that party somewhere else; for now I’ll just say this: I felt like the experience was so good it would be worth giving anything to have again—worth working, chasing dreams, controlling addiction, and taking whatever other steps I’d have to take.

It was the most fun I could ever imagine having.

I immediately started writing for four hours every day. I made plans to get high only ten times the next year, in 2013. I was absolutely committed to making my newfound dream of attending more of my friend’s parties a reality.

The things you find most fun can be some of your greatest motivations.

Yesterday we looked at how fun accomplishing your dreams can be. Today we’re considering experiences worth accomplishing your dreams for.

When I was sixteen, I’d wake up at five every morning and read this list of “ten truths” that had to do with a particular martial art I was studying. I had the list memorized before long, which was good because it meant I could remember everything I was supposed to be focused on in training.

But I was only able to force myself to stick with that training schedule for about a month.

When it comes to experience, I wouldn’t recommend just listing all the most fun activities you can think of in an email to yourself, and then reading that list every morning and night for motivation.

As mentioned, my plan to only get high ten times in 2013 failed quite unspectacularly, just like all my other plans; and that was right after my friend’s incredible party when my motivation to have more of those experiences was at its peak.

Discovering and harnessing the value of experience is not about lists and plans. You naturally start to identify and move toward the types of places, people, and activities you most enjoy when you incorporate that search as part of the journey you go public with in order to face your current state and live up to your potential.

Both developing your unique art form and working toward what you find most fun are different ways of making the most of the time you have in this life.

What could be more valuable than that?

Tomorrow: my Psychedelic Training Program (enjoy).

[]DAY 43 | Psychedelic training program

Tomorrow we’ll begin looking at how effective self-management stems from seeing the value of your experience.

Today I’d like to share about another set of experiences that helped me see my addiction in a completely new light.

On August 25, 2014, I got high and wrote:

“Salvia training program!”

What was I talking about?

Like weed, Salvia Divinorum is an herb that’s been used for centuries for medicinal and spiritual purposes.

In some ways, though, I feel like weed and salvia are exact opposites.

While weed seems to sneak mischievously in-between the details of my normal perceptions and thoughts, my salvia experiences have been more like rich dreams in which I rapidly detach from my mind in its current state to an entirely different space and time before gradually floating back to my everyday self.

Both weed and salvia help me appreciate my life, but in vastly different ways—one from deep within the details, and the other as I approach from far away.

Though the idea for a “salvia training program” was just a silly high hunch, I found that salvia really did enable me to see my weed addiction from a totally different vantage point.

I’d like to share a few of those salvia training sessions with you.

On August 29, 2014, I wrote this (while high and on salvia):

“I like salvia. I smoked some just now, and then stood and faced whatever would come the way a person longing for any experience would—as if to say, ‘Take me and do whatever you can. I’m ready.’

“Coming back from salvia, I see my current state of marijuana addiction as I’ve never seen it before. I see that the price I’m paying is totally unacceptable.

“I don’t do anything I tell myself to do. I’m a self-help failure.

Tony Robbins says choice is the power we all have. What I see as I return from salvia is that I don’t seem able to trust myself to choose anything at all.”

From salvia’s distance, the person I was drifting back to appeared sad, dirty, and unable to focus. I heard the approaching sounds of my own inner workings as garbled noise. The sounds were patterns I recognized as having once been majestic and magical, but which had crumbled to winding, crazy mash. My mind looked like a spent machine, rusty and wound down.

Such ugly details became clearer and clearer the closer I got.

The next night, I mixed the two herbs again and wrote:

“Treat everything the way you would as if staring into salvia.”

People call weed a gateway drug. If I’m honest, there have been times when I’d be high on weed and wish for something more—something on another level.

In my younger years, the epic realness and unpredictability of a psychedelic experience often made the anticipation somewhat scary.

During my salvia training program, I found myself absolutely ready and eager for whatever the plant might bring: good, bad, frightening, exhilarating…

On September 1, 2014, I smoked salvia and weed again, and wrote:

“I saw this giant creature looking like it had just come out of a furnace, burning red hot. It was animated, as though flashing in some other texture or reality. It wore bright, shiny chainmail armor, and brandished an enormous weapon.

“It spoke and told me to obey my conscience—that the way I’m going would be a way to die.

“I don’t know if there’s a right way to use weed. I just feel like I need less of it.

“I feel sad because I don’t think I’ll listen to these words. I never do.

“STOP DOING SO MUCH WEED!

“It doesn’t matter who just said that—the weed itself or my conscience.

“The high at least seems to work with my conscience, no?

“Both together show me I’m immature and…

“I was confused on my way back to normal just now, trying to figure out which of my thoughts were the voice of my conscience.

“I honestly couldn’t tell, but concluded that at least half of what I was feeling was that I truly need to stop going against my conscience so much.

“That’s what I saw in the armored figure’s metal face.

“I’m not sure why, but I feel compelled to write that this is the psychedelic buildup to my next phase.”

Basically, seeing that horrifying fiery figure, and feeling the full weight of my confused conscience on weed, was incredibly helpful. It helped me in the same way that being mature enough to imagine the results of my decisions, good or bad, empowers me to make better ones.

As I drifted back to myself from salvia, I heard the ever-present shuffle-and-tear of my addicted mind again. It sounded like polluted, bizarre hisses and distortion, though I still somehow recognized the sound as having once been a pleasant high representation of my own cognitive functions.

Basically, salvia helped me see my compromised, limited state far more objectively.

I mixed marijuana and salvia again the next night, and wrote:

“My biggest fear is one day being old and thinking, ‘Well, I did put a lot of challenges on my premature, underdeveloped lung. My dad did have leukemia, and I was sure pretty reckless with…’”

When I used salvia years ago, long before my weed addiction, I remember the drift back to normal being something of a warm, joyous slide toward renewed focus and appreciation for my own life. It was a bubbly, smiley feeling I always wished I could share with someone else.

Once I’ve successfully brought my addiction under control, I’d like to try salvia again. I bet the echoes of my conscience will then be far more peaceful, beautiful, and enjoyable as I re-approach them from afar.

Perhaps salvia can be another good that pulls me across from my own limitations to maturity.

P.S. During the years of my medical marijuana addiction, I actually had a few psychedelic experiences. I’ll share about them in another story. For now, I’ll just say that those profound experiences (including my salvia training sessions) seemed to perfectly punctuate my growth and journey toward balance and control in ways that seemed far too perfect to be coincidental.

[]DAY 44 | Managing Yourself #1 (stabs at my experience)

Your experience is valuable. Reaching your potential so you can effectively work toward having the experiences you find most enjoyable is a powerful goal. It’s a goal that incorporates two connected prongs of the value of experience.

What are the two prongs?

Reaching your potential—discovering, developing, and applying your unique art form—is one of the most fun, fulfilling ways to spend your time. Reaching your potential also means doing what it takes to earn the experiences you find most enjoyable.

In other words: Making the best use of your life enables you to most enjoy your life.

Your limitations and addictions hold you back from the fun of reaching your potential. The fun of reaching your potential, as well as the fun of the experiences you most enjoy, can motivate you to overcome and control your limitations and addictions.

My revolving description of the two prongs might seem overly repetitive, but sometimes even the simplest of concepts must be laid out in all directions before what’s already obvious can really touch your experience. That’s when what you know drops like a coin into a machine to produce an “aha” moment—when knowledge becomes wisdom.

Coming to understand the value of experience is essentially the culmination of everything we’ve been talking about so far.

You now have your motivation and your map. You know exactly what to do and why you want to.

Understanding the value of experience is what enables you to manage yourself.

So far, we’ve seen what self-management isn’t: Self-management isn’t relying on plans to change. Instead, it’s having the ability to make choices that align with your values rather than your compulsions.

Self-management is being able to tell yourself in any given moment what to do and not do.

Learning to face addictions and overcome limitations always comes back to a process of maturity.

You need perspective to see how your choices are either holding you back or helping you live up to your potential.

I wrote this in 2014 (while high):

“Can tomorrow be about tomorrow?

“Can I give myself just that one day?

“If I can see what I want enough, am I able to make right choices?

“A thing can’t pick itself up. It can’t use itself to flash itself more into being. It needs to connect to something else to draw from.

“What you connect to and draw from are the good things (values) you want—those aspects of the person you want to be that call you forward from the other side of where you see yourself right now.

“But isn’t that exactly what happens whenever you make choices anyway—something ends up compelling you more than something else?

“Self-management happens when the appeal of what you truly want in life exceeds the pull of your addictions and compulsions.

“But there’s more:

“When you see yourself making choices that align with your values, you feel good about yourself. The feeling might be similar to reacting to your wounded conscience by snapping together (or buying) some new plan for how to change; but the benefit you get from self-management is actually real. You’re actually doing what you believe you should (instead of just hiding behind some prescription for how).

“To put it simply: Self-management is exhilarating. You’re watching yourself live in such a way as to maximize your own experience—to reach your potential, and to earn the experiences you most enjoy.”

While the two prongs of the value of experience are what empower self-management, the thrill of self-management is itself a third prong.

The value of experience is the value of knowing you’re actually living (right now) as the person you truly want to be.

The first two prongs call you onward from the future. The third assures you in the present that you’re making the most of your life (and time).

I wrote this the next day (while high again):

“When you’re addicted to something, whatever it is automatically stops being as fun it could be.

“Why would you keep doing something that’s no longer fun?

“The reason is immaturity—you simply can’t yet fully see the distance between your current experience and the experience you want.

“Though you feel guilty about your choices, you don’t yet have enough perspective to make better ones.”

I see more and more as I prepare to share my experience that using weed addictively makes getting high a lot less fun than it could be.

I wrote this a few days later (again, high):

“The good news is that managing yourself starts easy—it begins and gains momentum from what you’re already doing: hearing, learning, being open, and preparing to share your experience…

“Those passive activities are what ultimately change your perspective enough to leave you with no choice but to act differently.

“Unlike with plans, the process of self-management is never fixed. You can always be finding new and better ways to manage yourself more efficiently.

“As you continue to share, hear, learn, and watch yourself progress, you develop a natural eye for the best ways to take each next step.”

Several days later, I got high again and wrote:

“I just smoked some weed after having not had any for a few days, and the experience feels awesome. There’s a distinct freshness to it. It reminds me of how I used to feel when I’d get high years ago.

“All I know is my conviction to keep going like this.

“Nothing counts or doesn’t count. This story isn’t about right or wrong.

“This experience, right now, is great. I just want to keep going.”

I next got high about a week later, and wrote:

“Life is really happening.

“I only used . That wasn’t planned; I didn’t set a limit on myself or anything. I simply found myself not wanting to get high as much.

“When you plan, you forget that life is really happening right now.

“Planning takes you out of the present moment, using past information to make easy predictions about how you think the future should be. Planning becomes a substitute for actually doing what you already know you should.”

The pieces of this story are just my own honest stabs at capturing my real experience to share. It’s been a long process of self-discovery, which has already led to progress I’d long given up on ever making.

Don’t ever give up on yourself. Go public and face your addictions. See yourself and grow.

You never need to force growth—not when making better choices is really so much fun.

Tomorrow: more on how better choices are more fun.

[]DAY 45 | Managing yourself #2 (making goals fun)

When I was thirty-two, I had a few story ideas that seemed too good to just keep sitting on. I knew I had to start.

So, this became my nightly routine:

I’d down a massive mug of coffee at about 9pm, and then open up a document and start throwing ideas around.

Even with hard trance blaring, I’d often find myself fading or drifting off before long.

Sometimes I’d get all antsy and distracted.

I had this folder on my desktop with about thirty guided audio breathing exercises that were meant to help me relax and focus.

But I never used any of them.

Instead, I’d load up on sugar or alcohol.

Every night, the stretch from about eleven until one became a downward, fading haze of inactivity and confusion.

After shutting down my computer, I’d cycle through the same YouTube videos over and over on my phone until I crashed out at about three.

Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, sleep deprivation, and all my other tricks were certainly not mature ways to maximize my writing time; but weed addiction hindered my progress more than any of those other things.

I barely made it through a night without getting high, which meant I was almost always aware of unreached potential in terms of my art form.

My wife wakes up when it’s still dark to run. Her philosophy is to finish whatever needs doing before she relaxes or has fun.

I can put things off forever. I’ll watch TV with dirty dishes in the sink, telling myself I’ll get to them before bed (which can easily stretch to the next morning).

I should only have to glance at how successful my wife has been to see the flaws in my philosophy of putting off what’s difficult.

As I began to go public with my experience, it took a long time for the value of work before play to weave itself in amongst all my other convictions about addiction and life.

Here’s what I wrote (while high) when I first had that realization:

“Do what’s important first, before what’s fun.

“Am I talking about when I get high, or in life?

“Yes.”

A few days later, I wrote this (again, high):

“Come here to be a kid; but run your life like an adult.”

I wrote this about a week later (high):

“You can’t enjoy fun while putting off what’s important.

“I always feel like I still have so far to go to catch up to myself.

“I can’t fully enjoy weed because I’m using way more often than I feel comfortable with. I see it keeping me from what I value.

“You do something more and more because of what it does for you; then it depletes you, and you don’t benefit from it the same way anymore.

“That’s sort of like a built-in mechanism with addictions.

“An obvious sign of immaturity is not being able to handle it when you don’t get something you want right away.

“Just watch little kids at grocery stores.

“Maturity means knowing why you should wait for the right time to enjoy something.”

The next day, I wrote this (high again):

“It’s all too much. I’ve been .

“How can I navigate the cliff face of addiction and use weed more responsibly?

“I’m nervous I’ll get swept back so far behind myself, and be left so depleted, that I’ll never be able to catch up.

“Maybe all these lofty high thoughts are really just weed’s dumb way of fooling me.

“Maybe I’m really already totally crazy and too far gone.

“But the peace of seeing my experience and ideas connect and be illuminated by others’ quells that anxiety.

“Anxiety is a frantic grasping for control in moments when control feels impossible.

“Peace comes gradually as I see connection after connection, realizing in time I really don’t need to worry about control.

“Underneath the surface, change is already happening. Seeing that is enough.

“Anxiety comes from feeling flapped about by uncertain forces, yet life’s pendulums always continue to swing.

“Can we navigate the cliff face, even after climbing back up from addiction?

“Anxiety would have me leap to construct plans like perfect little fences at precise distances from the edge.

“I just don’t want to get high so much. Less is more when I’m not so stimulated. Then my experience can be .”

What more can I say?

This story is just an outline of my heart.

I’d love to hear or see your heart. I’m sure I’m not the only one that would.

How will you feel if you keep giving in to addictions instead of doing what you know you should?

Tomorrow: a more holistic look at life beyond just sets of goals and hindrances.

P.S. I still write at night, though now without the aid of so much chemical stimulation.

P.P.S. Since first writing this story (and the P.S. just above), I’ve switched to writing early in the morning. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is doing what’s important well, and being able to enjoy what’s fun.

[]DAY 46 | Managing yourself #3 (um . . . “self”?)

Every identity crisis circles back to an odd period of replacement.

When you decide on something to be, the new identity feels so exciting and potentially fulfilling at first.

You quickly get a picture of how the new you fits in the world. The characteristics and mannerisms seem quite live-able.

Then a few lines like tiny cracks in glass begin to surface and spider web in ways you recognize but try not to notice.

Just before your new identity feels like always having to flex a muscle, you find yourself drawn to another.

Some get trapped for a lifetime, ever cycling through components of identities like outfits as the waning appeal of one is swallowed up into the attraction of the next.

Since this story happens to center around my weed addiction, I’ll just say that weed, in my experience, is not very tolerant of fakeness, machismo, or any kind of intentional self-identification; but my general point today is not about how weed might make it harder to be dishonest with yourself.

Identity is complicated.

As I work through this story, I sometimes recoil at my own words. Even if I know what I’ve captured is completely true to my experience, some part of me refuses to believe it’s the whole picture. Right away, I go to work chopping down my own landmarks, trying as hard as I can to discredit each hard-won conclusion.

Is that just me?

It’s frustrating when time keeps passing, and I can’t quite seem to decide on exactly who or what to be.

Should such things ever be decided?

I once got high and wrote:

“I always seem to want to regulate my thoughts or the direction I’m going.

“But I also seem to be searching for some final fixed pattern I won’t ever have to regulate from.

“What if there was no decision-making property?

“When I was young, I had this tendency to suddenly (and sullenly) write off all my previous thoughts as inferior.

“Now I see wisdom in considering how thoughts from different times might fit together.

“You’re a jumble of shifting feelings, intuitions, compulsions, desires, interpretations, imaginings, etc. Each piece of you is like a life of its own that only wants to flash itself more into being.

“All living things are primarily self-interested; but nothing exists as an end to itself.

“If you see all the pieces of your evolving self in time, then regulating between your components no longer has the feel or function of an identity crisis.

“As all is brought together, balanced, and canceled out, you begin to hear the collective harmonies of your own inner consensuses. That’s when the pieces of your life stop fighting each other for dominance, but begin to arrange themselves into themes that continue on forever, always expanding and adapting.

“The beautiful thing is that, with the platforms available to you today, your inner consensuses—those lasting fragments of your true, holistic identity—can tie almost automatically to an outside world, giving you purpose and a place to .

“Even the very best plans for how to become whatever you think you should be are only premature attempts at fixing some sort of future from a particular snapshot of the ever-shifting combination of feelings, intuitions, compulsions, etc. that emerge together to form you in time.

“That’s why choosing an identity never works.

“Even if you could see every aspect of yourself as you prepare to share your experience—and even if every part of what you see could be illuminated by all outside sources that naturally speak to confirm it—your inner consensuses are always only probabilistic. They’re never fixed. You can never be completely certain.

“Your journey is never over; you’re always becoming you.”

I think it’s a mistake to see even the clearest inner or outer guiding lights as certainties to blindly follow forever.

In this story, we’re talking about hunches, best guesses, seeming connections, confirmed theories…

Honestly, each aspect of my perspective right now is primed for total annihilation in the face of better evidence; but so is the theory of gravity.

My high thoughts continue:

“Sharing your experience over time is what keeps all the pieces of what you believe and think you see properly arranged—your convictions, intuitions, feelings, ideas, etc.

“A consensus about what you think or want is a general direction you see yourself consistently wanting to go, not a fixed goal to plan and chase.”

Basically, going public with your experience gives you a more holistic view of your evolving self—your wants, your values, your reasons…

The other option would be trying to double-down on some prescribed identity.

I get really sad when I think of people putting their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes, and running until they crash, again and again…

Tomorrow: more on priming your perspective for annihilation.

[]DAY 47 | Managing yourself #4 (test your methods)

Let’s say you have 4 good hours per day to work on projects. Here are 2 very different ways you could approach those hours:

1) Brainstorm and refine an outline for project A for 30 minutes; complete project A for 90 minutes; do a relaxation exercise; work on an outline for project B for 60 minutes; complete project B for 30 minutes.

2) You know your first priority is to complete projects A and B so you can start projects C and B.2; project A is more important and difficult, so you decide to work on that one first for as long as you’re able to concentrate; project B is more relaxing and fun, so you decide to look forward to working on it last; you’ve found that getting organized for projects C and B.2 will also require projects 9, D, and J to at least have outlines ready; you keep all this information about your sequence and priorities jotted on a notecard in front of you; you try working on the projects in different orders over time, keeping track of what works and what doesn’t while always remaining aware of where you are in your sequence: [(A+B finished) + (9+D+J outlines)=>C+B.2]; you continue to intuit and experiment, keeping track of and refining what works.

The first method is a prescription or plan. The second is self-management.

The first method is fixed and regimented. You might find yourself often glancing at the clock as you wait for your allotted times to pass.

The second method is flexible and open. It involves freely testing intuitions and making adjustments as you continue searching for the best ways to maximize your potential in the time you have.

There is definitely comfort and value in the simplicity of the first method. Such is the appeal of seeing the world prescriptively—seeing things as you believe they should be: It requires no guess work.

And yes, the first method might prove to be incredibly effective.

But even if the results from both methods are exactly the same, the second method is still better.

Why?

With the second method, you know why it worked. You’re also able to make reliable predictions about future projects.

In Science, putting your thoughts about what you see to the test allows you to make predictions. Patterns and relationships confirmed by significant testing are called theories. Theories are the opposite of prescriptions. Theories are descriptions about what is currently seen as being confirmed. Prescriptions are interpretations drawn from beliefs about what is seen.

Neither theories nor prescriptions can be known for certain, though prescriptions are treated as certainties.

My Facing Addiction story puts my thoughts about my own experience to the test by measuring them against humanity’s current cumulative knowledge of addiction and related themes as objectively as possible over time.

Unless you commit to a specific prescription, going public with your experience leads to an often uncomfortable, unpredictable process of honest measurement and testing.

I wrote this in September, 2014 (while high):

“Each stage of going public acts as perfect training for whatever must come next.

“The process of going public aligns you with yourself. Whatever caused you to fall out of sync is brought to light in undeniable ways. You begin to see, value, and then embody specific characteristics of your best self.

“I wish I could somehow say all of this with far less words (it really all seems so simple).

“As if to keep me from becoming arrogant about the things I’m seeing and writing, each piece seems to arrive as a random, separate daydream. Each intuition or experience is like a picture out of sequence to eventually see in time amongst the whole.

“Looking back, I’m glad I never ‘made it’ or tried to put my story .

“Everything that happened had to happen.

“It took this long because it took this long.

“When you value your experience enough to manage yourself, you’re able to learn and try all sorts of different methods for becoming the most efficient version of an integrated you that you can be, using all that’s currently available to you.”

The ideas I’m sharing are all shifts in perspective I had to have.

For years, I fearfully grasped at prescriptive plans for how to change, losing more and more confidence in myself each time I failed.

What holds you back?

I want to help you, but my words can’t change your perspective.

Share your experience. See the likely answers for yourself. Put them all to the test for as long as you need to.

Here’s something else I once wrote while high:

“Combinations of intuitions work like theses, not conclusions. Going public simply creates a means for you to test all your theses objectively.”

Once you find your likely answers, go help someone else find theirs.

Tomorrow: how self-management can be as natural as a child’s ability to daydream.

[]DAY 48 | Managing yourself #5 (“help” your “self” imagine…?)

Are children better at imagining than adults?

How would kids react if ordered to record their daydreams, construct plans to make what they’ve imagined real, and then force themselves to stick to those plans?

Is having a “better imagination” wasted on children because they can’t yet see how dreams must be turned into steps and implemented?

No.

I wrote this in September, 2014 (while high):

“When I think, it seems like I’m really just imagining and considering different possibilities.”

After writing that, I went away to think for a while.

Then I got even higher, and wrote:

“Society sells us models of success.

“Tests and means are given to measure and promote those capable of acting like the models we’re all shown.

“Self-help seems to foster a drumming-up-of-will-and-hype dynamic for motivation.

“But I think you naturally imagine what would really make you the most happy when you’re not even paying attention.

“It’s called daydreaming.

“The sad and ironic part is that trying to think and act a certain way pollutes and replaces your natural daydreams with bloated, distorted reflections.

“That’s because fortunes are spent daily on showing and selling you back conflated, generic versions of those simple things you’ve always treasured most.

“It’s called advertising.

“Advertising uses fear to convince you that you should spend your life earning such costly assurances as ownership, control, and permanence before you can enjoy what’s really been free and available to you all along.

“You could save up all your life to buy a house in a quaint meadow once you’re too old to see or appreciate the beauty you’ve bought into.

“Or, you could walk to a meadow right now.

“How permanent is the summer sky you miss seeing in order to one day vacation under it a few days more?

“Is there any form of entertainment you couldn’t immediately access on your phone?

“Instead of stirring yourself up to become more like society’s models, I’m encouraging you to let go of all but those imaginations closest to your heart:

“Smiles, faces, nature, food, laughter…

“A million silly little details lost in all the in-between times…

“Allowing yourself to imagine freely like you did when you were a child is never a matter of effort.

“Weed seems to help me imagine, but what it shows me always reminds me why I don’t want to be getting high so much.

“Your dreams, too, can show you what would be worth waking up to experience.”

Stay out of your own way. Let yourself dream. Forget what everyone else seems to think we’re all supposed to want.

Don’t let yourself be pressured, influenced, or sold to.

Instead, discover your true priorities as you record and share your real experience.

Let yourself be drawn toward a happy world far removed from cultural standards, bottom lines, and public attention.

This isn’t really advice, but: Try it for a year, and then compare the results with those of a year’s worth of motivational meetings.

My high thoughts from above continue:

“Trying to force yourself up some standard ladder leads to a radically different life than being unable to ignore your values as you go public with your experience.

“Either you do all you can to fire yourself up enough to carry yourself along on sheer grit and momentum (doing what you’re told), or you see yourself as you are and grow by the sunlight of your own best daydreams.

“Self-help seminars are a great environment for firing yourself up in unprecedented ways. The hours, days, and weeks that follow aren’t.”

Tomorrow: the power of nothing.

[]DAY 49 | Managing yourself #6 (silence)

[Darkness (author unknown)
Let us go in darkness:
not of evil or design,
but empty of concern,
with desires poured
not to end,
but left to slip away:
to fade in beautiful fading song;
and wanting not for words,
thoughts,
needs…
Let us be silent now,
and allow for what cannot be said
to be.]

Here’s something I once wrote while high in September, 2014:

“I still feel like I’m not where I could be.

“It’s like I need all sorts of sounds and distractions, but I wish I didn’t need anything.

“Hopefully once I catch up to myself, my compulsive cravings for stimulation simply won’t matter.

“Maybe then I’ll be able to enjoy silence in the midst of noise.

“Maybe then I’ll enjoy the .”

My need for stimulation and distraction feels like a prison. All I’ve really come to see is how desperately I want freedom in the midst of my compulsions—not freedom from the compulsions, or from weed itself…

This story is about facing the very nature of addiction, not escaping specific addictive behaviors.

There are plenty of methods out there you could use to quit or outrun addiction. Why did you choose a story about someone who set balance and control as his end game?

What kind of world might we be imagining?

The path you take to freedom depends entirely on what you believe. I see two basic paths. For simplicity, let’s call them the Prescription Model and the Silence Model.

The Prescription Model identifies you as the problem.

Do you believe you’ll always be an addict—that the pull of your addictions will never cease to overpower you if you get anywhere near what you’re addicted to?

The Silence Model sets you as the solution. You change as the result of your own values using you to bring themselves more into being. Your values show you what you want until you’re forced to make better choices.

The Silence Model involves always making progress toward an ever-evolving, ever-expanding goal: a better you. You’re empowered to feel the full weight of your compulsions, knowing you’re getting better and better at choosing what they’ve kept you from instead.

Remember, I’m giving you the opposite of a set of instructions to memorize and use as a pillow to rest your head on. I’m telling you to stand and face every single aspect of yourself for all its worth.

The Prescription Model results in freedom from yourself. You, the addict, are given an effective method to keep yourself separate from all triggers that could set off what you regret to call your inward bent.

The Silence Model results in freedom with yourself. When you’re no longer controlled by compulsions, you can simply be and enjoy whatever sets of inner and outer circumstances happen to color your current world.

Now the twist: Could reading my story really just be your addiction’s way of tricking you and wedging itself ever further into your life?

Are we fooling ourselves to believe we could ever navigate the cliff face and return from addiction to balance and control?

Is silence possible?

When I started this story, I had no idea what sharing my experience would mean or accomplish. My journey so far has filled me with confidence. I truly believe I’ll now always be becoming the person I want to be more and more.

My goal is to help as many others as possible discover the same sense of freedom and progress.

If any part of you could believe in balance and control . . . or could believe in your own best self . . . I say go for it: Try going public with your experience. See what can happen.

It all comes down to what you really want, and to what you believe.

Tomorrow: exploring your dichotomies.

[]DAY 50 | Managing yourself #7 (using your dichotomy of values)

A few days before I was first prescribed medical marijuana, I came up with this complex schedule of detailed rewards and punishments for specific weed-related behaviors. It looked like some sort of massive equation housed in an Excel file.

My hope was to avoid addiction before I even had access to medical weed.

Then I started getting high and completely forsook my cool plan.

Weed was fun. It made normal life more enjoyable. It helped me imagine and create. I looked forward to getting high more and more until I looked forward to it too much.

Then four years of addiction passed hazily by.

But going public with my experience has brought me full circle in three ways:

First, going public has shown me I can’t really enjoy what I love about weed when I keep using it compulsively. I also can’t ignore the mounting negative effects of my prolonged lack of control—feeling worn out and useless, losing money, neglecting precious loved ones…

Second, going public has shown me that the way I think dictates how I should share my experience. I take great pleasure in being able to compare and cancel out various pieces of ideas, noticing patterns like theorems in the combined weight and pull of many competing inner and outer forces.

Third, going public has shown me that the way I think also dictates how I should manage myself. Even the intricate schedule I so gleefully formulated to preemptively keep myself from addiction was a perfect example.

How do these three lessons relate to you?

First, sharing your experience reveals to you in a visceral, undeniable way exactly why you love whatever it is you’re addicted to. You’re unable to ignore that using addictively keeps you from enjoying or benefiting from the experience as much as you could be.

You also see all the other values your addiction keeps you from.

Second, the way you go public with your experience has a lot to do with your talents. How you share should be a natural extension of the way you think and see the world, which is the basis of your unique art form, potential, purpose…

Not everyone thinks the way I do. I share my experience by connecting, comparing, and reducing pieces of a long story.

How do you think and communicate?

You might be an off-the-cuff blurter who could get on a microphone without much forethought, and just dive into whatever you have to share.

If that describes you, I’m a little jealous : )

Third, how you think and see the world also reveals much about how you should manage yourself.

Here’s something I once wrote while high:

“Ironically, I now see how much I want to live my day-to-day life by mathematical principles. I’m attracted to simplicity, efficiency, etc.

“Yet the experience of weed, for me, is the exact opposite of Math. Weed is free and colorful. Its effects come in disorganized bursts like a child’s dreams.

“I love weed because it’s fun for me, and it seems to help me appreciate and enjoy life.

“With only Math, there’d be no life for me to want to structure with it.

“With only weed, my high would soon lose its fun.

“Compulsive weed use keeps me from experiencing what weed itself shows me I want, including the magic of using .

“You have your own dichotomy of values to discover.

“What you want most might at least in part be revealed by the very compulsions you find yourself held back by when those compulsions go unchecked.”

Just like my weed addiction has always demolished all my Math-like attempts at constructing perfect plans for how to live, your addictions and compulsions specifically keep you from effectively managing your life however is most natural for you.

Sharing your experience just makes where and why you’re being held back obvious.

I now see how naïve I was to try to manage myself before I had my prescription—punching out lists of rules into Excel cells (with zero perspective) in hopes of warding off addiction.

Since then, preparing to share my experience has caused my perspective both to widen and to deepen. In time, I’ve become aware enough of my own inner dichotomies to make decisions that align with all my most important (yet diverse) core values at once.

Again, you discover your own dichotomies (and how to balance them) as you prepare to share your experience.

Once you see yourself in terms of all your values at once, you naturally seek out the best, most efficient ways to manage and spend your time.

Tomorrow: being unable not to imagine the results of your actions.

[]DAY 51 | Managing yourself #8 (when you can’t not imagine…)

When I was twenty-eight, I decided to go back to college. I was working fulltime, so I took just one night class that first semester. My teacher, Ms. Daniels, was amazing. Not only had she returned to school later in life as well, but she encouraged me in my writing more than anyone else ever had.

Everything about that tiny, tough, eighty year-old adjunct professor just inspired me.

Four years later, I had another class with Ms. Daniels. By that time, I was fully addicted to medical weed. It was odd to experience Ms. Daniel’s class in such a different mental state the second time. I found I could still string together papers and do most of the work; but I always had the feeling I was letting down my favorite teacher.

The two classes with Ms. Daniels were like bookends marking a total transformation in my life. In four years, I’d gone from being a fired up twentysomething, excited to take on higher learning, to a tired thirty-two-year-old who snuck out of class most nights to go smoke weed in the parking lot.

I started to dread Ms. Daniel’s class. Seeing the effects of my plummet into addiction made it impossible not to imagine how I’d feel when I showed up high, unkempt, lethargic, angry…

I actually skipped a whole bunch of weeks leading up to the final exam, barely scraping by to pass.

How important is being able to imagine the consequences of your actions? Could being able to predict how you’ll feel ever empower you to make better choices?

When I was a teenager, all my friends and I were made to feel incredibly guilty for having any sexual inclinations at all. It wasn’t because of any specific set of influences or authority figures—that was just how things were where I happened to live at the time.

Masturbation was a shameful secret we could only talk about with our closest friends.

Because of the shame I felt, I tried many times to quit masturbating. I made plans, created diversions, downloaded strategies, fled privacy…

I actually managed to quit for about a year when I was fifteen. What eventually gave me the edge was not being able to help but imagine exactly how bad I’d feel afterwards if I were to give in to compulsion.

I’ve been calling addiction doing what you tell yourself not to. Well, at fifteen I’d been telling myself not to masturbate. I believed it was something to be ashamed of.

Here’s something I wrote (while high) in October, 2014 :

“Tonight I was on my way to a dispensary that closes at 10pm. It was about 9:40, and I realized I was 25c short of the $5 needed for a pre-roll joint.

“I dug around in my car, but only found a foreign coin that was roughly the same size.

“The coins really didn’t look the same up close.

“So…

“I stormed into the dispensary attempting to forcefully hold eye contact with the girl working the counter as I requested my joint.

“I handed her the $4 cash first, then the four coins (with the foreign coin in the middle).

“I was overjoyed when she told me it was Happy Hour and gave me two joints for the price of one.

“As soon as I had the joints in my hand, I bolted out, scrambled to my car, and zoomed away.

“I hope I didn’t get that girl in trouble. Probably not, since I’m sure they’re going through cash all the time. I doubt they tie each sale to a particular rep.

“Maybe next time I can leave a tip or something.

“Anyway, as soon as I’d sped off in my car, puffing away on the first of my two joints, I saw a 25c coin lying on the passenger seat. I would have had enough the whole time.

“So, I ended up with two joints tonight for a little less than the price of one. I just smoked one of them. Before tonight, I hadn’t had any weed for about a week.

“I wish I could imagine, once I’m not high, how awesome it would be if the joint I just smoked could be my last for a while. Then I could save this extra joint until the next time I actually decide to use. It could represent a new beginning, when I’d emerge from addiction in total control of my weed use.

“I could smoke this extra joint right now or tomorrow, and .

“Or, I could wait until I next decide to use, and it would be .

“If I could just imagine how I’d feel…

“Remember how much you want what you want. That’s really all you’ve ever had to do.

“Learn to remember exactly how you feel when you lose control to your compulsions.

“Learn to imagine how you’ll feel when you don’t.

“See it.

“That’s actually what I’ve been learning to do all along.”

Has being able to imagine consequences ever helped you keep to a decision?

Tomorrow: using your addiction to bring yourself to your own next phase.

[]DAY 52 | Managing yourself #9 (using your addiction)

One day at a time.

It’s the picture of addiction we’re all familiar with—something each of us can relate to on some level: the sketchy addict sitting somewhere, staring at a clock, desperately fighting to make it through another minute, hour, or day without using.

Feel the anger, jitteriness, distraction, anxiety, and every other imaginable match of willpower versus discomfort.

The addict only sees within that slowly ticking clock a lifetime’s worth of feverish struggle ahead.

I believe the experience of facing addiction can be almost the exact opposite of that. When you can manage yourself, the bleak notion of having to force arbitrary periods of deprivation and unpleasantness is transformed into motivation to give each present moment over to the new you you’re becoming.

It’s taken me a long time to actually start to grasp what I’ve been saying here all along: that if you focus on going public with your real experience, you see your values; then your addictions and limitations basically take care of themselves.

Periods of forced abstinence seem quite unproductive in terms of pursuing passions and values.

The desperate addict mentioned above can’t really focus on much else but time as it fails to pass by fast enough.

Sitting at opposite ends of an empty room will leave you and your addiction with nothing left to do but stare at each other.

I believe you can actually use the power of your addiction to propel yourself forward into the next phase of your journey. Then you find whatever that phase is becomes so valuable to you that you can no longer allow your addiction to hinder you in that area.

Without forcing yourself at all, simply use what you’re addicted to as a way of making the next steps in your sequence more appealing until the importance of those steps surpasses the pull of the addictive behavior you used to first help you take them.

From there, you can use your addiction to propel yourself forward again…

What am I talking about? How could something addictive motivate you to do something good?

I wrote this in late 2014 (while high)

“I’ve always felt the need to better manage .

“I now see that facing addiction isn’t about taking things ‘one day at a time’ in the sense of simply getting through a day without giving in, then another day, then another…

“I want to get the most out of all the time I have, which I know means always learning to better integrate all the various things I want to do and be.”

A few days later, I got high again and wrote:

“Could weed serve as a reward for successfully starting something new?

“Once that new activity becomes an established part of my life, maybe it would be so awesome and valuable to me that I’d naturally want to remove weed from it to make it even better…?”

The next day, I continued (high) with:

“Then I guess my weed use would shift to the next steps in my sequence until those new pursuits also compelled me more than my addiction.”

So far, I’ve used my weed addiction to start preparing and sharing my Facing Addiction story, to exercise, to network, to get moving on a whole bunch of other projects, and to incorporate all sorts of other important steps until their value overshadowed the pull of my addiction.

Once each new phase was established, my weed use naturally shifted as I saw that there were certain aspects of those new activities I couldn’t do as well while high.

My high time then trickled and pooled to other parts of new projects until those too became ingrained.

Could something compulsive ever motivate you to begin something important?

What about those areas in life your addiction doesn’t seem to hinder?

One summer, I used weed as a motivation to start exercising at night. Unlike with my other pursuits, I didn’t see weed hindering my exercise at all. I could have potentially always kept getting high while working out at night.

But then I changed my schedule just a little…

Tomorrow we’ll see how intentionally slight schedule changes can compound the power of self-management.

P.S. The last thing I used my addiction to motivate was to complete this massive to-do list with all the steps required for setting up my website—design, formatting, a social media plan, and everything else needed for me to go public with my Facing Addiction experience.

The new life I stepped into after that has been so amazing that I haven’t used weed compulsively since . . . but I’m getting way ahead of myself.

I still had some of my most important lessons left to learn before I found the balance and control I’d been searching for all along.

[]DAY 53 | Managing yourself #10 (the good, the bad, and my lunch break)

Three years ago, my best friend gave me some great advice. I was having trouble finding time to work on projects, so he recommended basically getting myself into a quiet room late at night and plugging away until the wee hours of the morning.

Being a natural night owl, I was amazed to find how much useful time I had whenever I could keep to my friend’s recommendation.

Sometime in late 2014, there came a point when it seemed more effective for me to start working on projects early in the morning instead. I was already using the process I described yesterday, so my addiction was essentially driving itself out of one important area of my life after another.

As a result, I was left using weed only on my lunch break at work and while exercising in the garage before bed.

I happened to switch to exercising right after work so I could spend more time with my family at night. That natural shift meant I was no longer getting high while working out.

I was left using weed only on my lunch break each day.

Yes, my addiction pushed me to find all sorts of creative ways to consume weed at other random times—whenever, wherever, however, and for whatever reason I could—but the simple changes I’d made to my schedule enforced the progress I’d already been making, giving me a powerful edge in the long run.

Though I have far more important reasons for wanting to control addiction, my natural schedule changes made control a practical necessity.

After a about a week, I started to see why getting high only on my lunch break just wouldn’t work anymore.

I wrote this in November, 2014 (while high one day on a lunch break):

“When I only get high once a day, the immediate effects seem far stronger. I get so anxious each day when I get back to work, feeling like it must be obvious to everyone how high I am.

“My fear might be imaginary. It might just be my conscience finding yet another way to berate me for getting high too much.

“But using at lunch like this simply won’t work for me.

“So, basically without even trying, I find myself left with no convenient times to use weed compulsively anymore.”

As you prepare to share your experience, follow illuminations from others, pursue your art form, grow in perspective, and learn to manage yourself in the moment, your switch from failure to progress gives you momentum and motivation to make the very best use of your time.

Then, as your schedule naturally shifts, you find yourself left with no convenient times to indulge in addictive behaviors.

Tomorrow: some of the costliest ways addiction has kicked my ass over the last four years.

[]DAY 54 | Kicks ass

I can so clearly remember the first night I got high after getting my medical marijuana prescription.

I’d torn some clumps off of two different strains to try. One was supposed to be more energetic, bright, and cerebral—a Sativa called Permafrost. The other was meant to be more laid back, relaxing, and physical—an Indica named Abusive OG.

After a few puffs of the piney Permafrost, my mind began to race in an extremely raw and jagged way. Peering down at the clumps of Abusive OG on the counter, I decided I was done for the night. The Permafrost felt like it had been more than enough.

I remember literally thinking:

Man, I forgot how a couple hits of good weed can really kick your ass!”

So that was my official first high thought after getting my prescription.

Anyway, fast-forward a few years…

One day in late 2014, I was smoking a strain very much like Permafrost (called Jack Scout). I felt almost no effects at all, so I smoked the entire gram, mixing in an Indica very much like Abusive OG (called Player OG), as well as some hash, followed up with some homemade edibles.

I still felt almost nothing.

Although tolerance to addiction keeps weed from clobbering me the way a tiny bit would have at the beginning, addiction itself kicks my ass in a far more all-encompassing way.

Here’s something I wrote while high in November, 2014:

“I’m starting to see how badly my addiction is messing me up, especially when I use all day.

“When I first got my prescription, I had a lot more happening mentally for a good high to take apart. Having my mind thrown sideways like that could sometimes be quite shocking, even .

“Now it feels as though my mind has been completely buzzed-through, burnt-out, and made dull.

“Old avalanches have been replaced by sad, lifeless little stirrings.

“The more I use in a day, the more I steadily drift toward feeling tired of everything and everyone.”

My goal in all of this has been to learn to use weed less so I can enjoy the magic of the experience more. The flipside of “less is more,” though, is I want to minimize the way addiction depletes me over time.

I’ve already shared how I’m affected socially, financially, mentally, physically, and in terms of my values (family, art form, stability, etc.).

I was once speaking to a group about the depleting effects of my weed addiction, and someone shot back with details about how using weed all the time had actually helped him in every area.

If that’s your experience, great. If getting high or whatever else isn’t holding you back at all, then I don’t see a problem. But I’d still recommend finding ways to share your real experience in time. Held back by addiction or not, sharing your experience helps you gain perspective about where your life as a whole is going.

Nobody’s perfect. We all have room to grow and improve.

You might uncover some unexpected limitations as you share about your values.

If using weed all the time doesn’t hold you back at all, I’d particularly like to hear your experience. Maybe it can balance out mine.

By no means do I have (or want to have) a monopoly on experience or insight, or on how to interpret those two things.

If you’re disgusted by the damage your addiction has done, tomorrow’s chapter will give you something to consider as you seek the best ways to gain control.

[]DAY 55 | One more step (before the 12)

You might have found my Facing Addiction story through a Google search on addiction or controlling weed use.

During the four years of my weed addiction, I can’t tell you how many times I searched for terms like “marijuana addiction” or “controlling addiction.”

I generally tend to hit the search engines whenever I specifically see how something I hold dear is being damaged or hindered by my actions or thoughts.

Searches and detailed plans for how to change are my gut reaction whenever I hear myself crying out on the inside for an unseen way of escape.

Many sites list addiction’s warning signs, and every set of signs I found would lead me to conclude I was certainly addicted.

The most common signs are: spending all your time and money (secretly) on pursuing your addiction; building a tolerance; fooling yourself into thinking you’re still in control while ignoring how more and more of your life is being eaten up and depleted…

My experience of uncontrolled addiction has been like losing territory in war to a hostile occupier.

You can find all sorts of helpful quizzes on WebMD and other sites to see if you’re addicted, anxious, depressed, etc. After the quiz, next steps are often offered, such as counseling, the possibility of medication, support groups…

The point of this story is not to tell you to avoid professional or medical help. I’m really just recommending another step in the process of recovery—something to consider after you recognize your addiction, but before (or as well as) whatever other steps you take to fight it.

Why the extra step?

Well, first, because the world is changing.

Not long ago, society was comprised of systems built around firmly fixed infrastructures. There was education, health, media, business…

In that world, we were all shown and sold the same cookie-cutter versions of how to thrive. Society gave its people specific, acceptable ideals to work toward and celebrate.

Today there’s no standard version of success. Systems with infrastructures still use and fight each other to try to stay relevant; but really there’s no more mainstream.

Addiction was something society taught us to demonize because addiction kept us from becoming what former mainstream culture taught us to idealize.

It was once universally accepted that successful people who became addicts had to completely flee whatever they were addicted to so they could get back to being upstanding citizens with careers and mortgages.

I don’t believe that’s necessarily the way the world is anymore.

What do you believe about the world?

I’ve been talking about a world in which each person develops their own individual art form while pursuing unique passions and values—a world where we all naturally connect with others like us on the path toward becoming our best selves.

Mine would be a world where we can all be held accountable to what we say we want as we live publically and come to see ourselves and our values more and more objectively.

I wrote this in November, 2014 (while high):

“On , I mentioned that if my attempt at finding balance and control failed, I’d try something like a .

“Well, I don’t think it’s failed.

“So I guess what I’m saying to you now is just to make sure, before you jump to something like the 12-steps, that what you’re currently addicted to isn’t something you think you could or should ever work with—maybe something valuable that wants to work with you.

“If working with what you’re currently addicted to could bring about something good for you and others, why neglect that potential good unless you have to?

“Why not use that good as another source of motivation to face and control even your addiction to it, along with whatever else holds you back?”

Do you believe something you’re addicted to could ever bring about something positive?

Well, how’s this story been so far?

Tomorrow: never having to retrace your steps.

P.S. I wrote this (while high) about the purpose of my Facing Addiction story (and essentially all my writing):

“One thing that might be different about me is I’m not really claiming to have any knowledge to share.

“This story is a quest for knowledge.

“It’s a quest for change I think I see as possible.

“It’s a quest for an unknown balance.

“It’s a quest to scrape as close to Reality as I can without acting like I understand how or why things probably are the way they seem.”

[]DAY 56 | Final fumble

Have you ever gotten through a tough fight with someone special, or maybe a complicated project, and at the end you thought, ‘Well, I’m glad that’s done, because I’d probably never be able to work it out the exact same way again!’?

The emotions, details, and shifting tides of life somehow seemed to all align in your favor at just the right time. Trying to retrace your steps would be like trying to recreate from scratch a book you’d just finished writing and then accidently deleted.

I wrote this in late 2014 (while high):

“It’s been three days since I’ve used weed.

“I feel great.

“I feel like this whole process of facing addiction and sharing my experience is actually working.

“Looking at my weed stash, it’s obvious that using far less often means I’m spending far less money, so it definitely feels like a big financial weight has been lifted.”

I was feeling pretty good.

About a week later, I got high one night at work. I remember finding and eating this random tray of cookies before sitting down to calculate roughly how much I’d spent on weed since my last estimation.

The results were staggering. Combined, I figured I’d spent over $8,000; and that was just the money I could specifically account for.

I hadn’t really been paying close attention to cash flow when using all day every day. I just knew almost all my money had literally gone up in smoke.

I suddenly had a strangely detached vision of my own life at that moment. I saw how I’d yet again abandoned my poor family to go smoke alone at work (and eat cookies), still giving precious time and money over to compulsions I’d already known for years had been holding me back.

I wrote:

“This can’t happen anymore.”

I hate the idea of having to repeatedly shout the exact same warnings at myself over and over.

But I see now from preparing to share my experience that I truly am moving forward overall, gradually making progress I know won’t ever be lost.

I regret my mistakes, but I know they’re really only momentary setbacks along the path to balance and maturity.

I’ll put it this way: I wouldn’t trade where I’m at right now for anything. If someone were to offer me $8,000 (or millions of dollars) to erase my story and the perspective it’s helped me gain, I wouldn’t even consider it.

Nothing is worth more than your experience.

As we’ve seen, your experience is your potential, your enjoyment, and your values.

After all, the experience of your life is all you really have, right?

Though I could never see trying to make the exact same progress I’ve made the same way again, I know I’ll never have to.

That’s the beauty of sharing your experience: It lives before your eyes forever to keep you from ever really falling too far back (as long as you keep sharing).

Yes, you fall down where you’re at sometimes; but you also see so clearly why you can and should get right back up, dust off the ash and cookie crumbs, and just keep moving.

Let’s never stop moving forward together.

Tomorrow: more on not listening to my own warnings.

[]DAY 57 | Funny how I don’t hear myself

Addiction is [secretly?] doing what you tell yourself not to.

But what do I mean by “secretly”?

During my years of weed addiction, those closest to me thought I was only getting high on weekends. I was actually using whenever I possibly could, sometimes all day every day.

Once I began to successfully manage my weed use, it got to where I was ironically using about as often as I’d been telling everyone.

I wrote this (while high):

“I’m actually getting high once a week for real now. It’s funny how it still feels like way too much.”

At least I could finally be honest with my loved ones.

But I’ve found it so hard to shake the stubborn notion that searching for balance means trying to figure out some exact amount to allow myself to use at designated times.

Despite everything you’ve seen me tell myself about not planning, I never truly realized how deeply caught up I was in the idea of arriving at some perfectly structured prescription to live by forever.

My high thoughts from above continue:

“Am I in control?

“Have I found balance?

“Almost.

“There are still times when I use more than I think I should.

“If the result of addiction is , then the result of preparing to share my experience has been seeing . I’m not just some broken system that weed and other things can infiltrate and use.

“Am I this story?

“I certainly see in what I’ve captured exactly who I want to be and why.

“I’ve come to love just sitting here, listening to peaceful music, and typing out whatever high daydreams come to mind.”

It’s ironic that Facing Addiction has really been all about learning to face myself.

I don’t believe there’s any other universally applicable way to face and grow beyond whatever holds you back in life.

I asked myself this question the next day (while high):

“Would I want to not use weed at all for a long time, and then get really high?

“Or, would I rather get a little high more often?

“But using less is so much better when I use only once in a while.”

I got high again the next day, felt bad, and wrote:

“I wasn’t supposed to do this today.

“I feel like I really can’t live like this anymore.”

A few days later, I got high again and wrote:

“It’s funny how I don’t hear myself.

“I keep saying I want to use weed less, right?

“How long have I been saying that?

“How many similar high thoughts have there been?

“You always fail at times because you never have a perfect perspective.

“It’s .

“Fail less. Keep going.

“The truth is always this: I’ll be high again soon enough…” : )

I’ve always been impressed by this particular diet and exercise program that offers an extremely strict routine to carry out all week; but then once a week you get a free day to do and eat whatever you want.

Having that free day to look forward to makes the extreme workouts and food rules bearable.

It also makes what you eat on your free day taste so much better.

If balance and control are your goals—instead of lifelong abstinence—then you always know you’ll be using whatever it is again soon enough. That gives you something to look forward to whenever self-management gets tough.

Don’t be ashamed when you fail to follow your conscience perfectly. Just keep going. Keep sharing your experience.

Watch what happens.

Has what you want ever proven to be a lot simpler than you can make it at times?

Tomorrow: Should you try to change everything all at once?

[]DAY 58 | Managing yourself #11 (one thing at a time)

Near the end of the TV series, The Office (US), the nerdy and determined Dwight Schrute is asked how he feels about not being made branch manager, the job he’s always wanted.

Dwight responds, “Yeah, at first I was really disappointed. But I’ve got a great daily routine going right now. I’ve up’ed my karate to eight times a week. I added boxing, lunches and on weekends, I do kick-boxing three times a week, Krav Maga four times a week, an hour of meditation in the morning at sunrise and again at sunset. So yeah, I’m doing great.”

Spoiler alert: Dwight is eventually made manager. The other characters are genuinely proud of him. It’s a satisfying ending after watching Dwight’s persistence throughout the series.

As his Karate sensei states, Dwight is “one of the most tenacious and determined men.”

Now, Dwight does have several obvious personal limitations. He’s naïve, oblivious at times, and socially awkward. Yet seeing Dwight succeed in the face of his limitations makes his victory all the more compelling.

Dwight manages himself first. He changes his own life, even while still dealing with immense disappointment.

In order to develop the mature perspective that ultimately leads to your success, you must learn to do the same.

You’d probably have a hard time trying to adopt a daily regimen of Karate, boxing, kick-boxing, Krav Maga, and two hour-long meditation sessions, all at once.

It might be better to focus on making just one change at a time.

Here’s something I once wrote while high:

“As you prepare to share your experience over time, you see how different areas of your life are being held back.

“Following your natural , use the self-management steps to develop each value you see currently being hindered.

“I wouldn’t recommend trying to make too many changes at once.

“Your progress in each area should be part of the experience you share.”

A few days later, I got high and wrote:

“Part of each self-management step is to share that step with others, whether the step is to start exercising, learn an instrument, get a new job, or whatever other goal you see currently being held back by your addictions and compulsions.

“Someone will benefit from what you share, and sharing holds you .”

Do you think it’s possible to make more than one big change at a time? I’d love to hear your feedback on that, since I think I’ve come to see both sides.

Tomorrow: throwing your convictions against a wall and seeing how they stick.

[]DAY 59 | Throwing your convictions against a wall

How will I know when I’m successfully managing my weed addiction?

Easy: When I’m not using more than I tell myself to.

But how often am I telling myself to?

Click

And there we have it: The cogs of the machine have wound and clunked into their final formation yet again; my questions have shifted form, landing me once more in the frozen abyss of the incessant and unanswerable:

“When? How much? How often?”

A better question might be: “When will I learn to stop seeking exact timeframes and quantities?”

I once wrote this while high:

“Using weed about once a week feels like a good amount for now. It feels like something I could get myself to stick to…

“But writing that feels so wrong.”

It felt wrong because I saw my mental machine’s innate bent tugging at the pieces of my true convictions, desperate as always for simpler answers than silence and less is more.

I wrote this the next day (while high again):

“I hope I take what I’m writing seriously. It’s all supposed to result in me actually finding balance and control in the end.

“Why do I forget that?

“Do I trust myself?

“By no means am I asking you to trust me. I just wonder why I should trust my own cumulative assessment, which seems as always to be coming at me from every direction at once.

“My cumulative assessment is what I’ve been sharing all along.

“How can you actively trust and run with your own evolving cumulative assessment of yourself (which, of course, you see as you prepare to share your experience)?

“I have my own convictions, which I’m not sharing for you to try to follow. Not at all.

“For example, I don’t want my addiction to damage my family. You might not have a family.

“You might have completely different reasons for wanting to change.

“I’m basically just throwing my own convictions against a wall over time and .

“That’s what I’m encouraging you to do as well.

“My intuitions are sort of like little blips of connection between various inner and outer worlds. Put together, each intuition is like a link in one of many connected chains, all of which are so long I can never see either end.

“My desperate search for some perfect timeframe or quantity is like trying to see both ends of every chain all at once. It’s truly impossible, especially since the chains are never fixed for very long.

“I once got high in my early twenties and wrote a poem. Part of it went: ‘Machines… Touch… Contact…’ I wish I still had the rest.

“I hate pride. I just want to be a . I find normalcy, contentment, and stillness valuable.

“Like I said, we all have our reasons.”

That’s it, right? I’ve followed my intuition to go public with my experience. Am I done?

Going public has shown me how my undeniable convictions are balanced amongst so many other aspects of my being, all of which are impossible to fully know, predict, or understand.

So I have no choice but to take my own next steps.

Am I ready?

No.

There’s one more missing key, which we’ll discover tomorrow—the most important self-management step of all.

[]DAY 60 | Managing yourself #12 (facing desire)

We all have desires. We react to various desires in different ways. Some seek to separate from desire because desire causes suffering. Others attempt to master desire—whether through force, a higher power, a change in attitude…

What do you believe about desire? Is desire always fundamentally bad or unspiritual? Should you feel ashamed of your desires?

Imagine your desire for whatever you’re addicted to. Regardless of right or wrong, do you associate that desire with suffering, shame, secrecy…? Such associations seem reasonable, though are perhaps unhelpful.

If addiction is doing what you’ve had every good reason to tell yourself not to do, then desiring what you’re addicted to is wanting something you know is potentially harmful.

Can potentially harmful desires ever also be helpful?

I want to share a new approach to desire: What if instead of forcing yourself to ignore, fight, transcend, or replace a desire, you actually faced it?

What if you didn’t move toward or away from any of your desires at all? What if you just kept going about your normal life while feeling the full weight of every desire, seeing each for exactly what it is?

I don’t want to start a new religion or movement. It just seems we humans love to try to artificially compartmentalize the mass of forces, compulsions, desires, convictions, and intentions that all merge uneven in time to form our inner selves.

You experience such forces as the basis of thoughts, emotions, memories, etc. but they’re never as one-to-one in real time as you might like to think.

You can identify and study each component of who or what you are, inwardly. You can benefit greatly from capturing and categorizing your real intuitions and experiences over time. But life can’t really be compartmentalized. You grow from and through each aspect of every state in which you find yourself.

The will to do anything but fully face the weight of all your desires might come from a good motive—a reaction to something you see causing real problems. But it’s impossible to manipulate, escape from, replace, or force your state to change.

That’s why I believe it’s best to see and experience your state for exactly what it is. Then you can grow up through your state as its limits are naturally expanded.

Running from desire is attempting to build a new self upon a foundation that’s not there.

I believe there can be a purity to even the desires you’re most ashamed of if you come to face and experience them honestly and completely, neither running nor giving in.

Giving in compulsively only pushes the desire a little further back, anyway.

See exactly how your desires weave and lash themselves in and out amongst your state.

Then share your experience.

I wrote this way back on November 3, 2011 (I might have been high; I’d only been using medical weed for less than a year at the time):

“Being led by compulsions is sort of like a ‘90s teenager trading the friends, fun, and scary adventure of a first high school party for staying home and watching the show, Friends, instead.

“I’d rather face the full depth and breadth of all my desires instead of trying to strangle them or offer any kind of substitute.

“Desire itself is a representation of life. It’s to know deeply and experientially exactly what I want.

“Desire shows me a real part of who and what I am. Seeing myself that way is also seeing that, if my desires are fulfilled the right way, my experience is immeasurably better.

“Addictions might be the result of never seeing the value of facing, feeling, and sitting with desires.

“How unfortunate.”

I remember being alone at my parents’ house one day when I was eleven. The babysitter had taken my little sister out somewhere. I literally spent that entire day vividly daydreaming about kissing this girl in my class.

I’ll never forget how fun it was to talk about stuff like that late at night at sleepovers.

Before I had access to medical weed, I remember literally dreaming nightly about getting high, and then waking up to think about it all day. It felt like pining for a long-lost friend.

In the South Park episode, Raisins, the loveable Butters gets his heart broken. After a process of reacting to his feelings in different ways, he concludes: “I’m sad, but at the same time I’m really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It’s like, it makes me feel alive, y’know? It makes me feel human, and the only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good. So I guess what I’m feeling is like a, beautiful sadness.”

Facing desire requires perspective, which equates to maturity.

Trust me, when I was eleven and dreaming about girls, I didn’t find it enjoyable. I wouldn’t have waited if I didn’t have to.

Now I wish I could still want to kiss someone that much.

I wish I could want to get high as much as I did when I used to dream about it.

So, how do you face desire?

I wrote this in 2014 (while high):

“As I learn to best manage myself in the moment each day, I also want to learn to fully face my desire for weed whenever I feel compelled to get high at times other than when I’ve told myself I should.

“Learning to value sitting with desire is the final self-management step.

“Face your desire for everything you want to learn to balance or control.

“Weed is just the most prominent thing I’m facing my desire for right now.”

I wrote this a couple days later (while high):

“Facing desire is the culmination of self-management, just as seeing the value of experience is the culmination of the role of willpower and the basis for self-management in the first place.”

I’d say learning to appreciate the value of experience, and learning to face desire, are the two most important landmark lessons of my Facing Addiction journey.

Tomorrow: why the process that culminates in facing desire really doesn’t matter unless…

P.S. It still took me months to really get what I was saying here about facing desire. At first, I tried to keep a Facing Desire journal to write in whenever I really wanted to get high but knew I shouldn’t.

But keeping that journal felt so unnatural.

I now believe the whole point of facing desire is to find joy and peace in doing absolutely nothing (or just whatever you’d normally be doing) while seeing exactly what you want on different levels.

Let facing desire show you just how alive you really are.

Don’t run. Face.

[]DAY 61 | Only what you do

Yesterday we talked about facing desire. Facing desire is an inward activity or awareness that involves as little extra outward action as possible.

Today we’ll start to see why inward awarenesses really can’t matter unless they lead to outward results.

Attitudes and perspectives are only proven by character and behavior.

In November, 2014, I got high and wrote:

“There’s no point knowing what to do if you never actually do it.

“I write all these notes to myself about how much I want to control my weed addiction. Somehow the addiction silences the truth of my written convictions.

“Something in me somewhere says, ‘Well, I’ll just get high today because I’m going to stop soon anyway. Ok weed, give me whatever you have for me.’

“Deep down, I want to be a better person. For me, that means wanting to control addiction, to finish my Facing Addiction story, to stop being so demanding all the time, to be more positive, to eat better, to read…

“What stops me (in any given moment) from being that person?”

The next day, I got high again and wrote:

“Regardless of how many times I tell myself to get better, all that matters is whether or not I actually get better.”

I wrote this a few days later (again, high):

“The way you act is a choice influenced by many factors.

“Generally, the way you act or react is determined by .

“Even the truest concepts and ideas can’t sink in enough to change your state if not directly connected to the outward realities you experience.

“For example, whenever I do manage to get high less, it seems to literally multiply my time: I see myself getting so much more done between highs, and then each high feels far more productive and enjoyable.

“There’s power in seeing inward motivations touching outward worlds.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you hear or see something true. It’s only as you see that truth impacting your real experience in an undeniable way (for long enough) that your behavior changes.”

Tomorrow: how to connect the inward reality of what you want, feel, and know to the outward reality of your experience and behavior; we’ll compare self-management to a method endorsed by motivational speaker, Tony Robbins.

[]DAY 62 | Trusting yourself

I love Tony Robbins. I find his big energy, kind personality, and amazing life story incredibly inspiring. To me, Tony exudes a deep and robust understanding of human emotions.

Tony leads by example. His attitude and lifestyle show the effectiveness of the practical truths he spends his life imparting to others.

Similar to what was mentioned yesterday, Tony says there’s really no such thing as a decision until it’s been acted upon; before that, he says, you can only say you have a wish.

I listened to Tony’s profound Audiobook, Awaken the Giant Within, and saw several connections between the Neuro-Associative Conditioning (NAC) method he teaches and what I’ve been sharing about self-management.

In Awaken the Giant Within, Tony explains how to tap into passion in order to achieve success. Here are the six steps of NAC he unpacks:

1. Decide what you want, and then see what’s preventing that right now.

2. Get leverage—associate massive pain with not changing now, and massive pleasure with changing.

3. Interrupt limiting patterns—be aware of how the way you might naturally want to respond will limit you. Do something radically different in the face of those patterns to change your state.

4. Create new, empowering alternatives to those patterns that provide the same benefits without the damage.

5. Condition the new pattern until you react that way consistently. Schedule it. Reward yourself for doing it so your mind associates the new pattern with pleasure.

6. Make sure it works. Test for ecology and effectiveness. Does it work in your business, your personal life, etc.? Is it benefiting you the way your old pattern did, but now without all the problems your old pattern caused?

While listening to the audiobook, I got high and wrote:

How does going public with your experience/self-management compare to Tony Robbins’ method? Are they the same, or is my approach more like NAC’s mirror—each being everything the other isn’t?

When you go public with your real experience, you can’t ignore what you want and what’s holding you back. That’s step one of NAC.

Seeing the unpleasantness of your current state over time makes living in that state progressively less bearable. That’s the leverage described in step two of NAC.

Going public with your experience cuts to the source of all limiting patterns and self-indulgent thoughts that tie you to your current state; what’s being held back by your limitations and compulsions becomes incredibly valuable to you; your perspective changes; new patterns become conditioned naturally as you begin to manage yourself in one important area of life after another.

Is that not basically steps three through five of NAC?

As for making sure it works, the beauty of self-management is it’s never fixed. Self-management adapts as you grow. Habits that either help or hinder your progress become obvious.

You’re always becoming more efficient and effective.”

I was happy for a few days after that.

Then I got high again, and wrote:

Sometimes it feels lonely and unstable in this space between all or nothing called balance and self-management. It would be so much easier just to settle in to some simple set of black and white instructions for how to not get high.

Part of me still wants a plan to follow that I’ll never have to think about, adjust, or regulate.

But hearing Tony’s book gave me every reason to believe I’m on the right track—that the basic ideas I’m sharing are valid.

So why do I still feel trapped by my weed addiction, even considering all the progress I’ve made?

I think I understand why, though obviously not yet deeply enough. Perhaps the one lesson that’s taking me forever to grasp on every level is this:

Once you start preparing to go public with your experience, it really doesn’t matter how much (or often) you keep doing what you’re trying to quit or control.

Just go public, and everything else works itself out.

There’s such a sense of peace whenever I start to realize that.

But my conscience sure doesn’t see things that way.

“[_ My conscience only continually insists: ‘Why can’t you just ________, and then you’ll be perfect?!’ _]

Do I have to compromise my conscience in order to find balance amongst all the other parts of me that aren’t my conscience?

No, it’s not compromise.

Even the voice that asks if it’s compromise is actually still my conscience, weaving shame to plead its case like an authority figure. It uses all tactics but reason to intimidate me into doing what I think is right.

The experience I’m preparing to share shows me who I am right now. It also shows me who I’ve been, and how everything I’ve done has simply been a choice between different values, some immediate and some long-term.

Some of those choices for immediate gratification have negatively affected my state in the long run; but I see why I made them.

“[_ My conscience thunders on with judgments and charges: ‘Just don’t ________; just ________!’ _]

But the words it yells only describe the long-term values I see I’m already moving toward overall.

How silly would it be for someone to repeatedly shout a Math equation at someone else who’s already written it out and is slowly solving it?

When I see that the words of my conscience match the values I’m already gradually reaching, I can literally start to change my conscience’s angry, indignant, condescending tone.

My conscience is part of me. It doesn’t need to be compromised, coroneted, or cowered away from.

If my perspective changes enough, my conscience’s voice can match my own. That’s when I’ll know I trust myself no matter what I see myself choosing.

What I’m compelled to do (what I’m addicted to) is still valuable to me, even if I choose at times to do it more than I think I should.

The idea of my Facing Addiction story has been to trade up from being broke, stupid, dissociative, and isolated. Yet the state I’m trading up to is really just another starting point along an endless line.

I once read a review of a book about religion and masturbation. The reviewer got all excited about the idea that it might be beneficial for him to masturbate in certain circumstances.

Basically, his convictions changed.

But what if masturbation were to overtake and start to occupy more of his life than he felt comfortable with, perhaps hindering important long-term values?

For me, success means trusting that even instances of compulsive weed use aren’t ultimately hindering the good things I see myself pursuing and developing.

I mean, my addiction hasn’t stopped me yet, and it’s only losing ground.

Here’s to the next starting point.”

Tomorrow: seeing changes you’d otherwise miss in time.

[]DAY 63 | A new perspective (ready)

Braveheart was a ‘90s movie set in 13th century Scotland. The dialogue, music, humor, and other cultural interpretations of the depicted period naturally fit the mindset of Hollywood in the mid ‘90s.

Braveheart would have been quite a different movie if made in the ‘70s or now.

Compare the goofier, more character-driven 1978 Superman with its effects-laden, more visually compelling counterpart, Man of Steel (2013).

Different generations have different values.

Tobey McGuire’s Spider-Man didn’t quite fit the Millennial mold; so they remade the franchise yet again from scratch just five years later.

I mean, Homer Simpson was once a baby boomer, and then Gen X… Will he eventually be a Millennial?

As cultures change, we find new ways to tell ourselves old stories.

As you change, the stories you tell yourself about your experience also change. Many diverse snippets all speak to your current assessment of the whole.

Before I started sharing my experience, the stories I told myself tended to be more negative, though beneath the surface I was searching desperately for something positive to grasp and build a life around.

At the time, I saw only failure.

In November, 2014, I got high and wrote:

“You feed yourself a version of your life that best fits . Then you make predictions based on that.

“Maturity might really be an eternal quest for balance.

“Each side of you, alone, is incomplete; and every state you’re in is only temporary. Even the parts that last will change in meaning—just as languages, organizations, cultures, and ideas all evolve in time.”

I wrote this the next day (high again):

“I’m amazed when I realize what I might not have learned if it hadn’t been for all my years of weed addiction.

“If I hadn’t failed my perfect plan to quit weed back in 2013, I don’t think I ever would have learned about , the ,

“I probably wouldn’t have learned about the power of going public at all . . . not the way I have.

[_“ They say we never use 100% of our brains. Well, when you go public with your experience, you end up capturing and examining every relevant thought, idea, value, etc. The process paints a far richer picture than you could ever hope to see in any given moment. _]

“Essentially, your brain (or mind) is applied back to itself, being pushed it to its own expanding capacity.

“If not for this story, every lesson learned therein would have eventually slipped away, disappearing amongst the whispering whims of shifting memories and reinvented interpretations of whatever might never have been.”

I wrote this two days later (high):

“We humans are pretty amazing. When we put ourselves on the line, we seem to find a way to pull through.

“I have this unconscious confidence now. I believe in myself to act and make decisions from where I am. I know I’ll keep moving forward regardless of how many times I fail.

“Failure doesn’t actually matter anymore. It might as well not exist.”

I’m ready.

Tomorrow: a practical look at bringing all the pieces of your sequence together in time.

[]DAY 64 | Your sequence

All you need to see is the basic order of the steps you have to take toward your various goals.

In November, 2014, I got high and wrote:

“I know my priorities now.

“I know what I need to get done before I finish this story, and what has to happen after that.

“Being aware of your sequence as you prepare to share your experience forces you to focus on only where you’re going next from where you are right now.

“That’s all you ever have to see.

“When you’re aware of your sequence, you start to receive ideas and information differently. It’s like seeing your life as a parallax backdrop with many different layers. New projects and ideas drop at various distances and speeds, all coordinated in their natural order.

“When a decision turns out to have been wrong, your sequence keeps the big picture (maturity, control, maximized potential…) in view, giving you far more helpful insight than just: ‘Go find a more attractive plan than the one you just failed.”’

As my years of weed addiction finally wound to a close, I knew exactly who and what I wanted to be. I could no longer ignore all the important next steps I’d have to take.

I knew better than to try to predict up front exactly how each goal would have to play out. Instead of plotting out timeframes for specific activities, I resolved to simply stay aware of which steps toward which goals would have to be taken before which others.

If I didn’t see where a step fell in my sequence, I’d set that step aside until I did.

These are just a few practical guidelines for you as you begin managing yourself.

Knowing your sequence makes living the life you want literally less than one step away.

Tomorrow: an overview.

The next day: walking away from addiction as a new person.

The four days after that: the final lessons I had to learn before I reached a state of sustainable balance and control.

[]DAY 65 | Making the leap

Thank you for reading Facing Addiction.

Though I’ve shared my real experience, this story isn’t about me. It’s about the forces that influence all of us: addictions, limitations, values, self-deception, perspective, fear, desire, accountability…

If my example has gotten in the way at all, please disregard it.

Personal stories can make ideas more interesting and easier to understand.

But what matters is what’s true: the experience of your life.

For these last six chapters, I’ll be sharing everything I still had to learn about life and addiction as I literally left my addicted state and discovered a new life of freedom and balance.

I wrote this in November, 2014 (while high):

A few years ago, the thought came: ‘Straight loser . . . I can only forget.’

Basically, constant addictive weed use had left my mind so fuzzy that I couldn’t really remember or focus on much of anything.

I see how far I’ve come since then, and I know I’ll never go back.

But I still sneak off to go smoke weed in dirty, unsafe places.

I still smoke through pipes made from trash.

I’m still broke and estranged from loved ones.

I still can’t enjoy fun things the same way.

I still feel as though I’m straggling somewhere far behind where I could be.”

The next day, I came across some thoughts I’d recorded a few months before even being prescribed medical weed. I was shocked to see how so many of the ideas in this story would have resonated with those forgotten, pre-weed thoughts.

Here are some examples of those lost thoughts, recorded in 2010:

*Why can’t I do what I know I need to do? (5/18/10)

*How can my self-image change so I succeed instead of continuing to fail (since I’ve only failed so far)? (5/27/10)

*Thinking only aggravates the problem, like picking at a wound. (5/27/10)

*I keep failing to change because I keep trying to force myself. I’m both arrogant and insecure. I grasp at chaos with a broken soul and wrestle it to death (mine). An endless and intimidating search for just what to do keeps me paralyzed. (6/4/10)

*I can’t create my destiny or figure out the truth alone, in only my own mind. (6/22/10)

*To-Do lists would be better than schedules. Journals are good for capturing thoughts and feelings as they develop so I can see my life more objectively. (10/23/10)

*I always feel like I need to be or do something; I try to figure out exactly what that is; I come up with a plan real fast; I unconfidently try to follow that plan; I fail; I feel ashamed (and even less confident); I begin the cycle again… This happens over and over. (11/4/10)

*I need to always be open to new ways of making the best use of my time. (11/4/10)

*Who or what I am is a combination of multiple causes. I can change if the causes are changed. Every time I fail, it strengthens my belief that I’ll never succeed. But failure doesn’t really exist. I call doing something that goes against my values failure. But that really just means I’m making less progress than I could be. Since I’m a combination of so many things, what I call failure is really just the experience of a less than optimal application of my components. (11/4/10)

*Even just writing all this helps me realize what it means to set realistic goals. Seeing what I write helps me come against unrealistic, negative thinking (which blows everything out of proportion) with realistic, positive thinking. I can also develop a system of behavioral motivation to reward myself for taking steps toward my goals. (11/9/10)

Again, many of those thoughts could easily be tied to later ideas shared in this story.

So, if I already knew all that back in 2010, why the plunge into my “straight loser” state of addiction only months later, in early 2011?

After rediscovering those thoughts from 2010, I got high and wrote:

Back then, my goals were like tiny, remote flashes washed under deep oceans of blanketing darkness.

I had to come to see how all those flashes were really indispensable puzzle pieces that could be fit together to illuminate connected layers.

In 2010, my values were just stabs at hopes I’d long since given up actually believing in. I didn’t see their light as real enough to guide my steps.

So, I started getting high…

Preparing to share my real experience of the years of addiction that followed was what eventually brought all my disjointed hopes, thoughts, and goals together.

In a way, I saw what I was worth.

When I started using weed, I was convinced I should only seek entertainment while high. I was afraid of trying to communicate with certain others and looking dumb.

Now I might seek entertainment at times (if there was something I really wanted to see or listen to); but I’d mostly rather be creative, or with friends, or just sitting in silence letting myself imagine…

My particular change in perspective marks the end of what I called the Devil’s Lettuce curse—my addiction: wanting more and more (or so I thought) because I could never seem to feel quite high or entertained enough…

Your change in perspective will be built from understanding a dichotomy of values unique to you.

I’ve mentioned having less is more as my goal; but my new perspective is really ‘less is less.’ When I get high compulsively, weed becomes less fun (and I want more of it). But getting high less reverses that dynamic: Less weed leads to less unwanted results, and also to being okay with less stimulation or fulfillment overall.

The same principle applies to all addictions and compulsions.

Addiction changes your state. Something you’ve been taking in to benefit from starts taking you in to benefit from you.

Values like reaching potential, working toward fun goals, enjoying making better decisions, relaxing, and other lifestyle changes also change your state.

Weed became a major part of my life for years; but I never saw getting high addictively as a permanent solution.

I always knew I needed to find new and better ways to relax and enjoy my life.

Now I know I’m ready.

I’m ready to rediscover my most valuable treasures (my relationships), and to make better use of my time.

I’m ready to manage my weed use, and to keep building the life I want most.

I’m ready because it’s already happening.

I’ve already changed.”

The last idea from 2010 I shared above was: “Develop a system of behavioral motivation to reward myself for taking steps toward my goals.” I should have known better than to look for a literal prescription to follow, since I was already aware of how my tendency to seek out perfect systems had always led to apparent failure.

Rather, I should have understood that what I’ve really always been looking for is just a way to excel at what I most want to do in life.

A prescription is a rule or schedule taped to a fridge; knowing what you want and why is a perspective to be lived out.

You know you’re ready to make the leap when you see yourself making it.

Tomorrow: more on seeing yourself making the leap.

P.S. I later got high and wrote:

Though I’ve shared my real experience, this story isn’t about me.

Yet here’s the ironic thing about universal ideas, concepts, and truths: You seek out the simplest, most easy-to-follow steps; but you also teach yourself to forget (as quickly as possible) how the logic behind those steps ties to your real life.

“‘Oh well,’ you say, ‘at least I tried. I guess that plan wasn’t quite perfect for me after all. I think I’ll go find a better one tomorrow, or maybe the next day…’

On other hand, you never forget the stories you relate to.

It’s ironic that I’ve ended up with twelve self-management steps. It’s not like I’m trying to copy or outdo 12-step programs or anything.

Besides, my twelve steps aren’t really steps at all. They’re just pieces of my story like all the rest. The titles don’t matter.

On DAY 1, I wrote, ‘It just goes back to this feeling I have that recording and sharing my experience will be my first step toward control.’

Recording was my first step, though it really wasn’t. Sharing turns out to have been my last. It was between recording and sharing that the real change actually occurred—the change in my perspective.

Now go be you.”

[]DAY 66 | Sinking in

How many times am I going to keep throwing around the same fragments of a single idea—the idea being: You can become who you want to be through the power of illumination, seeing the value of experience, values bringing themselves to life through you, holding yourself accountable, passions, talents…?

Themes only re-emerge so often in my story because I’ve had to re-learn the same lessons over and over in different ways.

Perspectives don’t change overnight.

But my story is really so simple: Sharing my real experience over time has empowered me to navigate the cliff face of my marijuana addiction. I can now value and use what I’ve been addicted to without losing control to it.

Toward the end of my addiction period, I found myself naturally using weed less and less. Whenever I got high after not using for days, weeks, or months, I was oddly shocked by how amazing the experience was. I was surprised to see just how true my intuitions had been. The pure magic of a special high was something none of my self-directed words could have ever quite described or rightly prized.

Though still using more than I thought I should, I felt secure . . . as though surrounded by safety nets and sign posts all confirming I really was on the right track.

I was relieved to see I hadn’t just been using the idea of this story as an excuse to fool myself.

It was in such moments of confirmation that the lessons I’ve been sharing really began to hammer home, connecting to the actual experience my recorded words were meant to represent.

That was when I knew I was changing.

I wrote this while high near the end of November, 2014:

“I don’t know how life will be once I’m completely in control of my addiction.”

I wrote this a few weeks later, when I first got high again after not using:

“Here’s a message for me: Welcome to a good high. It’s to enjoy this way.”

I didn’t use for about a month after that.

I wrote this when I next got high again:

“I see the balance . Everything seems so good. The timing of everything I’m working on now (and everything else) just feels so right.

“An 8th of weed just became a huge amount again (instead of something I could easily plow through in a weekend).”

After another few weeks of not using, I got high again and wrote:

“It’s so good when I wait for it.

“I want to use the stash I have now throughout the year—one bud at a time.

“I know I’ve said that sort of thing so many times before. Am I actually letting myself say it again?

“Something really must have changed.”

For the first time in as long as I could remember, I believed in myself to follow my own convictions.

I can’t describe how great it feels when sharing your experience leads to your experience being even better than you imagined it could be.

My story’s almost done. I was able to control my weed addiction more and more from November, 2014, through February, 2015.

After that, I was in total control for about five months.

Then I slipped up.

The last four chapters will be entirely high thoughts from the time of that slipup (from July through September, 2015). I’ll share how everything I’d already learned had to come together in a new way before I was able to regain and finally maintain the balance and freedom I’d been searching for all along.

Thank you, again, for reading my story. Thank you for plowing through all the same concepts so many times. I hope doing so has caused them to sink in (like they had to for me) so they can benefit you as well.

But seeing my changing perspective won’t be enough to change yours.

This story is just my way of going public with my real experience.

Let’s hear your story.

[]DAY 67 | Ghosts #1 (to see yourself change)

Again, these final four chapters will be all high thoughts recorded between July and September, 2015.

I’ll let these high thoughts speak for themselves. They represent some of the last lessons I had to learn during the time of my medical marijuana addiction:

“Before now, I’d been in control of my weed use for months…

“What happened?

“Was I just kidding myself all along? Was I never really in control?

“Am I stuck? Is this whole story just a bunch of wistful claims I’ll never be able to back up?

“What if I’m not meant to limit my weed use yet? What if not getting high means I miss out on some important experience or idea only weed could bring about? How would I know?

“Will the high thoughts that feel like crucial missing puzzle pieces simply cease one day? Will that be when I know it’s time to finally walk away from my addiction?

“But I think weed will always help me find perspective.

“And getting high addictively keeps me from what weed itself shows me I want.

“The same desire to use weed less has actually never left.

“But how can I believe in myself to follow that desire again since I’ve failed after doing so well for so long?

“I see my mind jumping as always to the easy immediacy of setting some arbitrary limit. But the driving force that pushes me to seek those official quantities and cut-off points has become so obvious. All my plans now reek of the fear they’re made of; at their core, I see only a primal and instinctive grasping for control.

“I put a little weed under a blanket yesterday, planning every detail for how and why I wouldn’t touch it for twelve weeks.

“Today I eagerly reminded myself that plans are stupid. I figured it would be better just to smoke my little hidden stash and be rid of it.

“As soon as I was high again, a comfortably familiar sense of intense disappointment became the backdrop to all my thoughts, sort of like some old sad tune to whistle to.

“As I’ve waded through these years of recorded experience, I’ve come across entire populations of such completely vacuous lines as: ‘start this Saturday,’ ‘only use twice this week,’ ‘don’t get high until Wednesday’…

“How could I have never seen the desperation and anxiety lurking at the base of all my faux-rational self-questions: ‘What day should I stop?’ ‘When will I need weed again, and for what?’

“But the fearful part of me that wants to jump to all but uncertainty doesn’t matter anymore. It’s dead. It’s only a ghost. It has no power.

“Nothing can .

“I can’t help but see this current setback as a mere downward blip on an upward arcing graph.

“Nothing can keep me from my values.

“If I need weed for something, I’ll know.

“Whatever the next cut-off ends up being for, it will happen when it happens.

“I think the main reason I naturally stopped getting high so much last November was my .

“Stepping into your art form is like turning on a faucet and watching the current and temperature rise—the current being the appeal of your values surpassing the pull of all that keeps you from them; and the temperature being how much more you enjoy the experience of your life.

“Using weed compulsively again, I feel like I’ve been making less progress in my art form than I was. Echoes of my former conscience scream at me about missed potential; but its voice is actually that of the fear that no longer exists. It only haunts in hopes of resurrecting forms of its old chains, prompting me as always to bind myself to some all new perfect .

“Those worn-out shame-and-fear dynamics now seem utterly ridiculous, unhelpful, immature…

“Instead of trying to force myself to limit how much weed I’m using, I’m simply returning my focus to the values I was already being empowered by, such as my art form.”

A few weeks later, I got high and wrote:

“As I return to taking steps toward my priorities in sequence, my compulsion for weed loses more and more of its power. I knew it would because that’s just how it happened before.

“I’ve felt discouraged lately, as though I was having to relearn lessons I’d already learned over a year ago. But I had to see the same truths in a new light before I could arrive at what’s become an exact opposite paradigm shift in my thinking.

“When I was about nineteen, I smoked some weed in a forest one day and had several important revelations about how I wanted to live. Unfortunately, I concluded that being high meant I couldn’t possibly be realizing anything of value.

“Yes, your addictions, compulsions, and limitations hinder you from reaching your potential; but the idea that you can’t start pursuing your potential until you first plan your way out of being hindered is completely backwards.

“Just focus on the values you see already wanting to exist more through you.

“Even let the consequences of whatever holds you back make those values all the more obvious and appealing.

“I made all sorts of progress toward my values while still addicted to weed. In terms of my art form, I wrote about 200,000 words’ worth of high thoughts, which split to story outlines, thoughts about facing addiction, and ; I also wrote and edited another story I’m finishing, and outlined the next three-part series to follow.”

Sometime later, I got high and wrote:

“Plans are only scratches fixed in moments for how to become what you think you should be.

“But you can’t know yourself by brainstorming.

“New habits always come slowly.

“Perspectives can’t really be decided upon.

“In the song, He Went to Paris, Jimmy Buffet sings about a young, ambitious man who sets out in life looking for answers to troubling questions. The lyrics imply that, through a lifetime of both magic and tragedy, the man eventually discovers answers that could never be reduced to words.

“When you prepare to share your real experience, you see exactly where you’re at in what’s truly a lifelong sequence. You’re left with no options but to continue moving forward.

“There’s no twelve-week plan, even if your next phase of self-management happens to last twelve weeks.

“There’s only now.

“For years, I felt bad and wanted to live better. I also felt tired and grumpy. I wanted to relax. The notion of not getting high felt gloomy.

“Since the change I kept avoiding felt more and more impossible, putting it off another day always seemed forgivable.

“But now I can’t ignore the fact that I’ve really only ever wanted what I’ve been saying all along.

“It feels like my story and journey actually began long ago: long before last November (when I started to see myself in control of my addiction) . . . before The Test (when I saw how valuable my high experiences could be when I had them less often) . . . before the Ten Times Plan

“My journey began when I was born—when I began to be and become myself.

“Why jump to some plan for another ‘day one’ when the real day one was the day of your birth?

“Seeing your experience as you share over time causes what you’ve always wanted to permeate the workings of your current mind. It keeps you from being able to go on denying or delaying the life you want.

“I don’t believe anything can stop me now from experiencing more of those things I’ve really always imagined, wished for, and shared about.

“This is what I want.

“My name is Andrew Knuon Finn, and I’m a…

“I guess this is the only way I can really be a person.

“Who are you?

“The question isn’t: ‘How or when should you quit what you’re addicted to?’ The question is: ‘How can you come more to life?’

“My nightmare would be to go through life forever almost being myself.

“You can’t really be you if you keep putting yourself off.

“Growth is never easy. Everything grows toward something, and everything grows through something. You grow toward values, and you grow through limitations and other obstacles. Growing through your particular obstacles is what gives you the strength and character you need to live by your values.

“Plans fail when they face the reality of an integrated combination (a being) evolving and growing in time. Self-management succeeds where plans fail because self-management is living more and more as the person you’ve always wanted to be.

“Going public with your experience is breaking ground—when that person you’ve always wanted to be comes to life somewhere real in the world.

“I mentioned not believing in myself to do what I’ve never done before; but that’s actually ridiculous. Of course I’ve never done what I’ve never done before. No one’s ever done what they haven’t done yet, right?

“I don’t know everything, but I know I’m ready to break ground.

“It might sound like I keep repeating myself, but to me something obvious has changed.

“It’s me. I’ve changed.”

Days later, I got high and wrote:

“This week, I recognized a familiar pattern: I saw myself broaching the digging-around-the-garage-floor-for-old-scraps-of-weed phase of my addiction.

“When I was a teenager, I once got so mad at weed that I made a big show of destroying all my paraphernalia, throwing it all out in a loud huff.

“Today I cleaned out the garage, throwing away old pipes and empty baggies and canisters.

“But I wasn’t angry at all.

“I was about to throw away a few scattered buds I’d found on the floor in corners; but I stopped and decided to save it for a friend.

“I feel like I should write that what I’m experiencing right now are my best worst highs of all time.

“What do I mean by that?

“Just as the fearful part of my mind that craves certainty and control has become but a powerless ghost, the highs I’ve been having lately are like the ghost of whatever I was chasing (and losing myself to) in addiction.

“These highs are the ghost of .

“I don’t feel angry or desperate, just over the chaos of always needing satisfaction. I’m done with not feeling able to relax while high, and with sneaking off to smoke in secret instead of allowing myself time to rest, think, create, and do all those other good things I know I’d much rather be doing.

“What does what you’re addicted to help you with? What do you love about it?

“I know how weed fits with my values at this point in my life. That’s enough.

“So these last compulsive highs really feel like the best of the worst. And I know they’re the last. They’ve confirmed everything I’ve felt before.

“You don’t ever have to be perfect to be ready. Thinking you do is as ridiculous as thinking you’ll never be able to do something just because you’ve never done it before.”

About a week later, I got high and wrote:

“I’ve found so much joy this week in waiting to get high until after I finish working on projects. Even my high time has been completely filled with useful activities.

“Two nights ago, I smoked a joint and designed pictures for my website.

“I had plenty of weed left last night, but was completely happy not to get high.

“I’ve never not used weed before if I’ve had it, which I’m sure has been part of what’s kept me from my goal of using only as needed.

“But that’s precisely the change I’m seeing in myself. That’s why I’m no longer overwhelmed by compulsions to plan and control.

“I can be around weed now and not jump to it.

Are you listening, conscience?

“Yes : )

“My perspective on magic has also changed. Beyond just how special my high experiences can be when I wait for them, using only by choice frees me of the guilt I’d always feel (as soon as I got high compulsively) for doing what I’d told myself not to.

“In short: The words I felt compelled to write while high about why I shouldn’t get high so much have led me back to a place .

“When I consider the consequences of my addiction, lack of magic is perhaps one of the least important and most selfish to focus on. But the magical beauty of a special high motivates me to keep moving and growing toward balance and control. That way, I can maximize all my other more important values.

“Yes, all your goals might ultimately be at least somewhat selfish; but consider how selfish addiction makes you . . . and then not even for your benefit.

“During my years of addiction, I’d always just go on using all night once I started. Right now, I have a little bit of weed left, but I think I’ll go to bed early and smoke the rest tomorrow night.

“That will free up my lunchtime tomorrow to work on projects (instead of having to race to a dispensary like some whacked out pinball).

“Going to bed early instead of smoking the clump of weed in front of me would have been completely unheard of a year ago.”

I didn’t end up smoking the next night.

About five days later, I got high again, and wrote:

“I went to a dispensary today and didn’t use this coupon I had for a free gram. I knew I’d use it sometime in the future. Somehow that felt like the most natural decision to make, though one I never would have been able to make a year ago.

“How was I so sure I wouldn’t fall back to using compulsively again like all the other times?

“Tonight after smoking, I looked at the TV for a minute. I found I had no desire at all to watch anything.

“I only wanted to come do this.

“I also saw a new batch of my wife’s special diet ice creams in the freezer.

“The first thought that came to me was: ‘But I wouldn’t even consider it now…’”

Tomorrow: how going public begins from a completely selfish place, but the destination is one of unprecedented caring and character.

[]DAY 68 | Ghosts #2 (to share and grow)

My high thoughts from July through September, 2015 continue:

I mentioned my problem with advanced Philosophy is how binary it can become. It seems to excite philosophers when they can say, ‘We were able to define a possible flaw within this multifaceted concept, so now we get to throw the whole thing out. Yay!’

“Instead of abandoning groups of ideas at their first signs of weakness, I find it more useful just to stay aware of potential relationships between the least deniable strengths and limitations of all connected possibilities.

“Why think only in terms of a single ‘this or that’?

“So, how does Philosophy relate to facing addiction?

“An old and fundamental question has really been hitting me lately: When I tell you to go public with your real experience, what exactly am I encouraging you to share?

“What do I mean by ‘real experience’?

“High thoughts like these are part of what I share. But why should I trust my high thoughts?

“Is that what I’m telling you to share: high thoughts?

“What if you don’t use weed, but face completely different compulsions and limitations?

“What I’ve been sharing all along are really just connections I’ve experienced when intuitions and confirming illuminations have touched events in my life to reveal and empower my values.

“But are intuitions and values necessarily mystical things that require us to delve into realms like faith and divination?

“I only want to see what’s true. I don’t want to act like I know exactly how or why intuition works. I don’t think any of the mystical descriptions I’ve been using necessarily require mystical interpretations.

“As , I have no interest in arguing about interpretations.

“Interpretations, themselves, are never actually experienced. They’re the narratives you use to account for your experiences.

“One of the best byproducts of sharing publically is that everything you think about your experience ends up being tested and reduced until only that which can be confirmed remains as likely true.

“If what I’ve been preparing to share has actually helped me change, then my most important intuitions from the beginning must have been correct.

“But as soon as I write that, I hear again the faraway echoes of my former conscience. Though dead and powerless, its muffled jeers are still aimed (as always) at discrediting my progress.

“Yeah, yeah… I’m not perfect.

“That old ghost would seek to weave my imperfections into a mythological tale of failure, unworthiness, and shame. But its impenetrable, rhetorical shrieking is only grounded in the dread of uncertainty.

“And my ‘faith’ in the direction I’m going and the progress I’ve made works the exact opposite way: Only intuitions that actually empower me to change are confirmed as they touch my real experience—as I see myself .

“Again, prescriptions and mythologies never touch the experiences or intuitions they’re meant to explain. They’re only possible accountings.

“I hope that distinction is clear enough.

“So, yeah: Much of the experience I share happened to be recorded while high. Could someone who’s never tried weed benefit from my story?

“I think I first have to just get this one weed-specific thought out of the way: The part of my story I’ve been trying not to focus on has been my belief that weed can actually show you between or behind your own thoughts enough to help you find direction.

“I haven’t expanded much on weed’s potential benefits because I’ve been trying to apply what I’ve learned to all addictions and limitations.

“But for those who use weed: Could I be encouraging you to see how your own high thoughts and intuitions might connect over time?

“A small and silly voice says, ‘I think I just done spun weed into gold.’

“But as for universal applications: Sharing your real experience might just equate to learning to be yourself as you go public with your story without allowing your perspective to be skewed by any fixed interpretations at all.

“Regardless of whatever addictions or limitations you face, going public is your catalyst to change.

“The goal of going public is to connect with others like you in whichever ways best suit your personality.

“There are three basic phases of going public:

“First, you see your real values more and more as you prepare your experience to share. This empowers you to start managing yourself.

“Then there’s the phase of actually putting your experience out there somewhere. This enables you to see yourself .

“The final phase is finding where your people are and showing them your experience, connecting it with theirs.

“The timing of each phase can’t be predicted, but you find yourself naturally crossing over into the next as soon as you’re ready.

“It’s the objective sense of yourself and your values you gain from the first two phases that gives you something to share with those you connect with in the third.

“I’m currently entering phase three. I know my values and who I want to be. I see exactly where I am on my journey. My priority now is to connect—to take what I’ve prepared to share, and to actually share it with others like me.

“How you connect, and who you connect with, has a lot to do with your . Find those who are either successfully doing what you want to do, or who have the same goals as you—those being held back in similar ways from reaching similar potential.

“You don’t have to literally be social with those you connect with, especially if that’s not your personality. Just get to a place where you can somehow share becoming who you want to be.

“There’s . Both going public with your experience and growing to face and overcome your limitations are gradual processes, and that’s fine. You’ll get where you need to be on time. There’s nothing stopping you today.

“It took me years to go public because my natural way of sharing happens to have been preparing this long story.

“Progress in different areas takes different amounts of time for different people.

“A horrible truth I’ve had to face is that I’ve probably been coming across to friends, family, and coworkers as extremely childish, unstable, strange, and weak for the past few years.

“We’ve been talking about how preparing and sharing your real experience forces you to develop a more mature perspective. Well, you reach a point (before phase three) when you’ve had your big moments of self-realization; you know exactly who you are and what you want; but giving yourself the time and space to have had your massive epiphanies has left you somewhat selfish and spoiled, especially if your process has taken as long as mine.

“Isolated people might care deeply for others, and they might long for companionship; but only thinking about how to take care of yourself leaves you unavoidably self-focused to some degree.

“The good news is that when you reach the end of yourself, your priority for continued growth and maturity naturally shifts outward.

The gap between knowing who you want to be and actually living as that person is where you discover and develop the unique set of values you bring to the world. Developing and delivering your values automatically shifts your focus from yourself to others.

“By that point, you’re already secure enough in yourself to truly connect with and help those facing similar struggles. That’s when all the inner changes you’ve experienced are fixed into an outward public identity.

“Again, going public is the catalyst. It solidifies into practiced character and behavior the new perspective you’ve gained as you’ve come to realize who you are, what you want, and what you bring.

“When you reach phase three, you’re not the limited, selfish person were before you began preparing and sharing. You’re strong, stable, and balanced.

“Advancing through the phases of going public humbles you in a beautiful way. Everything sequentially shifts from being just about you and your own needs to being about the needs of as many others as possible.

“Putting others first is the basis of .

“It’s incredibly uplifting to see where you naturally fit and thrive amongst various communities: interests, friends, goals, family, struggles…

“Being ready to take your experience to the conversation—phase three—means being ready to find and build relationships with those you can truly be yourself with.

“Depending on your addictions, compulsions, or limitations, you might have to go public anonymously, perhaps by creating a cool pseudonym.

“Yes, you can expect to be judged when you share your real experience, especially by those still fighting to hide theirs.

“Those just trying to show that they can make it in someone else’s world are always quick to judge anyone taking actual steps to create a world of their own.

“Again, you’re an . There’s something of great value buried deep in the core of your being, which you can find immense fulfilment in developing and bringing to the world.

“If people are going to judge and hate artists anyway, we might as well have the free and open lives we’re hated for having, no?

“Your art form and experience must be free to judge in order to be genuine. No matter how hard you work on whatever you go public with, I’d encourage you to grant all who see it the freedom to think and respond however they want.

“Today everyone gets judged for whatever they do anyway (just go on Yelp).

“When I worked at the , many on staff would freely talk one-on-one about all sorts of things they’d never open up about in a larger group, especially among the core group of leaders.

“That dynamic makes sense in terms of reputation and wanting to build a career within an organization.

“But to truly face yourself, you have to find a way to go public with your real limitations and compulsions.

“See what creating a fun persona can do for you.

“I hate feeling judged. My gut reaction is always to try to force whoever’s judging me to understand exactly where I’m coming from.

“But as someone who wants to be mature and take responsibility, the reality of judgment just means I have to work harder upfront at being as clear and honest as possible.

“When you’re a grownup, tantrums don’t tend to get you what you want, do they?

“Self-pity keeps you from seeing and accepting those things you cannot change, which you must learn to do before you can ever hope to start changing the things you can.

“In my younger years, my friends and I were completely open with each other about absolutely everything. That’s actually what I’ve tried to make happen in all my relationships.

“Times spent hanging out and bearing souls with those I can truly be myself with are treasures in my heart.

“I don’t really understand relationships that aren’t like that. I have great difficulty when communication seems to center around small talk for the purpose of keeping individuals interchangeable.

“But I need to get better at accepting professional distances. It’s immature of me to consider only myself and what I want.

“Yes, I value realness and openness. Wonderful. But maturity has to eventually take me outside myself to where I can see and appreciate others’ values as well.

“Bringing this chapter full circle: Seeing others’ values is impossible if you cling to any single interpretation of experience.

“If you’re willing to see all possible accountings, you’re then able to measure competing ideas objectively. You’re able to understand exactly where anyone you meet is coming from (as much as they let you). You see where your values connect with theirs, which is more useful than fighting to defend only your own shifting, incomplete narrative.

“Kurt Cobain might be a tragic example of what can happen if the product of isolated self-realization (phases one and two of going public) gets so overwhelmed by shameful interpretations that moving forward toward compelling values feels utterly impossible.

“Kurt was an artist I think about often. I feel I can relate to him in many ways.

“Kurt grew up isolated for so long that he became sort of spoiled in the way I’m describing—he got used to thinking and taking care of only himself.

“Kurt was constantly made aware of how he didn’t measure up to the ideals he was raised to prize. As an artist, he turned that tense dichotomy into a beautifully real battle between different parts of himself in his songs.

“Fame only heightened Kurt’s isolation and inward-drawn ‘spoildness,’ causing his inner ironies to erupt in public shame.

“He always felt misunderstood.

“Those painful disparities sprung from and confirmed Kurt’s ever-felt distance from acceptable until one day one ‘side’ won the battle.

“Imagine for a moment what it would really be like to look ahead yet again to the nightmare of trying to face and beat a heroin addiction: excruciating, possibly endless, and in his case ever wrought with pubic shame…

“And the goal would be what? To reach some starting point or foundation upon which to build a life he’d never known in almost thirty years…?

“So, how am I optimistic, since I believe I hold the same artistic ideals of realism and freedom Kurt felt he couldn’t be hopeful about back in the early ‘90s?

“Kurt stood, in his peacefully intense way, against the hype and fakeness of a mainstream culture that would never really know or accept him for who he was; then he got swallowed up into it, eventually being used (along with others) to turn ‘alternative’ into a mere collection of stylistic choices within what became an even wider mainstream.

“I’m optimistic because I don’t believe there is a mainstream anymore. There’s only the ghost of one.

“I see everyone sort of scratching their heads these days, having been raised to believe we should all want certain things.

“I mean, society has always taught us how important it is to strive for what it shows us will lead to success in whichever of its pre-packaged endeavors we choose, right?

“Today most values that once required infrastructures to make and bring to the world could potentially be produced without them. That means everyone could essentially see, learn, create, and be whatever they want—especially as they connect with others like them—and all sans the need for credit, boards, bureaucracies, or hype.

“Like Kurt, I have no desire or stomach for mass attention. I only want to reach the likeminded at whatever points our journeys naturally intersect.

“This story isn’t really the place for me to share about all the changes I see taking place in society, so I’ll just say this: Instead of a mainstream that takes the shell of ‘real’ for its own profit, I’m optimistic that there won’t be a need for anything to ‘be alternative to’ as individuals realize the freedom we all now have to express, connect, and build.

“You could see Kurt write off every experience he had in clips and interviews—drugs, life, marriage, art, friendship . . . eventually coming to quietly sing ‘all in all is all we are.’

“Have you ever felt misunderstood by whole worlds of people? Have you ever felt held at safe distances for being strange?

“None of that has to matter anymore.

“I see a different world now from the one that existed in 1994.

“For example, an interviewer once asked Kurt how people could find other underground artists. Kurt muttered something along the lines of, ‘It’s not that hard, man; find an independent record store in the nearest town, and get into the fanzines and culture and stuff.’

“How much easier is it now to find and connect with anyone, anywhere, that might share your experience, values, style, etc.?

“But you have to actually go public for that truly irreplaceable world of your own to exist.

“Again, going public (phase three) is the catalyst.”

I later got high again, and wrote:

“For years now, I’ve been too embarrassed (while high) to write to some of my closest friends, even when I think of exactly what I’d want to say.

“So I’ve been writing letters to old friends, but then sending those letters only to myself.

“I don’t want to be stuck here alone anymore. I want to be free so I can go public unashamed and share my heart with a me-sized world I’ve felt kept from all this time.”

[]DAY 69 | Ghosts #3 (to relax and face)

Here are more of my high thoughts from mid-2015:

When I first started using medical weed, I’d get really paranoid at times. Fast, chaotic, troubling thoughts would flash out through my mind leaving trails of disturbing images.

“One day, I discovered the simple power of settling down instead of running around and being all anxious about whatever I was doing. I didn’t do anything specific or intentional to relax. I just sat still and got comfortable.

“It wasn’t that my irrational fears were answered one by one when I stopped moving. Rather, settling changed my state, and the paranoia left.

“It was easy.”

Another time, I got high and wrote:

“Honestly, nothing could make me as nervous as the situation I find myself in right now: I’m stuck high at work yet again with nowhere to go. Someone could walk in at any moment.

“This sucks. I need to get out of here.

“It feels like every day is an excuse for why I’m not quite doing what I know I should be yet. I repeat the same patterns over and over.

“All these scraps of recorded high thoughts seem so swollen now, like a mess jammed under a bed. It feels like it’s all about to burst out everywhere in explosions of unreached potential.

“I hate this so much. I hate being here right now. I hate being out with nothing to do. I hate driving around with nowhere to go, knowing I’m wasting my secret high time.

“Today I saw myself acting all tired, distant, and mean around my son. Poor kid. The last thing I want is for him to have to grow up seeing me like that.

“Though feeling responsible to others isn’t really a reliable source of personal accountability, I can say with full conviction that my son is my biggest motivation for wanting to change.

“When I first got my medical marijuana prescription back in February, 2011, I wrote this: ‘My son is my life project. That’s what real love would do. It has to be all about him.’

“He was two when I wrote that . . . then three . . . then four . . . then five . . . then six…

“After this, I’m with him. That’s it. To make our time together the best it could be is my most compelling, most important reason for wanting to change.”

When I next got high, I wrote:

“Wait. Have I honestly never realized that time, life, and experience are all the same thing?

“Your time is your life happening. Your experience is what your life is.

“The experience of addictions, compulsions, and limitations is the experience of your life and time being misspent and depleted.

“How can I relax and enjoy my experience if I feel like I’m wasting my time?

“How can I enjoy being high if all I’m thinking about is what I should be doing instead?

“A few days ago, I was on my way to the first rock concert I’d been to in years. Two of my favorite bands of all time were in town on tour together. Being high, I got lost a couple times trying to find the venue. I felt like my flaky, addicted state was literally keeping me from even reaching some of my biggest influences in life.

“When I’m not high these days, I’m not a very nice a person to be around. I’m fixated only on how and when I can go do secret compulsive stuff. Then I sneak off, use some weed, and suddenly have a far deeper understanding of why I want to be friendly.

“In a way, relaxation can only come from having used time well. Only when you’ve done what you know you should can you comfortably take time to rest.

“I think I’ve just gotten used to the anxiety of knowing I’m not maximizing my time/experience/life after years of putting off plans while making excuses for giving in to compulsions ‘just a little more.’

“Following my convictions feels difficult and uncomfortable. I feel tired and always aware of so many other areas in which I’m still not measuring up. I want to strengthen and prepare myself; but how do I enjoy something difficult (but necessary) instead of falling to something easy and compulsive (but destructive)?

“What I’ve come to see is that my long-embodied anxious state really does change once my values work themselves into my life enough.

“As your values establish themselves as ingrained components of your identity, you find yourself more and more able to relax and enjoy each moment.

“When you see your state improving, the obstacles you’ve yet to face appear to change as well. Addictions, compulsions, and limitations transform from malicious things that want to destroy you into the actual steps you take toward growth and achievement. Feelings of inadequacy morph into puzzles or challenges to solve so you can become even more efficient. The pain you feel changes from destructive to purposeful, like the pain of exercise rather than the pain of a wound.

“You always want to be moving forward faster. It’s paradoxical that the key is learning to relax—to relinquish all elements of force or pressure.

“Trust the process of going public with your experience as you see it working. Then you can relax in every moment of becoming who you want to be.

“During my years of addiction, I always felt like time was running out. Now I feel as though I’m much earlier in the game of life than I’d previously thought.

“I’m not old yet. I just want to enjoy and do what I love to do, and I want to do it as well as I can for as long as possible.

“In the gap between knowing who you want to be and being that person, change occurs whenever part of you reaches its own limit. The limit is your obstacle to grow through. Growth takes as long as it takes. You have to experience everything you experience in order to learn what you need to learn.

“You never stop learning; but you’re always right where you need to be.

“I feel like I can almost relate to Aaron Lewis’s lyrics from the Staind song, So Far Away, which say: ‘Now that we’re here, it’s so far away. All the struggle we thought was in vain. And all the mistakes, one life contained, they all finally start to go away. And now that we’re here, it’s so far away. I feel like I can face the day. And I can forgive, and I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today.’

“I see a place like that looming just beyond another horizon.

“I’m close.”

A few days later, I got high again and wrote:

“I read a blog post by Seth Godin the other day, and decided to make it my desktop background. Seth’s timely words seemed to speak so directly to my current thoughts and circumstances.

“Here’s that entire post, called [+ The Tension of Now+]:

“‘Later is the easiest way to relieve the tension that accompanies now. But later rarely leads to the action we seek and the change we need. When you encounter the tension of now, caused by the urgency of action, veer toward more tension, not less now.’

“When I saw the word ‘now’ repeated again at the end, something clicked. I had a sudden realization that seemed so obvious I laughed at myself for having ever missed it; it’s probably the clearest, simplest big picture summation of everything I’ve been telling myself all along about what my next step actually is:

“What I need to do NOW is to not buy anymore weed. That’s all.

“As soon as I write that, though, I hear a familiar slew of inward ghostly squeals like a herd of crazy pigs caught in a lightning storm. Their chaotic screeches all converge, demanding answers to anxious questions: ‘How long? How many weeks? Months? When will I need more? What will I need it for…?’

“I marvel at how freely I once would have leapt to fill in every detail, constructing diligent org charts and Venn diagrams (to throw on piles with the rest)—anything to appease my conscience while at the same time successfully putting off NOW for just another day.

“Just another day…

“Perhaps the silliest question I could ever ask myself is: ‘So, how exactly do I not buy weed?’

“My whole story comes together: So far, I’ve seen myself make right choices in moments based on my values, which is the basis of self-management.

“Not buying weed means truly facing my desire for what I’m addicted to; and facing desire is the culmination of self-management.

“So, ultimately what I’ve always had to learn to ‘do’ is . . . nothing.

“Does that mean instead of an action plan I need an inaction plan?

“But the idea of an inaction plan is ridiculous.

“When I , all I ‘did’ was stay put and dream about food. Eventually, even the dreaming stopped.

“Facing desire has always been the conclusion. That’s what I’ve really been telling myself all along; it just took this long for me to realize.

“Here’s a silly acrostic for the word R-I-S-E that might make facing desire and self-management a little clearer:

R—Record: Put your experience together to share however is most natural for you. This makes it more and more difficult to ignore what you want and what must come next (now).

I—Immediate: Self-management comes from valuing your experience enough to make better decisions in the moment (now).

S—Success: Consider your history and what you’ve found works best for you in terms of working toward various goals.

“Where have you already been successful?

“What values do you see already working themselves out through your life (now)?

E—Enjoy: Relax. Don’t plan. Trust the process. Face your addiction while doing whatever comes next in your sequence (now).

“I don’t want the consequences of my addiction anymore.

“I want poetry, motion, beauty, visions…

“I want to get the most out of life I can get, and to be the best version of myself I can be.

“Going public with my experience has enabled me to believe in myself again. An old fire, long dormant, has been swept back ablaze in flames of passion and confidence I’d long since gotten used to living without.

“I see depletion, anxiety, and compromise falling away as I come back to life.

“I see good again…

“An anxious voice, now detached, slithers up beside me to softly whisper: ‘What if you’re not actually any better once you’re in control?’

“But I want to see. I want to see what I can be.

“The dull hiss responds: ‘But you might miss important high thoughts if you stop. What if you can never come back? What if the magic is gone forever?’

“Then I’ll find a new way to be.

“The voice continues, dancing in careful arcs between strings of obvious momentary excuses for why the unplannable uncertainty of facing desire can’t really be a conclusion.

“I hear myself say only: ‘Don’t buy weed, and watch what happens.’

“The voice’s final quiet words ring low: ‘How many times have you told yourself not to buy weed before? How will tomorrow be any different?’

I don’t know.”

It wasn’t different, but it was.

Weeks or months later, I found a tiny amount of weed in the garage.

I smoked, and wrote only:

“My life is beautiful.”

[]DAY 70 | Ghosts #4 (to know where voices come from and go)

Here are my last recorded high thoughts from the time of my marijuana addiction:

One night back in college, I found some weed I’d forgotten about in an old guitar case. I just remember it making the drive home so much fun.

“But I’m struck by how long ago that night was—about four years now.

“What have I been doing since then?

“Well, for the first two years of my addiction (2011-2012), I mostly just collected ideas, made art, and generally tried to have as much fun as possible.

“By the end of 2012, I was bored with fun. I was starting to see more value in the ideas I’d been recording.

“For the second two years of my addiction (2013-2014), I mostly worked on developing those ideas.

“One of those ideas became this story.

“Writing and sharing this story is what eventually empowered me to face and overcome my addiction.

“I began this year (2015) almost completely in control…

“So, what have I learned over these last five years?

“It seems the state you’re in mostly determines your experience and thoughts. But behavior is perpetual; how you act both results from and contributes to your state.

“My addicted state was unbearable, so I spent years desperately searching for the right behaviors to change it.

“After almost half a decade, I realized the right ‘behavior’ for me had really always been to simply to not buy weed (for now). It took me that long to grasp that learning to face my desire for weed indefinitely was at the core of all my convictions.

“I first had to see that balance and control were even possible. Then I had to grow beyond my anxious need to understand and plan exactly how my journey would go.

“Again, the concept of facing desire is not something you can learn in four easy steps (despite the cheesy acrostic I half-jokingly shared yesterday). Facing desire is the culmination of self-management, which is learning to value your experience, which is maturity, which is your perspective changing as you grow through obstacles, which takes as long as it takes.

“When you can face your desire for anything, all questions of exactly how or how long become ironic and meaningless.

“When you can live completely in the current moment, all notions of manufactured futures based on skewed interpretations of fading pasts become textbook descriptions of the beauty of birdsong or arguments with rocks.

“How naïve I feel to have missed for so long the clear intent behind every plan, warning, final blowout…

“I thought the plan was always to change just after…

“When?

“The reality of time and life is that all you really have to work with in each moment are the freedoms you want, the values you prize, and the ways you currently believe your experience can be made best (and best be made use of) as it occurs.

“Time never stops, and you always have less of it left than you did.

Behavior is the only evidence that you know enough to do—that knowledge has blossomed into wisdom and perspective, which manifest as character and better choices.

“But you’re never perfect.

“When you can manage yourself and face desire, you never forget that you want what you’ve always wanted. You know that nothing you do or choose can ultimately keep you from being and becoming who you want to be.

“In every moment of decision, one value is chosen over another. Since you’re never perfect (and since you’ll never stop growing), I’d encourage you to try to enjoy whatever you end up choosing as much as you can. I see no reason for letting guilt (believing you could do better) be spun into shame (believing you’re the worst).

“Why not let yourself enjoy your experience as much as possible, even when you’ve chosen something you’ve told yourself to avoid?

“Just let the potential for an even better experience naturally motivate you to make better choices as you continue moving forward.

“You still exist only in the current moment after you’ve done what you’ve told yourself not to. You still want the same things you did before.

“This might sound weird, but my experience of addiction became sort of like a string of the best bad orgasms of all time.

“What do I mean by that?

“Whether I was getting high all day, forcing entertainment, distracting myself from , or putting off goals, I was making immature choices for short-term values because I didn’t believe in myself to choose long-term ones.

“But as I prepared to share my experience, I couldn’t keep ignoring what a good high could be. I began to have an inescapable sense of what stillness, and waiting, and time spent developing my potential could mean.

“Each misspent high or compulsive retreat felt like rushing into, and just missing, the full pleasure of an orgasm (while at the same time knowing I’m longer young enough to have plenty left to spare).”

The next day, I got high again and wrote:

“So, here we are at DAY 70 of my conversation with my high self.

“Am I still hearing echoes of those same desperate voices begging for specifics?

“When, how, where, why…?

“Imagine an amnesiac lawyer hearing a standup comedy routine and being certain it’s important testimony in a high profile case.

“Why argue with the inconvincible? Such can only be smiled at, hugged, and wished well from as close as they’ll allow.

“The frantic questions I’ve always heard come from every random direction except for one: No direction at all.

“Here . . . now . . . because…

“The focus shifts yet again, and I laugh at myself once more. But I’m not mocking. I love myself now.

“I’ve become a real person in the world.

“I’ve been kept from being me for long enough. The air has now been seeped from absolutely everywhere I might have once been able to comfortably stop living.

“What, after all, has this whole story really been about?

“While feeling out of control and stuck trying to make sense of ironic questions, I watched my state deteriorate.

“I also got so worried thinking about how bad, strange, ugly, and messed up my life must have looked to everyone else.

“People don’t seem to tell you exactly what they see when they look at you, do they?

“So I got used to voices that screamed at me to fix the blame for my anxious, helpless state on both myself and weed.

“But was it weed that made me feel so out of control, ugly, and uptight?

“I have a good friend I don’t see that often. One of the main reasons I don’t call or write to him more is I’d feel like I had to lie in order to impress him—like I’d have nothing honest to share that would be worth talking about.

“Was it weed that made me feel that way—ashamed of who I was?

“No. The anxiety, the voices, the shame . . . it all came from the same place: from seeing my addiction keeping me from being who I knew I could be, and from feeling powerless to change as time kept slipping by.

“The confusion I’ve felt all along is gone. Even the ghosts of anxieties past have ceased their whiney haunting. They’ve now been thoroughly cast out and run off.

“I see exactly where all notions about my life and state are coming from.

“Beneath it all, I see .

“Your best self is more powerful than whatever might try to keep you from it.

“This is your life. How to live the life you want is actually so simple you never need be told.

“So, that’s it. Time is happening, which means there’s no big goodbye.

“There’s no perfect moment or circumstance to force yourself to be something new.

“No one will tell you what they see when they look at you. But what do you see?”

P.S. Just something cool I thought I’d share here at the end: The last time I smoked weed during the period of my addiction, I happened to use only a single piece of paper and the top of a plastic bottle as a pipe. Somehow I didn’t melt the plastic or burn the paper at all.

[]Afterword | Who am I now?

I came into the time of this story frustrated by a life of temporary substitutes for my values and potential.

I now know who I am and what I bring to the world.

I want you to know yourself and the values you bring as well. The world needs your perspective and talents—your art form.

These days, anyone can say anything to everyone basically for free. As the world catches up to itself, the way we understand art, business, intellectual property, etc. continues to change.

Middlemen still only hold all the resources because most haven’t yet come to realize how unnecessary those middlemen are, or how amazing it would be if everyone were to use what’s already available to bring to the table what only each individual can.

It’s okay that it takes time for societies to change, just like it takes time for each of us to grow and develop a new perspective.

Both take as long as they take.

My name is A.K. Finn, and my art form is to share optimistic, realistic stories that show people what they’re capable of.

If what I share is valuable to you, please consider giving me a few dollars by clicking on the hat:

Or, equally as helpful, please consider sharing my work with others.

I give my stories away for free, and all the support I receive goes toward providing resources to those who can’t currently access what I share online. They happen to be the ones that seem to benefit most from what I write (those who don’t quite fit in society).

Thanks so much for reading, and for your support.

Again, please let me know if you have any questions.

How can I help you face addictions, go public with your experience, develop your art form, or become the best version of yourself you can be?

[email protected]


Facing Addiction

How can you overcome addictions, compulsions, immaturities, personal limitations, and other character flaws or behaviors that hold you back in life? It's tempting to seek out the easy predictability of some precise plan to follow—a perfect “how to” for you to tape to the fridge or front of a binder. The problem with plans like that is you quickly (unconsciously) teach yourself to forget the logic behind the steps, ignoring how those steps are meant to tie to your real experience. “Oh well,” you say, “at least I tried. I guess that wasn’t quite the right plan for me after all. I’ll go find a better one tomorrow, or maybe the next day...” Unlike plans, stories have real power to change your life. You never forget the stories you relate to. And when you can come see your own story objectively enough over time, you find your perspective starts to both deepen and widen all on its own. It’s called maturity; and maturity shows up as choices made in real time that align with your values. So Facing Addiction is a story about the power of your story. It's a story about discovering who you are in the midst of constant change—about gaining a lasting sense of self that defies external pressures, shameful prescriptions, and self-deceptive tendencies. It’s a story about transcending your limitations as you watch the values you hold dear work themselves out through your life, transforming you into a strong, stable, self-controlled individual somewhere real (and you-sized) in the world. It’s a story about purpose, passion, fulfillment, and fun . . . a story about uncovering and honing in on the basis of everything you want most in life (all at once). As you grow beyond all that’s held you back, the focus of your story shifts outward. It becomes a story about connecting with those like you who speak your language—those you can truly be yourself with and inspire (and those who inspire you). That could also make it a story of punk individualism in the face of conformity, public stigma, and fading mainstream culture. Oh yeah, and since the addiction my story happens to center around was to marijuana, Facing Addiction might also be a story about ghosts, inner voices, divination, and other mystical illustrations of whatever it is that happens when your mind is slowed down just enough for you to see in-between your thoughts; but, really, that’s not the point—that’s just one of the values that was worth facing my compulsions for. : ) Let’s hear your story.

  • Author: A.K. Finn
  • Published: 2016-08-25 09:05:33
  • Words: 65575
Facing Addiction Facing Addiction