Q: I haven’t had a drink in four months but I still smoke pot sometimes (I have RA). My friend says this means I am not “sober” but since I am not waking up in weird dudes’ beds anymore, I kinda wanna to tell her to f**k off. Curious what you think.
A: While I am inclined to advocate for telling anyone to f**k off, in my experience it’s not usually a good idea. I will say that, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “sober” is defined as not being drunk or addicted to an intoxicating drink and puts no parameters whatsoever on smoking weed. Therefore, technically speaking, you could tell your friend to go f**k herself and feel pretty self-righteous about it. But what your friend is likely proselytizing is her personal definition of “sober,” shared by many people in the recovery community. Those in active recovery (working some kind of program beyond abstinence) generally feel that using any kind of drugs (at least the kind that typically causes muchos problemas) means a person is not sober.
I know what you’re thinking—pot never shepherded you down the path of making out with the cashier at 7-Eleven, so what’s the big deal? That’s a fair question, especially if you are smoking/eating/Jolly-Ranchering the kind of cannabis that relieves pain but doesn’t get you high. Here are my thoughts: if drinking made your life unmanageable (i.e. waking up in bed with the cab driver), then it’s a good thing you stopped. Four months without a drink is nothing to shake a stick at but it’s also not long enough to really weigh in about whether just removing booze from the equation will solve your life’s problems. If you are truly using medical marijuana to deal with a real medical issue, and not just mounting a 4-foot bong every Friday night and high-dialing Little Caesars, then you are probably going to be just fine.
Q: I have been clean and sober for over five years now, but I live in the Denver area and pretty much have to walk into clouds of pot smoke half a dozen times a day. I thought I would get used to it but I’m actually getting more and more pissed off, to the point where I am worried I am going to clock someone or relapse. Any ideas on how to deal with this growing (pun intended) issue?
Bro, I feel you. My favorite 12-step meeting is in the back of this coffee shop and one day, a bunch of little a-holes just started hanging out in front, drinking café au laits and blazing up. There is nothing that will rub a clean/sober person the wrong way more than being forcefully shotgunned on their way to hand out day-count chips and hugs. But here’s the deal—other than your other friends in recovery and maybe your mom, no one else gives a rat’s ass that you are clean. Whether we realize it or not, many of us carry a proverbial chip on our shoulder about what we had to go through to get and stay sober and how much better people we are now in comparison. While all of these notions are 100% valid, you’ll have to forgive the rest of the planet for not stopping what they are doing to pat us on the back for finally becoming functioning and respectable human beings.
Now that we have the tough love part out of the way, I urge you to try and see your situation in a different way. Rather than feeling like a victim of all these stoners who get to frolic through the streets of Denver with a one-hitter and a dream, remember that getting clean was a choice you made and one you most likely made for a damn good reason. Try and put yourself in their Chacos and be grateful that you don’t have to waste anymore of your life thinking Doug Benson is funny.