When Your Life Goes to Pot

By Nic Sheff 01/12/12

This recovering meth addict couldn't get through a day without smoking a little marijuana. But in the end, this "soft" drug was the hardest one for him to quit.

Going to pot Photo via

Growing up in San Francisco, it honestly seemed to me like every person on the entire planet smoked pot. 

Pot was easily as much a part of family gatherings and dinner parties as wine and beer. And it was way more a part of the world around me than smoking cigarettes ever were.

I remember telling a friend that I thought my parents would be much more upset about catching me smoking cigarettes than smoking pot.

After all, pot is natural, right? And it’s cool. I mean, everybody smokes pot. And they smoke it everywhere. Walking down the street, driving by in their cars, in movie theaters, concerts, and even restaurants. At Chateau Marmont the other day, folks were lighting up right at the next table. 

Like I said, it’s easily as prevalent as alcohol and as difficult to avoid.

I’m finally starting to see that even though pot never cost me as much as hard drugs did, it still cost me alot. 

Plus, on a personal level, I loved smoking pot. It made me so much less anxious and more able to deal with difficult emotions. It made me more confident. It made me actually like being by myself. Going for a walk, watching a movie, riding my bike, swimming, listening to music, watching TV, even working a job at a coffee shop or whatever—everything became like a 100 times more enjoyable. 

And unlike my forays into harder drugs like meth and heroin, pot really never cost me all that much. It didn’t make me go crazy stealing shit and losing jobs. I could function pretty well smoking pot. If anything, I’d say I was actually a better worker when I was stoned because I was more engaged and agreeable and pleasant to be around. Cause that’s what pot does, right? It floods you with serotonin.

Although, of course, what goes up must come down, so the highs, for me, were accompanied by serious lows in the form of severe depression. But then I realized something else: as long as you keep on smoking pot, you don’t ever have to deal with that too much. 

So really, I mean, what’s the drawback, then?

While I did get arrested once back when I’d just turned 18 for possession, that was only a misdemeanor and it was expunged from my record.

My girlfriends have always hated me smoking pot, so maybe that’s something. But I also always felt like if they hadn’t actually watched me get high, they probably wouldn’t have known I was high in the first place. In fact, I once dated this girl for two years, claiming I was sober when I was really smoking pot the whole time.

Hell, that’s been the story of my life. When I was on tour for my first book, talking to schools and radio show hosts and even Oprah about my sobriety, I was secretly smoking pot.

I only finally stopped when I met my future wife a few years ago. But even then, I didn’t do it ‘cause I wanted to (at least not at first). Basically I was just terrified she’d find out and I’d blow it—and I really didn’t want to blow this one.

So I stopped.

I stopped and it was fucking hard as hell but for the longest time, I still wasn’t sure I really needed to.

Because smoking pot still didn’t seem bad to me.

I mean, what harm did it do?

There was a man at a weeklong “renewal” rehab program I went to a few years ago who asked me basically that same question. He was middle-aged, with a wife and child—and he wanted to know why he shouldn’t smoke pot. He basically gave all the same excuses that I just did. It was like anxiety medication, he said. And it wasn’t negatively affecting his life. He was only at that program for a little “tune up.” He’d been sober off everything but pot for 10 years. He had no plans of giving it up. 

At the time I thought he was totally right.

But that can’t be true.

There just has to be a better answer than that.

And I’ve decided that there is—that smoking pot is a pathetic waste.

Despite how much a part of popular culture it is. Despite how cool Bob Marley looked smoking a spliff in some old photograph, or how glamorous it looks to see people smoking pot in movies, or on TV, or whatever. 

Smoking pot is a waste.

And it isn’t cool. 

But I only, finally, am starting to see why that is.

I’m finally starting to see that even though pot never cost me as much as hard drugs did, it still cost me. It still fucked up my life. And now that I’m free of it—well, I’m fucking grateful as hell. And I wish more than anything I could have all those years back I spent being addicted to pot.

It’s funny, you know, but it’s embarrassing say that I actually was addicted to pot. It’s more embarrassing than talking about meth or heroin, because pot seems to be so beloved by so many cool people. But the fact is, I was addicted to it. I smoked it from the ages of 11 to 27 and, though I tried to stop many times, I was never able to for more than a year. 

And all that time—when I was smoking weed every day (or almost every day)—I remained a child.

I never grew up. 

I mean, in some ways I did, of course. But, emotionally, I remained stunted. 

In fact, I’d been using pot to deal with my emotions for so long, I was absolutely incapable of handling any kind of conflict without it.

When I was off pot, if I felt any kind of fear of rejection or if I did something wrong and upset people, I couldn’t handle it. I would go into this catatonic state where I wanted to curl up and die and disappear. 

It was almost like I was spiraling down into myself and I’d be trapped there unable to communicate or anything. It was as if the fear and pain were so acute that I would simply go away—retreating into some place in me.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
nic sheff.jpg

Nic Sheff is the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction: the New York Times bestselling Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines and We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction. Nic lives in Los Angeles, California where he writes for film and television. Find Nic on Twitter.