Table of Contents


A spiritual awakening. I had stopped drinking but I hadn't grappled with my addictive mindset head-on, deep-down, and cleaned it out of my thinking for good. Somewhere in me I still considered drugs a legitimate way to feel good, even though I wasn't aware that was so. For me that's the crux of addiction: I'm still prey to addiction if I would consider taking a drug not for healing or simple physical pain relief, but for fun, for a buzz, to get high, to feel good. That's the addictive mindset, and overcoming it is a spiritual task, a crucial passage in the spiritual quest. AA acknowledges this as part of Step 12. I just quit drinking, leaving that all important spiritual work undone. Leela, ever resourceful, had just the ticket: a spiritual awakening.

Left handed guidance. As with alcohol, Leela guided me along a left hand path of extreme consumption of cannabis. Late in 2018 Leela started making me reconsider marijuana. I quit smoking dope in the early seventies when it started interfering with my ability to maintain a train of thought and making me feel alienated and paranoid. But Leela was clearly letting me know cannabis was of value to me. I knew better than to ignore or subvert her guidance. Initially I tried vaping. Cannabis still felt awful. I wanted nothing to do with dope. But Leela kept after me to keep trying it. So instead of vaping I tried edibles. I liked that better. It was smoother, and my lungs did not want anything in them but air. I was getting a nice buzz now. I had slipped back into the addicted life, using a substance to feel good rather than feeling good because I'm living right: good diet, exercise, relationships, progress with love. I had succumbed to my inborn addictive mindset using cannabis.

4 am wakeup. I woke up at 4 am on December 7, 2019 and all the noise in my head was gone. I was perfectly quiet inside, no thoughts, no noise. The state I'd been yearning for all my life, awkwardly struggling toward. It was a breathtaking, utterly glorious spiritual awakening. And then I freaked out. My body became a hot cauldron of nameless, formless pain. I hurt in a way I never knew anyone could hurt. I was beside myself, frantic. I went to the emergency room because I thought I was dying. But it was just anxiety, a panic attack, a new thing for me. They did an EKG and observed me for a while; my vitals were rock solid. I was in great shape. Just deeply miserable in a panic attack that lasted months, well into the pandemic.

Not a panic attack? With the insight of hindsight I now see what I experienced the first few months of 2020 wasn't a panic attack, or at least not the usual kind. A friend described what I was going through that way and I adopted it. It fit, from what I could see then. My panic attack was chemically induced: I had cannabis toxicity and it felt like what I thought a panic attack ought to feel like. I had entered a new state that was extremely incompatible with cannabis, the drug that got me there. But I didn't have a clue while it was going on. I didn't understand until much later.

MA. I desperately needed to come to grips with whatever was going on. I found Marijuana Anonymous right away. I made it to my first meeting the next night. I began studying the science available about addiction. I was with people who accepted me in my ruined state. Their acceptance was a balm I sorely needed. By reading about cannabis and observing myself, I was able to work out that my panic was purely chemical. It slowly subsided as the accumulated cannabis cleared out of my body. Pot edibles get you well and truly pickled in the stuff. My detox from pot lasted months, not days. I went to MA meetings and sometimes AA meetings for about a month. Meetings provided the only relief from panic I got at first, except for when I finally got to sleep at night. But after a few weeks I began feeling like a fraud in the meetings. These people were struggling year after year. I had no craving, no struggle. I had my panic attack, but after a month I could feel it going away. I knew I'd get over it. It was just a matter of time. I didn't have an addiction to break, I just had a panic attack to get over. Leela used marijuana as a tool to wake me up to inner silence, and to the truth that recreational drugs are bad for me no matter what.

What really happened that night in December? For a long time I believed Leela used cannabis to boost me into a new state, a state where I no longer suffered from compulsive inner talk, but could instead choose to be quiet inside anytime I wanted. That's not quite right. What happened was really more remedial work than it was a boost in my state. Inner talking isn't an inescapable part of the human condition, it's a distortion we inflict on ourselves via human culture, via language and education. We learn to talk to ourselves inwardly as a side effect of learning language. That doesn't just fill our heads with useless ugly noise, it dumbs our mental processes down. Human minds work much better and faster when they directly grasp and process what's going on without laboriously putting it into words. Leela used cannabis to remove that compulsion, to make mental noise optional. It was a subtractive process, a remediation, not an addition.

The pleasure of being. Recreational drugs are robbers, crude intruders. The pleasure my body gives me when I live well is subtle: a gentle glow of well-being, quiet satisfaction with the direction and progress of my life, loving the world in all its disarray, a sense that my life here has meaning. The ever-evolving pleasure of being alive. None of that ever got through when I was getting buzzes from alcohol or pot. Those buzzes are way too loud to let the subtle pleasure of living be felt. Even the mellowest drug or alcohol high is crude by comparison with the real thing. Drugs disrupt my body's exquisitely sensitive pleasure mechanisms. Being quiet inside is not automatic; mental noise is automatic. But inner quiet, serenity, is now my resting state. It's always there in the background, easy to reach. The quiet from that night in 2019 has never gone away. Instead it's gotten much deeper.