Legal Note: You must be of legal age, or have a medical dispensation to use cannabis in your area. The information here is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional and is only intended for educational purposes from one patient to others.
End of Disclaimer
So I feel like everyone from my former life is watching me, especially because of the way that people look at me – Devon – when they see me out on the street. I did this to myself, I absolutely did this to myself.
I made the decision to start smoking cannabis, I made the decision to start writing about it, and now many in the recovery community are judging me.
I Tried Taking A Tolerance Break, And It Drove Me Literally, Clinically Insane – Devon J Hall
I’ve been talking about gang life, mental health, and trauma for a while now, but the one thing that I’ve kept to myself is what happened when I entered a Narcotics Anonymous recovery program.
Now….the word “program,” is a term I use lightly because essentially all I did was attend meetings twice a week, and go to a few events, but I want to talk (again) about what happened in those rooms because I think it’s important, since I’m on the outside, to be honest.
I asked several people to be my sponsor, to walk me through the steps, and to teach me what they had learned so that I could heal as well. All of them were white women, and not a single one of them met with me to do the steps, but the one person I remember the most, the one that I really respected, kept getting loaded. I watched this same woman take 3 one-year cakes before I decided that I wasn’t going to get any help from her.
Eventually, I started asking men because I wanted to get help, but of course, the men don’t sponsor women. Several of the men hit on me and made me feel like my only worth was their ability to use my body as a sex toy, and when I announced that I wasn’t there to find a date, I was there to get help, I was made fun of, by the speaker who followed. A man.
The reason that people in NA don’t want you talking about what happens in the rooms isn’t that they want to keep secrets safe, it’s so that if no one knows what they are doing, then they don’t have to pay consequences for their actions.
I never told anyone about the white man who volunteered to help at the shelter one night, only to try and force me to have sex with him the next day in my mother’s office. I never told anyone about the men who flirted with me and made me feel uncomfortable and when I did try to talk about it, then I was told “we don’t do that here.” Okay, so we’re just going to let people continue on with bad behaviour and not stop them? Sure.
Surrey, British Columbia and the Word “Recovery” Do Not Work Together. No-one Cares About The Women Struggling Or The Men Dying.
Recovery in Surrey, British Columbia alone, without factoring in any other cities on the planet, is a billion-dollar business. So let’s talk about how it worked (and in many places around the world still works) when I was working at the church.
You go to a church organization or another community org, and you tell someone you want to get clean and sober. All we have to do is make a phone call and we have dozens of recovery homes to choose from.
Once the phone call is made you have exactly 5 minutes of watching the person who said they are ready to get clean and ask themselves if it was the right choice. You have a maximum of 30 minutes to get them from the church where I worked to the recovery home or center because any longer and they might change their minds. It’s literally a race against time and insecurity and mental health issues.
During the five minutes you do whatever you can to distract them – you get them some clothes from the hamper, you grab them some food from the kitchen, and you do whatever you can to keep them on the property until their ride gets there.
Then comes the worst fucking part.
What Is A Recovery Home or Center?
Realistic Success Recovery Society
There are several different kinds of recovery centers across British Columbia. Many of them have been set up by people who once used drugs – “Trilogy House”, Or Realistic Success Recovery Society – was one of my favourite places to send people to, is one of these organizations.
It was set up by a friend of mine and his wife, who witnessed the worst of Surrey BC’s recovery. He decided to get clean, and when he made that decision he brought two friends with him, more than ten years later, it’s one of the most successful programs in the city.
RSRS was set up in a private home and evolved into several home-style buildings, where men specifically come together to heal together. They attend meetings together both in their own homes and in other organizations.
They build friendships and volunteer in the community, and they teach all of the men who are willing and able to stay, how to break old patterns and build new ones. Without the fear of stigma.
Phoenix Center was another one I loved, because I knew the founder Mike, and we’d had a few conversations, he basically built the dream center that I would build if I had the time, money, and support.
His system is three-tiered and based on helping people buy their own homes when they are finished with their recovery program. He utilized as much of the community as he could get to support the center, and his legacy lives even after his untimely and unfair death.
The Phoenix Center is designed as an actual center and is connected to our local hospital, they are heavily involved with Indigenous volunteers who support the center with their time and education. They help people – men and women – get off drugs, and teach them how to live a clean life. More than “let’s make amends,” the recovery system is supposed to be (and is at Phoenix Center), is about becoming a new version of yourself. This article by the Vancouver Sun talks more about the program and a really cool knitting initiative started by one of the men who live(d) there.
Recovery centers and homes are SUPPOSED to be safe places for people to go to get off the street, or out of toxic situations so that they can learn to live clean and sober.
What Are These Places Supposed To Teach People?
People in recovery programs are supposed to learn
- How to live clean and sober
- How to regulate their emotions
- How to live with trauma from their past lives
- How to stay clean and sober
That’s All Well And Good, But Does It Work?
In short, not always.
No, because even though recovery programs are set up by well-meaning people, the truth is that not every program is going to work for every single person. “Staying Clean,” ONLY refers to staying off drugs, it’s a simple phrase made up of two words that don’t really mean what people think they mean.
In reality, staying clean means:
- Being accountable for your actions
- Changing past behaviours and breaking old patterns
- Living Life the way that the rest of the world expects you to as a “sober person,”
At the end of the day, a life of 100% sobriety – no drugs, booze, or pills – is a choice. It’s a deliberate choice that one must make for themselves. You can offer someone the most beautiful, comfortable, wealth-filled recovery program on the planet, and if they decide they don’t want to be sober, they are going to find a way to use drugs, whether we like it or not.
I heard about someone recently who lost track of his family and died on the streets. Every single day there’s another story of someone I know, or knew, who died because they couldn’t kick the drugs, and the reason they couldn’t kick the drugs is actually a lot simpler than people realize.
Think about all the celebrities you know who have a documented issue with drugs and alcohol. They seemingly have everything they need for success, and yet many of them died due to drug and alcohol abuse, in too many overdoses to actually count.
Many, many times, when we look at celebrities and think “yeah I want that life,” we don’t think about the fear, anxiety, depression, and misery that they are hiding. Whether their addiction is food, fame, sex, drugs, or alcohol, all addiction can kill if you aren’t careful and if your support system isn’t 100% behind what it is you’re trying to do.
For many people, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings, just get tired of watching people fall off the wagon. At a certain point people have to put up a hand and say “no, this is enough, I can’t watch this anymore,” and they walk away. There’s no shame in that, because honestly it’s not anyone’s job to save another person’s life, if that person doesn’t want to be alive anymore. There’s nothing you can do, but be there for them, WHEN THEY ARE WILLING TO LET YOU be there for them.
Why Do People Use?
Every single person who uses drugs as a habit is completely different, and all of their reasons although they may be similar, are completely different.
For some people, they pick up a joint at eight years old and by the time they are twelve, they’re addicted to meth. The drugs were never the problem for them, the drugs are a way of escaping the pain. The pain often caused, while on drugs, can do a massive number on a sober person’s brain. There are people I know who do heroine first thing in the morning before they go to their jobs or kiss their partner hello in the morning because it’s the only way they can function.
Other people never get to get married or have children, they spend their entire day being loaded, because it’s the only way they can function.
I knew a man who EVERY SINGLE TIME, he tried to get sober, would have massive seizures that sent him to the hospital. We gave him food, and clothing, we gave him the option of recovery homes, and in all honesty, for him, it was just too painful to try and get sober after more than 50 years on the street, addicted to drugs and booze.
Another fell off a ladder and hit his head, never used drugs before that, but after that became a totally different person because drugs helped the pain he refused to talk about.
The reasons are endless, not all of them are because of rape, torture, and spiritual trauma. The worst I’ve seen are Indigenous folk who were berated by Christian rhetoric before being dropped at a recovery home, where they didn’t stay because they were so afraid of having to deal with more “if you just read the bible and follow God, all will be okay.”
In short, people use it for a variety of reasons, but most of those reasons do include some kind of trauma that the drugs and alcohol help them to escape from, at least for a short time.
The Point I’m Making
If you are living on the streets, or in a forest, or in a hotel, and you aren’t using drugs then you’re praised, because you’re “so strong,” but the moment you pick up so much as a joint, everyone turns their nose down at you because too many people weed is a gateway drug. For many, many people around the world, their addiction to harder drugs started with the seemingly harmless use of cannabis.
For SOME people, cannabis is a genuine medication, myself included, but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel the stigma and hatred of those who see me as a drug addict, because I use cannabis to help me get through the day.
So again, what works for one person, ie weed, doesn’t work for another person. I personally can smoke a joint and be perfectly content, I may even add a glass or bottle of wine and be perfectly fine to get up and go to work the next day.
For other people, a simple toke can send them to the darkest shadowy corners of the world, looking for something harder.
In Order To Understand How I Can Choose Weed Over Heroin, You Also Have to Understand The Work That Led Me To Safe Decision Making Patterns
Every human being makes decisions differently. Some humans choose to make choices that are best for their best chance of survival, and others choose what is best at the moment.
I have spent several weeks trying hard to not smoke cannabis, and the result (For me and for me alone I speak for no one else in the universe,) is that I often stay in bed feeling depressed and miserable all day, feeling and hearing the voices of people who don’t know me, and never really did, ridicule me for not living the life that I allegedly was supposed to live.
I’ve spent years watching people with holes all over their body pick at their flesh, and destroy every part of themselves in search of happiness at the end of a needle or the bottom of a bottle. I decided a long time ago that would NEVER be me.
I saw my first almost dead (not even sure if he’s alive) body at eighteen after I went to an organization to serve breakfast on a Saturday morning as I’d been doing with my mom and brother for years. I watched as the cop smiled at me, a cop, standing over a man who was clearly overdosing, a woman crying and screaming for help, while the cop tried to flirt with me. I went home and called my mom who was at GF Strong after a knee or hip surgery, I can’t remember which and I cried.
That was the day that I started to realize that my life wasn’t about me anymore.
It took me leaving the church, volunteering at the station, getting arrested, and then really sitting down and working out why I was so angry, and broken, for me to decide to start using cannabis. I knew – as I’ve said before – I needed something, I also knew that pharma meds hadn’t worked in the past, and probably wouldn’t work in the future.
I chose cannabis because it was the safest option, and then I started smoking, and for a while, I lost my mind. But over time I started to find myself, and I built this website with my two hands, I built every word, I put it all together so that I could one day say, “yes I did this, and it helped some people.”
I’ve spoken to people in my past who work at some of the most well-known recovery options in the city, I’ve spoken to people who became cops after volunteering at the church with me, and they all know I use cannabis, and they all laugh because they knew damn well the worst I did while at the mission, was to drink.
They also see me as a much more capable, and stronger version of myself today than I was back then and that’s even with an incredibly messy house and personal life. I am 100% more honest today than I was back then, and when people ask “how is Devon today?” I give them an honest answer, whether it might make them uncomfortable or not.
Cannabis is absolutely not for everyone. Not everyone can “just” smoke a joint, get up, go to work and get the shit done that they wanted to for the day, some people need to feel higher, more out of control, or more whatever it is they are searching for.
For me, and again for me alone, and the hundreds of millions of people who have found cannabis to be helpful there’s a different reaction entirely.
Yes, part of it is body chemistry, but it’s also economic status, emotional status, community connection, and a million other things that help cannabis do the job so many of us claim it can use.
Sure, 100% sobriety works for you, it’s helping you have the life you want, but yeah, messy house, single, four cats, living at home with my mommy, that’s the life that I want, because it’s the only way I can be the person that “I” need to be, t be happy. I have no idea what the future holds for tomorrow, but BECAUSE of cannabis, I am looking forward to finding out.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall