By Sofie Buckminster
I’ve come up with every reason not to quit weed throughout my two years as a smoker. They vary from the shortsighted “my homework is done, I might as well smoke tonight” to the sweeping “weed has made me who I am.” I’ve become an expert at convincing myself night after night that one more night won’t make a difference. That’s how I ended up with 41% attendance during my second semester at Duke.
I began smoking the summer before my senior year of high school with my older sibling, Ellis. We filled our nights with a joint and conversation that oscillated between delightfully giggly and remarkably insightful. When Ellis went back to college at the end of the summer, I continued our nightly ritual alone. I now knew how to buy my own weed, roll a joint, and sneak out of the apartment without my parents noticing. Smoking alone inspired a new type of appreciation for the drug: it granted me a state of mental clarity I had never experienced. Rather than a pastime, smoking became a means of self reflection. In place of the conversations Ellis and I used to share were the sounds of the city outside my window – sounds and scenery I would soon exchange for Durham.
Smoking helped me form many of my first connections at Duke. What started as an innocent social facilitator, however, mutated into the basis of my entire social life. My RA moved out one week into second semester, eliminating any hesitation I’d had about smoking in my dorm room. The pleasant warmth of Durham fall was long gone, and the chilly outdoors behind Blackwell was no longer my only option. With several half-smoked joints lying around, a high was only the click of a lighter away.
The constant availability of weed paired with the carefully cultivated ambience of my room made for the perfect homebase. My single dorm walls were plastered with small cutouts from magazines, vinyl art, and sketchbooks. My childhood Christmas tree lights cast a rainbow glow over the space, and I’d stolen as much common room furniture as I could get away with.
As my circle of friends grew, my room blossomed into a social hub. Being without a roommate, I found this incredibly validating– what could have been a lonely space became the destination for social interaction and an essential aspect of my identity. I offered the bong around the room so persistently that I was often compared to a “waiter offering more water to their customers.” It was much like my initial nights with Ellis, full of giggles and insights.
The social benefits of running a “smoke room” encouraged my dependence on weed, even when it cost me. I cherished the respect I garnered from being able to smoke unlimited amounts of weed without “greening out,” despite the achievement being a byproduct of my borderline addiction. I loved having everyone in my room, even at times when I needed a good night’s sleep. I refused to let anyone pay for what they smoked, undeterred by the $300 I was spending every other week.
My room was everyone’s room; my weed was everyone’s weed. My sleep, my money, and my well-being would not get in the way of the perfect world I had created.
Though my room was my sanctuary, my life outside of it was a slowly accumulating mess: classes skipped, assignments uncompleted, midterms not taken. I sent weekly emails to my professors attempting to articulate my inability to come to class or do my work. As the semester continued, I missed so much that I had to withdraw from a class. My parents could not understand how their daughter went from dean’s list one semester, to regular meetings with the dean the next.
The effects of habitual weed smoking bleed into life outside of inebriation, rearranging your sober mindset without you even realizing. When you have weed waiting for you every night, you stop filling your life with other things to look forward to. Each day you’re faced with a choice: face your responsibilities, or push them off another day. Weed encourages you to do the latter.
I was aware of the costs of my habit, yet I made no changes to my lifestyle. Perhaps a small part of me feared that if I stopped smoking, people would stop coming to my room. Perhaps I was too afraid to detach myself from weed and find out which one had been attracting people all along.
Between my concerned professors, confused parents, and friends close enough to see the cracks forming behind my enthusiastic hosting, I couldn’t hide what was happening.
Weed was now a destructive force in my life. As the semester drew to a close, my best-case scenario shifted from academic success to mitigating academic disaster.
Weed condemns you to a passivity that becomes unignorable when you’re alone. It wasn’t until summer, when my thoughts and behaviors were completely isolated from social factors, that I became discontent with the state of my life. The first two weeks of summer, my journal was filled with frustrated rants and ever-growing to-do lists.
It became clear to me that writing and rewriting my reasons for needing to quit weed was merely procrastinating doing the real thing. Weed was the last thing I wanted to give up during my unbearably free summer. Nevertheless, I packed up all my weed-related paraphernalia and passed it off to a friend to babysit during my cleanse.
Week 1: Starting was the hardest part. I still wholeheartedly believed that I could smoke my boredom away and resented myself for getting rid of the cure to a torturous and empty summer. I spent my days pouting in my bed, filling the void with less enchanting forms of deleting time: I watched a lot of Love Island.
Week 2: Week two was only slightly less miserable. While my cravings for weed faded, I was frustrated with myself. I had remained an immobile and unproductive wreck . I stopped smoking– why wasn’t my life the healthy-habited reality that sobriety promised?
Week 3: I finished watching Love Island. Two weeks in bed had proven that the answers wouldn’t be found within the walls of my bedroom, so I hesitantly began spending time in the living room and the kitchen. I hadn’t quite worked my way up to the outdoors yet, but this was certainly progress. Plus, my parents enjoyed having me around.
Week 4: The mental barriers between myself and productivity became a distant memory. 21 days under my belt was all the motivation I needed to keep pushing forward with my cleanse, and as I accomplished minor goals, I gained momentum. I felt an unfamiliar sense of pride as I finished a book, started running in the mornings, and discovered that sobriety didn’t have to be so dreadfully boring.
It took me four weeks to understand that sobriety is only boring when you are boring. Weed is instantly gratifying, relieving you of the responsibility to actively create the circumstances that make you happy. Slowly, your sober reality begins to clutter, and you end up smoking to avoid your life instead of add to it.
Quitting weed this summer gave me the chance to clean up my reality. I don’t need to hide in my room from my life outside anymore, and my happiness no longer directly correlates to the quantity of people filing through my door. I gathered the courage to see who still wanted Sofie, disentangled from weed, and found that friends remain friends even when you’re not shoving a bong in their face. In fact, enduring sober, everyday life with people facilitates a more profound appreciation for each way in which they make you a happier person. In all honesty, my total abstinence from weed hasn’t stuck– smoking is still a form of quality time that my friends and I enjoy. The title isn’t entirely clickbait, though: quitting weed in the manner that I was abusing it gave me confident clarity on the conditions of my life. It’s hard to see clearly in a smoke-filled room.