Up In Smoke
photo by R'eyes
photo by R'eyes
Written By

I loved smoking weed. Whether it was an early morning wake-n-bake with the guys or a little pinner on an afternoon walk, it was one of my favorite things to do.  I loved laughing at stupid things until my ribs ached. I loved how much closer I felt to my friends and the openness and vulnerability to talk about anything. Weed was a key component of my university experience, and I enjoyed everything about getting high.

Well, almost everything. I definitely didn’t enjoy how self-conscious it made me. I remember one time I told a joke and no one laughed – I thought everyone was mad at me. Turns out they were all tripping out on a poster.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the lethargy that seemed to accompany my habit. Gradually, attending classes and working out at the gym started losing out to sitting home all day and smoking bongs with my housemates.  Productive activities had a real tough time competing with the dime-bag on the table and the video games in the living room. But it wasn’t the end of the world. It was worth the trade-off. My grades weren’t even that bad anyways.

Over time, though, the trade-off took a hit as the experience started gradually changing. As my tolerance of pot increased, what had once been a several-hour adventure had slowly become a short burst of excitement followed by hours of lazy stupor. No wonder they call it “burning out” – that’s exactly how I would feel afterwards: extinguished and unmotivated.

In the summer after my first year of university, my girlfriend Danielle and I went backpacking through Ireland. After returning home, I got a call from her. A professing atheist, she informed me that she had “found God” in the amazing natural beauty of Ireland. An occasional churchgoer myself, I was happy for her.

But there was something different about her.  As we talked, I noticed a joy in her I’d never seen before. Later conversations would prove that it was more than just a happy mood – it was like she suddenly had a deeply-rooted delight in something, giving her peace.

All of which was fine by me until she mentioned that she’d given up smoking weed. I couldn’t believe it. After mocking her new-found devotion, hoping to embarrass her out of this commitment, she resolutely explained that this was something she did of her own happy volition – not a reluctant response to some cosmic killjoy.

I wasn’t convinced, but we continued to discuss the subject on and off. I had always believed in God, but the idea that he required some sort of commitment on my part seemed a lot to ask for. During one conversation, Danielle summarized her decision by explaining that she had traded in her old life and old pursuits for what she called an “abundant life” in God. Apparently, this was something that Jesus promised.

Right. Then why wasn’t my life abundant? I believed in God too. So I scoffed at the notion. But I had to admit – something inside me jumped at the thought. After all, that was the reason I started smoking weed in the first place: in pursuit of some sort of abundant life.

I longed for some excitement, some adventure.  I wanted something more out of life. I guess smoking weed was my solution to that longing. Getting high with my friends promised to take me out of the ordinary, to create adventures for us to tackle and missions for us to accomplish, and it helped me escape. I loved it. Didn’t I?

I put these intrusive thoughts out of my head and life went on as before. I continued to smoke weed, trying my best to ignore the possibilities that Danielle had raised in my head. But in retrospect, I think I was slowly coming to grips with the futility of my pastime.

The turning point came several months later, during a Radiohead show in New York City.  The band finally took the stage and eager to enhance the show, we quickly lit up a celebratory joint. As expected, it was mind-blowing: a kaleidoscope of visual effects and amazing music. However, just like every time before, I soon began to burn out. Lethargy crept in. I even yawned.

As the evening wore on, I smoked several more to compensate, but to no avail. Worst of all, self-consciousness reared its ugly head.  I found myself choosing not to jump around or dance, afraid of how silly I might look. That was the last straw. The most irrational of fears – I highly doubt any of the 65 000 present were concerned with the quality of my dancing – was crippling my enjoyment of the show. Weed had let me down for the last time. I was done with it.

On the drive home, with my buddies passed out and snoring, I smoked a farewell joint and said goodbye to weed. Still upset at its betrayal, I threw the roach out the window and mulled over my conversations with Danielle. I believed in God, but I had a hard time believing that He really was able to give me the kind of life I’d always wanted. I figured the only way to know for sure was to take a leap of faith and just trust Him.

The following morning I woke up with a purpose. If I wanted this abundant life that Jesus offered, I had to ask for it. I had to stop trying to make my own version of it and surrender my life to Him, trusting that it would be better in His hands than in mine. The very idea scared me, but that’s what trust is all about, right?

I had never really prayed before, but I got on my knees and did it anyway. Awkwardly, probably, but for some reason I knew He was listening. I asked God to take control of my life, and to give me the life that He promised.

I stood up. No lightning; no white light. Did it work? The next day I decided to crack open a Bible to learn more. Man, there’s gold in there! I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed reading it. As time wore on, I gained a hunger for more of God. I guess that’s how I really knew things had changed.

It’s one thing to quit smoking weed, but it’s totally another to suddenly have these foreign desires. Craziest of all, I began to see that Jesus had done exactly what He had promised. My life gradually became marked by the adventure, the purpose, and the joy that I had wanted for as long as I could remember. I’ve been places and seen things that I could’ve only dreamed about. It sounds crazy, I know, but I gotta tell ya: there’s nothing mundane about following God.

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