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  • Writer's pictureStephen Hart

Weed, Porn, & Video Games: Part 1

Grieving is not just for the dead. We all have things to grieve because we all lose things constantly. The loss of our youth, our job, our lifestyle, our relationships, our house. We lose skills, memories, interests, and looks. It is a natural part of the cycle of life; we can grieve all losses, not just the big ones, but we often don't. A follow-up to Small is Safe, this article describes my experience of not grieving well, how I used my vices to escape the pain, and suffered the consequences for years to come.

 

We all have our things; the activities we use when we just want to forget for a while. For some, it is ice cream, wine, and Instagram. Others, pizza, beer, and watching sports. For the more productive, it may be work, gym, and travel. For the famous, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, baby.


To be clear, none of these are bad or wrong. Life is damn hard, sometimes unbearably so. And, as I’ve only recently learned, it is not bad to run away sometimes. It is okay to take a break, eat a pint of ice cream, and binge an entire season of The Office. It is okay to get high and forget about your worries for an evening. We’re all just out here trying to survive and could be a little more gentle with ourselves and others. It can be tough out there; the extra shame or guilt just makes things worse. 


For me, it has been weed, porn, and video games. I lived a good portion of my life running from how I felt to have temporary relief. I didn’t understand the value of grieving and paid for it dearly.


Weed was a blessing in my life, until it wasn’t. I discovered marijuana during my senior year of high school, and through college, it became a life-enhancing substance for me. Some of my favorite memories of that time came from sharing a joint with some buddies, playing Super Smash Bros on Nintendo 64, and laughing my ass off until my face hurt. It was a thing that I cultivated friendships over that still cherish to this day. 


When I got stressed out, I smoked weed, and everything was okay. When I was sad or frustrated, weed helped me forget about my worries. I was 20 years old and didn’t know any better. No one taught me how to deal with my emotions. No one told me the value of feeling. Pain was unpleasant, and weed was fun, so that’s what I chose. Why would I want to suffer when I could just get high and have a good time?


Then, in 2014, life got real. Without warning, I woke up one morning to a phone call from my dad. He shared the news that my mom was in the hospital and wasn’t going to pull through. My world shattered. The pain was unlike anything I had ever faced before, I didn’t know it was possible to hurt that much. I felt like a huge set of waves was crashing over my head, flipping and spinning me around to the point where I didn’t know which way was up. 


In the following months, I did the only thing I knew how to do when I suffered: smoke weed. I felt worse than I ever had, so my weed intake spiked dramatically. Every day I scratched my way through work just to get home and light up for some temporary relief. I was holding my breath all day until I could get high. Porn and video games became activities to pass the time between each spliff. The three wired together into a repetitive system to numb me out and get me through the night. 


Gone was the laughter. Gone were the bonding moments with friends. I was on a mission to not feel. I didn’t have the emotional skills to do anything else. For months, I sat in my room alone, smoking, jerking, playing. Rinse and repeat. All the while picturing my mom shaking her head in disappointment, thick layers of shame and guilt formed on my already tormented soul. Nobody knew what I was going through, I was entirely alone.


It started to affect my health, my relationships, and my business. I was running out of money, so I would steal weed from my roommates and mix in tobacco to make it last longer, only deepening the addiction. At my lowest, I chose weed over food with what little money I had. I would chug milk to fill my belly, smoke a cigarette to make me nauseous and less hungry, and smoke weed to completely dissociate from anything that I was feeling. Since we’re being real here, on my worst days, I couldn’t even afford cigarettes, so I walked the main drag and collected enough unfinished cigarette butts from the ground that I could roll together to do the trick. For me, that was my rock bottom. 


A blessing came in the form of a Facebook post from a girl, a local yoga teacher, sharing how she recovered from the loss of her brothers in the 9/11 attacks. I reached out to her, and she agreed to meet. She shared with me some of the yogic principles, specifically the Yamas and Niyamas, which completely changed my life. The concept of focusing on only the things I could control and letting go of the things I couldn’t, was life-changing. I couldn’t control what happened to my mom, but I could control how I lived, how I treated myself, how I treated others. I quit smoking cold turkey, changed my diet and my destructive habits, and started a journey towards feeling good again.


It was incredibly challenging; every day was a struggle for a while, but I did it. This mindset shift inspired me to write my first-ever article, which I reshared to start this blog. “Feel good” was my mission each day, so I did only the things that made me feel that way. 


I dove deep into my yoga practice, went to the gym, surfed, played soccer, started eating healthier foods, pivoted my business, and reinvested myself into my work. It worked, I did feel better, and things in my life started to improve. But what I didn’t do was feel the pain I skipped over from a year of numbing myself out. I found healthier, more productive escapes, but they were still escapes. I was still running.


It wasn’t until 2019, 5 years later, that I realized what I had done and how it had been holding me back. My life was a cycle of running from negative emotions. I was full of anxiety about my future, uncertainty about my business, worry about my relationship and depression over the loss of my mom. Little triggers could throw me into a fit of emotional turmoil; it was confusing and disheartening. 


After 5 years of dedicated spiritual study, I was constantly frustrated that I couldn’t feel what I understood to be true. I had a partner who loved me, but it was hard to feel it. I believed the universe would always provide for me, but I was always stressed about money. I knew death was an inevitable part of life, yet I was terrified that someone else in my life would die. My baseline was anxious and afraid, and would only find moments of peace in my escapes.


Weed, porn, and video games were now just yoga, soccer, and surfing, plus emotional support from my very loving partner and adorable puppy. It was disconcerting to have a beautiful, loving partner, own my own business, and live in an amazing place, yet still be unhappy and afraid most days. I didn’t understand.


I initially sought therapy because Karina and I decided to separate for a time in 2019. After 5 years together, we were still unsure about marriage and needed to figure some things out so we could either tie the knot or stop wasting time. 


She was called to a soul-searching adventure and took off for her “Eat, Pray, Love” tour around the world. As she left, she expressed her need for me to be okay without her. She sensed that my emotional state was reliant on external things, my vices and her support, and she needed me to be emotionally self-reliant if we were to spend our lives together. So she left, and I started therapy. 


I thought I was going to therapy to help deal with my breakup with Karina, but very quickly, it became all about my mom’s death. That was the very first time that I grieved, the first time I learned what grieving was, and the first time I understood its value. Each week, as my therapist held space, I released unprocessed emotions that had been weighing me down. Each week, I became lighter. Each week, I felt more deeply than I ever had. 


For the first time, my baseline shifted from anxious and afraid to grateful and optimistic. I learned the value of feeling ALL emotions. By feeling and processing the pain, I was better able to enjoy and appreciate the pleasures of life. The air was sweeter, I stood taller and more confident, my heart began to open, and my anxiety calmed. I was no longer led by fear. 


I proved to myself and to Karina that I could stand on my own. When she came back from her trip, we eventually rekindled our love and got engaged. Our relationship was far better than before, with more passion, love, harmony, and fun, up until the day she died. 


When that first day came, February 13th, 2021, the first day without Karina with me on this plane, I remember making a conscious decision to feel everything. I decided to burn in the fire because I didn't want to repeat what happened before. I suffered through every last drop of pain for as long as I could, every single day for months. I was determined, if nothing else, to not allow unprocessed grief to sink into my being, causing issues for another decade. Not this time. It was the worst pain of my life, but I was determined to feel it. 


What resulted was magnificently life-changing. I expanded greatly and felt some of the deepest gratitude and joy I have ever experienced amidst the waves of grief. I didn’t let my heart close but instead kept it open and vulnerable, strong and courageous, hopeful and ready to find love again one day, which I eventually did. 


Over the last couple of years, many have asked how I survived all this, how I found happiness again, how I found the courage to date again, and how I fell in love again after such a traumatic loss. This is how. Not running, but feeling all my feelings is how. Grieving is how. 


I wish I could say I lived happily ever after from there on out, but life is not that simple and easy. I will share part two of this story in the coming weeks about how quickly things can fall when I slip from my path and some discoveries I made in the process. 

 

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1 Comment


Avi Schraer
Avi Schraer
Jun 25

I don’t run from my emotions, i deny them. I lie about them. But they are never anything i can run from. Just sharing that i have a different response style.

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