Right before the holidays I found myself unable to articulate to my twenty-year-old niece why I am opposed to smoking marijuana. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but honest-to-Pete as she advocated for nation-wide legalizastion of pot and lauded specifically its calming effect on worry and racing thoughts, I couldn’t think of a single argument against it that didn’t sound hollow or hypocritical. I've never understood the stigma of taking prescription medicine to relieve and manage mental illness or emotional distress. If it helps someone live functionally. I'm a fan. Suddenly, the case for pot seemed perfectly logical in my head. It’s natural rather than synthetic, it’s not much different than taking prescription medication for depression or anxiety, and it’s a sleep aid. It’s basically just an apothecary, much like other herbs and essential oils - and those are positively trendy these days. First responders don't have to carry Narcan for weed. And, for sure, for sure I don’t have issues with oncologists prescribing marijuana for relief of physical symptoms like nausea and pain. So what was my objection?
The conversation nagged at me for days. Then my uncle preached a message he titled, “The Blessing of Emptiness”, sharing Biblical examples where scarcity or emptiness was the underlying condition for a miracle. I listened intently, and when he commented on the great lengths to which human beings will go in order to avoid pain, my mind flew back to the pot discussion. I had my answer.
I called her when I got home. Pain and discomfort, I told her, are important warning signs for our bodies, minds and spirits – they tell us something is wrong and needs to be changed. But self-medicating with pot masks the pain, hiding the root cause and thereby taking away the motivation to make the needed changes. Same with alcohol. Same with narcotics.
I hung up feeling sage and confident. Ever notice how easy that feeling comes when our advice is for a struggle we haven’t personally faced? (I have had all manner of wise words for my sister regarding her picky eater - I had a toddler who would try pretty much anything. I’ve offered dozens of helpful suggestions to moms whose kids won’t sleep, never mind that my own daughter never met a bedtime she didn’t like, or at least amiably accept. But bring up the topic of teaching kids how to pick up their things, or follow a routine, or keep track of their belongings, and I get strangely silent.)
Anyway, a few days later I was still blissfully patting myself on the back, recounting my exceptional advice to my husband who applauded my brilliance and fed my ego appropriately. Then I came across this passage while reading Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist:
“You can make a drug – a way to anesthetize yourself – out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV, working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning, dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for a while- that’s what drugs do. And, used like a drug, over time, shopping or TV or work or whatever will make you less and less able to connect to the things that matter, like your own heart and the people you love. That’s another thing drugs do: they isolate you. Most of us have a handful of these drugs, and it’s terrifying to think of living without them.”
Suddenly all my own “addictions” appeared before my eyes like monsters in our childhood nightmares – each uglier, scarier and more garish than the one before it. Sugar is my pot. Approval and validation from others are my opioids. Staying busy, busy, busy, busy is how I anesthetize and keep myself from feeling the discomfort God needs me to feel in order to bring about the changes necessary for Him to fulfill His perfect will in my life.
I wrote previously that 2019 is to be a year of gut and rehab for me. In order to successfully rehab a house, the structure (or "bones") need to be solid. It also helps if the house is in a good location. My life meets both of those conditions. I have a great foundation thanks to the examples and wisdom of people who have influenced my thinking and values throughout my life. And I’m in a good place – old enough and experienced enough to know myself and have a decent idea of where I want to go and young enough to still have the energy to want to get there.
In a rehab project, the first thing contractors do is a walk-through of the space, making an detailed and accurate assessment of the structure – the good, the bad and the ugly. They determine what should be kept and enhanced, what needs to be altered, and what has to be completely ripped out and replaced. From that assessment, they formulate a plan and get to work.
My journaling assignment for January will be to create an assessment! I'll review my foundation - time, finances, friendships, emotions, schedules, attitudes, influences, activities, and yes, addictions – and figure out what should stay and what should be removed. Can I be honest with myself and God and allow myself to be real? To be unprotected, unfiltered, unedited? Do I have the mettle to, as I tell my girls, “sit with my uncomfortable feelings?” And then I’m going to ask God for the plan forward, because as Shauna put it, “this is where we grow, where we learn, where our lives actually begin to change.”
How about you? How’s your foundation? If you were going to do a gut-and-rehab, what pieces of your life would you want to keep and even enhance? I invite you to take this journey with me throughout the next month – let’s be friends.
Thanks for stopping by the blog.