Overcoming my anxiety with cannabis and then mediation.

I was born in the UK and grew up in the 1980s. I know my family loved me, but people didn't talk about feelings in those days, anxiety wasn't talked about back then, not like it is today.
It was okay to cry if you fell off your bike and hurt yourself, but you didn't cry if you were sad or upset, scared or didn’t have any friends, and besides, men didn't cry.

I grew up thinking people didn't have those sorts of feelings I had. I felt like I was the only one in the world who experienced sadness like that.
As a child, I was shy, introverted, and struggled to make friends. I was always worried about what others thought of me and whether I was doing the right thing.

These fears only grew as I got older and started high school. At lunch times I'd always seek the table away from the noise and the hustle and bustle of the canteen. I’d put my headphones on and play my Walkman to block out the world. I would rarely talk to anyone and tried to ignore everything around me and shut it out as much as I could. It seemed more manageable and less stressful than trying to interact with it.

I remember feeling completely overwhelmed during my first day of high school. There were so many people, and I didn't know anyone. My anxiety was through the roof, and I felt like I would have a panic attack. I made it through the day, but the experience left a lasting impression.
As the weeks went on, I found it harder and harder to connect with my classmates. They all seemed confident and self-assured, while I felt like a complete outsider.
I gave up trying to talk to them because when I tried, my words would get tangled up, and I would say something awkward or embarrassing. I
t was a vicious cycle that left me feeling even more isolated and alone. In form, my desk was at the back by the window, looking out to a wooded area behind the school. I'd often look out the window at the birds and wish I could fly away from all my problems.
It wasn't until I was 16 that I first encountered cannabis.
One of my few friends had stolen some from his older brother. We both smoked cigarettes and rolling didn't pose much of a problem.

At lunch, we sneaked off into the woods behind the school. We had some rolling papers, and we broke open a cigarette, put the tobacco in the rolling paper, and sprinkled in some broken-up weed. We lit up the splif and passed it back and forth, holding in each drag as long as we could, then coughing out the smoke when we couldn't hold our breath any longer.
Almost immediately, I felt a sense of calm wash over me. My racing thoughts slowed down, and I was able to relax and enjoy the company of my friend. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could be myself around other people without feeling constantly on edge. We didn't return to class that day. We caught the number 2 bus into town and played Street Fighter 2 at the arcade until it would be home time.
I was worried we'd get caught skiving off, but nobody seemed to miss us, and no detention or telling-off awaited us.

As I continued to use cannabis, I found that it helped me to overcome the social disconnect and fear that had been holding me back for so long. I was able to connect with people on a deeper level and form friendships that felt real and authentic.
I smoked a lot in university, almost daily, and cannabis helped me to feel relief from the symptoms of anxiety. I knew that while cannabis could mask the symptoms, it never really solved the root cause, but like most people my age, I was good at masking my feelings, I’d had years of experience and cannabis helped me through that time in my life.

When I left uni and started working, my anxiety was still casting a shadow over me, so I started to do some deep introspection, trying to understand where my anxiety was coming from and what I could do to address it.
I started to meditate regularly, and I found that it helped me to control my anxiety better.
The cannabis helped with this meditation, and I could observe my thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.
I learned to recognize when I was feeling anxious and to take steps to calm myself down.
I also started to work on building my confidence and self-esteem, which had always been significant triggers for my anxiety.
I continued to use cannabis, but as the years trickled on, I realized I needed it less and less. It was now more of a social drug to help me relax and boost my confidence in the same way alcohol would be for most others my age.

On the rare occasions when my friends persuaded me to go clubbing with them, I would smoke a few splifs beforehand to help calm my nerves and so the crowds were manageable. It wasn't a crutch but rather a tool that I could use when I needed it.
One particular social situation that stands out in my mind is my best friend's wedding. I was the best man, and I was terrified of giving my speech in front of all the guests. I crept off after the ceremony while everyone was taking pictures and had a smoke before the reception, and it helped to take the edge off my anxiety. When it was time to give my speech, I felt nervous but not overwhelmed. And to my surprise, the speech was a great hit. I didn't trip over my words or get lost, people laughed at my jokes, and I got several compliments from the guests after.

Over time, I began to notice some fundamental changes in myself. I felt more connected to the people around me, and I was able to form more profound, more meaningful relationships. I also felt more comfortable in my own skin, and I started to take risks and try new things without worrying so much about what others thought of me.

But perhaps the most significant change was that I started to see myself as a person who could overcome challenges and grow as a result of them.
I started to push myself more, and I realized that my anxiety wasn't something to be ashamed of but rather something that had helped shape me.

I'd always wanted to travel the world but had been too terrified. I'd never been away traveling by myself before. I didn't know any foreign languages but longed to see the world. I saved up enough money, handed in my notice at work then traveled to Asia. It was the scariest but the best thing I have ever done. It gave me the confidence to grow into who I am today.

Of course, using cannabis isn't a panacea, and it's not for everyone. But for me, it was a tool that helped me to overcome some of the most difficult challenges in my life. And by combining it with meditation and introspection, I could manage my anxiety and grow as a person.
Looking back, I never would have thought that a plant could profoundly impact my life. But I'm grateful for the journey that brought me to where I am today, and I'm excited to see what the future holds.

Author's Bio: 

After overcoming my anxiety and traveling the world I’ve settled overseas in a foreign country I now call home. I live and work for a company called LOOKAH that makes cannabis paraphernalia. See more at https://www.lookah.com/