Every morning I wake up drenched in sweat. My dreams have been getting weirder and more sinister every night. Apparently smoking pot causes you to go into ‘deep sleep’ and skip most of the REM part of sleeping. What’s interesting is that REM is where we do a lot of our processing and sort through our emotions in a creative way called dreaming. It’s critical for our memory, learning and restoration. It’s also vital for daytime function and procedural memory, like learning new skills.
When we smoke weed, we don’t allow ourselves enough time in the REM phase to actually have dreams long enough to remember. What I didn’t know was when we deprive ourselves of REM, cognitive dysfunction and mood alterations can occur. Weed’s not the only stealer of REM, so is booze, coffee, benzos, antidepressants and lithium.
I honestly didn’t know I was depriving myself of emotional processing and memory consolidation by toking up every night. This is starting to make sense. Over time, REM sleep deprivation can make you paranoid, anxious, depressed, unable to learn, and distracted. One thing that really stood out to me was: dramatically heightened emotional responses. This is very, fucking interesting.
With alcohol added to the mix, even a healthy 0.1 blood alcohol level reduces early night REM density. Sure you can pass out really fast, but the prolonged first stage of rest induced by booze eats into your REM stage of sleep.
People will drink more and more alcohol to combat their insomnia and help them drift off, unaware that it’s actually going to hinder their late-stage sleep, leaving them even more exhausted come morning.Treatment Options for Sleep Disturbances During Alcohol Recovery, J. Todd Arendt, PhD
So the two things I often turned to for relaxation and stress relief throughout my adult life, weed and booze, do more damage than they do any good while I’m intoxicated. Any amount of disturbed sleep can cause:
- Slowed thinking
- Reduced attention span
- Worsened memory
- Poor or risky decision-making
- Lack of energy
- Mood changes including feelings of stress, anxiety, or irritability
I’ve always been an emotional person with big feelings ever since I was a kid. I was nicknamed ‘Crocodile Tears’ , which in retrospect is kind of mean and I wouldn’t do that to a small human. I always hated that I cried and I’m sure that lack of acceptance around my emotions caused me to want to self-medicate later in life. I feel like I’ve been lied to for a long time. I was lied to when I was little and thought all the adults drinking was how you could stay up late having all the fun.
And I still feel like I’m being lied to as an adult. Watching the beautiful Natasha Lyonne slam back tumblers of bourbon and take random drugs from random sketchy men in Russian Doll Season 2, while looking fucking badass and fabulous and just shadowy enough to give all the allure. While watching The Queen’s Gambit. Outlander. The booze sponsored influencers on Instagram. Gwenyth Paltrow. Mommy wine glasses. This entire line from Hydroflask.
I mean it’s pretty obvious that substances are often glamorized in pop culture and consumerism, with pot becoming more legal throughout North America, it’s also a bourgeoning industry and you can tell by the government-run dispensaries literally robbing us with their tiny containers of weed for 60$ a pop. Booze is the real money maker though, and I think we’ve known this since colonization. Also – every show I like glamorizes drinking and I had no idea until I became more aware of my own consumption.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for more abundance and inspiration in my life.
This includes my relationships: to myself, to others and to what I consume in every way. It’s been nearly a month since my last bottle of wine. I don’t miss it a bit. I’m enjoying paying off my credit card debt and slowly making it back into the green. My lifestyle and habits have soaked me dry for the last goddamn time and so have shitty friendships.
Some evenings, I still go through the motion of wanting to roll a jay to decompress at the end of the day but I’m slowly learning new techniques: I take baths, do a meditation, breathing exercises, WRITING, painting, art, music, essential oils, magnesium, melatonin, yin or restorative yoga. Not scrolling on social media, not absorbing every person I know’s drama. Not getting into arguments about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.
I’m learning to be more conscious of my life in general. Maybe my sweaty, dreamy sleeps are helping with that clarity later in the day. I find that when strong emotions rise, I’m more aware, I allow myself to feel them completely and then they go away. I’m also becoming more aware of the media I’m consuming (including Facebook and Instagram) and the conversations I have with my friends, and hey, I’ve pushed some people away. The more I tend to speak up about what I believe, the more I freak out my friends that just aren’t conducive to the same way of healing as I am.
I’m realizing all of this is connected.
I’m feeling a little firmer in my feet, steady in the winds of emotion that come with being in a treatment centre for addiction. My mind is starting to feel open to new possibilities, new relationships where we inspire one another rather than bring each other down, and I’m starting to be more conscious of the people I’ve allowed in my life who tend to take more than they give.
Maybe some of the people I’ve given my time to, including the content I’ve been reading and watching isn’t inspiring. Of course, it’s OK to not be inspiring all the time, sometimes we just need to veg. So many of us are stressed, sleep deprived, anxious and depressed. It’s natural that we attract people around us who get it, who want to relax in the same ways.
I’m slowly learning though, to lift myself up without the help of anyone else, not even my life partner. I’m listening to good music, creating, expressing, dancing, working out, bathing and brushing my teeth. Realizing I truly am my own best company and can maybe enjoy myself. I feel like I’m slowly being lifted from a haze of self-hate, doubt, debt, crap relationships and content that brings me the fuck down. I’m not saying you should cancel your Netflix for Gaia because Gaia content is a little delusional. But there’s definitely something to consider here, our attention is taken from us by so many people and the never-ending world of online content.
I’m learning that the words we choose, and the lack of words we use, can really impact our relationships and how we make others feel. All this time alone in a room has given me perspective – some of the habits and friends I used to turn to help me unwind no longer help me in the same way. I have more control of what I surround myself with, I can choose to absorb what inspires me. I’m also learning to not let my big emotions take me into a spiral, I’m letting my self feel the feels and then move on with my life. Maybe we’re all just grown up, tired babies, fixin’ for a cry. So I let myself cry.