On Quitting Weed at Age 78
by Bob Ingram
I’m pretty good at quitting things. I gave up drinking more than 40 years ago – with one relapse – and gave up smoking about 30 years ago.
Self-preservation was the main reason. I was locked up eight times when I was drinking. I was a crazy, out-of-control drunk who was a hazard to myself and others. Luckily, I didn’t have a car or drive during my drinking days. Somewhere in my pickled brain I knew better, I guess.
I would go out for a drink and end up in Chicago or Boston with only vague memories of how I got there. Blackouts were ongoing. I got hog fat, too. Alcohol is mostly calories. That’s why people have beer bellies. I’m only a little over five-seven and I was up around 200 pounds. I looked like I’d swallowed the air hose. I was walking past a department store window one time and saw my reflection and totally cringed.
I was what you’d call a functional alcoholic. At one point I was managing editor of a trade magazine at the Chilton Company in West Philadelphia. The place was a drunk’s paradise. This was during the “Mad Men” days when everybody smoked and drank. I remember coming to at my typewriter many mornings. I kept a spare necktie in my desk drawer because I figured people would notice the different tie and not notice I had on the same suit and shirt because I’d been out drinking all night and never got home to change.
I could go on with drinking stories forever. A lot of it had to do, I think, with my adolescent fear of entering the grownup world. Booze made me fearless until I was sober. Then the dark shadows came back. Also, my adolescent fear of rejection by women had a lot to do with my drinking. Drunk, I’d make moves – clumsy and stupid though they were.
Things finally came to a head – literally — when I was in Miami on assignment and passed out in the lobby of the Fountainbleau hotel and hit my head on the floor and was bleeding all over the place. The house doctor who sewed me up said if I kept drinking at this rate I had about a year left. I went on a monumental drunk that night – a last hurrah – and quit cold turkey. No AA, nothing, although I did, in retrospect, go through my version of the 12 steps, except for the one about higher powers.
As I said, I relapsed once. I’d been drinking again for some months and was a hippie in San Francisco and had been at a free Grateful Dead concert and got so carried away I went out and got a pint of V.O. and ended up passed out in some bushes, my boots sticking up in the air. Incredibly, some friends were driving past and recognized the boots and fished me out and gave me the Dutch Uncle lecture that I needed, and evidently it worked.
Giving up cigarettes was for two reasons: first, I was running then and began to feel like a fool for lighting up after a good six-mile run. I’ll say one thing, though: my lungs would be so open that the tobacco would hit me like the drug that it is – bizz-bang all the way to my toes.
The main reason was that I was married at the time to a tough-minded woman who had stopped smoking herself and was totally on my case. So when I came down with the flu and had to go off cigarettes, I just kept on not smoking to this day. The one time I wanted a cigarette was for about five minutes after my mother’s funeral.
Now we coming to giving up weed after almost 50 years of toking (there was a six-year interval of not smoking weed when I was married to that strong-minded woman).
Again, it had to do with self-preservation, as much as I liked weed. I don’t have a hell of a lot of time left at 78 and I saw that weed might be cutting that down. I’ve had COPD for some years now and have had pneumonia too many times to be fucking around with my lungs at my age. I don’t know if smoking pot had anything to do with the COPD and pneumonia, but it sure didn’t help things.
And the weed of today is really strong, especially the $300/ounce I was smoking. It was cough city with every hit. Hack-hack.
So about three months ago I thought I was coming down with pneumonia again and got off the weed. Luckily, I wasn’t, but, like with cigarettes, I just kept on not smoking. I guess it was time to stop. I’m not coughing and spitting up evil-looking phlegm any more and have more money in my kick, too.
One dude I know said when you give up pot, you have trouble sleeping. Bullshit. I sleep like a newborn. Also, I see now that I had sort of a zero-sum addiction to marijuana. I needed and wanted to smoke it all the time, but my tolerance was so high after all these years that I really wasn’t getting anywhere near as toasted as I wanted to be. I remember that the first time I got really high on weed, my first wife sent me to the grocery store with a twenty-dollar bill and by the time I got there that money was gone baby gone. Now that was high.
I’m even watching movies again that I knew were really good, but that’s about all. I really didn’t remember much else about them because I was smoking weed while I was watching them. I just watched “The Drop” and “City of Industry” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” again, as examples, and got so much more out of them than the first time around.
So I’m off weed. I’m going to make it into the barn without it.