Learning New Coping Strategies
Some Alternatives to Marijuana Use
You can do many things to stop using marijuana. Some may work better than others. Some help you resist the urge to smoke or avoid tempting situations or satisfy your needs in more constructive ways than smoking marijuana. Expect to try several and add any that may be helpful. Think about what worked when you gave up marijuana before or when you made other changes in your life.
Be kind to yourself as you begin this change process—you’re doing something to take care of yourself, and you deserve all the comfort and self-acceptance you can get! Remind yourself that learning and changing inevitably mean giving up old ways and that, in time, you will feel more comfortable. Remember the changes your body and mind went through when you learned to drive, got to know a new person, started a new job, or learned a new skill. Chances are you felt awkward, uncomfortable, silly, dumb, scared, frustrated, impatient, or anxious, in addition to hopeful, excited, and challenged. What helped you then? How long did it take you to feel relaxed? Did you learn all at once, or were improvement and progress gradual?
Avoid or escape from situations that make you want to smoke marijuana. Sometimes this is the easiest and most effective way to resist temptation, especially at the beginning.
Delay decisions to give in to temptation; for example, you could wait 15 minutes. Take several deep breaths. Focus on the fresh air entering your lungs, cleansing and nourishing your body. Let out tension with each exhalation.
Change your physical position. Stand up and stretch, walk around the room, or step outside. Carry things to put in your mouth: toothpicks, gum, mints, plastic straws, low-calorie snacks. Carry objects to fiddle with: a rubber ball to squeeze, a small puzzle, a pebble, worry beads. Have a distracting activity available: a crossword puzzle, magazine, book, a postcard to write.
Self-talk. Give yourself a pep talk; remind yourself of your reasons for quitting; remind yourself of the consequences of using marijuana; challenge any wavering in your commitment to quit.
Imagery and visualization. Visualize yourself as a nonsmoker, happy, healthy, and in control; imagine your lungs getting pink and healthy; or focus on negative imagery and imagine yourself with cancer, emphysema, unable to breathe, needing constant care. Visualize yourself in a jail made of marijuana cigarettes symbolizing the way marijuana controls your life.
Thought-stopping. Tell yourself loudly to STOP; get up and do something else.
Distraction. Focus on something different: the task at hand, a daydream, a fantasy, counting backwards from 150 by 3s.
Exercise or take a brisk daily walk. Get your body used to moving; use stairs instead of elevators; park farther away from your destination; walk instead of drive.
Practice relaxation or meditation techniques regularly.
Take up a hobby or pick up an old hobby you used to enjoy.
Drink less coffee; switch to decaf; drink herbal teas.
Engage in an enjoyable activity that is not work related several times a week.
Change routines associated with smoking marijuana, at least temporarily; for example, don’t turn on the TV when you get home from work; don’t spend time with friends who smoke.
Social Interactions and Environment
Remove smoking paraphernalia (pipes, papers, bongs, ashtrays, matches, lighters, marijuana) from your home and car.
Go to places where it’s difficult to get high, such as a library, theater, swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, restaurant, and public gatherings (not rock concerts).
Spend time with friends who don’t smoke. Enlist support from family and friends. Announce that you’ve quit; ask people not to offer you pot, to praise you for stopping, to provide emotional support, and not to smoke around you.
Learn to be appropriately assertive; learn to handle frustration or anger directly instead of by smoking.
Specific Suggestions for Some Common High-Risk Situations
Below are several high-risk situations that people who use marijuana confront, along with suggestions for coping without smoking.
Tension Relief and Negative Emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety, nervousness, irritability) Develop relaxation techniques, exercise, write down your feelings or talk to a friend or counselor, do something enjoyable that requires little effort, figure out what you’re feeling and whether you can do anything about it.
Anger, Frustration, and Interpersonal Conflict
Try to handle the situation directly rather than hide your feelings; if appropriate, be assertive; get some release by squeezing a rubber ball, pounding a pillow, or doing some physical activity; write down your feelings or tell them to someone; take deep breaths.
Fatigue and Low Energy
Do muscle relaxations; take a brisk walk; do something enjoyable; eat properly and get enough sleep.
Don’t fight being unable to sleep. Get up and do something constructive or relaxing. Read a book, watch TV, or do muscle relaxations until you feel sleepy. Remember that no one dies from losing a night’s sleep.
Read, do a crossword puzzle, prepare a healthy snack, take up a hobby, knit or do other needlework (things you can carry with you for easy access).
Try a new image: get a new haircut or buy new clothes.
Be aware when others are smoking. Remember your commitment not to smoke marijuana. Be assertive and request that people not offer you pot. If appropriate, ask that they not smoke around you for a while. If necessary, be prepared to leave the situation, especially when you’ve recently quit.
Situations Involving Alcohol
After you’ve quit marijuana, you may continue to associate drinking with smoking pot. Alcohol can make you less vigilant about resisting marijuana. It tends to make people less concerned about long-term consequences. You might consider not drinking or cutting down during the first few weeks after quitting. If you don’t want to do this, be especially careful when you drink.
Cravings and Urges
The only way to interrupt cravings is to break the chain of responding to them. That is, don’t give in. Eventually they will decrease. Do something to distract yourself; use the techniques listed under Thoughts; breathe deeply; call a friend; go for a walk; move around; time the urge, and you’ll find that it will disappear like a wave breaking.