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Stopping marijuana: overcoming common obstacles to change.

If you’ve tried quitting before but always wind up relapsing, take a few moments while preparing for your next quit attempt to look back at what went wrong, and to think about how to overcome any obstacles between you and your goal.

Here is a list of 7 common problems that people face when quitting marijuana, along with suggestions for how get past these obstacles. After reading through the list, take a moment to write down what obstacles contributed to your past failure(s), and to brainstorm ideas for getting past these hurdles that you’ll likely face again.1

Stopping Marijuana: Overcoming Common Problems

Problem 1. You Can’t Relax without Marijuana

Though it’s normal to feel tense when quitting marijuana (it’s a common withdrawal symptom) unless you learn alternative ways to relax after a stressful day, you’ll always feel tempted to get high.

Solution: Make a list of different ways you can relax – and then compel yourself to try a few different activities when feeling stressed. Ideas for relaxation include: deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, massage, exercise, a hot bath, taking some time alone to read a book or watch TV, and many more.

Though it takes resolve to try something new, especially when frazzled and looking for easy relaxation, non-drug tension-busters actually work better, and have no unpleasant side effects.

Problem 2. You Can’t Sleep without Marijuana

Many smokers experience insomnia during the first month after quitting. Your insomnia may be worse if you habitually use marijuana as a sleeping aid.

Solution: Accept it as a transient problem, and cope by improving sleep hygiene skills.

Though you may not sleep very well during the first weeks, know that your marijuana insomnia won’t last forever, and that getting upset about it won’t ease the situation.

  • You can probably get more sleep by improving your sleep hygiene skills (no naps, a dark room, making your bedroom an inviting environment, etc. – learn more on how to cope with marijuana insomnia here.)
  • You may also want to consider herbal sleeping aids, such as melatonin or valerian root.

Be very cautious if considering stronger sleeping medications, like any of the benzodiazepines or Z-drugs (Ambien etc.) These drugs are habit forming and much tougher to get off than marijuana; don’t swap a marijuana addiction for a much more debilitating one.

Problem 3. You Can’t Get Past the Cravings

Solution: Learn and practice effective cravings management strategies, now, before you quit, so you’ll have tools at your disposal for managing urges when the time comes. Try the 4 Ds cravings management system as a great place to start.

Problem 4. You Get Bored

Once you get used to filling leisure time with marijuana, it’s absence leaves a big hole – and unless you fill it with activities that are just as engaging as getting high, then boredom becomes an issue.

It’s easy to fixate on cravings and withdrawal symptoms when sitting at home, bored out of your mind…

Solution: Strive to fill the first couple of weeks with enjoyable activities – possibly activities that you couldn’t do, or at least enjoy, while high. Make a list now, in advance of actually quitting, and try to schedule fun activities for every day of the first couple of weeks. Keeping busy can reduce boredom, and it also helps distract you from cravings. 

Problem 5. You Can’t Say ‘No’ When Somebody Passes a Joint

You should try to limit your exposure to triggering situations. However, that’s not always possible and you never know who you’ll run into around town. For optimum safety, if you have problems saying no, you need to practice marijuana refusal skills in advance.

Solution: Don’t wait to get into a risky situation and only then think about what you’ll say, prepare a few great excuses/explanations now, and have them ready to use when needed. To learn more about how to do this, check out – learning drug refusal skills.

Problem 6. – Dealing with Negative Emotions

Without marijuana to blunt negative emotions, you need to learn more effective non-drug alternatives. If you know that getting upset led to a past relapse, it makes sense to practice new strategies now, before you quit, so you’re ready to handle negative emotions when the time comes.

Solution: Improve your distress tolerance skills; learn more about how to notice, label, observe and clear-out negative emotions without letting them drag you down. Here’s a how-to guide on dealing with negative emotions during recovery.

  • Tip – Though you can’t stop negative emotions – they don’t tend to last for very long. Just like for cravings, relaxation and distraction exercises can help get you through the worst of it.
  • Tip #2 – If negative emotions limit your happiness or ability to function normally, and self-help efforts don’t improve your situation, consider group or individual counseling.

Problem 7.  You Feel Directionless

Some people find that when smoking heavily they just drift along in life, without working toward long-range goals. If you currently do this, without marijuana to distract your attention, you may experience an unsettling lack of direction.

Solution: Make long-term plans, and take action. If you don’t know what to do, consider what you enjoy most in life, what you’re good at and what others close to you suggest you’d enjoy/excel at.

Add Your Own Problem/Solution

Beyond the problems and solutions listed above, think back to your last quit attempt and then write down:

  1. Any additional problems (not listed above) which contributed to your relapse.
  2. Solutions you can use to overcome these challenges to lasting success.
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Page last updated 15/08/2016

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