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Lighting Up (Excerpt)

CANDLE by gea*
Going cold-turkey isn’t for everybody. In this excerpt from her memoir Lighting Up: How I Stopped Smoking, Drinking, and Everything Else I Loved in Life Except Sex (now available as an e-book from Penguin Random House), Susan Shapiro shares in diary entries how she found smoking pot a hard habit to break.

By Susan Shapiro

10 A.M.: Woke up and wrote on calendar “D-Day,” then changed it to “No D-Day,” swearing that I was ready to stop my daily dope habit. Rifled through desk and threw out Zig-Zag and Bambu rolling papers, leftover roaches, two pipes, minibong and plastic Baggies. Proclaimed it would be easy since pot wasn’t physically addictive. Lit lilac scented candle and watched flame flicker, feeling serene. Decided it was never about smoking, it was about being a pyromaniac. Found names and phone numbers of drug dealers in address book and whited them out with Liquid Paper. Turned page, noticing I could still read dealer’s numbers backward. Whited that page out too. Drank six diet sodas in a row. Cleaned apartment, paid bills, returned phone calls. Felt productive, wonderful, so happy to be drug-free.

11 A.M.: Ordered fruit salad, newspapers and more diet soda from local deli. Ate fruit salad and drank two liters of diet soda from bottle. Opened wooden box from Jamaica to find half a joint left. Guessed it was stale. Sniffed longingly and considered eating it before tossing in garbage. Contemplated rummaging through garbage to find and smoke it. Took out trash filled with pot paraphernalia, tossing it down incinerator. Wondered if any of my dealers were listed.

12:30 P.M.: Read in the paper that, when asked if he’d inhaled pot, Mayor Bloomberg said, “You bet I did, and I enjoyed it.” Felt certain that Clinton did inhale while Bloomberg didn’t. Listed negative side effects of dope: depression, disorientation, dry mouth, munchies, anxiety, paranoia. Got paranoid I’d never be able to find dealers’ phone numbers again. Turned on Dylan CD. Turned off “Everybody Must Get Stoned.” Felt hungry. Lit another scented candle.

2 P.M.: Craved a joint though I’d never once toked so early in the day. Tried to work. Went to freezer and ate forty-calorie Smart Ones diet fudge bar. Ate another forty-calorie diet fudge bar, proud that my pig out consisted of only eighty calories. Polished off box of ten Smart Ones diet fudge bars, adding up to four hundred calories, feeling stupid. Noted that everyone got munchies when they got high, I got munchies when I quit. Threw away hemostat brother gave me for roach clip. Drank more diet Coke. Wrote list of cool nicknames for dope: Hemp, Love Weed, Love Boat, Buddah Sticks, Blunts, Green Goddess, Wacky Tobaccy, Mary Jane, Black Gold, Magic Smoke, Ganja, Alice B. Toklas. Started to laugh hysterically. Started to cry.

5 P.M.: Went to take nap but couldn’t sleep from too much diet chocolate and diet soda. Looked up diseases medicinal marijuana eased: cancer, AIDS, arthritis, MS, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Reminded myself I was lucky not to have cancer, AIDS, arthritis, MS, epilepsy, or Alzheimer’s as reason to keep toking. Promised myself if I ever got Alzheimer’s, I’d become senile pothead. Worried I wouldn’t remember promise. Recalled Dylan admitted to lifelong toking. Looked at recent picture of Dylan. Heard phone message from Claire. Realized she might have an extra joint, though I’d have to go to her place, at 102nd Street and Riverside. Decided it was worth schlepping ninety-four blocks uptown. Wondered if she’d give me the name and number of her dealer. Didn’t pick up phone or call her back. Got headache. Took extrastrength Tylenol.

6 P.M.: Tried to work. Remembered that Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg swore by dope. Admitted I never loved writing of Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg. Rationalized that, since Dr. Winters said I had to quit marijuana, I could still smoke hashish. Realized I couldn’t switch to hashish without being a drug-addicted liar. Pondered whether hash brownies were okay. Decided hash brownies weren’t okay and would destroy both sobriety and diet. E-mailed my pal Pam that I was quitting dope. Surprised that she asked if I’d send one last $200 bag of strong New York stuff to her in L.A. Said “sure.” Then figured out I couldn’t buy some for her without buying some for me. Saw I’d already whited out phone numbers of dealers anyway. Called her back to say no. Went to work, recalling Rastafarians’ claim that cannabis was a sacrament that heightened spirituality. Admitted I’d never been religious or spiritual. Wished I could be as high and cool as Bob Marley. Recalled Bob Marley died at thirty-six.

8:30 P.M.: Turned on Macy Gray CD. Realized for the first time that songs were all about drug trips, including lyric “I just want to go get high.” Wondered if street dealers still sold dime bags in Washington Square Park. Turned off Macy Gray CD. Looked up interview where gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson admitted smoking pot for decades. Acknowledged what a fucked up mess Hunter Thompson had been for decades. Opened door for Aaron, who asked, “How are you?” Answered, “Great,” sobbing in his arms. Ordered Chinese food from Sammy’s. Drank more diet soda with chicken and broccoli. Got worse headache from MSG. Took two more extra-strength Tylenol.

11:30 P.M.: Noticed Marijuana Girl snow globe on shelf and immediately threw it in garbage. Decided that one could be straight and have a Marijuana Girl snow globe. Took it out of garbage and put back on shelf. Turned on TV to That ’70s Show rerun, where cool teenagers sat at table, passing around a joint. Turned off TV. Paced around apartment, hyper from too much caffeine, bloated from Chinese food, and dizzy from MSG. To chill out, took leftover Xanax my brother gave me when I was nervous about getting on a plane. Realized that between the caffeine, Tylenols, and Xanax, I was more doped up now than when I was on dope, and I still wanted some.

LIGHTING UP is now available as an e-book from Penguin Random House. Susan Shapiro’s newest book, THE BYLINE BIBLE, comes out Summer 2018. Pre-order here.

**A version of this article appeared in print in Honeysuckle Magazine’s CANNABIS issue. Order copies here or find one near you with our Store Locator.

Stay tuned for more stories from our CANNABIS issue and the community!

Susan Shapiro is an award-winning writing professor and New York Times bestselling author of 10 books, including Lighting Up, Five Men Who Broke My Heart, Speed Shrinking, and What’s Never Said; she is co-author of The Bosnia List and the Times bestseller Unhooked: How to Quit Anything. She freelances for the New York Times, New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Newsweek, L.A. Times, and Elle magazine, among other publications. She teaches her popular “instant gratification takes too long” writing classes at the New School, New York University, and in private workshops and seminars. Visit susanshapiro.net to learn more, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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