r/leaves: Why would someone want to quit cannabis?

“It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only person struggling with quitting. Weed has become so normalized in British Columbia that I felt embarrassed to open up to any of my friends about what I was going through because half of them didn’t even believe it was a drug.

Gerald* is speaking about the online community of r/leaves, a subreddit on the popular forum-of-forums Reddit. A community of more than 220,000 members, r/leaves has become the go-to online hub for anyone seeking support as they quit using cannabis, or any related product, such as Delta-8.

Cannabis has long been a valid recreational substance and a reputable medical treatment, but it is far from benign. While cannabis isn’t as addictive as potent drugs as cocaine and methamphetamines, it can still be habit-forming.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states that “after regularly using cannabis for a long period of time, people can develop physical dependence. If they stop using, they may experience mild withdrawal.”

Cannabis consumers tend to have a strong community, and groups like r/leaves let folks gain a new support system.

Members regularly report on the struggles they experience trying to wean off their cannabis habits. They often asking for advice on how to get over, say, the one-week hurdle when cravings try to draw them out of abstinence. 

For Gerald, now 9 months sober, his first and only post on r/leaves gave him an opportunity to voice his battle with the drug, which he explained in his writing: “Before this subreddit, I don’t think I ever would have told anyone in person that I was struggling and am eternally grateful I took that armour off and admitted I needed help.”

He didn’t necessarily curb his cravings through the encouraging comments on his post, but rather through what others were writing on the subreddit. “I would just check the group whenever I felt a craving coming on,” he says.

“They’re like waves and I needed to learn to ride them properly. In the past, I would always cave to my cravings, when they came on after I would check r/leaves as a way of reminding myself what I was quitting for, and why it was worth it.”

Quitting cannabis doesn’t have to be a bummer

A perusal through the all-time top posts on r/leaves reveals how brazenly honest (and cheeky) this community has become a haven for cannabis fans looking to ditch the joints forever.

One post is headlined with, “My sober self is trying to convince myself to get high while my high self is convincing myself to get sober,” and another one reads, “46 days clean, and I shot my bong to celebrate never going back!”

A top submission on the cuter side, features photos of puppies the members have bought in light of having more money since they quit spending it on weed.

Within the support community, the comments are refreshingly troll-free and encouraging, with statements like “You got this!” peppering many posts where pot quitters have begun their arduous journey to go weed-free.

Others use the comments section to ask for advice, such as one person inquiring how other folks deal with the boredom of sobriety (answer: trips to the beach, working out, finding a new hobby).

When longtime toker Nancy* wanted to hang up the rolling papers after smoking daily for 10 years, she didn’t realize how difficult it would be. Then she found r/leaves.

“Reading how others successfully quit also reinforced that I could quit too,” she says. “When I posted my progress, the group was supportive and told me to keep going. It was nice to hear from those that understood what it was like to quit, and how they coped.”

Living in Moncton, Nancy, 52, is close to four months sober, and in one of her posts she explained why she made that decision: “I have let weed cloud my judgement and mask things I did not want to face for too long, and it is time to get my life back.”

The online community has come a long way since it began 11 years ago. On its first day, around 12 posts populated the forum. Today the forum averages 1,300 posts and comments daily, attracting around 302,00 unique visitors monthly.

As one of the mods wrote last year, the site’s popularity has only society’s changing views to thank.

“When we started there was little, if any, acceptance that cannabis could pose dependency problems in anyone, and I absolutely credit each of you speaking openly about your experience as a big factor in the spreading awareness and understanding of addiction we have today.”

*names have been changed for anonymity

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David Silverberg

David Silverberg is a freelance journalist who writes for The Toronto Star, BBC News, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Cannabis Health, Merry Jane, High Times and many other outlets. He is also a writing coach helping freelance journalists and creatives level up their careers.

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