Can you be in recovery if you use marijuana?

It’s been a long time coming — the idea of discussing marijuana as a part of recovery from substance use issues. I’ve been waiting decades.

I remember being lectured by my clinicians that using marijuana was substituting one drug for my previous substance abuse. I used to try to tell them that even if they wanted to look at it that way, which I didn’t, my actions would at least be seen as a safe consolidation rather than substitution.

Following that line of thinking, I was consolidating my poly-substance abuse of potentially deadly substances into the use of one non-lethal plant. Either way, it felt like progress to me.

Back then, it was hard to find support for that view, whether with clinicians or in recovery groups, especially the traditional 12-step programs.  No matter how much marijuana helped me in my recovery, none of the avenues for support in recovery accepted its use. It felt yucky to have to feel ashamed about doing something that made me feel more in control of my thinking and my mental health.

So much of my history was about shame:  the shame of trauma, the shame of substance abuse, the shame of learning that I had been self-medicating some pretty serious issues with some pretty serious habits. I didn’t want to feel ashamed about finding a regimen that enabled me to grow stronger in my recovery.

Thankfully, nowadays there’s a term for that:  harm or risk reduction. Risk reduction refers to the idea of addressing addiction as the complex, multifaceted condition it truly is. This methodology focuses on reducing the behaviors associated with addiction over time and is an alternative to models that focus on complete and immediate abstinence.

Personally, I would argue that there’s more to why marijuana is beneficial to some dealing with substance use disorders than just risk reduction, given my understanding of the ameliorative effects of cannabis and the human endocannabinoid system. 

But whether viewed through that lens or a harm reduction lens, the idea of marijuana as a tool for recovery is long overdue.

And now there’s a recovery support group in Maine that is cannabis-friendly. Freedom from Addiction is a recovery support group being hosted by Homegrown Healthcare Alternative Wellness, Apothecary and Learning Center in Winthrop.

Homegrown Healthcare Alternative Wellness, Apothecary and Learning Center. Photo by Trish Callahan

The group is free and anyone in recovery or supporting recovery is welcome. The meetings will be happening on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and are confidential, so I can’t say what we talked about last week, but I can say it was AWESOME to be in a circle of people all trying to make their way along their individual recoveries.

The nature of the addiction doesn’t matter — there’s been a mix of histories represented so far. Also, anyone is welcome, whether using marijuana as a part of recovery or not. The group is all about nonjudgmental support.

Homegrown Healthcare is located at 662 Stanley Road in Winthrop, which is right off Rte. 202 for anyone familiar with the area. For more information, please call 207-395-5447.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.