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By Heather Dagley
While some people are lucky enough to have met their “forever” partner in high school, most adults will embark on several romantic relationships over their life. And from my perspective, having many partners before setting on “the one” is the correct approach. Variety is truly the spice of life and I believe that you need to experience many partners and lifestyles before you can truly identify what is “right” for you. But, when it comes to love, there is emotional risk involved, and with many relationships comes many breakups over the course of one’s life.
For most people, breaking up with someone (whether or not you initiated the end of the relationship) is a challenging milestone to navigate. In my experience, no two breakups are the same, just like no two couples are the same. Rather, each breakup is unique and includes its own idiosyncrasies complicated by the baggage of each individual involved in the relationship. For all involved, regardless of who initiated, breakups blow.
Like any other difficult life transition, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with a breakup. The quintessential post-breakup routine that we see played over and over again in songs and movies is to drink too much and end up in bed with strangers. While this exciting lifestyle can boost one’s confidence for a short while, this type of conduct is not sustainable. Alcohol and one-night-stands will never make you feel truly better, they will only numb the pain.
However, I have come across a more natural anecdote through which people can lesson the pain of a breakup: cannabis. Within this article, I will outline how cannabis can provide a benefit to your physical and mental health in the aftermath of a breakup. Keep these tips in mind should you go through another breakup yourself. Or, feel free to share this resource with a friend who is struggling to come to terms with their own recently “single” relationship status.
First of all, I want to start off by saying that cannabis affects every individual differently. Between two people, there are always going to be small genetics variations between their endocannabinoid system. If this is a new term, don’t worry; essentially, the endocannabinoid system is the body’s system that controls how cannabinoids are processed by our neurological receptors. And this doesn’t just apply to people who use cannabis, because it turns out that our bodies actually produce their own cannabinoid molecules! Cannabinoids produced within our bodies are called “endocannabinoids” and are linked to feelings of happiness, pleasure, and euphoria as we go about our day to day lives. Any cannabinoids that are introduced to the body from an outside source (such as from the cannabis plant itself) are called “exogenous” cannabinoids.
For more information on how the endocannabinoid system can impact one’s brain and mood, see this article that walks through how cannabis can be used to alter mood and actually combat depression.
Post-breakup feelings can mimic or even border on depression, so the correlation between cannabis and depression is significant for those navigating the end of a relationship.
Since everyone’s endocannabinoid system is a little bit different, this means that everyone is going to react to cannabis strains a little bit differently.
Related article: Newsflash: Weed Affects Different People, Differently
I think this is kind of beautiful, actually - everyone’s cannabis experience is going to be unique to them in that moment. Regardless of the unique strain or terpene profile that you are enjoying, it’s going to impact you in a specific way that may not necessarily mirror someone else’s experience. This is important to understand, though, when reading through my recommendations below or even weed strain reviews in general. You need to take everyone else’s experiences with a grain of salt and use your own experiences as your guide. Particularly if you have just experienced a breakup, it’s important that you intently listen to what your body and mind are telling you. Don’t just do what feels good, but do what you think is going to lift you up in the long run.
I mention the term “terpene profile” above, which refers to the unique flavors and aromas of a particular cannabis strain. For more information on terpenes, check out my introduction to this topic here.
Cannabis can help to replace the pleasure signals that you normally would receive through close physical touch.
Ok, so this point relies on some scientific backing, but hear me out - this is worth knowing!
As we go about our lives and interact with other people, our brains create specific molecules to match the situation. For example, when we are falling in love or even just cuddling with someone we feel close to, our brains produce a molecule called oxytocin, also known as “the love molecule”. Recently, scientists have done research on the way that oxytocin functions within the human body and have discovered that when oxytocin is released, another molecule is produced called anandamide (the bliss molecule). Scientists are actually relating this molecule to feelings that are commonly experienced when people smoke marijuana; in fact, it is the same receptors in the brain that consume oxytocin, anandamide, and exogenous cannabinoids. The sheer act of consuming cannabis has also been linked to a release of oxytocin in the brain.
For this reason, it is scientifically sound that someone who recently has gone through a social transition that would impact the amount of oxytocin they are receiving due to a sudden reduction in cuddling, sex, and other intimate touch, then that person could supplement these chemicals with the cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant.
Recently, as of 2019, CBD has taken the country by storm. CBD, or cannabidiol, is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, essentially providing a healing quality without the risk of getting a user “high” like THC does. Even many people who were formerly anti-cannabis are coming to terms with the fact that CBD can aid people suffering from a number of ailments, including anxiety. There are also a number of scientific reports linking CBD to a reduction of anxiety.
And let’s be real - a breakup can surely spur feelings of anxiety. Within our society, we are taught to think that being in a relationship is inherently “better” than being single. So, whenever a relationship has ended, it’s natural for this to trigger some uncertainty for both parties. Commonly after a breakup, people will feel the need to obsess over a multitude of questions, such as What went wrong? Was it my fault? Will this happen again? It’s also common for someone’s line of questioning to touch on how they view their own worth: Is there something wrong with me? Am I unlovable? While it is natural to have your new relationship status impact your view of your self-worth temporarily, it’s important that this does not replace your inner confidence.
Everything in the days following a breakup feels scary because everything is unfamiliar and new. As a result, it’s important to be nice to yourself and if possible, give your psyche a break from having to relive a constant stream of anxious questions and recurring doubts. Therefore, I would advocate that people take steps to reduce their overall anxiety, including cannabis use. From experience, and after talking to a host of other cannabis users, I can tell you there’s something about the plant that can allow you to look at your current life situation without fear. The troublesome feelings of being in a rut or post-breakup are almost removed. Cannabis allows you to accept reality without wanting to run from it.
From experience, I know that one of the most difficult moments to get through post-breakup is sleeping without your partner, particularly if you had been living or frequently sleeping over with your former partner. It can be particularly jarring to look into the space where you expect your partner to be and just see a laptop and a pile of unfolded clothes (not exactly reassuring!). The last time I ended a serious relationship, before meeting my husband, I couldn’t bear to fall asleep without my former partner and my sleep suffered as a result, leading to increased levels of fatigue that impacted my ability to study and go to class as well as work. Sleep is one of the most important ways to take care of yourself, so any loss of sleep is not anything to scoff at.
Cannabis, particularly indica strains, have been shown to help people with sleep issues or even insomnia fall asleep. All you need to do is smoke or ingest an indica cannabis product within an hour before your intended sleep time and you will be counting Serta lambs in no time.
Cannabis allows you to look at a situation and see it for what it is, without feeling as prickly or crippled by the pain.
When any relationship ends, romantic or not, our own personal identity shifts. With the end of a relationship, we lose the part of ourselves who had been invested in that prior relationship.
This may sound extreme, but the grief experienced at the end of a romantic relationship is not unlike the feelings of grief experienced after someone close to us dies. And when someone dies, we don’t just grieve for the loss of the person. No, it is actually common for people to grieve the loss of the person but also the loss of the person we were around that person.
In order to move forward, you will need to invest some time into thinking about who you are and what your purpose is moving forward. Luckily, cannabis use has an inherent way of helping people to “find themselves”. In fact, Bob Marley once said, “When you smoke herb, it reveals you to yourself”.
For some, this concept of “finding oneself” might sound a little wishy-washy, hokey, or even downright… spiritual. Especially for those who are more analytical in nature, frequently putting concepts into black and white categories, this concept can be a little bit difficult to embrace. However, there is more and more discussion about finding oneself these days; this might also be referred to as “enlightenment”, “self-awareness”, or “emotional intelligence”.
For me, cannabis has been a huge aid in helping me discover my true self. For more insight into how I’ve used cannabis to realize myself and my passions and overcome internal negative thinking, check out my blog post here in which I detail how cannabis has helped me to overcome negative self talk about my body weight and nutrition.
Related article: The Path To Improved Nutrition: Ketosis
Learning to find yourself is absolutely relevant to managing your life, post-breakup, because the end of a relationship is going to be something that flips your perception of yourself on its head. If you put in the work to rediscover yourself now, it’s going to bring a lot of understanding and clarity about what you’re looking for in your next relationship (or, if you’re looking for another relationship at all). And while it sounds easy, this type of inner searching just isn’t, so give yourself a break if you don’t solve everything in one go!
Upon using cannabis, one’s brain is injected with natural serotonin, meaning that cannabis can help you enjoy your time and distract you from any remaining sadness that you are experiencing. Cannabis allows you to enjoy each moment to the fullest, so you can use it as a means to add some good times to the days/weeks/months following your breakup. Along with cannabis, being around friends and family, or simply laughing, brings about natural serotonin. So, I would suggest having your bros or gal pals over and watch a Family Guy marathon (or whatever it is that will give you the giggles). Don’t feel guilty - this is all a part of your progress forward and your solidification of your life away from your former partner.
With increasing speed, cannabis users and performance experts are coming out to share evidence that cannabis can help to improve overall performance. For example, Ben Greenfield, a self-identified performance expert, has recently written an extensive article about how CBD can be used to improve performance throughout one’s life. I have experienced these performance enhancement qualities, first-hand. Particularly due to my past of using cannabis to replace my drinking habit, I used cannabis to improve my quality of life as well as my work performance. Once I made the switch from alcohol to cannabis, I got promoted and lost 60 pounds.
If you were able to achieve your professional or personal goals, I know this would help you get on the right track, post-breakup.
Really. This is one of my favorite externalities associated with consuming cannabis.
To illustrate this, I will share an example from my time in college, a time when I was struggling with my own weight and was also in a toxic relationship. Unlike now, I was in a place where I didn’t want to come to terms with my situation. This was a time in which I almost avoided cannabis over drinking because I was lazy and I knew that when I drank, my mind would take me to a place where I wouldn’t even think about my problems or which of my behaviors were keeping me “stuck”. That’s alcohol for you… it just enables you to “escape”, but when you wake up or your “buzz” wears off, you’re right back where you started (or even worse, you might have a splitting headache). However, whenever I would smoke cannabis, I would suddenly be compelled to end up in the gym… and that’s where I would find myself after ingesting cannabis.
One friend of mine once said that before her wedding, she was considering going tanning before getting married. But, once she smoked that weekend, she made the decision that tanning wouldn’t be worth the danger she put herself in by tanning. Cannabis allows you to love yourself to the point of wanting to take care of you.
And honestly, you need to seek optimal health after a breakup. The body and mind are connected, so if you are taking care of your body, this self-care will translate to your mental health.
So, after reading the above, you may be thinking that you’re interested in using cannabis to help you through your breakup. And if you’re new to cannabis, you might be thinking… what next? First things first - you will need to determine your preferred cannabis ingestion method and the best strain for your desired effect.
First, determine your preferred cannabis ingestion method(s). This may be a no-brainer for you if you are an experienced cannabis user and have your favorite glass pieces cleaned and ready-to-use in your cupboard. However, for others that are not experienced with cannabis, the various different methods can seem overwhelming (choice paradox is a real thing!)
Luckily, MonroeBlvd has a great article that can walk you through the 7 most common ways that people typically smoke cannabis. Check it out here.
And as far as options that do not include “smoking”, these include eating packaged cannabis pills or edibles (store-bought or home made), or applying topical oils on your skin. The primary difference between smoking cannabis and eating it is that smoking will induce effects almost instantaneously, while it can take 30-60 minutes to fully feel the effects of a cannabis edible. Your tolerance may also differ between smoking and eating cannabis. The recommended best practice when first taking edibles is to start with a small 5mg dose (the standard cannabis edible contains 10mg). Then, you audit how your body reacts and build from there!
Next, you will want to determine the best strain for your purposes. For instance, if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, then I would recommend an indicia. But, if you have feelings of anxiety that you’d like to quell, then you will likely be looking for a high-CBD strain or a hybrid. If you are unsure about which strain would best suit your needs, then I would encourage you to be prepared to openly discuss your preferred outcome with the budtender at your local dispensary. You can also do some of your own research online (Leafly has a handy guide on the top 100 weed strains) but I personally prefer to discuss options directly with a cannabis professional.
Here are my quick recommendations on how to find the best cannabis strain for you if you are going to purchase from a dispensary or recreational cannabis shop. If you are a cannabis connoisseur and already know which strains bring on the most desirable effect for you, feel free to jump to the next session!
Research your local, legal cannabis dispensaries. Read through Google Reviews to determine which are most appealing to you.
Before you visit the dispensary or rec shop, do some premeditated thinking on what type of experience you are looking for. What are the primary obstacles you are looking to overcome (ie: inability to sleep, general anxiety, etc)? What are the key effects you are hoping to achieve (ie: redused nausea, calm and relaxation, creativity, etc)?
When you do visit the cannabis shop, be prepared to speak to the budtender about what you hope to accomplish through cannabis use. Don’t be shy to tell them if you are a first-time or beginning user. Also, you don’t have to tell them you just got out of a relationship (this isn’t speed dating), but you can if you want to - budtenders are experienced with helping to identify the right products to deal with customers’ pain, both physical and emotional.
Once you have your cannabis treatment in hand, and have procured the best product for your preferred ingestion method and strain, then the world is your oyster! There are many ways you can enjoy your cannabis.
Cook your favorite meal, consume cannabis, and treat yourself to your favorite movie or show. Gnoochi and Game of Thrones, anyone?
Smoke and then take a walk in your local park. As my husband says, “look at green things - it makes you feel better”. Take pictures of your favorite spaces that bring you peace.
Smoke and then journal. Write for fun. Since you have just gone through a tough, potentially traumatic experience, challenge yourself to write about positive topics rather than dwelling on the negative.
Meditate. Yeah, yeah, yeah… everyone’s talking about meditation and it just seems like another thing we have to “fit” into our schedules along with healthy eating and exercise. However, meditation has proven scientific benefits to being beneficial for our brain chemistry. From personal experience, it can calm an ever-racing brain.
Regardless of how you decide to design your day around consuming cannabis, there are a few ground rules to keep in mind.
While cannabis is a mild intoxicant and not as intense as psychedelics, I like to coach others to follow some of the same rules that are encouraged with psychedelic use. Your set and setting are important prior to ingestion, meaning that for the best experience possible,
Do not put yourself in a situation where you will be tempted to break any laws.
This means that if you are planning to leave the house, you need to pre-plan your transportation route and rely on a rideshare option or a designated driver. Additionally, you should outline a safe and legal place for you to smoke/ingest cannabis in the first place. While it might sound nice to go to the beach and then puff on a spliff surrounded by nature and a calming setting, be careful; it is still generally illegal to ingest cannabis in a public setting, even in states where cannabis is legal.
Depending on your age and the nature of your former relationship, you may have had more financial stability when you were with your partner. If this is the case, it is particularly important that you avoid putting yourself in legal trouble, as fines and tickets can really add up. Additionally, now is not the time to add a blight to your permanent record or, more importantly, your self-confidence.
Remember - you need wins right now! Don’t do something that will put your health and happiness (or wallet) at risk.
Despite focusing on your self-care, if you are still not feeling amazing, know that this is OK. Take the time to fully grieve, knowing that tomorrow will be a new day and a new opportunity to move forward. Don’t bury what you feel, rather; experience it and have faith that you will find peace and a new sense of normal in time.
Also, you need wins right now. This is not the time to fall in a rut; no, you need to build up from here. Yes, while we all want to look successful and competent in front of our exes, keeping yourself on the straight and narrow has nothing to do with your ex, but has everything to do with you. If you let yourself fall into bad habits a dark place, it’s possible that you will internalize this failure.
Try to remember that while you might be feeling pain now, the end of a relationship is also the beginning of your next adventure. Focus on the good things that are going to come your way and be grateful for what you are learning during this moment.
I hope that this article can provide some relief in a moment of pain. Hang in there, we’re all rooting for you.
This article was written by Heather Dagley, writer and founder of the blog, bud & blossom (https://budandblossom.blog). Heather is currently focused on highlighting the calm and wellness that can be realized through intentional cannabis use and has used this approach to enhance her own life. To follow Heather, keep up with her blog or follow her on Instagram @bud_n_blossom.
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