On 31stJuly 2016 I had my last alcoholic drink. I gave it up after seeing myself on CCTV falling off a bench in front of Charleville Lodge and being helped up by a guest of the hotel. I had been using alcohol to medicate my crippling shyness in social situations, but I also found it handy to escape my inner demons. Demons I am not at liberty to talk about publicly, but ones I will be addressing personally.

After giving up drink it wasn’t easy to socialise, and the way I dealt with it initially was by eliminating any social encounters. I just wouldn’t go out. This was sustainable up to a point, but when invitations to social events started to come in, being ‘dry’ at these events was difficult, to put it mildly.

When I was living in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1999/2000 I would smoke weed on regular basis. In fact, it was pretty much every day. I guess the attraction to weed was the same as that of drink. It would allow me to temporarily take my mind off other pressing issues. It would allow me to escape.

As our social media following started to grow, so too did the invitations to events. It was the night of the 98fm Best of Dublin awards on 23rd May 2017 when it all got too much. I was determined not to drink on that night. I had been off booze for 9 months at that stage. We went on to win an award that night and I decided to try find some weed. I got stoned that night which made the celebrations a bit more fun, and the mouldy drunks around me more bearable.

While I didn’t have another joint for a number of months after the awards night, I had registered in my mind the fact that weed was a viable alternative to booze on nights out where everyone else was getting pissed. This made me happy. My days of being a hermit were over.

From then on, I could go to any events I wanted, and all I needed was a pre-rolled joint in my pocket, which I’d take drags from whenever I needed to. This, however, was not always so straightforward. It meant I needed to (a) get my hands on some green and (b) roll a joint (which I was atrocious at doing).

It was at one particular event in February 2018 where I was introduced to a new ‘vice’ which would go on to become my best friend. It was a THC Vape Pen which I commonly refer to as ‘The Pen’. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. Smoking a THC pen is just like smoking a joint. After a drag or two you get stoned. If you take a good blast it gets you high as fuck.

A standard THC Pen

The beauty about the pen was that everybody thought I was just vaping an e-cigarette. Everyone thought this pen, which I’d smoke anywhere and everywhere, was legal. It is, of course, legal in certain territories such as California and Amsterdam, and I have no doubt it will be legal here very soon, but the legalities of my new best buddy were pretty irrelevant. At some events I didn’t even need to go to the smoking area to take a blast from my pen. In bars or clubs where vaping was allowed, my pen was welcome too. Little did they know what was in it.

I didn’t realise the dangers of the pen at the time. It just felt great and I had no worries. The pen allowed me to be at peace. However, while the pen brought me to a good place, the day after was not so good. Indeed, the next day was arguably the same as a drink-induced hangover day. I found it difficult to get out of bed. Once I did surface, I was irritable, groggy and cranky. I would shout at people. I would lose my temper. I was horrible.

One of the biggest issues associated with smoking a THC pen is that of accessibility. With a joint you need to grind the grass, roll the skins, put in the roach and light it. A pen doesn’t need to be grinded, rolled or lit. It’s there waiting for you, wherever you are, at any time.

As long as the pen battery is charged and there is juice in the tank (THC oil), you can get stoned. Your mood can be altered. You can escape. This behaviour is highly addictive.

At first I would smoke the pen only at events. Then I realised that my new best friend would allow me to go to more than the odd event. I was now able to go to bars and night clubs. Slowly but surely I was doing it at home. Mostly on my own (as Jason wouldn’t let me). Then it got to the point that I’d feel so irritable the next morning, that I’d take a drag from the pen on my way over to work. Why wouldn’t I? It was there in my pocket, ready to go.

When I say I took a drag the next morning, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, if I had smoked the night before, I usually wouldn’t be up the next morning. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed until the afternoon. My rising time would vary from 3pm to 7pm. Indeed I remember one particular day where I was in bed up until 11pm. This was obviously not one bit healthy, but it was a sign of what the pen was doing to me. While I would be the life and soul of the party the night before, I’d be a depressed mess the next day.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have seen me snap in nightclubs, and I’ve no doubt you probably asked yourself ‘is he back drinking?’ or ‘is he on something?’. The more perceptive amongst you will probably have noticed the absence of activity on my social channels the following mornings/afternoons. This can all be attributed to the pen.

During the summer of 2018, I was on the pen a number of times a week. When you saw me in the George, I was on the pen. When you saw me dress as the Pope or Sister Margaret, I was on the pen. When you saw me at any events, I was on the pen. When you saw me act the gobshite on Instagram doing Q&A’s late at night in my house, I was on the pen.

As Summer became Autumn, I was doing the pen more and more. In the month of December, I was doing it virtually every day. I became reliant on my pen. I was completely addicted. So much so that if either the battery or the tank ran out, I would become frantic. I would exhibit addictive behaviours. All I’d care about is how I was going to get my next drag. I couldn’t rest until I’d get my fix and I’d do whatever I could to get it. If I didn’t get it I’d became a horrible person. I’d shout at Jason. I’d bang my hands on tables and doors. I was just a complete prick.

The other downside to smoking THC is it gives you the same desire to eat your body weight in junk food as a traditional joint. After an evening on the pen, there were times where I’d order two separate just-eat/uber eats deliveries. Having the ‘munchies’ on the odd occasion is one thing, but when you have it every day you’re going to become a fat fuck, very quickly. My motivation to go to the gym or long walks with my dogs went out the window.

I soon realised that there were various strengths of pen battery that could be used to smoke THC. When I wasn’t getting the high I needed from the standard strength pen, I bought what I called a ‘rocket’ of a battery in the Ilac Centre. This gave me up to ten times the strength of pull that the standard pen would give. The standard pen would produce a small cloud of smoke, this one produced a fucking cumulonimbus.

My Rocket Blaster

Even though I was getting a more potent high from my new rocket blaster, in the week leading up to Christmas, this wasn’t enough. I was smoking it every single day and was actually becoming immune to the effects. I needed something stronger and I organised an old friend of mine – a bag. The guilt was so strong the next day that I decided to give up everything. This was Thursday 20thDecember, 9 days ago. I spent the full day in bed. I couldn’t face the world.

The following weekend was not fun. Both the THC and the cocaine were leaving my system and I found myself in a very dark place. I was screaming crying in Jason’s arms and at times felt there was no reason for me to go on. On the Saturday night my parents asked me out for dinner. I went with them but couldn’t really speak at the table. I was absolutely horrible towards my parents and stormed out of the restaurant for no real reason (in their minds).

Everyone suffered as a result of my pen taking. My colleagues at work. My family. My dogs. The poor dogs would not get the exercise they deserved as I’d be too down to walk them. The person to whom I’d like to apologise most, however, is my partner Jason. Jason, I’m sorry to have put you through my shit. Thank you for supporting me. Words cannot really express how much you mean to me.

I have been clean now for 9 days, and my mind is getting back to normal. I think at this stage I realise that no mood altering substance is for me. Any substance that alters your mood can be highly addictive. I still haven’t had a drink since 31st July 2016, 2 years and 5 months tomorrow, but I simply replaced one addiction with another.

For any other alcoholics in recovery who wonder if smoking weed might be an alternative, I’ve learnt that (for me) it’s not. In my opinion, once an addict, always an addict.

Why Did I Write This?

I wrote this bog entry (that’s not a typo) for two reasons. One – to help any other recovering alcoholics who might be considering smoking weed as an alternative to drink. Two – to help myself. I feel by writing this I am sharing my story with friends/followers. If you guys know about this, I’ll be less inclined to pick up a pen again.

The date I gave up alcohol will forever be etched in my mind – 31/7/16. I’d like to remember 20/12/18 as the day I finally gave up substances.

I hear everyone talking about New Year’s Resolutions. I have many resolutions that I’d like to fulfil in 2019, but I know if I continue to smoke THC, none of these will be achieved. So, my only real resolution for 2019 is to stay clean. If I can stay clean, no other resolutions are really relevant. My life will be back in order. I’ll be back on track. That’s the only resolution I can ask for.

Tomorrow I am going to throw the one pen and cartridge I still have into the Atlantic Ocean. I’ll be sharing this event on my personal Insta story.

Update

Here is a video in which I destroy my last THC cartridge, a symbolic gesture marking my freedom.

About the Author PaulVStenson

I am the manager of The White Moose Cafe and Charleville Lodge in Dublin, Ireland. I believe that you only live once. I believe that life should be enjoyed. I don't see the point in whinging and moaning. I see myself as someone who speaks the truth. The truth doesn't seem to suit everybody's agenda, so I am labelled with the term 'controversial'.

4 comments

  1. Good evening Paul,

    All i can say is wow that was powerful. You should be very proud of yourself using your own private situation to help others. Its not easy being in the lime light and realising that you have to take something to cope with the social aspect of it. If your blog reaches out to just one person to help them sort out there own shit, Its a job well done.

    I wish you all the best in your recovery and im sure yourself and Jason will come out stronger at the other end. Best wishes for the New Year

    Aprile xxxx

    Like

  2. Paul, you are a brave man. You also sound like a very good man, with issues some of us are also blessed/cursed with. My paternal grandparents were alcoholics and I was warned my entire life not to head down that particular road. Walked, stumbled, and finally crawled down it. I’ve quit now, except for the odd drink or two on social occasions. Rare drinks on rare occasions.

    Pot was the same. Didn’t walk, RAN down that path. Quit after years because it was financially unsustainable. Two daily smokers? Could have led to financial ruin.

    You aren’t alone, and I really appreciate your sharing your journey. Those of us that have been there before you support you. Perhaps we can be of some service to those that want to hear our experiences. ❤

    Like

  3. Will Pray for you Paul! I’m one of the people who found you via FB way back when, and added a trip to Ireland on the bucket list SOLELY to visit the Cafe’. You definitely brighten my days, and although I’ve been lucky enough to never have an addiction (well except cigarettes, killed them 7/21/2005), I’ve had members of my family struggle with alcohol. I DO BELIEVE in prayers, so I’ll be praying for you! Here’s to 2019! #yougotthis

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  4. Good for you. I like your honesty, it shows bravery, because you are putting your core values out there to be assessed and often judged, which can be hard to take, but I think honesty is the basis for everything that is important. That is a skill I’d like to develop. I often don’t mention the elephant in the room. I want to be a person who can. But I also don’t want to judge the elephant. Just acknowledge it. Recognise and accept that it is there.

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