A number of states recently made the decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Today, it is legal to use and possess a small amount of the substance in California, Colorado, Vermont, Nevada, and other states. With legality comes a means for distributing cannabis. “Pot shops” have opened, making it easy for people to acquire marijuana and edible versions of THC in several cities.

While much time is spent on the recreational and medicinal benefits of marijuana, little time is invested in discussing the impact that legal marijuana has on those who may be recovering from addictions. Major metropolitan cities are home to people of all backgrounds, including those who are attempting to put problems with substance use behind them. The legal availability of marijuana in several cities and states can make life complicated for someone who wishes to stay as far away from drugs as possible, including those that are legal.

Remaining Clean in Cities Where Pot Is Legal

Anyone who has completed drug and alcohol rehabilitation knows that the path to recovery isn’t an easy one. Temptations exist at every place alcohol or even over-the-counter drugs are sold. Having easy and legal access to marijuana can make things even more complicated. Those struggling with sobriety need to follow wise advice on how to remain sober when so many sounds and images promote the use of marijuana.

The Dangers of a Relapse

Anyone who is struggling with addiction must keep one very important thing in mind: The use of any mind-altering substance—be it alcohol or any type of drug—creates the potential for a relapse. This includes both legal and illegal substances. Whether marijuana is legal or not in a particular jurisdiction isn’t the point. What does matter is avoiding the use of any drugs or alcohol in order to avoid a full-blown relapse and a return to using harder drugs.

Many people may need to enter rehab or a sober living facility more than once before becoming completely free of addiction. Frequent relapses bring with them many risks and health hazards. The unfortunate reality is that all the problems associated with addiction return during a relapse. Staying away from legal substances with addictive potential reduces the chances of falling into old habits. Unfortunately, when marijuana becomes legal, several related problems arise for those recovering from an addiction.

There is also something else to contend with: all the sources heralding the benefits of marijuana. These benefits won’t likely extend to someone in recovery.

The Hype Over Cannabis

Media hype over the legalization of marijuana does not help those wishing to remain sober. Unavoidably, though, news about the legalization of marijuana often comes with a great deal of media attention. Depending on the source of the reporting, the media coverage is often positive. The reports repeat sentiments by many in society who feel marijuana isn’t a dangerous drug.

Others celebrate the legality of marijuana as a win for civil liberties. Such reports make the use of marijuana not seem like a big deal. The decriminalization of cannabis certainly pushes forward the notion that it is harmless.

Messages of this nature won’t be a help to someone who wishes to be free of addiction. Positive messages about marijuana are no different than positive messages about beer and other types of alcohol. The affirmations can make it difficult for someone to remain clean because they hype everything but the possible harm and drawbacks of using the substance.

With these thoughts in mind, it becomes necessary to take concrete steps to avoid a relapse. While doing so may not be easy for someone in recovery, the steps do need to be taken.

A Clear Understanding

The key thing for those in recovery and persons close to them is not to fall into the trap of assuming legal marijuana somehow becomes safe to use. No drug rehabilitation counselor or other professional would suggest that using marijuana would be harmless for those recovering from a substance use disorder.

The presence of dispensaries in a neighborhood could dull the senses and accompanying attitudes necessary to assume the worst about the common gateway drug. The smell of marijuana smoke could create further problems for a person hoping to avoid drugs and alcohol. Walking past a bar can bring forth certain problems, but the smell of alcohol won’t exactly linger in the street. Marijuana smoke coming from a window, however, can hang thick in the air.

Inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke certainly doesn’t make it easy to curtail temptations. Unfortunately, the presence of places selling marijuana and the public use of the substance won’t keep down the urge to use, either. Therefore, a diligent and aggressive attitude becomes necessary to avoid falling into the trap of not taking the dangers of marijuana use seriously while in recovery.

No Small Amounts or Minor Usage

The use of marijuana has been referred to metaphorically as a “light switch.” That means that once the recovering addict starts to use marijuana, the “light switch” of addiction is turned on. Just as the flow of electricity travels to a lightbulb, impulses would be released in the person in recovery.

Marijuana may reopen gateways to addiction. Unlike a light switch, the power flow cannot simply be shut off. A full-blown relapse may occur. Even smoking marijuana just one time creates the potential for a relapse. As such, staying completely away from using marijuana under any circumstances is likely the best option.

Basic Points About Avoiding a Relapse

Common sense and simple advice may be quite helpful to someone who doesn’t want to fall into the drug dependency cycle once again. Such suggestions are not meant to oversimplify the complexities associated with remaining sober. However, the points do note that certain behavior patterns and lifestyle choices could reopen doors to addiction and all its troubles. Here are a few tips for staying sober in a city where pot is legal:

1. Stay Away From Places Where Marijuana Use Is Prevalent

Rules still exist even in states where legal marijuana laws have been passed. The use of marijuana in public places remains banned. Zoning laws in particular cities or counties may bar the sale of marijuana or ban dispensaries from operating. When choosing to live in a particular state, extra care must be taken to avoid those locations that have a high tendency for marijuana use and sale.

In some ways, this approach might come with more than a few inconveniences. Choosing to rent an apartment farther away from a place of employment may be required. Otherwise, the potential exists to be much closer to the dispensaries as opposed to staying a comfortable distance away from them.

Inconvenience won’t be as serious a problem as a relapse, however. Those in recovery know they must invest significant time and effort into staying sober. Therefore, accepting certain inconveniences may be required to achieve a worthwhile goal. Staying sober definitely falls under the heading of a worthwhile pursuit.

2. Do Not Associate With Marijuana Users

Visiting locations in which marijuana is sold definitely places someone near the specter of temptation. Unfortunately, there are ignorant people who do not realize the complexities those in recovery face. Because they do not see marijuana as a “real” drug or a substance that comes with dependency potential, they may be very inconsiderate to someone who is working to remain drug-free. This churlish behavior is more than rude. It could even be considered dangerous because it places another person at risk of relapsing.

Unfortunately, controlling the behavior of another person isn’t always possible. In fact, depending on the person, it may never be possible. However, someone could very well exude a certain level of control over himself or herself. The responsibility then falls on those wishing to avoid a relapse to cease associating with people who indulge in alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs.

3. Remain in Contact With Therapists

Continuing with therapy would be a wise move on the part of anyone concerned about how to remain free of the disease of addiction. As many point out, staying sober requires a lifelong commitment to the cause. Doing so on your own is not always easy.

In a state where marijuana is legal, the difficulty level increases even more. When cannabis is heavily promoted as a harmless substance, lax attitudes toward marijuana use persist, which complicates things for someone wishing to stay clean. So, why carry all the weight of staying clean on your own shoulders? Seeking help from an experienced drug and alcohol counselor may assist with remaining on the sober path.

4. Stay Close to Supportive Friends

Professionals are not the only ones who could prove enormously helpful to an individual in recovery. Leaning on the support of friends could prove beneficial when struggling with the temptations associated with prevalent marijuana use in a particular region.

The friends and acquaintances who understand the delicate situation in which you find yourself could be the most supportive. People who likewise struggle in a legal marijuana state know this is not an easy scenario to navigate. They also understand the great difficulties associated with battling the public’s somewhat lax sentiments toward marijuana, so they can often offer advice and guidance.

5. Make Wise Comparisons to Bars

Bars and other establishments that serve alcohol are found virtually everywhere in the United States. During rehabilitation treatment, recovery involves helping people make clear determinations to stay away from such places. One treatment method promoted by a rehab facility entailed taking a “field trip” to a restaurant where alcohol was served in order to help patients learn to avoid the temptations to drink while around alcohol.

Obviously, this approach doesn’t come into play until the patient is far along into the program. Visits to bars and other places serving alcohol cannot be done with a flippant attitude. The participants did not visit the bar on their own and without necessary and qualified supervision.

Still, the example of the trip may be considered a source of inspiration. In essence, the example proves it is possible to remain in the vicinity of legal substances and still overcome the urge to indulge. Granted, extensive therapy and treatment might be required to achieve such results. The fact that these results are achievable, however, should create a sense of hope.

6. Seriously Consider Relocating Elsewhere

On the surface, this might seem like an extreme response to dealing with the legality of marijuana in a particular state. After considering the harm that relapsing brings forth, however, a decision to make a move to a new state might not truly be deemed that extreme. Anything that supports sober living and remaining free from drugs or alcohol could prolong and preserve someone’s life.

Overcoming addiction involves major life decisions. Great difficulties may exist when planning out a relocation, but the ultimate goal of staying healthy should mitigate any concerns about moving. Living in a particular region isn’t worth dealing with certain struggles that can be avoided.

Professional Assistance Is Available

No easy answers exist for anyone who deals with an addiction. Our professional drug and alcohol counselors and medical experts are capable of helping people who are finding it difficult to address their substance use issues. Living in cities in which marijuana use is both legal and common further adds to the difficulties. Anyone who finds the struggles overwhelming may be best served by turning to Apex Recovery Rehab’s professional drug and alcohol rehabilitation service for assistance.