My 20s were everything I could have hoped for. I was an ambitious girl growing up in Chicago, a young professional with a career I’d worked my ass off to get. I was dating often and I was getting my first taste of travel (at least, as far as my entry-level dollars would take me). But while all that stuff felt in order, it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops.

I started to notice an inner voice growing louder and louder — and not in ways that made me feel good. I was becoming hyper critical of the way I looked and was left struggling to be present in my life. I had no language to talk about what I was going through and no real tools to manage it, so the negative self-talk continued for years. Then one day, I found cannabis and very quickly I learned that it quieted that inner voice.

Everything started to turn around.

Many girls growing into their womanly bodies go through phases of dieting, working out too much, and generally being overly body conscious. But my situation was more extreme than that and eventually I sought treatment for addictive behaviour. Living in my head everyday was exhausting and I couldn’t stop the questions: Why is that person staring at me? How do I look? Is my stomach sucked in? Are the stretch marks on my breasts showing in my low tank top?

It took years of therapy, writing, and spiritual work to get closer to accepting myself and my body. It became clear that the stories I told myself were symptomatic of some inability to detach my self-worth from what I imagined others might be thinking about me. I needed an expert to tell me that — and it helped to know it — but that was only the beginning of letting go of my body image issues.

Back in the day, using cannabis was a rare occurrence for me. It was only after moving to Los Angeles six years ago that I learned the basics, like that “flower” was just another word for weed or that strains like Green Crack and Forbidden Fruit wouldn’t kill me. I knew that I preferred smoking and that it was a helpful tool to wind down after work or fall asleep but I was very green otherwise. It took a while before I graduated from smoking alone to consuming in more public forums, while out with friends. But that’s when I had my biggest revelation: When I was high, I wasn’t thinking about my body or how I looked. And that was a first.

The internal dialogue, constantly over-analyzing and comparing myself to everyone else, had virtually disappeared. I was fully present and much more interested in listening to people tell stories than I was in the conversation going on in my own head. And the same thing was true of smoking alone. I was able to let go without reaching to pinch the thick skin on my stomach and without staring at myself in the mirror in hopes of magically losing five pounds right then and there. I was free and in the present moment.

Has cannabis cured me of my body obsession? Absolutely not. But it has given me a real feeling of peace that stays with me long after the high is gone. Just knowing that it’s possible to accept my body — just as it is today — gives me strength when the nasty thoughts start creeping in again. It’s given me hope that I can live outside of my head, and instead, that I can live in my own body and my own truth.

By Shanetta McDonald

January 26, 2019

Shanetta is a believer in the plant as medicine and recently transitioned from a career in PR to work at Kikoko, a woman-founded cannabis tea company based in Northern California.