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Photos Courtesy Sean Scott

Replacing the Ritual – Cannabis and Alcohol

For Sean Scott, using pot instead of booze was about transference of attention. It was about replacing the ritual.

For many people, Cannabis helps with everyday issues. It can ease social anxiety, spark creativity, fight pain, calm nausea. 

For others, Cannabis can be a literal life saver. 

Sean Scott is in the latter camp. 

A few years back, the New York-based photographer found himself facing a tough truth about his lifestyle. While working at a tech company, what started with casual drinks after work developed into a self-destructive spiral.

Sean Scott

“It was a great social lubricant,” Scott said. “It wasn’t a problem until it was. I always showed up to work, I didn’t drink on the job, I didn’t get into a fistfight. There were all these things that made me actually believe that it isn’t as bad as it actually is.”

He started experiencing blackouts. Still, he continued to tell himself that he was fine, and that he was able to maintain. Then a roommate showed him a video of himself that changed his life.

“I’d gone down to the bar, had about five or six cocktails, cashed out, came home, fell asleep on the couch,” he said. “I remember being really proud of myself [for not drinking that much].”

His next recollection was waking up. 

“My roommate caught video of me screaming my head off, about what I have no idea, because I had a great week. … Then I take a right turn and try to launch myself out of a 40-story window like an Avenger. No memory of it. … Luckily the windows are hurricane proof.”

Seeing that video woke Scott up to the stark realization that he needed to change his habits.  He adopted a lifestyle that an increasingly large number of people are calling “California sober” – utilizing Cannabis and microdoses of psilocybin to help reprogram his mind, leaving alcohol behind.

“It’s not enough to create a psychedelic effect, but what it did do, was that it allowed me to deal with the issues of alcohol addiction in real time, rather than becoming a victim to this state of despair,” he said. “Alcohol really trains the brain to look at all the negatives. … Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink. [Psilocybin] especially allowed me to peel back the onion layers of what was going on with me internally that was driving me to go and drink. I’m talking about the ritual of going down to the bar to have just one.”

For Scott, it wasn’t only about consumption of Cannabis and psilocybin and the physical effects they provided. It was about transference of attention. It was about replacing the ritual. 

“If you’re doing the ritual of going to the bar after work, and you’re drinking, over a period of time the neurons in your brain – that whole pathway – is getting stronger,” he said. “It’s like building a bicep. What will eventually happen is that you will find yourself saying, ‘I don’t want to go to the bar, and I don’t want to drink.’ But then five o’clock on Friday comes around, and now I have the pull of that ritual, because it’s five o’clock on Friday, that’s where everybody is. … Having a ritual to come home to – cleaning out the bowl, washing the bong –  that’s a way to interrupt that whole cycle of going out to the bars.”

Because the Alcoholics Anonymous program would not allow for Cannabis consumption – they only allow for sugar, caffeine  and nicotine – Scott turned to Instagram, posting his “Days Count” and started building a support network there.

Scott also took his interest in the bar life and poured it into a love for Cannabis photography and cultivation. 

“Growing Cannabis was the thing that kept me sober,” he said. “Hand in soil.”

The act of caring for plants kept him steady. So did the fear of drinking again, and potentially ending up in jail while he had Cannabis plants to care for at home. 

Now, more than three years later, Scott is more than three years sober. He’s rediscovered a profound love for the plant that has only deepened after decades of being a Cannabis consumer. His love for life has been renewed. He’s able to go to bars with his friends without considering a drink. He’s found a Cannabis-assisted sobriety community online. 

“There have been hundreds of Cannabis cultivators from around the country who have reached out to me and said, ‘You know what? I had a problem with alcohol, too. Cannabis helped me stay sober, and I’m celebrating 25 years this month,’” he said. “Hundreds. I don’t know what it is about growing the plant. I don’t know. All I know, from my personal experience, is that maybe it’s plant therapy. Maybe it’s keeping something alive. Maybe it’s the routine. Maybe it’s a combination of all of that. All I can say is that it’s made me a better person.”

About Tom Bowers

Tom Bowers is in this with all of you.

This article was originally published in the January 2023 issue of All Magazines.

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