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"the belief was that there was nothing wrong with marijuana. It was harmless. It was non addictive"

I was 14 years old, and my sister was dating a guy in his 20s. He introduced her to pot and it wasn’t long until I tried it. Within a week I was selling it. From that moment on, I was basically high for the next 6 years. I smoked multiple times a day and continued to sell in bulk so that I never ran out.

In my circle of friends, many of whom were anywhere from 4 to 7 years older than myself, the belief was that there was nothing wrong with marijuana. It was harmless. It was non addictive. We just thought it was a gift to have something that could make us feel so good without any negative consequences. To top it off, I always did well in school and many extracurriculars, so from the outside the “lack of consequences” was almost believable.

This way of relating to marijuana prevailed for most of my 6 years of using and it was a belief I preached and taught to others. It was also something we believed about many psychedelic substances.

I regarded myself as an explorer of consciousness. The movement at the time was one of peace and love and sharing, and there was something beautiful about that. It was a part of the deadhead/ hippie movement. There was so much good, so much love spread through that movement, but there was also a tremendous amount of drug abuse.

Where it led me was not sustainable. By the time I was 19 years old I had done many of the substances I told myself I would never do, and my grades began to drop for the first time ever.

It got to a point where I was waking up with prescription pills on my bedside table that were not prescribed to me. I took them first thing in the morning in order to get through the day.

By this time I was aware that my habits were not in line with who I wanted to be and what I wanted to accomplish. I knew something had to change.

I had tried to smoke only on weekends, had tried to take breaks and find “moderation” but when I did find something that resembled moderation, I always found that it wasn’t actually what I wanted. Despite what I thought, moderation was in no way what I wanted. Moderation wasn’t satisfying.

What I really wanted was to get high all the time, use drugs in large quantities, and do whatever I wanted.

But by this point I was terrified that I would never reach my full potential that way. I knew I could probably achieve conventional “success” while keeping up my pot habit, but deep down I understood that if I did so, I would be limiting myself to who-knows-what percentage of my true potential (80%? 70%? 60%?)

This thought terrified me. I could see that jails, institutions and death might never come, that there might never be a tremendous rock bottom. Maybe there would have been, but why wait and find out?

These thoughts had begun to take root in me when I met a man, a family friend, who was about 60 years old. He had over 10 years sober at that point and said to me this: “Jake, I’m you man. I used the same way you did. I had the same relationship with pot that you have. I did the same shit you’re doing now, only I kept doing it for another 30 years. I raised my kids that way. I had my career that way. I lived basically my whole life that way, and you don’t have to do that.”

Then he dropped the line that changed my life for good. “There are no “rock bottoms” with pot, Jake. Just trap doors until you die.”

This sent shivers up my spine. I understood in that moment that there may never be a better reason to stop.

He suggested to me: “You don’t have to do that Jake. Go to a meeting, ask for a sponsor.”

To this day I believe this man saved my life from whatever would have become of it. Whether that would have been disaster or mediocrity I will never know, and I’m quite glad to keep it that way.

During my using I had found a second love other than pot. I had found the therapeutic value of wilderness, mountains, and outdoor adventure. I specifically became obsessed with rock climbing.

In my early recovery, I remember feeling a strong calling towards the mountains. I felt that the adventurer, the climber, the mountaineer who I truly desired to be was a healthy person who did not need nor want to use drugs.

I knew that by spending less time using, partying, and pursuing short term pleasure, I could excel in my passion for the mountains.

Going to 12 step meetings got me clean. It gave me accountability, support, and routine that supported a life without using. From there, filling my life with climbing, hiking, fitness, adventure, and other “Natural Highs” is what kept me clean.

For years I pursued these hobbies more than most other things. My addictive nature took to them. I moved into a tiny apartment in the back of a rock climbing gym that I worked at, taught climbing lessons, climbed constantly, and worked at a shop selling outdoor gear. I became a certified mountain guide and started a business venture taking people climbing outdoors. I also worked in special education. I had never been happier.

It is almost as though “addiction” has become a superpower. It morphed into an “all-in” proclivity that now helps me excel at things I enjoy and value. I couldn’t stay away from climbing, and I got fit because of it. I also found a group of friends with positive mindsets and healthy behaviors.

I now believe that addictive tendencies can be channeled into healthy hobbies that support wellbeing and naturally result in thriving.

One day I met someone who worked for the organization “The Phoenix”. I participated in a camping trip to Moab, Utah with them and found out there was a movement going on of healthy outlets in recovery. I left the trip knowing I was destined to contribute to this movement and the overall use of outdoor adventure to support mental health.

With 8 years of experience as a mountain guide I founded Natural Highs Recovery to share this path with others, with a focus on wilderness, outdoor adventure, and bringing programs into treatment centers. Our work began at the beginning of 2020 at a treatment center in Santa Cruz, and is poised to continue and expand. We hosted free hiking trips and fitness classes every week, followed by healthy food offered to anyone at the treatment center. All for free.

In addition to the trips and events program I work as a life coach and provide in-depth one on one mentorship to help people find purpose, reach their full potential, and thrive like never before in sober life. This helps my clients succeed and reach new heights in their own life, so that they can best serve and make a difference in the world.

Contact Jacob & Follow his Recovery & Story!

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