Dear Alice,

I think it would be a good idea for me to stop smoking marijuana and cut down on my drinking, at least during the school year. The problem is, I have been doing it for so long it is almost as though I have forgotten how to have fun without it. Contributing to this problem is the fact that many of my friends smoke or drink to have fun. Many of my other friends just do not seem to have fun at all; they stay in Friday and Saturday nights to do work. I've found it difficult to quit, I think because I'm just not sure of what's out there to do that's fun without being stoned or drunk. Can you recommend anything that's fun whether you're intoxicated or sober, so that I don't have to stop hanging out with certain friends if I want to relax and have fun? I know, it's NYC and there are a bazillion things to do, so why am I bored? Well, another factor is expense -- it costs around $20 to go to a nightclub, for example, and I don't really like "the scene." I want to finally enjoy life without relying on an altered state of consciousness. What's there to do when you're sick of renting movies? Also, any tips for resisting the urge to take people up on their offer to toke up? (I'm never pressured into it, but it's like the dieter who's offered some chocolate cake -- it's there, it looks sooo good, and the fact that other people are doing it makes it seem more "okay.") Thanks so much.

— Baked or Bored


Dear Baked or Bored,

It is exciting and refreshing to picture you at the beginning of your journey to fun and fulfillment without always tanking and toking up to reach this destination. You acknowledge at the outset that your trip (no pun intended) will be full of obstacles, challenges, temptations, and other potholes that might slow you down, or send you back to the starting line. Reducing any degree of psychological or physical dependence does not occur overnight, and can be realized through measured reductions in use of, in your case, alcohol and marijuana.

With your question, you have clearly begun to consult a map and ask for directions before your cast off. You don't have to stop here! Talking with a counselor at your school who can help you define specific goals, like how much you want to cut back, and at what pace, might also make for a smoother ride. Sharpening your awareness of your social, academic, professional, and spiritual interests can go a long way toward finding a few of those "bazillion" activities you mentioned. And make pit stops along the way, checking in with your counselor, or a supportive friend or relative, who can help you stay on course.

Tempting detours, like ever-present alcohol or that stray joint, might also be averted by some planning. Think about how you will respond if someone encourages you to have a drink or take a hit: maybe you could say, "Thanks, but I'm cutting back for a while," or "No, I have a big urine test tomorrow." Set limits for yourself (and state them to others, if appropriate) if you choose to place yourself in situations where alcohol and other drugs are present. Learning yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques have helped many on the same road to "dry fun" cope with stress resulting from this change in lifestyle, as well as provide motivation for improving mind-body health. Don't forget to consider physical activity in this category, too.

Look for groups whose activities match some of your non-drug interests. Maybe organizations that work toward a cause in which you strongly believe, athletic groups, political campaigns, reading circles, writing and theatrical clubs, or professional organizations will be the ticket. These groups are usually free and full of people who fall somewhere between "drug-reliant" and "bookworm." Staying on this trail, how about activities where drugs just wouldn't quite cut it?

  • Working out at the gym (also free at most universities)
  • Museum hopping (most are heavily discounted for students with IDs)
  • Grabbing some wheels at a roller rink or renting a bike to pedal about town
  • Taking tours of different NYC neighborhoods
  • Or going up to the top of the Empire State Building (natural highs, anyone?)

Peruse the Time Out New York website and read Free fun in New York City for cheap and free offerings. Last, but not least, keep your eyes open for flyers and posters on bulletin boards for similar samplings.  

If you are at a school or university, contact student activities for information about student organizations you can use as resources. If none of this works, it's possible that you are dealing with a different issue from the one you have described. If so, you might consider contacting your campus's counseling services to speak with a mental health professional about it.

Thanks for your question... and your perspective.

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