Breaking Up With Mary Jane

Try as I might, she’s still my main thing.

Justin H. Lee
4 min readApr 20, 2022
Photo by David Gabrić on Unsplash

Over the years, the most challenging relationship in my life has always been with Mary Jane.

It started the summer after graduating high school. I had just discovered that my girlfriend broke my trust, and I was in deep distress.

The day after I found out, a good friend at the time invited me over and with a warm smile and caring heart, offered me a drag of my first joint saying, “Smoke this, it’ll make you feel better.”

And low and behold, it did! And from that point, my relationship, or perhaps more accurately, my addiction with Mary Jane began.

Looking back now, with more understanding and compassion, I can see how easy, and perhaps natural, it was for me to fall into the trap of reaching for something to make me feel better.

I also recognize with compassion how in many ways, I was an addict just waiting to happen.

While I feel grateful I grew up in an area that didn’t offer solutions in the form of pharmaceuticals or violence, growing up in the suburbs of Southern California meant I didn’t know much about processing emotions, healthy boundaries, or seeing myself as the owner and creator of my life.

Not only were my parents in very much left-brained professions of accounting and engineering, being born an only child in an Asian household meant there wasn’t much talk of things besides good grades, college, and a respectable profession.

Even though I had parents who loved me in the way they knew how by providing for my physical needs, what I’ve come to recognize is how much my emotional and spiritual needs were not met.

Worse, not only were they not met by those closest to me, I personally had no awareness, or perhaps permission, to explore the depths of emotional space.

This meant that when I faced challenging or even traumatic experiences growing up, anything from being picked last, when I felt embarrassed by a teacher, or when I was rejected by special someones or peer groups, my emotional body had no outlet.

Instead of confronting emotions being processed and integrated, I was left with feelings of depression, disconnection from others, and a pretty miserable high school experience.

And so, when I took that first hit, and all my problems evaporated, who would blame this simple human for falling deeply into a haze that allowed them to not only escape the harshness of life, but also felt great!

Of course, even though my mind was free, my emotions were still stuck.

Ironically, the issue wasn’t so much that smoking weed held me back in life, it was how well it worked, and I became a closet night stoner for well over a decade.

I was able to run a number of businesses, hold workshops, conduct trainings, and even recruited and managed a sales floor.

And yet, there was always something missing. Something that, in its absence, left me with a lack of true vitality and purpose.

One of the interesting aspects of Life is how often even though something seemingly works, it may not actually be giving us what we really want.

I was able to live a life of getting by, doing just enough, and yet always felt like I could do and be more.

But it’s felt so difficult to let go. Knowing what I know now, it wasn’t so much the letting go of smoking that’s hard; it’s how the smoking buffers me from my unprocessed emotions.

The hardest part of walking an intentional path is that once we’re aware of something, it’s hard to ignore.

As I’ve stepped more fully into the work of embodiment, empowerment, and conscious relationship, I’ve come to recognize how much an active, vibrant emotional world is vital to cultivate the fertile ground from which soulful relationships and meaningful contribution can blossom.

Today, I see my life and actions within the lens of conscious choice and a deep desire to contribute. The world seems to be asking not only more, but also the very best of me, perhaps even more so in times like these.

For that, I choose each day to stand in the face of my emotions and to welcome with a courageous, trembling heart my fears and hurt as much as my joy and celebration.

This means choosing each day, each moment, a more clear and present path. A path through all the challenges and richness that Life has to offer. A path that leads me to love fiercely, dance wildly, and serve fully.

I recognize this path may not be for everyone, nor does it have to be. Nor is this a path that I’ve always walked successfully, especially these past seasons when times have been tough.

Happy 4/20 everyone

(Please know I don’t judge anyone for enjoying tokes and such. I recognize everyone has their reasons which are completely valid, and that it affects everyone differently. This is simply my path, my story, my process. May you find your own truth and uncover the courage to live your best life.)



Justin H. Lee

Human/Being • Expat in Asia • Connection Facilitator • Slightly Angsty • Writes on Mental Health, Relationship Dynamics, Man Stuff, and Heart-Forward Leadership