Interview with Nader Yanis: Using Cannabis to Respect Your Body

Nader was there the first time I hit a bong.

There were four of us, sitting in old, rusty lawn chairs in the classic circle formation. Me, my best friend, my younger brother, and Nader. He actually taught me how to hold the lighter upright so I wouldn’t keep burning myself.

Nader and my brother have been friends since elementary school. He’s always been around, but when we were kids, he was just my little brother’s friend; I didn’t actually know much about him.

Then when I was in college, Nader went into rehab. I had been aware of this hard time in his life, but I had never really talked to him directly about it. Now that we’re both older and (kind of) adults, we’ve become friends, with a shared love of cannabis — particularly cannabis and exercise. I learned that cannabis has helped Nader become healthy after overcoming his drug addiction, and he's kindly granted me the opportunity to pry into his personal life so that I could share his story with you today.

How did your addiction begin?

The first substance I ever used was alcohol. I was 14 years old when I first tried it, and had a lot of personal stuff going on. I had seen my parents drink it then laughing from drinking so one night with a buddy, I said, “Ok, let’s drink this! We have to drink this stuff to have a good time.” So I did, and I did have a good time. And after that, my buddy and I searched for it, and kept drinking wine or any liquor we could get — just drank, drank, drank. Next thing I know, I’m using pills. At 15, I ended up trying coke for the first time and was immediately addicted. That spiraled out of control for a couple years into crack, meth — anything I could get my hands on, except hard opiates.

I went into rehab in August 2013 for cocaine abuse. All I remember is being pulled out from everyone partying around me, and then I was just sitting in rehab, detoxing and waiting to get out. But I was addicted to a lot of the drugs. I wasn’t ready to be done.

When I did come out of rehab after 3 months, I started drug court. Drug court is a year-long, intensive program where they piss test you every day to basically see if you can do well in society without throwing you back in jail for your drug crime. So you can’t do anything, can’t even drink. That was a lot of stress. I had to jump through a lot of different hoops.

I did pretty well and I knew I wanted to better my life, but I did a little more of the Xanax and Speed and stuff. The only reason I didn’t smoke weed was because of all the legal issues. Being out on bond with all these different negotiations with the prosecutors and stuff like that, I couldn’t have a drug test that was dirty. So the only reason I was taking all that other stuff was just because it got out of my system quicker. If they would have been ok with me smoking some weed, I would have just done that when I was released — and it would have been a lot better.

When did you first try cannabis?

When I first tried weed, I was probably 14 or 15. I was at a friend’s house, and had tried it a couple times before but had never really gotten “high” from it, so they locked me in a closet and we hot boxed it. I got too high and it made me really paranoid so I didn’t like it, and didn’t even try it again for at least two months. By that point, I was taking a bunch of Xanax, so I had less anxiety and started smoking some weed. I don’t really remember much of my addiction starting off — it’s all just a fog.

What was your relationship with your body like when you were struggling with addiction?

I was not very in tune with myself, not taking care of myself. When I was in the really bad part of my addiction, I was using a lot of cocaine; cocaine was my drug of choice. And it wasn’t good on my body. I dropped weight... I’m already a lean person but I had dropped weight down to 118 pounds, and that’s very small for somebody. But it’s just malnutrition; you don’t focus on your body, you’re not concerned about yourself. I was just focused on the drug — nothing with my body.

I didn’t even really notice that I was addicted until about a year into it. It just took me, and a year later I looked back and I’d been using coke and was skinny. It took a toll on my body, but I didn’t notice just from being so strung out.

What’s your relationship with your body like now?

Now that I use cannabis, I’m very in tune with my body. I incorporate a lot of healthy habits into my lifestyle now, just with eating and everything — and it's fun, it's good. It’s not, “Oh man, I have to stick to a certain schedule” — none of my workouts are written down or scheduled. I just go with the flow and do what feels good. That’s the main thing: cannabis lets me focus on myself. When you go into the gym and you’re working out, you can’t look at everybody else, you have to look at your own body. It lets me do that. 

When did you first start working out?

In rehab, I started working out to pass the time. Of course it’s a thing to get buff there — you know everyone wants that — but for me it was just about relaxing and taking my stress out on something else. Then I ended up seeing results from it. I was 118 pounds when I went into rehab, and I came out looking a little better so I was like, “Ok, I’m just going to keep up with the healthy shit. I’m going to start working out a little bit harder,” but I was still f*cking around with drugs at the time.

During that time, I was working out and trying all these different supplements, pre-workouts, and mass gainers because I wanted to gain muscle and weight. I enjoyed going to the gym, it was helping me cope with a lot of shit. I wasn’t smoking any weed, but I was feeling good about myself. After trying all the different supplements, I knew they just really weren’t good for you at all. You can just feel your heart — you can feel all that bad shit in you. And when you’re working out like I was and building your muscles up, you are very in tune with those things because it’s new to you. All this is new to me, you know what I mean? And I want to keep it healthy.

How do you incorporate cannabis into your workout routine now?

I’ll smoke before I go to the gym, and it lets me zone everybody out and focus on myself. I don’t count reps, I don’t count sets — at all. I never have and I never will. I feel the muscle. I’ve got no stress and I sit there and get real into it and make sure I’m just watching everything, watching my form. There’s a difference between throwing the weight around and actually feeling your muscle really work. There’s a big difference.

Cannabis enhances your focus for this. You can feel your blood pumping. You can feel the sweat dripping out of you and you can feel all that bad shit leaving you — you can just feel your body. You’re really in tune with yourself. You can feel your muscles working, and your muscle will tell you whenever you need to quit and whenever you can push a little bit more. I don’t write any of my workouts down, they’re all in my head. Every day is different, and every workout routine is different. The muscle confusion, the drop sets, everything is in there — I incorporate it all. Every week, every muscle that I’m working, I’ll do it in a different way. I’ll use a pattern for a couple months, then just change it completely.

Before when I wasn’t using weed and working out, I would still go to the gym — but I just wanted to get the workout done because I knew I needed to do it. Now with cannabis, I love it, and I look forward to going to the gym every day. I don’t need weed to get myself to go to the gym, but I prefer it because it helps me be in tune with myself. That’s the best thing it does for me.

After I work out, I wait about 30 min and let my body relax and get back to normal. After exercise like this, my body is very tense and I feel different, so I have to give myself about 30 minutes just to let my heart and everything calm down a little bit. Then I’ll smoke a joint to help relax my muscles, or they’ll cramp. Not that I’m not intaking enough water or potassium or anything, it’s just that focusing on working out the right way is going to get your muscles to burn every time. So it definitely helps with the pain management afterwards.

It also helps me eat. One big problem I was having during my probation was being unable to eat. I had a lot of anxiety and I don’t know, I just wasn’t able to eat. I have no clue why. But I couldn't eat after my workouts, and I would get really shaky from low blood sugar. Now if I smoke something, I can eat right after exercising and then even eat again later. It helps me maintain my nutrition.

When cannabis gives you the munchies, do you feel like you’re able to eat healthy food or do you crave junk food?

I don’t crave junk food at all. In fact, I don’t eat any junk food because I know healthy food now, and with being so in tune with myself, I can feel it all go into me and every different part of my nutrition. When I don’t get what I need and am not completely full, I call it “mal-nutrished” — I need my carbs, I need my this or that — I can’t just go and eat random shit. But when I smoke and get munchies, I love to cook. Everything tastes great, and it’s just fun to do — I get in the zone and I really like cooking healthy stuff like salmon and experimenting with spices.

How do you feel about cannabis being labeled a “gateway drug”?

I don’t feel it. It’s not true at all. When I started with drug addiction, it was not cannabis — it was alcohol. When I started cocaine and everything else, I stopped smoking weed. I would trade people drugs for weed and I had it, and would smoke it every once in awhile, but I was not looking for or smoking it when I was doing hard shit because it didn’t do anything to me while I was doing everything else. I really didn’t feel it then. So it’s not a gateway. There’s no relation with it. There’s a big difference between drug addiction and just smoking some weed. And I know that from personal experience.

Do you still want to use drugs?

Nope. I did before, when I didn’t have weed. I’m not saying I’m dependent on weed to make me not do drugs; if I didn’t have weed, I’d still be ok — it’s all in my mindset. But I’m very happy, very content with just smoking weed. I don’t drink liquor; I will enjoy a beer every once in awhile at a football game or something, but I don’t drink liquor. I’ve done a lot of different stuff, and I wouldn’t go back to it — it’s not good for you. I don't feel guilty smoking weed to stay healthy. When I was on drugs before, I knew I was doing wrong but I couldn't stop. Now I prefer just smoking some weed, and I’m very happy with that.