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'I Was a Marijuana Mama'

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Long before I ever thought about getting married or having children, I had an affair; it started when I was away at college in New York, during my freshman year, the day I encountered marijuana. It was my first and only case of love at first sight.

marijuana pipe and blocks spelling POT

Recovering Alcoholic-Addict Mommy: On the contrary, my relationship with booze was tumultuous. The first time I drank, I ended up passed out next to an empty bottle of red wine and tequila (not a great combo) and covered in my own vomit. Over the years, I learned how to drink to get to that yummy buzzed state, but other times I ended up passed out, covered in puke, and not knowing how I got home. Within a few weeks of starting college, I was drinking in the morning before class and hiding bottles in my dorm room. Classic alcoholic behavior -- but I didn't even know it. When alcohol worked for me, it was magical. When I overshot the mark, it was horrific. My boyfriend passed me a joint one night, and it seemed like a benign and logical substitute.

I loved everything about pot -- the look, the smell, the paraphernalia, but most importantly, how it made me feel. After a couple of bong hits, years of tension, anxiety, and perfectionism melted away and I could simply be me. For the first time in my life, I felt truly comfortable in my skin, engaged in the present moment, and joyful. Better yet, there was no nasty hangover, no puking, no blacking out and scandalous behavior. I felt like I had found the solution to my lifelong problem.

Within a few weeks, I was smoking pot all day, every day. My life revolved around pot -- scoring it, smoking it, trying to scrape up the money for it. Because I was smoking nonstop, I needed more and more of it to produce the desired effect. When I was offered cocaine at a club one night, I tried it without a second thought. And of course, I loved it.

For the next two years, I ran around New York -- drunk, stoned, and high as a kite. I did every drug that crossed my path, but I always returned to pot as my old standby. It was the gentle herb that helped me come down off of a frenetic coke high -- it was my medicine when I had a nasty hangover. I had love/hate relationships with alcohol and coke, but pot was my best friend, and one I swore I would never give up.

Inevitably, things spiraled out of control. In the middle of my junior year, I bottomed out and almost died. I had to take a medical leave from school, and I returned back home to get sober, and I stayed sober for the next ten years. I went back to college, got two master's degrees, and began my career. I got married to the man of my dreams and had everything in the world to be grateful for.

After I had my son, I had severe postpartum anxiety, which resulted in insomnia and lack of appetite. I felt so much shame because I loved my son more than anything, but I was such an emotional wreck. I tried different homeopathic and traditional therapies, none of which were effective. I had a therapist who only knew me as a sober and highly functioning woman. She told me her daughter had a prescription for medical marijuana. "It's a nothing drug," my therapist said, "Everyone does it."

This underground trend of the therapeutic and medical community promoting medicinal marijuana is eerily similar to the time when doctors pushed Valium on "stressed" women. The point is not whether it's better or worse than alcohol, because doctors don't prescribe a fifth of Jack for insomnia. And while yes, marijuana should be legal just as cigarettes and alcohol are, because people should be free to choose, it's well established that some people can't handle those things. The legal arguments are getting tangled up with people's flat-out desire to smoke weed, which is understandable, because the fact is, getting high is awesome and people like to believe that things are healthy for them. Some people CAN handle it -- good for them! It just seems like a sign of danger when someone says they're doing it because they need stress relief. My experience is that it did indeed do that, but that there was a cost to pay for suppression over a long period of time.

Within a couple of days of obtaining my prescription, I was back to smoking pot all throughout the day. Only now, I wasn't a single 18-year-old girl running around Manhattan without any real responsibilities. I was a wife, a mom, and I had a place in my community. I completely hid my pot smoking and began to live a double life.

When pot worked for me, it worked beautifully. When I was high, I could cope with the stress of new motherhood. There was something sweet about being stoned and totally in the moment with my baby. I felt like I could handle and even enjoy the relentless and demanding tasks of new motherhood. I rationalized my smoking by telling myself that I had a prescription, I wasn't harming anyone, and pot made me a better and happier mom.

Just like in college, my life began to revolve around weed -- scoring it, smoking it, and maintaining my high. Smoking wasn't nearly as easy as it was back then, when I could lock myself in my dorm room. I had to make sure my son was sleeping, sneak outside, hide in a corner, and quickly smoke as much as possible, hoping my neighbors wouldn't see or smell me.

I was totally addicted. Physically or psychologically is just a matter of semantics, but I believe I was both. This seemingly benign herb had once again taken over my life. My tolerance increased and I needed more and more pot to produce the desired effect, so I began to supplement my pot smoking with pills and alcohol. Suddenly I was back full-force in my addiction. For me, pot is a gateway drug. It alters my mood, stops working, and ultimately leads me to seek out more powerful and effective substances.

I bottomed out again and came within millimeters of losing everything, all because I bought the "harmless and medicinal" propaganda. The stakes were much higher this time than when I first got sober at 20. The fact that I evaded child protective services or any real consequences is a product of sheer luck -- there are many women who have used drugs just the way I did and have completely lost their families because of their addiction.

I am not going to lie -- being a clean and sober mama isn't always easy. There are days when I am excruciatingly uncomfortable and would give anything to check out, just for an hour or two. My children challenge me on so many levels, and without any buffers, motherhood can feel overwhelming. But I remind myself that my kids deserve a clean and sober mom who is truly present. I believe that my sobriety offers them a realistic world view, as they have the opportunity to experience my humanness without the edges being hazed by the influence of marijuana.

Do I miss it? Hell yeah! Do I wish I was someone who could moderate my marijuana usage and not let it take over my life? Undoubtedly. Weed is great, totally great, just maybe not compatible with complex tasks, like operating a nuclear plant or raising kids, and definitely not with people who tend towards addiction. Today I embrace the opportunity to teach my children healthier forms of self-soothing through example.

Photos courtesy of Michael Johnson

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52 comments so far | Post a comment now
Nell June 30, 2009, 8:21 AM

Thanks for sharing your story with us! I will say the same thing I said on the other “Marijuana Mama” topic. I personally don’t smoke, but I don’t mind others that do smoke. DO…WHATEVER….WORKS. Obviously, this doesn’t/didn’t work for you, so YOU are doing the right thing by staying away from it. But, I don’t think ALL should be punished be SOME can’t handle it. Maybe you can edit your post to also include what DOES work for you. It may probably help others as well, who can’t smoke Marijuana.

Rachel June 30, 2009, 8:42 AM

Great reply, Nell. It’s important to point out that the author of this piece obviously suffers from addictive behavior and without some kind of psychological intervention, it will always be something - if not alcohol or marijuana, then maybe food or gambling.

j June 30, 2009, 8:50 AM

SO well written.

Thanks for making the point that smoking pot for “stress relief” is not any healthier or different than using alcohol. And I agree - it is eerily similar to the Valium push.

I’m not a smoker but I’ve seen it ruin a my sister’s life as well as one of my close friends. It’s not as benign as people think.

Holly June 30, 2009, 11:17 AM

First this person knew she had a MAJOR problem with addiction in the past and she used the excuse of a prescription as an excuse to indulge in her addiction again. I am sorry but this person should have had her children removed from her care. Yes she turned it around again but I can’t imagine what these children went through before she did. No it is not the doctors fault b/c the patient purposely did not disclose her past addiction.

michelle June 30, 2009, 11:34 AM

There is no excuse for using drugs when there are little children involved. If someone wants to mess up their own life, that’s certainly their choice - but i agree with Holly…who knows what the long-term impact of her selfish behavior will have on her kids. There are so many cases in the news over the last few years of people dying from prescription drug overdoses - thankfully the author stopped using drugs before leaving her children without a mom. Oh, and for Nell who says: “But, I don’t think ALL should be punished be SOME can’t handle it.” What part of the definition of the word ILLEGAL do you not understand?

DJ June 30, 2009, 12:01 PM

I understand your story, but I do feel that it is as harmless, if not less, then alcohol. And if he prescribed you something else for your depression, that you would have gotten hooked on that to. I to know plently of people who live their lives with it. Most who only do it at night after the kids have went to bed, or when their kids leave to visit family or things of that nature. It is only a gate way drug, if you are looking for something in your life, that it does not fill. The people i know that do it, they do it instead of drinking wine with dinner or scotch after a long day, and that’s it. I have always felt that with the feeling people have from it, that drugs like cocaine and x-tasy, aren’t the same, so for someone to try it, it is because they want that type of high, which is completely different then with marijuana. I think it should be looked at just like alcohol. Some people have a drink everyday after work, does this make them alcoholics? Just like anything that is legal, you have to do it in moderation, and once you have gotten past that point, no matter if it’s marijuana or red wine, then you have a problem.

Nell June 30, 2009, 12:03 PM

Rachel- Thank you for the compliment. I agree with your reasoning as well.

Michelle - Get a grip! I just LOVE it when self righteous people as yourself post judgemental comments to make others feel small. First of all, re-read my post! I never mentioned the word “illegal”. I stated my opinion, which I am clearly entitled to do. What part of the word “think” do YOU not understand. Obviously, not much. Secondly, since being “legal” is so important to your perfect being, I guess you will next post that you have never “selfishly” speeded through a yellow light, or “illegally” driven merely 1 mile over the speed limit. Oh…and let me know when you tell your first lie. You can call on me to help your traumatized children understand it, for surely you will have been the perfect parent until then. Wow, I sure hope your children will learn the definition of “compassion” from someone on this earth. It doesn’t appear that much will come from you.

michelle June 30, 2009, 12:11 PM

Nell - sounds like you’re high while writing your comments. Are you saying that taking illegal drugs is equal to going through a yellow light? Remember, here is what you said: “I don’t think ALL should be punished be SOME can’t handle it.” I didn’t say it, you did. And since smoking pot is ILLEGAL in all 50 days in America, it’s against the law to do so unless you have a prescription. By the way, if you’re not high right now - you should go find something to smoke (even if it is illegal) just so you can relax!

Anonymous June 30, 2009, 12:23 PM

I can totally relate, if those mothers who drown their kids or beat them would just chill out a bit and smoke then maybe their kids would still be here today. I am one of the best mothers anyone could be, I smoke pot for me, cause it makes me feel good. IT DOES NOT MAK YOU A BAD MOTHER!! I don’t do it to hurt myself or anyone, but sometimes we as women and mothers go through struggles and in order to maintain that sanity and to take the edge off, what’s the big deal if you go sit out on the roof for ten minutes and smoke, you come back in and hey the problems that were there ten minutes ago don’t seem so bad…. and then just maybe all the screaming fighting children who are home for the summer actually won’t sound as loud then before you went out on the roof for that much needed break. Passing a red light is illegal and everyone does it everyday as well as speeding, so please if someone wants to smoke a natural herb that grows in the ground , just like a tomato would then who cares. The author was not saying that she is at the present toking it up, she was merely stating that she as a mother struggles everyday with the battle to light it up again, and it is people that are closed minded like Holly who says that her kids should be taken away, people like Holly want to make you smoke. You keep on doing what you are doing author cause it seems to me the ones with the real problems are the ones who don’t admit to any flaws and the ones who think they can be a better mother, obviously holly you need to light it up once in a while and you wouldn’t be such a prude and your kids are probably more than likely going to smoke pot having an uptight mother will do that to a kid!!!

Anonymous June 30, 2009, 12:38 PM

Michelle said, “who knows what the long-term impact of her selfish behavior will have on her kids.”

I’ll tell you the impact it will have. My father smoked pot nearly every day while he was raising me. He never had a problem with alcohol and never tried any other drugs. His smoking pot was enough to do damage. He wasn’t totally present and while I didn’t understand why as a little kid, I know why now. I remember finding it in his room, not having any idea what it was since he never smoked it right in front of me, but oddly seeing it and knowing it was bad so I would flush it down the toilet. Your children are not stupid or unaware, they are intuitive, and they will feel the effects of you being stoned. You think you are peaceful and relaxed, but to them you don’t feel completely present. I remember how frustrating that was for me at times as a kid when I NEEDED my dad’s attention but he was high. It is a very selfish and irresponsible thing to do.

Nell June 30, 2009, 12:42 PM

Michelle- you are obviously an immature individual (perhaps a child) unworthy of my attention, so this will be my last post to you. Don’t take it personal, but I don’t make a habit of wasting my time on people who have little understanding. No, I’m not “high”, nor do I smoke (which you would realize if you read my first post). I don’t even drink coffee. However, I do think that you might be high yourself (50 days in America?) or have a “high and mighty” attitude. Everyone makes mistakes, including myself (sometimes typos)….and guess what? So do you! I think your “50 day” comment was a typo. Well, that is my point. Human beings are not perfect(including yourself….WOW). Since you misunderstood my post, I will re-word it for you. Although I am mainly a law abiding citizen (never been arrested, only had a few illegal speeding tickets), I don’t agree with breaking the law. However, I don’t feel that all laws are correct. Remember when alchohol was illegal? Ooops maybe you are too young to have gotten that far in your history book. Well, at one time it was ILLEGAL while Marijuana was LEGAL. This is an unjust law. Alchohol has killed way more people than prescription drugs or Marijuana. I think that if our lawmakers were more educated (the education that YOU need), weed would not be illegal. Then what is really funny, is that you seem to get irritated and tell me to “smoke” just so I can relax. What a hypocrit! LOL! Michelle, find someone on your level (a little lower) to talk to because I am done with you. It is not fun anymore. I will go back to having adult conversations with the rest of the adults. Have a good day. Be safe!

michelle June 30, 2009, 12:47 PM

Nell, your commentary simply doesn’t make sense. And, while I am educated with a PHD and Masters Degree - I question your ability to communicate. You really need to work on your writing. I never asked you to comment on my messages in the first place. Have a blessed day.

Theresa June 30, 2009, 1:03 PM

Whoa Nelly and Michelle! This is a good topic and I don’t want it to get out of hand. I don’t agree with smoking of anykind, including nicotine, but this is a free country. My neighbors have a child under 1 and both mother and father smoke religiously. I don’t like it, but it really isn’t my business. I just hope no one gets hurt. They seem to be good parents in other ways. Sorry Michell, I think Nell is right and you are wrong about what you two are posting. I don’t think what you are saying helps anyone else. She has stated that she will be the bigger person and cut off her dialog with you, and I hope she keeps her word. I think you, Michelle, should follow her lead. It is quite unbecoming of someone who claims to have a PHD to argue and degrade others like you are doing.

outlaw McDonalds! June 30, 2009, 1:51 PM

Okay. I am a mother of two, and I occasionally smoke pot. The author of the story obviously has an addictive personality. Some people have that. Many people have ‘food addictions.’ Heart disease is the number one killer in America- should we outlaw McDonalds? I mean, obesity is deadly. Many people do not take care of themselves and get themselves to a point of being overweight and obese. They die and leave their children (who, statistically, would also be obese) parent- less. We should outlaw trans-fats, have mandatory gym memberships, never curse around our children, never smoke or drink, or be left to hold any kind of responsibility for our own actions. Right? My father was an alcoholic. Perfectly legal substance, but something that traumatized me. I started smoking pot as a means of getting over horrible social anxiety that would leave me crying in the bathroom at school at 15. I never did any other ‘harder’ drug, and haven’t had alcohol since I became a mother. As a mother, I know that if I don’t take care of myself, my children will be left without a mother. I eat right, I exercise, I avoid alcohol because I know that I have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, I don’t do any other illegal drugs, I don’t smoke cigarettes. Hell, I don’t take any kind of pill other than thyroid medication I have to take-including ibuprofen (which, if abused, can lead to liver failure). Smoking pot, like anything else CAN be selfish. Hell, overindulge in ice cream or buy a pair of shoes you shouldn’t, and its selfish. Its about moderation. Its about self-control. I never smoke in the presence of my children, and I’m not an ‘every day all day’ smoker like the author. Some of us can handle it, some can’t. Just because you don’t agree, don’t call it selfish. I’m sure that my children would prefer to have a mother that occasionally smokes pot and is able to function, than the anxious, depressed wreck I’d be if I didn’t. I’m also sure they’d prefer to have a mother that occasionally smokes pot than a mother addicted to any kind of prescription drug. It may be illegal, but alcohol was illegal at one point. Just because it IS, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be.

anne June 30, 2009, 2:15 PM

i smoked pot in high school, drank to excess in college, and started smoking pot again when i met my future husband, who smokes. i quit again when i got pregnant with our first child. my pregnancy was probably no worse than most, but i had constant nausea and heartburn that prevented me from eating properly or keeping down anything i did manage to eat. after anti nausea prescriptions failed, and i had eaten my weight in tums, during my sixth month, my husband convinced me to smoke again, and my digestive troubles disappeared. it worked, for me, at that time. our daughter is beautiful, healthy, and smart. when i got pregnant again, i smoked as soon as morning sickness came on, and it made me violently ill. that pregnancy was harder, but still resulted in a healthy and wonderful baby boy. i have not smoked regularly since - it’s been about 4 years.

if pot was legal, i probably would smoke it more often, but i’ve never experienced addiction to it. like any herb, or for that matter, prescription drug, not all bodies react to it the same way, and while it does have pleasant benefits for some, those benefits have to be weighed against the risks. congratulations to marijuana mama for realizing that she wasn’t doing the right thing for her situation and MAKING THE CHANGE TO MAKE IT RIGHT. that takes courage and strength, whether it’s the first time, the second, or the twenty fourth.

ps - i still think marijuana should be as legal as alcohol, as i have never heard of anyone going into a pothead rage, and the only thing i’ve known ‘heads to murder are fritos.

G June 30, 2009, 2:24 PM

I am a father and my wife is on this site all the time. She and I have smoked grass before and I don’t see anything wrong with it. I think that people should not be so quick to judge others. Michelle seems to be a very mean spirited person, and I doubt she has a PHD by her language and thoughts towards others.

TYC June 30, 2009, 2:39 PM

The author obviously has addiction issues. Banning alcohol or cannabis for that matter will not change her behavior patterns. She will find something else to abuse. Cheering on prohibition does not and will not stop her behavior problems. Prohibition only sends the product underground. Prohibition will not eliminate the product. Prohibition makes the WRONG people rich. End prohibition and use the money for treatment and not a jail cell. Jail doesn’t ‘treat’ anyone. Jail only introduces you to more contacts.

ame i. June 30, 2009, 2:43 PM

I smoked as a teen and before I had kids. I’ve tried it a few times since. I always thought people were full of crap when they said pot made them feel paranoid but that is exactly how I felt when I smoked after my daughters arrived.
The last time a friend gave me 3 joints they probably lasted a year b/c I forgot about them. None of my friends offer me a toke from theirs anymore b/c 2 or 3 hits put me to sleep now, as does 1/2 of a Xanax (prescribed).
My “after-baby” issues were caused by a highly over-active thyroid. After almost a year of ptu, I felt great again.

Mel June 30, 2009, 3:14 PM

When you have children its time to grow up and leave your imature habits behind you luckily this mother eventually figured that out. For the mothers who have to smoke in order to deal with their children why did you bother having children in the first place… As a teenager when I was old enough to realize my father smoked I lost some respect for him that day the way your children will probly feel towards you becouse eventualy they will figure it out. As a parent arent you suppose to live by example? It shows a great lack of irresponsibility as a parent to do something you know is illegal. What is that teaching your children. How would you feel if your children picked up the habit? The fact is their are alot of people who have addictive personalities and your child may be one of them. How would you feel if you set your child up to be a future failure?

Lorita June 30, 2009, 3:15 PM

I am sorry that the author had those horrible issues drinking and smoking. I, for one, smoke occasionally and not around my kids. I do think you can do this responsibly and that it is less harmful than liquor. I agree with Nell, and I think the laws of this country should generally be followed, but are outdated and senseless in this instance.

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