First of all: Thanks, to all of you, for being such a badass supportive community. I think I feel most at home in this strange semi-anonymity semi-intimacy of a strong internet community. Is that weird? A sign of the times? I don’t mean that I don’t love and value my in-person friendships, because I do. But also, I have a very hard time admitting when shit it hard but also know deeply how much I need to admit that. This seems like a good first step, saying it here and getting some goodness back. I can take that out into the ‘real world.’
Would you all believe that, despite living in a city where you (pretty) literally can’t throw a rock without hitting a pot dispensary, I totally forgot that both medical and recreational marijua.na is available to me? Well, it’s true. It’s just not on my radar.
I’m not a teetoler, but I do have some complex feelings about drugs and alcohol. My dad is a (currently sober) alcoholic and addict. A trained pharmacist who lost his license due to drug use, and who continued to have long periods of sobriety followed by dramatic binge drinking episodes up until about 7 years ago, when the last dramatic binge occurred. My grandfather – my mother’s father – was also a binge drinking alcoholic, although he was more predictable and drank 2-3 times a year at Christmas and tax season. My mother tells me she felt sure my father was NOT an alcoholic because he ‘handled his liquor so well.’ For the record, that’s not how it works.
So, I grew up hearing that my brother would become an alcoholic (he’s not) and that I would marry one. It’s never good to write your children’s future like that, but especially not in the case of substance abuse where the tendency towards co-dependence already exists, just by seeing alcoholism play out in front of you. I mostly did love alcoholics, most of them deeply and actively in their addiction, one not drinking but acting like an addict anyway, a few sober.
For myself, I’ve always been wary of alcohol. I overanalyze my use of it – do I drink too much, how do I feel when I’m drinking, or just after? But I’m not an alcoholic, of that much I’m sure. And because of my social scene and current life experiences, I drink very very rarely, and almost never more than one or two at a sitting. Alcohol doesn’t occur to me as a coping mechanism. I’m not the mom with wine in my tumbler.
My experience with drugs has been a little different. It’s funny because my dad was an addict too, it was all a matter of convenience. When he was a pharmacist, he used drugs because they were easy to get. Before and after, he preferred handles of cheap vodka. As a child, I have a single memory of my father injecting himself with morphine, but many that involve the particular smell of too much vodka, and a lot of finding giant bottles hidden in toilet tanks.
In high school, I smoked a lot of pot. Because the people I spent time with did, and so why not? As long as I was with those people, the ones I trusted, I liked the way pot helped me get out of my head and stop overthinking things (or, at least, overthink them in new ways.) I still drew steep boundaries that my peers didn’t have. Never before school, never during school, never when I might have to drive. I jokingly refer to myself as a pot head, but really, I never was. Not really. In college, I smoked occassionally, and drank rarely. When I did, I tended towards existential crisis or hearing God talk, but that’s par for the course when you’re a religious studies major.
After college, one of my best friends (and the first active addict and alcoholic I ever loved outside my father) introduced me to coc.aine. I think, had it not been difficult to obtain and more expensive than I could afford on my coffee shop wages, I could have ended up in trouble with that drug. It felt like super coffee, adding shimmer and excitement without loss of control. But it was too expensive, and I did only make $7 an hour, so I dodged that particular bullet.
But I haven’t smoked pot in years. I’m just not in a space socially where it comes up, and I don’t seek it out on my own. Thus, being able to totally forget that I live in a place where it’s legal.
Thanks to some suggestions on this blog in response to my last post, I remembered. And it seemed like a good time to both go check out this thing that exists in Colorado and explore if it might be a good fit for dealing with my anxiety.
I voted YES to legalize pot for recreational use a few years ago because it just makes sense. I generally think criminalizing drug use is a bad move, and think harm reduction is a much more realistic goal than abstinence for most addicts, because I lived with one who couldn’t get sober for 30+ years despite being an incredible man who I deeply love and respect. Generally, I don’t think jails are the answer to much, but they damn sure aren’t a good answer to drug and alcohol addiction.
But yesterday, I learned even more why legalization is so.good. I walked into a dispensary recommended by a friend. I felt totally safe, but a little nervous. I showed the security guard my ID and he gave me an entry pass. There was a long counter with employees, a chalkboard with daily specials, and a list of the strains they had on hand. I told one of the guys what was happening – my anxiety felt out of control, my medications weren’t working, I didn’t want to get stoned but maybe some pot would help me calm down. He made some recommendations for strains that I could buy in flower form, as well as some edible options. I decided to go with the buds because I would have more control over the amount I took in and the strains I could use. I paid $25 bucks for a gram and a single hit pipe (because I got rid of any paraphanalia long ago!)
Last night before bed I took two hits and my entire body relaxed, but my mind never felt crazy. I never got the cottony feeling inside my head, things didn’t get slow and stupid. It was like my body was stoned but my brain was not. The benefit to this was that without the pounding heart and clenching fists and weight on my chest, my mind was able to wander in a relaxed kind of way. The anxiety didn’t feel oppressive, it just felt like it existed. It quieted down. I didn’t feel high, I just felt relief.
I’m still hopeful that my doctor will increase my maintenance medication, and write me a script for the benzo that also helps. But I’m glad to have this as an option. It’s strange to move from thinking of pot as a drug in the illicit sense to thinking of it like a medication. There’s still so much stigma around it, warranted or not. I’m hoping I won’t get that here, but I guess I might expect it. Of course, I took the same precautions I take whenever I use a medication that might impact my function as a parent. I asked my partner to support me, I took the medication after putting Ansel to bed and didn’t co-sleep. Still, it’s hard not to feel like maybe I’m being a lousy mom. Pot is legal here, but there’s still so much gray to what that means.
Thanks for the suggestion, friends. And thanks for coming down this rambling path exploring my own feelings about drugs and alcohol. The lines are thin and wavering when it comes to all of this. What’s legal, what’s “right”, what we prioritize, how we ensure we are taking care of ourselves and our children.Muddling though is all any of us can do.