I Blame Marijuana And I Wish We Had Never Moved Here

Born in Massachusetts, our son started out life with a very bright future. As a toddler he was

interested in things with wheels and anything his big sister was doing. As he got older, Legos

became his obsession. In his early school days he tended to get really into a subject, even apart

from school. For a while it was the Russian language and then it was the Periodic Table. He

begged me to buy him a 2½-inch- thick used Chemistry textbook before he was a pre-teen, and I

did.

I was able to be a stay-at- home parent until our son was 8. I tried to do all the right things. We

played outside, limited screen time, and got together with other little ones and their moms for

play groups. I read to him and his sister every night until they both reached middle school and

wouldn’t let me anymore. Our son routinely tested in the 99 th percentile on standardized tests and

at least 3 grade levels above. Now, at age 17, he has dropped out of high school.

My husband and I both have Master’s degrees, and my husband is a public school administrator.

His father is a retired architect. My mother is a retired elementary school teacher. Our family

believes in education, we believe in learning and growing. When asked why he continues to use

drugs, mostly marijuana, my son said, “I think it’s because of the people we’re around.”

In reflecting back on “What happened?” I blame marijuana. We now live in Colorado, where

marijuana is legal and widely available to everyone. I wish we had never moved.

 

How it All Began

 

My son’s first time using was in 7 th grade, when marijuana was legal only if used medicinally

with a “Red Card” and a physician’s recommendation. Coloradans voted on legalization in

November 2012 and marijuana stores opened in January, 2014. But back in 2012, he and some

buddies got it from a friend’s older brother who had a Red Card. From what I can tell, the use

just kept escalating until his junior year in high school when he was using at least once a

day…and when he attempted suicide.

Between that first incident in 2012 and the suicide attempt in 2015, his father and I waged an all-

out battle on the drug that was invading our home. We grounded him; I took to sleeping on the

couch outside his bedroom because he was sneaking out in the middle of the night; we yelled and

screamed; I cried, we cajoled and tried to reason with him: “You have a beautiful brain! Why are

you doing things that will hurt your brain?”

We did weekly drug tests, we enlisted the school’s support, we enlisted our family’s support, and

we even tried talking to his friends.

But nothing worked. Our son was in love with marijuana. Our sweet, smart, funny, sarcastic,

irreverent, adorable boy was so enamored with this drug that nothing we did — NOTHING —

made any difference. And we slowly lost him.

At the same time I was battling marijuana at home, I was also leading a group in our community

to vote against legalizing it in our small town. I had teamed with a local business-owner and a

physician, and the three of us got the support of many prominent community members, including

the school superintendent, the police chief, and the fire chief. We ran a full campaign, complete

with a website where you could donate money, a Facebook page, and yard signs.

My son’s use isn’t the reason I got involved. I had started advocating against marijuana

legalization long before I even realized he had a problem. My background is in health

communication and I work in the hospital industry. I sit on our local Board of Health, so

allowing retail stores to sell an addictive drug just doesn’t make any sense to me. I did think

about my children: what I was modeling for them; what kind of community we were raising

them in, and the kind of world I envisioned for their future. Those are the reasons I got involved.

My son’s use is actually the reason that I’ve pulled away from any sort of campaigning.

Unfortunately, we lost our fight. In 2014, it became legal in our small town to purchase pot

without a Red Card. And the following year, his junior year, he almost slipped away from us

forever.

 

Pot Seemed Everywhere

 

His use by then had escalated to daily (and I suspect often more than once a day). Pot seemed to

be everywhere! We found it hidden all over the house — in the bathroom, on top of the china

cabinet, in his closet, outside, even in his sister’s bedroom. It’s a hard substance to hide because

of the strong smell. Even in the “pharmacy” bottles and wrapped in plastic bags, the skunk

stench still manages to seep out. But it sure seemed easy for a young boy to get!

He started leaving school in the middle of the day, or skipping school altogether, and his grades

plummeted. Where he was once an A/B student and on the varsity cross-country team, he was

now failing classes and not involved in anything. This boy who had tested in the 99 th percentile

was failing high school. And this boy who had once been the levity in our home, who used to

make me laugh like no one else could or has since, this boy became a stranger.

Our son withdrew from everything except his beloved drug. His circle of friends (never big in

the first place), was reduced to only those who could supply him with marijuana. His relationship

with his older sister all but disappeared. And his relationship with his father has been strained

beyond almost all hope of repair.

Then, in late 2015, our son attempted suicide. He was hospitalized, first overnight at the very

hospital where I work and then for a 3-day locked psychiatric unit stay. I remember very little

from this difficult (and surreal) time except learning that it wasn’t his first attempt, and that he

blamed us for how awful he felt. He started taking an antidepressant, and after he was released

we took him to a drug counselor for a total of three visits, but after that he refused to go — he

threatened to jump out of the car if we tried to take him. We tried a different counselor and that

only lasted for one visit.

 

Changing Strategies and a Truce

 

At this point I convinced my husband that we had to approach things differently, because

obviously what we were doing wasn’t working. We stopped the weekly drug tests (we knew he

was using so there seemed to be no point anyway). We stopped yelling and punishing. And

basically my husband stopped talking to our son altogether — they are both so angry and hurt

that any communication turns toxic very quickly. He refused to go back to school, so we agreed

that he could do online classes.

 

There is an uneasy truce in our home right now. Now it just feels like waiting. Waiting for what

will happen next. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Our son, 17, still lives with us. His sister left for college this past summer. I acknowledge that he

uses pot and doesn’t want to quit, but I continue sending the message that it’s not good for his

brain. The one thing my husband and I won’t bend on is no drugs on our property. He has started

five different online classes, but so far has finished only one. He doesn’t feel any pressure to

finish school — he says he’ll get a GED, but hasn’t made any effort towards that end. He doesn’t

drive and doesn’t express any desire to learn, which is probably good because I doubt he could

be trusted to drive sober. He started working at a local restaurant recently and has been getting

good feedback from his managers, which I take to be a positive sign.

I’ll take any positive signs at this point!

 

Trying Something Else and Blacking Out

 

I don’t know if the suicide attempt and hospitalization were rock bottom for our family, but I

suspect not. Just this past weekend our son came home and I could tell he was on something —

and it wasn’t marijuana or alcohol. I checked him periodically throughout the night, and in the

early morning he woke up and asked me how much trouble he was in. I replied that it depended

on what he had taken. He said Xanax. He also said that he had blacked out and couldn’t

remember anything that had happened from about an hour after he took it.

Later in the morning, when we were both more awake, I asked him about the Xanax (he got it

from someone at the restaurant) and the pot use and what he saw for his future. He has no plans

to stop using, but said that he probably wouldn’t take Xanax again (he didn’t like blacking out).

He said that he’s very happy with his life right now, that he knows a lot of people who didn’t go

to college and work two or three jobs and live in little apartments, and that he’s happy with that

kind of future for himself.

I tried not to cry. Imagine that as the goal for a boy who started life with so much curiosity and

such a desire to learn!

It’s not that I don’t think he can have a good and decent life without a college education. But I

know that he’ll have a much harder life. Statistically, Americans with fewer years of education

have poorer health and shorter lives (partly due to lack of adequate health insurance), and

Americans who don’t have a high school diploma are at greatest risk. It’s not just life without a

college education, but it is life with a brain that has been changed by marijuana. Will he be able

to give up pot? If he does give up pot, will he recover the brain he had at one time? Will he lose

motivation?

I asked him why he used pot when he knew how his father and I felt about it, and when we had

tried so hard to steer him in a different direction.

He said, “I think it’s because of the people we’re around. And all the drugs that are around.”

I’ve finally accepted that his use is not in the range of normal teenage experimentation, and I’m

barely surviving on the hope that he’ll eventually grow out of it…and that he doesn’t do any

permanent damage. In the meantime, I’m sorry that we ever moved here.

 

 

Submitted by: A Colorado Mom

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1 Comments

  1. Illona MAGER

    Reply

    I am so sorry, your story is very similar to my own, I wrote MS a few months ago. I want you to know that I admire your decisions. Your story is full of love and concern. I know of people that never give up the marijuana and live a unproductive life and are in their 60’s. I guess it means some addicts settle and their families accept and cope. My son was drug free at the time of his death. His best friend was driving high and killed him. I don’t know if he would have maintained his sobriety. It was a long time ago and the marijuana was not as strong but I found myself fighting drugs, sex and rock and roll. We were broken as a family. After he died , I returned to his after care drug rehab meeting. I told the parents that as long as your child is alive there is hope. I guess that is what we hang onto. I admire your strength and love. I hope your story is read and I hope voters see the damage marijuana can do to lives and vote NO.

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