My husband and I find it disturbing that people don’t take teenage pot use seriously. We believe young users have to stop while they can because it could get to a point they can’t stop. That is what pot use has done to our son. Actually, is it even called pot anymore? It probably shouldn’t be because it’s not the pot of the 60’s when his dad and I were teens.
We have a tall, blue-eyed, twenty-five year old son, D who is well loved and has many friends. Unfortunately for him, many of his friends can use pot recreationally. They can use it and still work and function normally and they don’t understand that D can’t. Many times over the past ten years, he has struggled to stay away from pot, but then he starts using again and it trips him up. His most recent episode of going back to using caused some kind of emotional/mental breakdown. The memory of D’s disturbing behavior when I saw him last month and how our granddaughters were so upset when he had to be carried away, still haunt me.
It would take a book to describe what has happened during the ten years since D admitted he had a problem with pot. We started attending Kaiser’s family intervention program with him right away. It involved weekly meetings with counselors; a parent group and Al-Anon meeting for us; a teen group and MA group for D; and a family meeting we did at home. My husband and I learned a lot and D seemed to learn a lot too but he could only talk recovery talk, not walk the walk. Everyone thought the early intervention was working and he was a program star, until he was caught substituting clean urine for his own. Then he admitted he could not get clean and had been cheating all three months of the program. The counselor he had there recommended a voluntary inpatient program. D agreed and stayed the full 60 days, after which another 30 days was strongly recommended. But D refused. He said that now that he really understood the consequences of smoking pot, he was absolutely positive he would not have any problem staying pot-free back home. Once D did come home, the struggle began again. He would not focus on school and or keep his promises about the house rules he had agreed to while he was in treatment. He had such a hard time waking up in the morning, I was deeply concerned and worried he was anemic or something. I remember that sinking feeling in my stomach the first time I went into his room to wake him up for an appointment to find a pillow and blanket carefully placed in a way to make it look like he was still in bed. Sad and disappointed it dawned on me that he was always tired during the day because he was sneaking out to smoke pot with friends most of the night.
D eventually quit going to school and would not do the school work in the alternate home schooling program we tried. He got in trouble with the law and when he would not go to the weekly sessions with the drug counselor the court mandated as part of his probation, he was placed in juvenile hall. They kept him there for a while then released him to an inpatient program in a neighboring town, which he promptly ran away from. Eventually he was picked up again and taken back to juvenile hall. They released him to a clean and sober home in a distant county in hopes that he would be less likely to run away from it. This was a good facility that also provided a way for him to continue high school and earn a diploma. But pot lingers in his body a while and makes him lazy, unmotivated, and uninterested in learning. Because D believed that the juvenile court judge that had sent him to the facility would not have any authority over him once he turned 18, he did not think he had to do the school work. Shocked to learn that no “get out of jail free” card came with an 18th birthday and that a condition of his release was to have earned his high school diploma, he quickly did the work. The teachers that spoke at the school’s small graduation ceremony joked about their amazement at finding out how smart D was when motivated to apply himself. Out now, he had a little over $2,000 in savings, which did not last long, and he came back to our area where he moved in with a girlfriend and her mother. Soon his girlfriend was pregnant. They married several months after the birth of their baby and tried hard to make things work, but their marriage didn’t last. Their child turned 6 this week and he also has a younger daughter with another woman.
D cares very much about being a good dad, loves his beautiful little girls, and wants to support them. But using pot makes follow-through on many things he cares about impossible. Sad and guilty, he uses pot one more time to feel better, and then…. well, you know. I’ve come to have compassion for his cycle of addiction, but it’s hard for others to feel the same because his behavior has a negative effect on their lives or they take it personally. Whenever his head is clear, he says that he knows that pot is something he really needs to stay away from and resolves to stop using. But pot is freely offered in his circle of friends and it makes him feel better when he is feeling the effects of it. When he’s not he needs to get more and forgets all the good reasons he decided to stop. Last year, he managed to keep his resolution for several months. He had a good place to live and was paying his bills and child support by working at a temporary full-time job his father helped him get that was on track to lead to a permanent position. When the temporary job ended, D fell back into to his previous lifestyle. The permanent position opened but would have required a drug test so he didn’t bother applying.
On December 15, we saw D at our granddaughter’s birthday party. The birthday girl, D’s 10 year old niece, lost her dad to a motorcycle accident the year before. She often expresses her worries about Uncle D, asks us about him all the time, and wants to call to talk to him to find out if he is okay. D was emotional and agitated at her party. When I gave him a hug, I could feel his heart pounding in his chest. His dad and I left early. Later I learned that as the party was winding down, D was upset and crying.
December 17: A good friend of ours made a surprise visit to tell us D is behaving strange; hanging around his church, crying that he’s been a sinner, asking to be re baptized and for members to pray for him. A couple of the things our friend described: D asked for water, accepted the bottle, took off his shirt and poured the water over his head. He asked to be driven to the firehouse but when taken there would not go inside. Nobody knew what to expect from D or why he would show up at the church building, talking and acting strangely unlike himself.
December 19: Got a call telling me D was at the church and that I should go there right away. I arrived too late. The church secretary told me a loud, foul-mouth young woman she didn’t know had created a scene in the parking lot. When she was told she had to leave, D left with her. I don’t know who she is either but imagine it is one of D’s not so mellow, pot using friends.
December 20: Another call that D was outside the church, yelling in the street. I hurried over to find D looking like he had not eaten, showered or taken care of himself at all since the birthday party. His behavior was erratic. I wondered if anyone was seeing what was happening, and hoped so because I was scared for him. To my relief, church members began showing up for their Sunday services. D’s oldest daughter’s Godmother arrived with both his daughter and her cousin. The energy shifted because D was happy to see the girls and we all went into the building. Someone must have witnessed the scene outside the church and called 911, because a sheriff deputy arrived just as services were about to begin. The deputy patiently waited while a couple of church members went in to persuade D to come out. As soon as he saw the deputy, he let his body go limp. He would not stand and walk, and refused any kind of help. I sat down beside D on the floor of vestibule where he laid face-down. He refused to move outside as the officer had requested and seemed unable to answer questions coherently. The deputy could not get D’s cooperation and saw he need help, so the cuffs went on and the officer called for back-up. D asked me to stay near him and rub his back. He was so scared. I whispered to him, “No one is going to hurt you with your mom right here,” then continued to speak softly to him and rub his shoulders while answering questions the officer asked me. When the second officer arrived, they each grabbed an arm and leg and carried D out to their vehicle, hands still cuffed behind him, his face-down body limp like a bow.
Church members tried to shield his daughter from seeing what was happening, but his niece saw and told her. His daughter began to cry hysterically for Daddy and her older cousin angrily protested Uncle should not be “arrested” when he had not done anything wrong…it was just a horrible scene and, although there had not been any violence, it was traumatic for everyone who had seen or heard any part of D’s crisis. I took the girls to the car, tried to answer their questions and let them calm down a little before we left.
After calming myself down, I called and learned from a woman at psych emergency services that they would not be able to keep D more than 24 hours at that facility. Privacy laws kept her from disclosing much except the results of the blood test. Later, she told me there weren’t any drugs in his system except THC (which she said would not have caused his behavior), that he was not a criminal case, just going to be held for his own safety, and that she didn’t know where or how long he would be held.
The mothers of his daughters, his most recent former girlfriend, friends, and other family members keep calling & texting to ask us what’s happened to him. Unless D gives permission, no information will be released. There is nothing I can do except try to focus on the gratitude I feel knowing he might be in a place where he is getting some professional help. I believe what I told my granddaughter, “Daddy got sick and needs to see a doctor to get better.” But I also worry that they will only inject him with something to make him sleep for a while then send him back out on the street with some prescription drugs. If that’s all they do for him, it is sad to think that his thin, weak body and THC filled brain will only have more drugs to contend with.
December 23 Being the week of Christmas, we’re getting calls from family and friends. When people ask, we explain that D’s had some kind of emotional breakdown and Sunday he was taken to psych emergency but he isn’t there anymore. Being a grandma, all the things that I want to do to get ready for Christmas festivities are staring me in the face, yet I feel as if I can’t do anything. My husband is having a hard time too, but trying to stay strong for everyone else. He is waiting for me to come downstairs right now to go do the gift and grocery shopping.
A week later: Learned D was transferred to a neighboring county hospital. He called from there to tell us his plan is to sign out to go live with his Aunt and Grandmother, who live 80 miles away. He’ll get a job there. He won’t be near his pot using friends. He will stay clean and get a fresh start. His ex wife will let him see their daughter. Everything is going to be great. I am happy he sounds better and says he is eating again and gaining weight but not so happy his Aunt is going to pick him up before the doctor thinks he’s ready. Based on other times “geographic cures” have been tried, I’m afraid it’s a set up for failure that only makes sense to him because he is dying to get out of that hospital. Hope I’m wrong!
January 15. Learned D had words with his Aunt and insisted on leaving although he has no place to go. He tried to hitchhike back to our town but couldn’t get a ride so his uncle agreed to drive him here. D was dropped off at the local park with nothing but a backpack; not even a phone so there is no way to call him.
Later: Someone saw D walking around town singing loudly. Then tonight, just as we were getting ready for bed, the Godmother of his oldest daughter, came and cried on my shoulder about how frightened and worried she is feeling. I cried too. His dad and I are both really scared, yet grateful to hear news that today, he is still alive…
I also feel anger towards people who are enablers. Please tell me why seemingly intelligent people claim pot is safe, natural, and not addictive? People can get addicted to all kinds of substances, behaviors, and even thought patterns. I wish the folks who don’t understand how powerful addiction is could experience what it is like to be D whose dependence on marijuana has him trapped in a cycle that continually brings him back to using it to feel better. No matter how many times he’s resolved to quit, he has not been able to stop starting up again. And once he’s started, his focus becomes getting access to more. Like so many others with this addiction, at some point he crossed that invisible line between having a choice and becoming powerless to choose whether or not to use the weed D calls “my drug of choice.”
I still have not seen him since he was carried away by the two deputies the Sunday before Christmas. What a way to begin a new year: no vehicle, homeless, deep in debt, no job or savings and clean just long enough to make a resolution to be pot free again. Any time spent zoned out on pot takes away from time for things he could do to make him feel good about himself. He talks about feeling guilty about the wasted time and shamefully admits to lies he’s told each time he comes out of a pot fog and tries to make amends. This addiction cuts him off from his children and the family members he loves but then isolates from when he is involved in his obsession. I’ve never smoked pot, but it looks to me that a pot using life isn’t a happy life.
It’s not a happy way for us to start the year either. I wake to the sound of rain and wonder: did D find a place to sleep last night? Is he warm? Has he eaten? And there are so many unanswered questions. Can anyone’s brain recover from the damaging effects of early pot use? Will his? As parents, did we do something wrong or not enough? I even have trouble enjoying the times when D has been able to be pot free. Because of his pattern of relapse, there’s a kind of “waiting for the other shoe to drop” anxious feeling then too. Also, I have doubts about the competency of the medical profession that seems to prescribe drugs for everything. If D has now developed a mental illness that can be successfully treated, how can he get the correct treatment for it when he can’t keep pot out of his system long enough to get an accurate diagnosis? His dad and I feel a sad helplessness about the whole thing…but enough.
Thank you for reading this, I think I needed to write and didn’t know it. Bless you ladies that are doing this website and I’m sorry for your losses. Hopefully someone will find your site and be helped by taking the “it’s just pot” blinders off. January 15, 2016, Barbara G, Sonoma County, CA