Pot to Alleviate Alcoholism by "A Working Mother"
“A Working Mother” is a 38-year-old writer/editor living and working in California’s Silicon Valley. She was raised in San Francisco, where pot was “no big deal.” However, her mother (in Connecticut) is sadly convinced that pot fries your brain. This essay provides a counterpoint to such misconceptions, as we learn of an unruly alcoholic husband returned to his innate loving being, a harried mother balancing the household demands by her thoughtful applications of marijuana, and a healthy child learning of her parents special concerns for her welfare.
How Marijuana Saved My Husband’s Life
The cards were stacked against my husband’s sobriety from the beginning. He’s half Swedish, half Irish, hyperactive, brilliantly intelligent, overeducated, and shy around people. All these traits point to socially accepted drinking, and drinking quickly became acute alcoholism. When my husband drinks he becomes belligerent. Whereas some might hurt their spouses and children, and others just get very quiet, my husband’s method was to run screaming in the streets, begging for a fight, particularly with cops or other authority figures, as he was beaten frequently as a boy by his sea-captain father.
And so San Francisco’s finest dealt with him, and locked him up, and often lost their tempers, and punched out his teeth and once cracked his skull. For over twenty years he drank, went to jail, got beaten up, and wrote a lot of anguished poetry.
Then he turned forty. After an altercation involving alcohol, two feuding girlfriends and a gun on Market Street, he was given an ultimatum. Either live in a halfway house, take “ninety (AA) meetings in ninety days,” and all arrests would be cleaned from his record, or he’d go down on felony charges. He chose the former.
To help you quit drinking when you’re a real diehard, they introduce something called Antabuse (disulfiram) into your system. It’s a behavioral drug with terrifying physical effects. Take one Antabuse and don’t go near alcohol for several days after that. The combination won’t kill you, but you’ll wish it had. You get hot and puffy and have terrible headaches, a madly beating heart… for hours and hours you’ll be in hell. IT WORKS. Once you go there, you take care not to go again. After taking it, you have to watch out for hidden forms of alcohol, such as most underarm deodorants, and soy sauce.
My husband cleaned up. But the prospect of being hyperactive, brilliantly intelligent, overeducated, and shy around people WITHOUT any shield between himself and the world was horrible, and made him very sad.
Luckily, pot was fun for him. After kicking the alcohol, he realized he really enjoyed pot. The beer and booze had just masked all the fun stuff that pot does to your head. He treated himself with minute, daily doses of marijuana. Slowly, he went through the twelve steps. Slowly, he graduated from halfway house to a single room in a residential hotel. One day he started to paint. Then he started to sculpt using found objects and materials. For two years he lived a monk’s life. This is where his paycheck went: child support, rent, pot, and Top Ramen noodles. His eighth of weed lasted a few days and then he toughed it out until the next paycheck. Occasionally, he backslid. Every time he drank, he got into trouble.
Then he and I met and we fell in love. I’m not an alcoholic and I couldn’t put up with many drinking events. It quickly became clear that our marriage depended on his continued abstinence from drinking.
It took us about ten years to figure out the best pattern of medication to keep him from wanting to drink, and here it is. Because our dealer lives far from town, my husband makes the trek just before the weekend. We enjoy one or two eighths over the weekend, doled out like gold, like the medicine it is. Then, on Sunday, when we have a bowl left, I give him an Antabuse. That way, he isn’t tempted to drink before Wednesday. By Wednesday, he’s already confirmed next weekend’s plans, so he knows the good stuff’s coming and he can relax. As best he can.
Another factor is that my husband can’t sleep past 3 a.m. He lies awake at the mercy of his brilliant brain and feels the vast void and all the pain that’s in the world. Is it the Irish Swedish combo? I don’t know. But on the days we have pot, he smokes and gets four more luxurious hours of sleep. That smoothes his nerves out. Tuesdays through Thursdays, he doesn’t get that sleep.
So, a stoner dude, does he just sit around and do nothing? Hardly. He works, comes home and cleans the house, cares for our daughter, lifts weights, and paints daily. He also reads around 200 books a year, and watches sports when possible. The pot adds a fun dimension to his routine during the day and lets him sleep at night.
Everyone we meet from AA says that our routine is no good because he hasn’t really become clean and sober. I disagree with their presumptions. I have attended those meetings and seen folks transfer their addictions from harmful substance to meetings+coffee+cigarettes+sugar. Furthermore, there is no “one treatment fits all” for various psyches, especially for artists. Artists are mavericks, and the revivalist quality of AA meetings, and the have-to-go-endlessly rules can kill the very thing worth preserving within an artist: the wondering, open, incoherent child spirit. Why do they drink in the first place? Jung says, to paraphrase badly, that they are yearning for spirit, communion with God, inspiration, and it’s no wonder we call booze “spirits.”
And As For Me
I am a poet/writer/editor working within a multinational technology corporation. Much of my twenties were spent in the company of other poets, painters, writers, all trying various combinations of drugs and lifestyles. The drinkers and speeders – without exception – died young or went crazy. The pot smokers, to my knowledge, did not. Some did their art, some just talked endlessly about it.
My office is the temple of Apollo, where qualities such as logic, progress, clarity, and linearity are highly in demand. I’ve long since stopped smoking before my job and gone to the weekend schedule described above, to respect this and to achieve Apollonian thinking when I need it. But at home, efficiency is NOT king and progress is not ruthless. At home I need to be sensitive to food and to place, and to the subtle feelings of my family. Home is where Dionysus can sprawl, where we laugh, make drawings, dress up, tell stories. We can BE, we don’t have to DO. This is also a relief for my daughter, who is already overloaded with homework by second grade.
Whether you smoke or not, I bet you don’t like to do chores after corporate life all week. Many of my contemporaries hire maids and nannies. You get so fatigued, and kind of spoiled by the successes of the corporate world. Well, pot makes it more fun to fold clothes, wash dishes, and vacuum. It pulls me out of office-linearity and I enjoy getting my hands wet and peeling potatoes. I often take a puff before playing dolls with my daughter. She knows I’ll become absorbed in dressing them and playing out whatever plot she’s constructed. She also knows that after about half an hour, I’ll get distracted by tidying up her room. This way she gets a tidy room each week (she helps) without any yelling.
Leisure at home: I read all week, mostly off of the computer screen. So at home, I don’t really want to read or watch the TV screen. Pot is great for me. I sit with a bowl and my blank book and catch all the thoughts that rise up. I also acknowledge the many small blessings in my life. I remember things from way back, and fragments of dreams. I chat with aspects of myself and write notes to friends. I watch the tree outside our window and think about colors and seasons. I could do it straight, have done so. But pot is so freeing. Then there are the times my husband and I smoke and settle in for a two-hour talk. We share so much, and often the plans we make shape the next portion of our lives. Or we’ll all go for a walk on the marsh together, my daughter gleefully skating ahead, while my husband and I giggle over strange birds and goofy ideas.
We have had pot with money and without money. Because smoking helps us to be content with the way things are, we have avoided the following: overshopping, moving into bigger places, buying anything on time, credit card debt, excessive travel. That said, we live comfortably, eat well, and enjoy books, music, and friends. We know our neighborhood and its inhabitants. We can walk a mile without thinking it’s too long. A walk to the park, a swim in the local pool, hours in the library, a matinee, a day of museums-these are simple pleasures we routinely enjoy, because we’re not en route 85mph to Greener Grasses. In Silicon Valley, this is no mean feat!
The Down Sides
I tend to get more self-absorbed after smoking, so it takes a huge parental effort not to, because my daughter needs me. I had to become aware of this dynamic so I could use my will to pay attention to her rather than myself. I’ve since evolved from merely being irritable to making myself see things from her point of view. The way I see it, ten years from now, I’ll have all the time and space in the world to become self-absorbed, but I won’t have a little girl asking me to play with her or look at what she’s just done.
Another downer: it’s illegal and she’s getting big anti-drug and anti-pot messages through TV and school. We are honest with her. We reason like this:
1. It’s medicine to her Dad, and she sees how he sleeps much better.
2. Alcohol, which is legal, is much worse for her Dad and, genetically extrapolated, for her.
3. NO drugs are good for kids, and neither is marriage, driving, or fighting in a war. All that stuff is for adults.
4. Smoking pot is against the law, but this particular law may change. Alcohol was prohibited for years earlier on. Cigarettes are now culturally prohibited.
We don’t like to expose her to secondhand smoke, so we creep off to smoke. But it’s not a secret. As she gets older and more things come up, I’ll deal with them. I’m also prepared to give it up for a few years if she feels she needs a sober parent to balance with a smoking parent. But again, she’s very aware of how medicinal it is for her Dad. I think she’s caught on that his focus isn’t great while stoned, but he’s fun to do art with (and more willing to buy snacks).
Finally, it is hard to make that stuff last! But that’s because both my husband and I have somewhat addictive tendencies, not because of the plant. An old fellow once said, “Don’t smoke when you’re high or your stash will get low.” That extra bowl, ‘just for the fun of smoking,’ blows us through our stash time and again. Then, Monday night, we wish we had it.
From crazed drunk in the streets to wonderful painter and family man. And a poet/Mom who keeps sane, balanced, and creative in the midst of the rat race. Marijuana is not for everyone, but for us, it’s a miracle plant.