I can see it now, the uproar. The Big Book thumpers going after me for this title alone. “Um, no, you’re not sober. Pot and sobriety don’t go together. Denial is so sad.” Or the patronizing axiom even I have used on occasion, “Don’t worry, we will save you a seat [in the rooms of AA].”
Hold on, Smug-y McSmugerson, before you prescribe the cure-all Wizardry of the 12 steps (I’ve worked them 3 times) consider that I’ve tried almost every anti-depressant and mood stabilizer on the market and not one of them worked long term, without prohibitively bad side effects. Sadly even your magical AA unicorn juice gave me heartburn.
A few years back, I tried Cannabinoids with almost no THC (so I wouldn’t get high) with sponsor approval, but it only took a few days before it was clear that was not going to work. Over a year and a half of on and off suffering later, after much research, I was starting to consider that I might actually need the “high” part to counteract my terrible lows. Many pharmaceuticals have psychoactive side effects and most AA people do not balk at those, though some do. Either way, I no longer had health insurance and was unwilling to get back on the prescription drug roller coaster ride.
I’ve been going to Alanon on and off for at least ten years. I wrote about coming to AA through Alanon for Afterparty’s How I Got Sober publication. I need Alanon because I grew up with Russians which is, in my mind, a more defining character trait than the drinking. In my experience, Russians tend to invest emotionally in their children as if the umbilical cord was never severed, alternating smothering love with a deep, culturally-earned rage. They also have a tendency to over-dramatize, controlling their kids’ every move with fear. A cold becomes pneumonia, a child not wearing a jacket is already halfway towards an untimely end. Russians have poor boundaries—ergo, so do I.
I hadn’t been to an Alanon meeting in a long time. When I recently went back, it was because I was worried that when my boyfriend started smoking pot again (he’d been on a pot cleanse since I’d known him) his personality would change drastically. I was also concerned that I might be tempted to break my fifteen year streak of no weed, which started way before my sobriety in AA. It turned out his personality did change (for the better) but that other thing also happened. One day, after I felt particularly triggered by a “discussion” we’d been having, I found myself contemplating the following choices:
- Run screaming from his apartment.
- Jump out the window of his 6th floor apartment.
- Stay in the apartment, but take a hit of pot.
So I reached for the vape pen next to his bed while he was in the bathroom and took a few hits.
I can hear you exclaim, “Oh no—the dysfunction! What a terrible relationship! She can’t stand to be with him unless she is high. This is bad. I’ll pray for her…”
Put away the rosary beads Rosalie, because I know. I’ve played it over in my mind more times than you. I’ve had more time to obsess. Even my guy was kind of surprised (“Um, are you sure?”) Of course I was worried—I’m a Russian Jew for God’s sake, we don’t mess around when it comes to worry. But as soon as I took that first hit, it helped. It has continued to help in the ensuing months, not only with my depression, anxiety and tendency to become overwhelmed, but also with my unfortunate propensity to check out and not participate in life.
Since then I have spent time experimenting with many of the different types of marijuana that are legally available in my state. I figured out the only kind that works for me. Are there times when I have gotten “high” or done a little too much? Sure, but it was not my intention. My primary motivation is to feel “okay” or “good,” enough to function, and able to handle stress on a personal, emotional and professional level. Pot has made me a better person and a better parent. It works if you work it!
Recently, I went back to Alanon and found myself sheepishly raising my hand.
“Um hi, I’m Susanna…” (pause as I remembered not to say “I’m an Alcoholic” and almost flinch at the immediate “Hi Susanna” I’m greeted with instead) “So there’s this person who is close to me, I know her really well, and today would have been her eight year sobriety birthday. Except last year she started using pot for her depression. So she’s not technically ‘sober’ but she is doing fine, it’s helping her. I know it is, like I said I know her really well, but I am still worried, because I worry about people, places and things that aren’t my business. And well, I know I am not supposed to break my anonymity, but that person, who is now using pot for depression, is me.”
An audible gasp, some of the ladies even stopped clicking their knitting needles—it was the equivalent of the piano player stopping when the cowboy enters the Saloon. Except this time my addict personality was the cowboy and a bunch of older ladies with alcoholic husbands were the patrons of the bar.
I know my addict and that bitch is a cowgirl for sure. At any time she can kick in doors, guns blazing, to take down everybody in the building. She can lasso any of my hopes and dreams in an instant, and drag them to the ground. It’s just that I have so much Program in me from the last 12 years, the way I use medical marijuana is more like the lady crocheting a doily, than the cowgirl.
It had been fifteen years since I’d had Mary Jane and times have certainly changed. The weed itself is not the same. There are many more different kinds and they are much stronger than when I was a teenager. Most importantly for me, is that science now knows that pot can be a miracle cure for depression at very small doses, but with overuse it becomes a powerful depressant. I use it with the intention of helping me function better. However, because I am aware of my addictive personality streak, it has to be managed more carefully than, say, if I had found a magical cure for depression in croquet.
Please do not use this article as an excuse to do the same. Do not lose your precious sobriety if you already know that the pot cure is not for you. My days of “controlled drinking” are done and I have no intention to break my alcohol sobriety. But if the choice is to live or die, I have to choose life. I still kinda sorta celebrated 8 years sober, though I didn’t have the temerity to go to a meeting and take a cake (and you know how potheads love cake). I did, however, take myself out for hot chocolate and an Alanon meeting.
The good news is, none of the ladies followed me out into the church parking lot screaming like an angry mob. They didn’t accuse me of being off the rails and tell me I needed to go back to AA before I found myself robbing gas stations on meth. Many days I find myself weeping with a gratitude I struggled for years to find in AA, even after about 10,000 gratitude lists. Also I have three-and-a-half months off evil nicotine! That’s gotta count for something, right?