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As I was going through my morning emails today, a subject line caught my attention. It read:
Possible Story - Why The Rise in Marijuana Moms?
Okay, I'm intrigued. So I open it and begin to read. (For purposes of this article, names have been redacted)
More mothers are smoking marijuana than ever before. These mothers are labeled marijuana moms and claim it is perfectly healthy. Critics say it isn’t and point to dangers in smoking marijuana and breastfeeding and other issues. What is leading this rise in marijuana smoking moms? What are the dangers?
Able to discuss this and more is Dr. Keith, a leading nutritionist and CEO of the NAMED program. Dr. Keith says that this rise in marijuana smoking mothers is largely due to self-medication for depression and slight forms of mental illness. (First warning right there - I've been around mental illness for over 35 years ... there's no such thing as "slight" forms of mental illness. Either ya got it or ya don't.)
He can discuss how this is a danger and what can be done and should be done to alleviate it. He has appeared on FOX News Channel for his expertise. (Fox News Channel? Expertise? Oh yeah - those are two phrases that do NOT belong in the same sentence.)
Would you be interested in interviewing him on this?
As I read the email, keep in mind that I have been awake since 6:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Today is Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. and I've not been to sleep. I've been worried all night about how I am going to tell my 17-year-old son (who is two hours from home in a residential treatment center for several mental health disorders he is having to learn how to deal with and manage) that one of his best friends died Tuesday evening from a drug overdose.
Do I Break Out the Prim and Proper?
I usually have a nice form letter that I will send to publicists informing them that while I appreciate them thinking of me for the story, it just is not a good fit for my website. But something struck me this morning.
Why should I hide behind a nicely-worded form letter?
Why shouldn't I tell someone what life is really like here for us, and for thousands of other mothers around the world dealing with the exact same issues?
So I sat down at my keyboard and began to type.
#MarijuanaMoms - The Reasons For Our Rise
This is the actual email, in it's entirety, that I sent to Mr. Publicist. Only the names have been changed.
Hi Mr. Publicist! No disrespect or anything – but I had to laugh when I read your story pitch. So Dr. Keith believes that the rise in marijuana smoking mothers is largely due to self-medication for depression and slight forms of mental illness. How this is dangerous and what can and should be done to stop it.
Here are several possible reasons Dr. Keith may wish to ponder.
A Dysfunctional Family
My Family Dynamics
I have a 17-year-old son who has had ADHD since the day he was born. As he’s grown, so have his mental health issues—in addition to his ADHD, he has been diagnosed by three other physicians with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, moderate to severe depression, panic and anxiety attacks, and manic bi-polar tendencies. When he turned 15, he started getting into trouble with the law, drinking and taking illegal drugs such as acid and ecstasy—in addition to the 3 to 5 other prescribed medications that he was taking every day.
Then you add a 14-year old son who also has mild depression and moderate to severe anger disorder, and a 58-year-old husband who has several mental health disorders as well.
So then there is me, MOM. When my youngest son was born, I had to quit my job and stay at home to take care of the two boys and my 15-year-old daughter because, had I continued to work—I would have cleared maybe $20 a week after daycare expenses, gas to and from work, and for business attire (I was a legal secretary for 18+ years).
Feeling Trapped with Your Children
Trapped with a Newborn & an ADHS 4-Year-Old
So here I am—stuck at home with a newborn and a 4-year-old who RAN NON-STOP from the moment he opened his eyes until he fell dead asleep around 1 a.m. every night from sheer exhaustion. (and he would be wide awake again at 6 a.m. ready to go again) We lived in the country—with one vehicle—which my husband had while he was at work all day.
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
After 6 months I went to see my family physician for help because if somebody did not do something soon to help me cope, it was going to be me or the kids—one of us would have been gone. He put me on Prozac which was my godsend for 3 years. I finally reached the point where I no longer needed it to help me cope—on a daily basis—so I stopped the medication on my own.
My daughter was able to help with taking care of the two boys some—but being a teenager she had her own life to lead and when she turned 17-years-old she moved out. She could not deal with the constant turmoil and when she was given an opportunity to move in with a friend, she jumped at the chance. She finished her senior year of high school living with her friend - leaving me on my own with the two boys—again.
Dad's Job—Go to Work and Pay the Bills
As the only breadwinner in our household, my husband worked anywhere from 10 to 14 hours a day. We barely survived paycheck to paycheck. So caring for the boys became my sole responsibility.
Mom's Job—Managing the Home and the Children
Doctor appointments, counseling appointments, psychiatric appointments, IEP meetings, school disciplinary meetings, 10-day, 20-day, 30-day suspensions from school, arranging alternative education for my eldest son.
Then as he got older, and in trouble with the law, there were psychiatric evaluations, home studies, family counseling at home, family counseling with the therapist, mentors, probation officers, court hearings, visitations one to two times a week for extended periods of incarceration at the juvenile detention center.
This has been my life for the past 17 years.
Trouble with the Law, Incarceration, & Treatment Centers
My eldest (the 17-year-old) was arrested on February 6th for breaking and entering in vehicles to steal a stuffed animal for his girlfriend and to steal an iPhone charger and case and an Android charger. Why? Because I did not have the money to give him to purchase more to replace the ones he lost. The ones that were less than a month old.
He was in a juvenile detention center until March 24th, at which time he was transferred to a residential treatment center.
While at the center, he was involved in at least one physical altercation with other residents every week, was involved in several riots that occurred by the residents in the center, and finally was kicked out of that residential treatment center when he broke the sprinkler system in the boy’s bathroom on his unit.
That stunt caused the entire unit to be flooded, over $8,000 worth of damage done to the unit floors and sprinkler system and electrical wiring. We are still waiting to learn if they are going to hold us responsible for the damage that he caused.
So on June 19th we picked him up at one treatment center and drove him to the new treatment center, two hours away from home.
Mom's Job Equals Mom's Expenses
In the past 25 weeks that he has been incarcerated and in residential treatment facilities—I have spent over $3,000 traveling to and from these various locations to see my son. That figure does not include vehicle maintenance costs or even take into account the 18,000 miles we have put on the car in the past 5 months.
I have over $500 in co-payments for his residential treatment care that our insurance company and his treatment team coverage does not cover.
All of these expenses—his residential treatment co-payments, the travel expenses, etc.—those are all MINE. I am the one who works 12 to 14-hour days almost every day of the week to earn the money I need to take care of this added expense.
My husband's check covers our household bills (barely) and leaves him just enough spending cash to allow him to get away once or twice a month to go fishing for a day.
My Kids Aren't Always Hell on Wheels
The 14-Year-Old. Even with his depression and anger disorder, is a pretty well-adjusted kid. He spends his summer break and vacation time with his friends, creating and producing music tracks and mix-tapes for local R&B artists here in the Richmond area. He has performed one of his original songs, on stage, for a nationally-recognized organization and he writes all of his own music.
When school is in session—he plays sports and does his best to obtain at least C’s in all his subjects.
The 17-Year-Old. Before he was incarcerated and then sent to residential treatment, he self-taught himself to play guitar, the drums, and worked on perfecting his voice. He and several of his friends put together a band, Hopes of the Lost, and there were daily sessions after school that he needed to be driven to and picked up from.
When he’s not working with the band, he spent his time creating phenomenal graphic art covers (for bands and games) on his computer. He then opened up his own bank account and began selling his designs to gamers and cover bands around the world.
As I was writing, I realized that I had so much more to share. So I decided to also give Mr. Publicist and Mr. Keith a peek into my childhood history.
I was sexually abused by my stepfather from the age of 11 until I was 17.
I found myself in three relationships where domestic violence was the norm and being smacked, kicked, punched, or raped was a weekly occurrence.
I married a Marine at age 19, a man I thought would take me away from everything I'd known and love me forever. We would have a beautiful home with a white picket fence, 2.3 children, and a family dog.
We got married, got in the car, and returned to North Carolina where he was stationed. Being it was our honeymoon, I assumed we would be staying at a hotel until we could find a home off base. I spent my honeymoon reclined in the front seat of the car in a parking lot in a strange town, while my husband slept in his barracks, on base, in a nice comfortable bed.
At age 21, my daughter was born and she became the center of my world. A few years went by, and my husband was offered a promotion to drill instructor at Parris Island, South Carolina to train new Marine Corps recruits. We traveled to South Carolina on two separate occasions to look at homes, and my husband assured me that we would be able to stay at the temporary housing lodge on base until we found a home for the three of us.
The day of our final inspection of our base housing in North Carolina, as we were doing a last-minute check to ensure everything was clean, he informed me that he wanted a divorce. He was leaving for South Carolina but my daughter and I would not be accompanying him. He was gone within the hour.
I had quit my job two weeks earlier. We had already given up our base housing and another family was waiting to move in. No job, no money, no car, no house. Thanks to the kindness of friends, I had a place for my daughter and I to stay until we could figure out what we were going to do.
As my dreams disintegrated around me, so did my emotional state. I crumbled, and began drinking. Heavily. At least three to four nights a week for over a year.
Taking Drug Abuse to New Levels
My sister watched my mother die at the age of 10 and had a complete and total mental breakdown. She was in a treatment center and then a group home for a total of 18 months before my dad was able to regain custody of her.
When she did return home, she was raped at age 13 by a friend and became pregnant. My dad could barely control her, he was not equipped to be able to care for her and a newborn baby. My sister's beautiful baby girl, named after our mother, was placed for adoption. It truly and completely broke the last shred of hope within my sister.
She turned to drugs and alcohol—hard stuff—daily to drown out the pain in her heart. When she was older, she worked simply to support her drug habit. She lived at home, so Dad took care of paying the bills and maintaining the numerous cars he would buy for her - and she would then completely total several months later.
Drinking excessively, doing acid and ecstasy and cocaine and marijuana.
Quite honestly, I did not expect her to live past the age of 20 at the rate she was going. The only thing that saved her was being incarcerated. Our dad passed away when she was incarcerated, and she never got the chance to tell him she was sorry for the things she had said to him during their last phone call, and she never got the chance to say goodbye to him.
When she was finally released after our dad passed so she could take care of his funeral arrangements (she was the executor of his estate), she was clean and made a promise to me and to our departed parents she would not go back to being the way that she was.
She turned her life around for herself and my two nieces and nephew. She married the love of her life a year after dad passed away, and was reunited with her daughter that she'd given up for adoption all those years ago.
What Do We All Have In Common?
The one thing that my two sons, my sister, and I all have in common? Marijuana.
Cannabis is a PLANT. Every living animal, plant, and human on this Earth was put here by God himself. The man-made medications, the drugs, the alcohol—are the items that are dangerous.
Pharmaceutical companies make billions and billions of dollars by coercing doctors into prescribing more and more medications to treat every tiny ailment that is wrong with us. When one medication damages an area of your body, they prescribe another medication to repair it or to maintain its current state so you can continue to survive.
If you cannot afford healthcare, as many cannot, but due to budget cuts and extremely limited resources, when a one-income family of four barely surviving paycheck to paycheck cannot even qualify for medical assistance—just how are they expected to pay for all of these medications? It's simple. YOU CAN'T.
So we smoke so that we can live to fight another day.
We do not smoke to get high. We are not raiding the fridge, giggling uncontrollably, hallucinating and seeing things that are not there; we do not become paranoid or delusional. We smoke when we need to tell our brain and our bodies to relax, to stop obsessing on one thought, one problem. We smoke to relieve stress. We smoke to give ourselves a short respite from over-thinking, over-analyzing, every little aspect of our lives.
We smoke so that we can have a few brief moments of peace and calm. My sons are full of laughter and love and embrace family time gathered around the television just relaxing and enjoying each other's company after smoking.
We Are Stressed the F*#k Out
Mothers who are stressed, or feel as though they have failed their families in some fashion, that they are incapable of living up to society's expectations to be perfectly manicured, dressed impeccably at any given moment of the day, are going to need a respite.
When they are expected to have respectful and well-mannered toddlers who never disobey or throw temper tantrums, when they are made to feel inferior because they cannot take care of multiple children, at various ages, with varying needs 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, when there is never enough time for the cooking, cleaning, washing, decorating, picking up, financial budgeting and planning—when one or more of these things combine—you are going to find mothers who are depressed.
You are going to find mothers with a wide range of mental illnesses if they have suffered in silence for too long.
Sometimes, You Just Gotta Take Five
YOU ARE GOING TO FIND YOUR MARIJUANA MOMS hiding in every garage, bathroom, clubhouse or tree house just so that they can take a few quick puffs.
Please pass along my email to Dr. Keith and tell him that—when he has walked several miles in the shoes of a mother trying to hold her family together, maintain her own health and mental well-being, and deal with everything I've laid out above in this email—and often times much more, much worse—than I would consider him an "expert" in the field and entertain the thought of listening to what he has to say.
Until that time, I will be right smack dab in the middle of the millions of other Marijuana Moms surviving the chaos… one day at a time.
I cannot honestly say that I expect to receive an answer, or that he will even forward my email to Dr. Keith—but I feel better getting that off my chest.