The Great Marijuana/Alcohol Debate

Throughout time people have taken sides. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, people need to have an opinion. Once they have it, it becomes very hard for them to switch sides. When they do they are somewhat sheepish. Or, others treat them with disdain regardless of the side they are on. They end up being ostracized by both sides. My girlfriend is very much against getting the Covid-19 Vaccination. However, she owns a place in Arizona and hasn’t been there in almost two years. In order to visit her place in the sun, she must have her shots. She finally gave in and had it done but she is angry. Partly, because she felt bullied but partly, because some friends are acting a little smug. After all, they did it right away. She also has those friends who still haven’t made the decision to vaccinate and they feel somewhat left behind. She went to the other side. She is one of them now. When in fact she just choses for her best life. Everyone has their opinion. I find the same mentality when it comes to snowboarding and skiing. Skiers do not care for snowboarders. When my family took up snowboarding I became very aware of the divide. The passive aggressive actions by both groups on the hill was extremely noticeable. All because of the cultural perceptions attributed to each group. I admit my own prejudices rose up in me whenever I was stopped for a rest and a skier would get a little close. It’s a big hill. No need to spray me. Skiers think boarders are reckless and carve up the hill. Boarders think skiers are old and conservative. Interestingly enough you never see boarders without helmets. But old skiers my age never wear them. If you ask why, they argue that they never wore one growing up. Who is reckless, I ask you. But that’s my boarder mindset coming through.

I came from a religious home. Not a lot of drinking going on there. There was alcohol but I seldom saw my parents drink. I certainly wasn’t exposed to it often. My one brother married into a family that drank and I remember the night they had a stag for him. We were all staying at the home of the brides parents and the ladies were out at a bridal shower. When we returned home later in the evening, my brother was hammered. Over the top sick. I’ll never forget my Mom crying in the bedroom. My Dad trying to comfort her. She was so afraid my brother was going to die and I must admit I was pretty scared. I was eleven years old and this was my first close up encounter with heavy drinking. The other family found it amusing. Two different perspectives. Two different biases.

When I moved to Strathmore, I was ten years old. One of the first girls I met invited me to her home for the weekend. Now this girl is still a very close friend after 50 years, but that first sleepover was terrifying. Her father was a big drinker as were all of their friends. We were in bed when her parents and their friends came home from the bar. Loud and inebriated, the after bar partiers woke me up right away. My friend slept through it all. Her bedroom door opened out to the hallway and was even with the archway into the living room and dining room. I had to go to the bathroom but I knew they would see me if I opened the door. I was afraid. I cowered in my bed squirming for a couple of hours until the people left and the house was quiet. I tiptoed down the hallway to the bathroom thankful I hadn’t peed the bed. It became less terrifying with time but I never felt comfortable in their home.

My husbands sister became my best friend not long after and she stayed at my house a lot. My father in law was an alcoholic and I wasn’t allowed to stay there very often. My Mom was very uncomfortable with the drinking in their home. My father and my in laws worked in the same building and sometimes socialized together so my Mom was aware of the atmosphere. It was around this time that I went to the movies with friends every Friday night. I would walk there in the summer but in the winter when it was cold and dark, Dad drove me. Afterwards when the movie was over my Dad would be waiting outside in the car. Winter or summer. Sometimes I was allowed to walk home with a friend and Dad would pick me up from their house. There was a group of kids that would walk half a block down to the King Eddy Hotel, stand at the door until they got their parents attention and then go wait in the car until their parents came out. I knew these kids quite well. Their parents were all friends and the kids had grown up together. The movie let out at ten and last call was midnight so their parents would come out between twelve and one to bring their kids home. So different from my life. As for my husband, his Dad wasn’t a bar guy. He drank at home. The problem was his drinking was continuous.

As a teen my parents were very anti alcohol. I knew if I drank I would be grounded for life. My social life revolved around sports and concerts. A few small teen gatherings in basements with low lights, music, a stolen kiss or two and a little stolen liquor. I never partook. I did however smoke my first joint when I was fourteen. My parents never caught on. Plus it did seem to help my brain. As someone trying to make it through life with an ADD brain, marijuana was a blessing. In time I tried other things. My long time boyfriend was a huge dabbler and the crowd I ended up in always had access. To anything. Don’t get me wrong, I had a few drunk moments but honestly I didn’t like the loss of control or the morning after. Even through high school I would carry the same beer around for hours at parties. It was easier than saying no. There was a comfort for me with the people I hung around with. Having a spare period at school meant driving round with friends and hiding in alleys to smoke a joint. I even did a hit of acid before my grade eleven chemistry final. Everyone was partying in those last days of school and I had the morning off. So what the heck. Well a guy named Gordon reminded me of the test and broke land speed records to get me there. I arrived without a pencil, slide rule, or a periodic table. Things I needed. And I was late. The teacher sighed as I sat down and gave me what I needed as he quietly whispered in my ear, “I’ll let it go this time”. He didn’t know what I was on but he knew I had taken something. I aced the test. And Gordon was waiting outside to bring me back to the party ten miles north of town. Great end to a great year. I was sent to a Christian boarding school the following year.

I remember the early days of dating my husband. In the bar he sat with his friends and didn’t like to dance so I would play Ms. PacMan. Two club soda’s and a quarter and I was in the game for hours. Challengers pay for the game and I didn’t lose, so I parked there all night. But parties or dances, that was a different story. Mainly we were with his friends and I was a little out of place and as a result my good time was supplemented somewhat. My hubby was taken aback when he became aware of my extracurricular substances. “What did you think was going on” I asked him, to which he replied “I just thought you were a happy person.” Although we spent teen years in the same small town his buddies were the heavy drinkers and mine were the druggies. We even went to different bars. Through the early years of marriage and child rearing I stuck with the occasional joint with friends. Gone were the experimental crazy teen years. Our home wasn’t like those of friends and my husband’s family. We didn’t have parties. We didn’t drink much. If we had a family gathering we bought some beer. A little whiskey. My husband drank more when he was with his siblings than anywhere else. Plus I can only have two drinks and I fall over, so he always drove. Just in case. I still continued my own pastime but of course the legalities meant keeping secrets. My neighbourhood friends weren’t marijuana consumers either so it was on the down low and mainly with high school friends. As my kids grew older they became more aware. And yet, it wasn’t something I did with them or around them.

And then Trudeau legalized weed and all bets were off. I tried buying legal but it was expensive, dry, poorly trimmed… You name it. Frankly I am an organic kind of gal and there were too many news reports about unhealthy anti-fungals being used to grow. My hubby asked me to make some edibles as soon as it became legal. He was so law abiding so he waited until it was legalized. I decided to make some canabutter and proceeded to experiment with brownies and some cookies that he took every night to help him sleep. If I ran out he would go outside and smoke a little just to help him sleep, In time he was a bigger consumer than I ever was I also started to grow my own marijuana at home. It is hard to dose out edibles as a home baker but I always aimed for consistency. The initial investments for a grow tent and lights are high but after that costs are reasonable and you know what you’re getting if you grow your own. So finally I was able to sit on my front step and have a smoke. Soon, we noticed my neighbourhood had a different smell as we went for evening strolls. It was wonderful.

My children have all done their share of partying and their outlets varied. The youngest daughter wasn’t one to smoke pot as a teen and she once asked me about my usage. I told her that it shut the voices off in my head. She was shocked. “You have voices in your head?” I laughed. Having lived my life with ADD I was used to racing thoughts. I always felt like I had a pin ball game going on in my mind. Marijuana helped to slow it down. I could concentrate a little better. I was less anxious. The common treatment for ADHD is speed in various forms which is acceptable because the Pharmaceutical companies call it by different names.

I admit, holidays with my in-laws were stressful. I often had to go outside and hide for a little calm down smoke. After legalization, I would get out of the car, have a few hits while my son and hubby waited and then we all went into the house. I was able to make it through without any stress. I admit that when my oldest daughter had birthday parties for her kids I was often overwhelmed there as well. My husband and I, my daughters family and fourty of my son in laws family made for a tough evening. We were uncomfortable and always felt like outsiders. Which we were. Stopping a few blocks away for a smoke, then driving with the windows open and I was golden upon arrival. My hubby used to laugh at me but he got it. Even large parties with his friends when we were older, he would come out for a breath of air while I had a smoke. Again… He got it.

When my husband got sick I brought all of my home grown stash to a friend who made it into oil for me. There is quite an up side to growing your own. Volume We see marijuana as a cancer cure not just pain relief. The process used did not include heat or harmful solvents so the resulting oil had to be decarbed in order to activate it. I mixed it with a carrier oil in order to thin it somewhat. Rene’ had stage four pancreatic cancer and we had nothing to lose. Initial dosing was under the tongue but as the THC he swallowed was processed through the liver we decided the heavier dosing we were building up to had to be administered rectally. Instant absorbtion. We were walking one day through the neighbourhood chatting about this and he laughed and said “So this is what our marriage has come to. You shoving things up my butt!” He was funny until the end. My oldest daughters friend, an Allopathic Doctor was asked about types of syringes and ways to administer the oils. She felt that it was better not to administer rectally to preserve my husbands dignity. When I told him her opinion, he burst out laughing. “She must be a newlywed” was all he said. And we laughed some more. We talked to the local Pharmacist who was not only helpful, he gave us a huge supply of syringes for free. The Doctor prescribed Hydromorphine for pain but it was ineffective. Plus hard on my husband. We didn’t save him but his last six weeks of life he was pretty stoned, funny and the pain was controlled.

Legalities aside. marijuana still has a stigma attached and it runs through various age groups. Recently my daughter Drew made a comment about her abstinence from alcohol but that she has found marijuana helpful at times of high stress. An acquaintance had a lot of questions but mainly she was curious as to why people make conscious choices that are very different from societal norms. That statement alone shows the bias that will always be held against marijuana.. When individuals are raised in homes where alcohol is a common and acceptable thing, they are more apt to drink. They are more likely to become social drinkers and as a result they think of drinking as more socially acceptable. Marijuana isn’t. To so many people. Yet my daughter has learned a lot about alcoholism since becoming an adult. She recognizes the affect it had on her own upbringing even though we seldom drank in our home. Because alcohol destroys lives. Generation after generation. And there was a long history of alcoholism in my husbands family. The fact that people think it’s okay because it is “legal” is a sad statement on society. There was a time when it wasn’t legal. Or acceptable. In fact, for people like me alcohol holds more negative connotations. I have a glass or two of wine with friends once in awhile but my consumption certainly is low. My daughter and her husband have made the choice to raise their children as we raised ours. Alcohol is for company or special occasions. It is good to have a healthy respect for something that can hurt you on so many levels.

I knew very little about alcoholism when I was young but as a teen and then a young bride I learned a lot. I saw the destruction as an outsider looking in. My in-laws responded to their fathers alcoholism as typical families living with alcoholism do. Reading the book “Adult Children of Alcoholics” certainly gave me greater understanding. Plus I went for counselling five times during my marriage. Not for my marriage but to learn why the in laws were the way they were. Because they were tough folks to be around. I think looking back on my marriage there was a moment in time that spoke incredible volumes. It really did seem to set the course of my marriage and the future of my family. One simple act. My husband had just come home from work. We were in the kitchen of our little apartment and he was in his suit, still wearing his overcoat. He was leaning against the counter as he told me about his day. I was getting supper ready and he was so upset at something someone had done. So I went about my business and I just listened. He continued talking as he took out a glass and proceeded to pour himself a shot of whiskey. A few moments went by until I realized he had stopped talking. I turned to look at him and he was quietly looking at his drink. And then, suddenly he started to pour it back into the bottle. When he was done he put the glass into the dishwasher and put the whiskey back into the cupboard. I guess my look said it all. What was he doing? All he said was “Do you think this is how it starts?” I didn’t realize the importance of that moment for a few years. But my kids do. And now my Grandkids will as well. He chose in that moment to break the cycle.

I have to say over the many years of my life I learned some very big lessons marrying into an alcoholic family. Just because society accepts something doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. And we don’t all accept the same things. And societies norms? They change. People love to joke about alcohol consumption but like anything in life too much is dangerous. What’s that saying? Everything in moderation. Women love their wine jokes but wine really isn’t a joke. It’s very high alcohol. The old wives tale that marijuana leads to drug addiction is just that. A tale. The fact of the matter is the opioid crisis is pharmaceutical driven. And it is a crisis. Frankly there are marijuana dispensaries everywhere and they all seem to be doing a brisk business so I am pretty sure it is a pretty normal thing in society now. Doesn’t mean getting stoned night and day is the answer to life’s problems. As for me it has been almost 47 years since I first tried marijuana and I can honestly say it hasn’t destroyed my life at all. I don’t smoke cigarettes, I seldom drink alcohol, I exercise, I eat mainly plant based and I do yoga and meditate in order to keep my sanity. There was a dark year after my husband died where I rolled up in a ball and cried and cried. I ate potatoe chips for three months and stayed in my pajamas in the basement. But grief subsides and we make our way back to our lives, albeit minus a very special person. But I never turned to alcohol because I knew, “That’s how it starts.”

I once met a guy who had been homeless and was struggling to stay sober. He lived in a room in a boarding house, collecting bottles for money. I hired him now and again to help with landscaping. We had some great philosophical discussions and he told me something he had learned in his life that he felt was the best advice he could give anyone. Whatever you do in your life, never do it two days in a row. That’s how bad habits start. That’s how addiction starts. That’s how alcoholism starts. That is how the spiral starts. That is how societies norms start. Doesn’t mean its good. Does it? He learned the hard way.

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