Last year, the esteemed Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN did an astonishing about-face on marijuana. The special that aired on CNN was riveting, and here is the written synopsis of his thoughts, Why I Changed My Mind on Weed. According to BBC News “One in six people who take cannabis for pain relief say their doctor advised them to use it, a survey suggests.”
I could never have imagined that I’d be blogging about weed. There’s a whole history behind this post. When I was growing up, my mother was a chain smoker. She would sit and smoke one cigarette after another from the time she got home from work to the time we went to bed. I had frequent bouts of bronchitis. As I got older, I worried about her health, and would plead with her to stop smoking. Pardon her bigotry, but she would say, “I’m free, white, and 21, and I’ll do what I please.” I had my first eye surgeries, when I was 5 years old, but then the glaucoma kicked in when I was a teenager, and i had one surgery after another for decades — so many eye surgeries that I lost count. Especially after an eye surgery, the smoke hanging in the air would hurt my eyes. When I complained too much, my mother blew smoke in my face!
This was my mother’s favorite place to smoke, and you can see the ashtray on the table beside her rocking chair:
And this was the kind of face she’d make when I tried to talk to her about her smoking:
You can see how it aged her!
When I finally moved away from home, every time I visited my mother, I realized how noxious the nicotine fumes were. When you are living in it, you don’t notice it as much, but once you get away from it, the stench alone makes you want to puke. I guess I was about 9 years old when I got curious about cigarettes and why my mother smoked them. Me and a friend sneaked off to the school playground across the street and lit up a cigarette. It was awful! I coughed and gagged, and didn’t understand why anyone would ever pick up such a habit. I promised myself that I would never smoke cigarettes. And I didn’t … until after I got involved with my wife.
But first things first. My mother and I had a very “difficult” relationship. She was a lot like Paula in many ways. Over the years, I had to increasingly distance myself from her for my own sanity and survival. After I moved away from Arkansas, I would occasionally go back to visit her. Never mind the problems between us — it was the cigarette smoking that was the biggest thorn in my side. I couldn’t stand being at her house! The white telephone was coated yellow in nicotine. Even the white microwave was nearly brown. One time, I tried to salvage my daddy’s piano, and spent hours with furniture polish and rags and cleaners, and still couldn’t get to the bottom layer of the nicotine. She’d ruined his piano.
I cannot begin to describe what it was like, taking a shower at her house. The steam from the shower would cause brown rivulets to trickle down the shower curtain. I’d dry off with towels that reeked of stale tobacco, and feel dirtier than before I had showered.
After I’d gone out on my own, I never allowed anyone to smoke inside my house. Not even my mother. But there came an exception…. The whole story is too long to tell, but my mother had hit a rough patch. I was living in my condominium in Washington, DC, with Kim. It was technically a basement condo, although it was built on a steep hillside, so most of our windows were far above ground. But you had to climb down stairs to get to our unit.
So my mother came to stay with us “indefinitely.” The cigarette smoking was a problem. My mother was not physically able to climb or descend the stairs, and so I would have to carry her up and down when we went anywhere. No way could I carry her up and down for a cigarette outside every 5 minutes. So I relented, and said that she could smoke in the bathroom only, with the door closed.
Kim and I had just had the condo remodeled. Italian stone tile on the bathroom floor. Soft white honeycomb curtains on the bathroom window. A fresh coat of pale turquoise paint. Tub and wall tiles re-glazed. The nicotine was beginning to build up, and so I went into the bathroom with a big bucket of hot water, sponges, and cleaning products. I’d washed down half the walls, when my mother said she needed a cigarette. I asked her to please wait until I’d finished cleaning, and she flew into a tizzy. This unleashed one of those never-to-be-forgotten mother / daughter moments (I wasn’t transitioned from female to male quite yet). The net result was that everything gone unspoken over the years came flooding out, and there was no resolution, so I told my mother she had to leave. All started over her demanding to have a cigarette…
When I first met Paula, I asked her if she smoked — it was a deal-breaker for me. She told me she hadn’t smoked in years because of asthma. Curiously, one of the things I found out after the fact was that she had been smoking during her month-long stay in July 2010, when we got married. During that month, she’d had a habit of getting up at 7am or so and going to the town center for coffee. One day, my friend K, spotted her with a cigarette — but he didn’t tell me until after I’d escaped the UK. I can’t blame him for not telling me — he has his own issues, and he’s a smoker, so naturally he would give her a pass on that one. Her little trips for coffee also included her morning smokes. Now I know why she sucked breath mints constantly, and spritzed herself with deodorant.
Anyway, the lie about her owning her home was dealt with, and i moved to the UK in July 2011, a year after we were married. My first week there, I had my stroke / Bell’s palsy and was admitted to hospital. Sharing again (the woman in the photo isn’t Paula):
The nerve pain was excruciating and remains so even today as I type. I was given amitriptyline, pregabalin, tramadol, and all manner of medications for pain relief, none of which helped. I was also emotionally worn down after the string of lies, and the stress of selling my home and moving overseas. Paula used the situation to suggest that I try weed. So, now a bit more history.
Yes, I grew up in the hippie heyday, and the time of “free love,” but I was not a drug user, including marijuana. Might have been, but as in every other facet of my life, not being able to drive prevented me from doing much socializing. I’d had marijuana a couple of times, and the first experience is one I don’t want to repeat. It must have been laced with PCP or some other chemical, as was common then. Agonizing hours I waited for the effects to wear off and continued to have flashbacks for months. My skin became so sensitive to touch that I couldn’t tolerate the sheets on my bed. Time slowed to the point where I felt like I was living in a slow-motion movie, stuck in the gaps between frames. So I was leery of weed, and yet I was in severe pain and my anxiety was out the roof.
Paula had denied that she ever used drugs or weed, although a family member had told me otherwise. Yet I marveled at how quickly she was able to procure cannabis. I didn’t know how to use it or what to do with it. The couple of times I’d had it in my much younger years, it was passed to me as a joint, ready-made. I watched in fascination as she deftly laid out the rolling papers, broke apart the clumps, added the filter and tobacco, and expertly rolled the joint. I silently thought to myself, “Someone who hasn’t used weed couldn’t be doing this so flawlessly.” Even after watching her many times, I was never able to successfully do it myself.
So there began my use of weed, and I am openly and honestly admitting it. It helped the pain, and most of all, it helped the anxiety. My fears about the well-being of Otis, the lies that were still being told… Yet here is where my truth is going to diverge from Paula’s lies.
Paula will have said that she paid for it all, that I left her with thousands of pounds of debt. Not, not, not true. All one needs do is apply a little logic. In the first place, it was her suggestion, with my reluctance but willingness to give it a try. The main point, though, is that if Paula objected for any reason, money or otherwise, why did she continue to procure it? I didn’t know her seedy contacts. Until I had mobility training, I couldn’t even walk down the street to Tesco, and even after the training, I could only go the few places I’d been taught. If someone said, “Meet me at 6 Locke Court,” how would I have know where that was or how to get there? And even if I had been able of procuring it on my own, I still didn’t know how to roll it, and couldn’t today if I tried. If Paula didn’t want me to have it, all she would have had to do was stop getting it for me!
But she wanted me to have it and the reason she wanted me to have it was because it mellowed me and made me compliant to her wishes. It served her purposes. So she would say to me, “Honey, you’re going to run out tonight, so if I don’t get you more, you won’t have any tomorrow. I’m just going to make arrangements and get £20 out of your wallet.” And she’d reappear with the weed, and sit, and roll it for me while wee watched TV. And oh by the way, she smoked it too. We had some good times in her back garden at twilight, giggling, the kids skittering about before being sent to bed.
The problem came when she was going into my wallet a few too many times, and so I stopped carrying cash. Then she’d say, “Honey, you’re about to run out. I’ll make arrangements, and we’ll stop by the cash point so you can get some money.” She knew I’d always withdraw a little more than was needed. I could get my bank records to prove this point. Cash in my wallet was always easy pickings, and I never once refused her money she asked for. I’ve ticked off some of the larger items I purchased outright or contributed toward: four junk cars, flat screen TV, laptop computer for her, memory foam mattress for the bed, custom made shelves for the bedroom, house paint and floor tile, not to mention her trips back and forth to the US (which she promised to repay but never did), and on and on and on. And yes, contributions constantly for food, gas, electric, petrol, etc. And the scammed £200 for the nonexistent deed to be over-nighted to me. And the many instances of Western Union money transfers…
When I began to notice the pattern, and started to feel like a money tree, and carried as little cash as possible, that is when Paula complained about the marijuana. And that is when I stopped using. But let’s just look at “her side” of the story — that she was paying for all this weed — why didn’t she just refuse to get it??? Why? Because it was her ploy to make me compliant so she could dig into my wallet, that’s why.
The sad part about dropping the weed, though, was that I hadn’t given much thought to the tobacco she was mixing it with. I didn’t notice the tobacco when I was smoking the weed. The taste and smell of the cannabis was sweet. I didn’t realize I was slowly becoming addicted to the nicotine. What a curse, and pox on Paula for leading me down that road! When I stopped the cannabis, I knew I still craved for something, and Paula would say, “Have a cigarette, you’ll feel better.” With the long history I’ve outlined, I was repelled by the notion of smoking cigarettes, but the craving for “something” was so strong… So I smoked the damn cigarettes, and the craving was satisfied. And I’m smoking a cigarette as I type this, and my mother, her ashes in an urn in Arkansas is having a good chuckle. “Told ya!”
I have not had any weed since I’ve been back from the UK. I now know from experience that it is more helpful than many prescription medications, and it’s less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes. Hopefully, medical marijuana will become legal in Maryland in 2015. It’s already legal in Washington, DC, but you have to be a resident of the city to get it.
At least one person in Paula’s family will have quibbled about Paula’s children being exposed to this — something Paula herself didn’t care about unless social services was due to make a visit. In January of this year, Paula told me that Yuri (pseudonym) is hanging out with older kids who sell weed. And Claire’s kids sure use it:
Guilty of many things, but not guilty of:
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