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My first experience with marijuana happened at the age of 15. The group of friends I hung out with, two other girls and three boys, all came from unhappy backgrounds, as did I, and the alcohol that I’d begun drinking at 14 was never enough to quench my thirst so to speak and I wanted to try dope, as did my girlfriends.

The boys however had all been smoking for some time and tried to dissuade us, but we were not to be deterred and were insistent that we wanted to give it a go ‘just once.’

One of the boy’s mums went out on a regular basis so we lined up the night at his place. He told us later that he’d rolled the joints with an excessive amount of ‘black’ (hash) as he wanted us to get sick and be put off from ever smoking cannabis again. As he explained later: “everyone says pot isn’t addictive but from my experience, that’s not true.”

Well the first part worked with one of us girls in the bathroom throwing up and myself and my other girlfriend freaking out, laying on the lounge floor transfixed by a large ornamental brass fly sitting next to the fireplace as it seemed to us that it had taken on living qualities. (Not only was the amount that we smoked excessive, it was also very high quality and quite literally blew our minds!)

Even after the intensity of this experience, it was not long after that we were again asking the boys to get us more. I can’t speak for the other two girls as I haven’t seen them for many years, but for me – I had found my drug of preference. Throughout the following years I would try acid tabs, magic mushrooms, speed, cocaine and anti-depressants, all of which I could take or leave. But pot, that got me where I wanted to go and I loved it. In fact, I could never get enough of it.

I didn’t get fully hooked for about 3 years. Cigarettes and alcohol with a joint whenever I could get it was enough to get me by for a while, but entering a relationship with a man 11 years my senior when I was 18 saw me take my pot smoking to a whole new level.

Looking back on it now, we both struggled with depression and smoking hash quickly became a highlight of our lives and a prelude to sex.

Up until then I had always ‘scored’ through him or my friends but when I moved out of my home town and got a new job I had to fend for myself and gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back when I got my very own dealer.

Two years later I began backpacking, giving myself permission to smoke as much as I wanted, as I was on holiday. I had a work visa and picked up casual work but I was always looking for the opportunity to get stoned. As I got more familiar with working in hospitality I would sneak out during a break and smoke a pipe or two, then back to work for the remainder of the shift trying to remember drink orders as my head would be in ‘happy land.’

By this time I had met the man I would marry. I was sitting outside a pub with my backpacking friend and had asked the barman if he knew where I’d be able to buy some grass. As a gorgeous man pulled up on his motorbike the barman suggested we ask him, not because he was a dealer but because he knew he smoked. Understandably suspect of these two strangers to town asking him to sell them an illegal substance he said no, but took my number as we were also chasing work and he said he may know of some.

I didn’t get work but I did get lots of grass and the man of my dreams! We smoked throughout our 20-year relationship, through pregnancies, breast-feeding, before during and after BBQ’s, before fetes and after. School functions we tried to get through as best we could so that we could return to the safety of our home and get stoned again.

I felt such shame and guilt for smoking while I was pregnant. Abusing my body was my choice but I never in a million years thought that I would force it on another. Such had become my desperation to get high.

Depression was by now a major player in my life and to say I struggled on a daily basis with 2 young children is a gross understatement. By the time our third came along I was overweight, in tremendous physical and emotional pain but with the aid of pot could put a smile on my face to show the world I had it covered.

There were days where I cried and begged them to sleep as I was so exhausted from being a new mother, battling tiredness and mood swings as well as the continuous ups and downs of smoking marijuana.

I judged myself mercilessly and rightly so I thought: what kind of woman puts pot into her unborn child, and again when being stoned and breastfeeding?... Well, the kind of woman that before the children came along would be so uptight and anxious that she would get in the car from work or shopping, crouch down at the side of the steering wheel and pull a cone through the pipe that I never went anywhere without, so desperate to get high that I couldn’t wait to get home in 20 minutes – and that was on a good day.

I remember going out to the garden shed when the children were older, looking at the bong water so dirty with an overwhelming stench but knowing that I would rather disgust myself by sucking on it than take the time to go change the water as that would only delay getting high. It wouldn’t be until the high had passed that I would feel the revulsion of my desperation.

When I look back on my 30-year love/abuse affair with marijuana I now do so with a depth of understanding and care for myself that has only been possible due to accepting that when you feel that unhappy being in your own body there is no limit to what substance you can put into it to make yourself feel better as you struggle to find ways to cope with your day.

I didn’t smoke pot when I was pregnant because I’m a bad person; I smoked pot when I was pregnant because I was depressed, anxious, scared and didn’t feel equipped to deal with the demands of daily life.

I lived in a way that confirmed I wasn’t enough; that I wasn’t important and that no one really cared what I did or didn’t do – including myself.

As our children grew, thankfully with no side effects from my smoking, it became harder to hide, and I knew it was time to stop. Parents lead by example and if I wanted to break the cycle of addiction that ran our family I needed to be ‘clean’ to reflect another option. (Both sets of grandparents drank alcohol on a daily ‘social’ basis).

I remember speaking to a woman that I had come to look up to and after confessing my sins of being the worst mother in the world, she shared with me that she had prostituted herself to feed her heroin addiction. As we both opened up, without judgments I got to feel that her story could easily have been mine as the only difference was our drug of choice in what we both needed to keep ourselves functioning.

I hated myself, but came to the realisation that no matter the pretence I was already hating myself at 15. I didn’t see the ‘point’ of me. Lacking confidence, self-worth and seeing any purpose in my being alive, pot got me through; it was my prescription, my medicine. It was my way of finding me, of holding the world at bay as I tried to gather the pieces of feeling broken, which was why I started smoking in the first place. Because I didn’t care, didn’t feel anyone else cared, so why worry?

Many times I tried to stop. I’d be determined to not smoke that day, at least until the kids were in bed and every day I would become overwhelmed with my lack of ability to cope with anything and everything and could find myself sobbing in my husband’s arms that “I can’t do it, I can’t live without pot”.

I got to the stage that even when I wasn’t stoned my brain function was so affected by the years of smoking cannabis that I could stop talking halfway through a sentence as I’d forget what I was talking about.

Eventually, with the support of a Sacred Esoteric Healing Practitioner, I stopped smoking marijuana. By that time I had already stopped smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.

It was hard.

I’d dread waking up in the morning, fearful when I did, wound up in the worry of how I’d get through the day without anything to relieve the constant anxiety. I was always afraid: afraid of doing things wrong, afraid of the depression, afraid that people would know me to be a fraud, a seemingly loving caring mother on the surface but with this hidden dark and dirty secret buried where I wanted no one to find it. I was deeply ashamed for what I had done.

There were many things that supported me to stop smoking; paranoia was a big one, feeling that I was going insane and would cross over into a place in my mind that I wouldn’t come back from. But while I smoked, it allowed me to escape, to go to a place where I felt ‘safe.’ In those hours of being stoned my anxiety was quieted, I felt that I could cope.

Addiction is addiction no matter what it is. Many reading this will be like I was, pointing a finger full of judgment as to how I could be so uncaring as to smoke and breastfeed and I can tell you that being full of self-hatred was just as bad if not worse for my children.

I have come to know that throughout a lot of those years an hour of being straight was tortuous, as the weight of guilt crushed down on me, guaranteeing a continuation of the perpetual cycle.

I haven’t smoked now for 9 years, and know I never will again. I no longer need to, as self-hatred no longer runs me.

I have dug and continue to dig deep and I’m loving the journey because what I’m finding beneath the surface is an untainted limitless well of love that lives within me, permanently. No matter what we do on the outside, no matter our varying degrees of hurt and pain that we live with, believing to be a part of us so deep that we can’t rid ourselves or change it, in our innermost is the truth of our being and it is gorgeous and it is in each and every one of us.

No matter what we do, it does not change who we are in our innermost.


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DepressionRaising childrenAddictionAnxietyDrugs

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    Photography: Steve Matson, Photographer