Closet Marijuana users and low self-esteem.

Sobriety Navigator: Closet Marijuana users and low self-esteem. 

Marijuana is the intoxicant of tomorrow. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? Of course tomorrow never comes. Marijuana is also a great tool for avoiding life’s challenges and demands. Quite often, after a few joints, a problem will turn into no problem at all. There is a myth that since Marijuana is organic that it is not harmful.  In reality, there are over 180 different toxins in Marijuana. And if you don’t believe it is not physiologically destructive, try telling that to the surviving family of a closet marijuana smoker. 

From the age of 15 until his death at 50, an intelligent, attractive man used marijuana as a substitute for healthy personal relationships. In the beginning, marijuana was his surrogate parent and care giver, filling the void that was left by the neglect and abuse inflicted upon him by his real parents.  Just observing him walking down the street, you would assume that he was a successful man who had it all together. There is a saying in 12 step programs, “The worse I felt, the better I looked.” By all appearances this man was living the American dream. He looked good and so did his home and family.

What was not apparent was that this man lived with a secret; a secret that burdened him just as much as his addiction. The secret was shame.  Every morning, long after he was a grown man and out from under the dysfunction and abuse he had experienced as a child, he continued to self-medicate with the intoxicant, marijuana.  Marijuana had continued to be the surrogate significant emotional care giver in his life. Although he had married, his real significant other was the drug, not his wife. By marrying a woman who was emotionally unavailable and had a deep loathing for any real or deep attachments, this union was the perfect marriage of dynamics. This man even expressed once that his wife depended on him to be a screw up, and he did not disappoint. His wife was approached by an outside family member about doing an intervention for him on three separate occasions and she just brushed it off.

Over the course of 20 years he toyed with the idea of joining a 12 step program for addiction.  He even attended a few meeting. These brief attempts at seeking help were temporarily spurred on by a major crisis within the household, where domestic violence and rage were the norm.

Three years prior to his death he went to the doctor for what he thought was stomach ulcers and was given some medication. He never followed up with the doctors. Instead, he just got stoned even more.  Avoidance behavior had been a lifesaving childhood tool and helped him cope with some unbearable situations. But reality will eventually catch up with an addict and avoider.  When it did, it was too late for him. Apparently the stomach problem was really a stomach cancer.  His entire stomach was now a massive tumor.

So now the closet marijuana addict was ready to clean his life up, but it was too late. Shortly before he died at the age of 50, he stated three things that gave clarity and insight as to why he never seriously tried to get help:

  1. He said he was always ashamed of who he was.
  2. He said his soul was an elusive essence outside of himself and somehow he had to earn it, but had never quite figured out how to do that.
  3. He said he had never been happy and that he did not know how to be happy.

Both his spouse and parents were made aware of the need for an intervention and chose not to arrange one. They knew of the power and success that can result from interventions. Just exposing the secrets is often enough to motivate a substance abuser to stop. I truly believe a genuine, loving spouse and a timely intervention could have saved his life.

He used to love watching the sunrise at his favorite nature spots and would say, “This is what heaven looks like.” I hope it does and that he was not disappointed again.

By Cynthia Peterson                                                                                           



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