Eight years ago, somewhere between scheduling play dates for my youngest and running our household I caught my 16-year old son smoking weed with a few friends. Upon discovering this scene, I became irate. What was he thinking? Hadn't we talked about choosing not to use drugs? Was I being naive thinking my child would never... Whatever the case may be when it comes to teens and drugs, every mother fears for their child.
And my fears were further amplified since addiction ran in our family. Part of me felt my son was just being a typical teenager, experimenting. But the other part of me, my intuitive side, knew he was using this particular drug to escape his reality. You see both his father and step-father battled drug addiction and I feared the trickle-down effect.
My primal urge was to protect my child, thus I just couldn't stand by and not punish my child for his choices. This began my campaign to complain and harp on how marijuana is a "gateway" drug, that is, a drug that increases the likelihood of using hard core drugs such as cocaine. Honestly, I believed the key to deterring marijuana use was to nag, nag, and nag some more.
The last thing I wanted for my children was a future in and out of jobs, or worse yet a life filled with addiction. But I had seemed to have forgotten about that teenage girl I once knew who also tried pot -- me! Had I looked at myself, I would have realized that pot use doesn't automatically lead to abuse. Marijuana had not become a gateway drug for me.
Now, let's fast forward to just a few months prior to my son turning 21-years-old. To a time when I am being handed a prescription for both Dronabinol and Nabilon (drugs derived from marijuana). These drugs were being ordered to help me with the chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. I had been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer and my weight had plummeted to 108 pounds -- too low for my five-foot-ten-inch body. Admitted finally to a local hospital, I was force-fed through an IV at a cost of a grand per day to my health insurance carrier. After two three-week stays in the cancer ward, I was released, only to start losing weight again.
Fortunately, a member of my oncology team knew exactly what to do about my drastic weight loss. I was urged to get my hands on the real deal -- marijuana, a.s.a.p. And if I couldn't find help, it was implied help would be provided. Hell yes, I was conflicted about using cannabis. At that time, Marijuana hadn't even been approved for medical use in the sunshine state.
Think about it, it's not like I didn't spend years yelling about how pot was bad and bad for you. Judge me if you will, and you will. All I can say is that my body was starving itself, because the cancer cells needed more food, more energy. Not only was I rail thin, but I was weak, constantly sick, and no good to anyone, let alone my children. Physically, my body had hit rock bottom; it was as if I was at the threshold of death, maybe because I was at that point.
Still, somewhere deep inside of me I knew my mission in life wasn't yet complete. This was the point; I began writing my memoir -- RAW: One Woman's Journey Through Love, Loss, and Cancer. I knew I was at a crossroads. I needed to make a change or do something different. My survival depended on it. But taking an uncharted path meant I needed to peel away layers of negative thinking, even with regard to using marijuana.
A call was made and I was able to secure some weed. Privately, I took a few hits, and to my surprise, I actually began to feel better -- less nauseated. Finally, I began to feel an improved sense of well-being, and I was less anxious overall. In my experience, pot made me feel better, much better!
But that's not to say I didn't feel like one hell of a hypocrite after years of vilifying cannabis. Really and truly, it was difficult to reconcile my past and present beliefs on weed, especially when it came to parenting. Of course, I hid my pot use from my other two children. But I'm not afraid to admit it -- using pot saved my life! How could I not brag about the beneficial effects of weed? Marijuana improved the quality of my life during my fight against cancer.
Fiona Finn is the author of RAW: One Woman's Journey Through Love, Loss, and Cancer.