One woman's Postpartum Anxiety turned drug addiction
Posted Jul 19 2009 11:56pm
WOW: This brave mama talks about her horribly destructive and addictive habit that she developed when self-medicating her PP Anxiety...
After I had my son, I had severe postpartum anxiety, which resulted in insomnia and lack of appetite. I felt so much shame because I loved my son more than anything, but I was such an emotional wreck. I tried different homeopathic and traditional therapies, none of which were effective. I had a therapist who only knew me as a sober and highly functioning woman. She told me her daughter had a prescription for medical marijuana. "It's a nothing drug," my therapist said, "Everyone does it."
This underground trend of the therapeutic and medical community promoting medicinal marijuana is eerily similar to the time when doctors pushed Valium on "stressed" women. The point is not whether it's better or worse than alcohol, because doctors don't prescribe a fifth of Jack for insomnia. And while yes, marijuana should be legal just as cigarettes and alcohol are, because people should be free to choose, it's well established that some people can't handle those things. The legal arguments are getting tangled up with people's flat-out desire to smoke weed, which is understandable, because the fact is, getting high is awesome and people like to believe that things are healthy for them. Some people CAN handle it -- good for them! It just seems like a sign of danger when someone says they're doing it because they need stress relief. My experience is that it did indeed do that, but that there was a cost to pay for suppression over a long period of time.
Within a couple of days of obtaining my prescription, I was back to smoking pot all throughout the day. Only now, I wasn't a single 18-year-old girl running around Manhattan without any real responsibilities. I was a wife, a mom, and I had a place in my community. I completely hid my pot smoking and began to live a double life.
When pot worked for me, it worked beautifully. When I was high, I could cope with the stress of new motherhood. There was something sweet about being stoned and totally in the moment with my baby. I felt like I could handle and even enjoy the relentless and demanding tasks of new motherhood. I rationalized my smoking by telling myself that I had a prescription, I wasn't harming anyone, and pot made me a better and happier mom. Just like in college, my life began to revolve around weed -- scoring it, smoking it, and maintaining my high. Smoking wasn't nearly as easy as it was back then, when I could lock myself in my dorm room. I had to make sure my son was sleeping, sneak outside, hide in a corner, and quickly smoke as much as possible, hoping my neighbors wouldn't see or smell me.
I was totally addicted. Physically or psychologically is just a matter of semantics, but I believe I was both. This seemingly benign herb had once again taken over my life. My tolerance increased and I needed more and more pot to produce the desired effect, so I began to supplement my pot smoking with pills and alcohol. Suddenly I was back full-force in my addiction. For me, pot is a gateway drug. It alters my mood, stops working, and ultimately leads me to seek out more powerful and effective substances.
I bottomed out again and came within millimeters of losing everything, all because I bought the "harmless and medicinal" propaganda. The stakes were much higher this time than when I first got sober at 20. The fact that I evaded child protective services or any real consequences is a product of sheer luck -- there are many women who have used drugs just the way I did and have completely lost their families because of their addiction.
I am not going to lie -- being a clean and sober mama isn't always easy. There are days when I am excruciatingly uncomfortable and would give anything to check out, just for an hour or two. My children challenge me on so many levels, and without any buffers, motherhood can feel overwhelming. But I remind myself that my kids deserve a clean and sober mom who is truly present. I believe that my sobriety offers them a realistic world view, as they have the opportunity to experience my humanness without the edges being hazed by the influence of marijuana...
Today I embrace the opportunity to teach my children healthier forms of self-soothing through example.
Thankfully, her addiction was resolved and her children remained safe. If you are suffering from a perinatal mood disorder and have not yet sought legal and helpful treatment from a professional, please find a physician or therapist educated in PMDs who you trust. Self-medicating almost always has disastrous results.