Dealing marijuana put me through college but ruined my relationship

My girlfriend became suspicious and went through my stuff!

Published December 20, 2006 12:40PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I'm 25, and a recent college graduate. I come from a working-class family, so as far as paying for college, I was pretty much on my own. As a result, I began subsidizing my income early in my college career by distributing marijuana. I was fairly successful with it, and eventually became very involved in it. Dealing became basically a full-time job and my primary source of financial support. Fortunately, I was able to graduate with a minimum of debt and without getting myself into any sort of legal trouble.

For about the past two years I dated a woman whom I really cared about, but I was very secretive about the source of my income, for lots of different reasons. I never felt that I could trust her with information that could have such severe consequences for me. I also kept it from her because she most certainly would have disapproved. Because I had to keep so much from her I felt like I was living two lives. Even though she never really knew what was going on, she was very suspicious of my behavior. During our relationship she would constantly accuse me of cheating on her (I never did) and even searched through my cellphone and house looking for evidence of infidelity.

When she searched through my cellphone and house, I freaked out and broke up with her. Now I feel like I overreacted and am completely miserable without her.

For quite a while I had been really unhappy keeping secrets from her and I decided I wanted to change things and try to repair our relationship, so I told her everything. At the same time I dropped all my illegal activities and cut all my ties with my former business associates. It's been almost two months and now she barely will even talk to me, but on the rare occasions that she does she has said that she is thinking about me. She is not my first serious relationship, but I love her very much and don't want to give up on her.

Help! Is my relationship with her over, or is there something I can do?

Former Dealer

Dear Former Dealer,

I think your relationship with her is over.

Too much damage has been done.

Think of it from her perspective.

You put her at risk. Was she ever in the passenger seat while there was marijuana in the trunk? What if you had been arrested while she was with you? She might have been taken into custody as a presumed accomplice. She had a right to know, without necessarily knowing all the details, that being with you put her at risk, so she could make up her own mind about how much time to spend with you.

So it was a fundamental breach of trust. What you did was pretty bad, from her point of view.

Now you've done a good thing. You've quit the marijuana business. But it's probably too late to build trust with her.

So what you need to do now is two things: You need to find a line of work similar to marijuana distribution, only legal. Then you need to find a new girlfriend you don't have to lie to.

You will face many obstacles. The obstacles will be emotional and practical. There will be many short-term incentives to pull you back into dealing. It may help you to picture what these incentives and obstacles are so you will recognize them when they arise.

One immediate obstacle is how losing your girlfriend and your source of income at the same time can make it hard to think straight. It's very stressful, and stress is dangerous and damaging. You may find yourself wanting to strike out by engaging in reckless and self-destructive behavior.You may feel beset by overwhelming feelings of anger and regret. It may seem like a good idea to say to hell with it and really fuck things up.

You may well feel like, "Fuck it, I might as well go back to dealing." At least your business connections are dependable, they trust you and have respect for the risks you are taking. They, at least, won't walk out on you.

But if you go back to dealing, you will be right back where you started: Unable to have an honest relationship with anyone. Basically alone with your secrets, living in fear of arrest.

And there's this: Even if you yourself are determined to change your life, your former associates may not be so happy with your decision. Your departure creates problems for them. They have to create new networks. There will be new people eager to take your place, of course. But they may not be the people your former associates would prefer to deal with. Even if they are, they will have to learn the operation. (I doubt that you left a detailed written job description that your replacement can refer to when he needs to know who gets what when and for how much, who can be depended upon and who can't.) So your former associates will blame you for the headaches that your departure causes. They may wish to impose penalties.

There are common-sense reasons for those who operate outside the law to be concerned when someone who knows their routines, their customers and their connections decides to resign. Not to mention, of course, there exist strong financial incentives for you to return to your former enterprise, as you may have saved some money but probably not enough to live in your accustomed manner for more than a few months or a year.

For those reasons, I think that if you try to quit the dealing business without an alternative plan for legal income the lure of falling back into dealing will be great. So you need a plan.

The most sensible plan is to use your experience in marijuana sales and distribution to go into sales and distribution of something legal, like, say, DVDs, game consoles or maybe motorcycles. Think of a product that appeals to the same demographic you are accustomed to selling to and whose sales and distribution methods are similar. (Then make sure the product is legal to sell in the U.S.) I don't know whether your strengths are in the logistics end or the selling end. You do say that you became a marijuana "distributor" so maybe it was your talent for logistics that brought you success -- that and the fact that you are able to be cautious and secretive about your activities.

In addition to sales and distribution, your talents might also appeal to the law-enforcement community. Strange but not impossible. You might consider espionage or intelligence -- although a thorough background check of the kind conducted by, say, the FBI might eliminate you from consideration -- even though you have no criminal convictions.

However, your former associates might take umbrage at your new career and attempt to abruptly terminate your employment.

So maybe sales and distribution of DVDs and video game players is a better bet.

Much more could and no doubt will be said about the psychological, legal, cultural, moral and legislative aspects of your situation.

But the basic points are these: 1) This relationship is over. 2) You need to find a legal job.

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