My sister is a pothead

Our mom was a prescription-drug addict, and now ... this is too much to take!

Published May 26, 2011 12:20AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am writing you about my twin sister. She is a full-out pothead. She smokes from the moment she awakens to just before bedtime. She is legal -- has a card. She uses the pot to quiet her persistent anxiety.

Here is the problem. My mother was a prescription-drug addict. I grew up with this morning to night seeking the next "hit." I have been forever scarred by witnessing this. NOW, the person I am closest to in the world is doing the same thing!

I went through a period of intense judgment of her. That has passed. Now I am simply wondering where my sister has gone. Our discussions, etc., are not the same.

She says she does this so she can be happy. I ask her to allow herself the freedom to not do it (on a daily basis).

Her husband is passive about the whole thing.

Why would a person use pot as if there is a physical addiction (when there is not one)?


Alone Again

Dear Alone Again,

I imagine that you and I are talking. Maybe we are sitting at your kitchen table and your twin sister comes over with her blurry persona, her slow, aloof, pothead's demeanor, and I notice your impatience with her. I feel how angry you are with her.

She doesn't seem to notice. She moves about the kitchen, getting a cup of coffee, looking a little sleepy and self-absorbed. She doesn't seem to notice your reaction but I wonder. Maybe she feels terrible about what she's doing but can't stop.

Your sister gives me a weird look, like What's he doing here? and walks into the living room and turns on the TV. You and I talk at the table.

First, I should say, though it doesn't often work, you should at least be honest with your sister upfront. Tell her you don't like her on pot, that you think she has a problem and should get help.

Is it physically addictive? What do you call it when you can't stop doing something that is causing harm? Is it an addiction, a compulsion, a bad habit? What does it matter? What matters is that her pot smoking causes you concern and you feel that you have lost her. So tell her.

Now for the truth about me.

The truth: I used to smoke pot a lot. What did I like about pot? Suddenly everything was so much brighter inside; the world looked so rich and warm and interesting! ButI had to quit and I'm glad I did. I just think it's really destructive in the long run. I have friends who smoke and they think it's fine but you can't convince me that pot isn't harmful.

There is something else we get from pot. We get to shut out the world. Your sister is shutting out the world. You are part of the world that she is shutting out.

We feel it when we are shut out. We don't like it.

A social critique can always be made that people do drugs to get things the world doesn't offer them. Maybe she has gone into herself to combat the endless soul-wearying distractions of the world.

Am I nothing but a distraction? you say. Wow, that hurts.

Yes, I say. Here is the important question: What are you going to do now? I suggest you accept the fact that your sister is gone. That is tough to accept. But you have lost her for now. She may come back. But for now, the person you love, she is gone.

You have to accept that. It is sad. I wish it weren't so. But it is. So how do we accept things that seem so wrong and so unnecessary and so stupid and cruel? There are ways. We notice the times we are angry about it. We notice when our shoulders go up. We watch for those times. We meditate about it and ask for acceptance. We try to let it go. We try to replace our anger and impatience with love and understanding.

Then there is that prayer, you know, the one that goes, "... grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

You might try muttering that under your breath the next time your sister forgets that she was going to pick you up to take you to the doctor and that she borrowed your sweater and now can't remember where she put it.

And let's be optimistic. Maybe she's just using it to get through something. Maybe she'll be back. Wait for her. But don't sit by the window all night.

Creative Getaway

What? You want more advice?


By Cary Tennis

MORE FROM Cary Tennis

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Since You Asked