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He’s Been Smoking Pot Half His Young Life

woman worrying on side of bed at night
Illustration © Eleanor Davis

Lucyzara didn't sleep all night, thinking about her son's pot use..

"today is our sons 24 birthday, last night I did not sleep at all, realizing that he has been using pot for half his life. he is in community college now and doing well. we are paying for an apartment, but trying hard to not pay for anything else, which is hard as he has a car and he needs it to get to school.

he is pleasant and loving and very respectful in that we never see him high. he does not do other drugs or abuse alcohol. he does smoke cigarettes. he has not been able to hold a job, he gets them and then they peter out after a few weeks. so he is totally broke all the time. he gets odd jobs and spends him money on "his weed" and cigarettes. and food and gas as well. he has bills piling up and is very stressed by this. he has a few friends whom he gets high with and no girlfriend for the past 3 years. he also got DUI for pot smoking as he told the officer that he was "really stoned".

we have a really good relationship and he loves to talk to me and tell me what is going on as I have been nonjudgmental and just listen. but this past weekend, at his grandparents' for Christmas, he was out of cigarettes and started talking about how much he needed a cigarette and I lost it and got upset for the first time in years. he felt terrible and said he hated being that guy who got me so upset. then he said. "why do I have an addictive personality?" he goes to therapy once and then stops. he does not want to stop smoking pot. he knows how it zaps his motivation and he is so full of rationalization. but mostly he says, 'life is short' and 'I like it.'

I don't know how worried to be and whether we should be doing something different. all we are doing is paying for school and rent. I am worried about hurting our good and loving relationship. but I am thinking that maybe I need to stop worrying about that and have school and rent come with more requirements. any thoughts would be appreciated. also, he does not smoke every day. he just spent 5 days with the family, weed and cigarette free. I was home working, worrying and not sleeping. they all had a great time. he cross country skied with his sisters and played chess with his grandfather. I am the one who is a wreck and wonder if I am overreacting. thanks!!!"

Pot today

Marijuana use can be difficult to categorize. The drug appears less harmful than alcohol and has fewer withdrawal symptoms. It is still, however, a powerful drug, made ever more so in its current manifestation. THC levels in the drug (the active chemical in cannabis) can be as low as 10-15% (more common in the drug of our youth) and as high as 80-90%.  Experts describe the pot of today as a completely different drug.

If I had to characterize pot users in one sentence I would describe them as observers of their own life. This passivity cripples ambition and motivation.

Your relationship with your son is unusually strong. That he shares with you and that you listen without judgment is the bridge we talk about building between family and Loved One. With this connection, your Loved One will come to you when it hurts.

Building the bridge and keeping it open

The bridge is often damaged or destroyed through conflict and frustration with drug use, or perhaps it never existed, but it is a primary goal of this work.

Your son has tried, but has not continued, seeing a therapist. Was the therapist not right for him? Are there resources in your area specific to marijuana? Resources specific to young people? You need to prepare that treatment list I often talk about. It needs to be at-the-ready for when he says to you: “I'm hurting.”

Your role is to keep that bridge open and be ready to have that talk about treatment when he signals a desire for change.

Should you take away your financial support?

The other part of your comment has to do with the resources you provide your son in the form of school fees and rent. Should you cut that back? Would that help?

The equation is relatively simple: more fixed expenses = less money for drugs.

Is it possible to make him responsible for a little more? Like the heat bill? It would be a shame to see him drop out of school. He is doing well and classes provide an important level of structure in his life. He struggles with keeping a job and with bills already. Perhaps you can tweak things a little, but not if it endangers the bridge between you.

Your son enjoyed 5 drug-free days with his family. Family matters to him and he is able to stop using in order to have that time together. That is important information.  This is the reward we talk about: the idea that you can put rewards in place that discourage use. In this case, the reward for drug-free was a time to feel love, and feel cared for by family, and to be reminded how good it can feel without the crutch of a drug.

One last comment: the cigarettes are worrisome but I suggest you put that problem aside to focus on the marijuana.  In responding your son, you want your actions to clearly line up with the drug use. Addressing cigarettes can muddle your focus.

Dealing with your own worry and stress is important. Obsessing about your son doesn’t help him or you. You need to be in good shape. Many of our posts, and the Sanctuary on this site, provide ways to help with this. So does Module 7. Focus equally on yourself and put more in place to help with your runaway thoughts. It’s exhausting to stay inside the vicious cycle of worry.

Thank you for writing in. May you enjoy real moments of peace in the New Year.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Hi Dominique! I just had breakfast with my loved one who is in deep denial about his pot addiction. It is how we get together these days. I listen and he talks about his life, which he is not happy with at all right now, feeling lonely and isolated and complaining about everything. If I say anything about his daily pot use and how it is affecting anything that he is talking about, he starts to get very upset with me. Today I realized that it is not doing me any good to meet with him like this. To just listen and keep my mouth shut about my own feelings makes me feel crazy and I do not feel like we are having a genuine human interaction. I know that the craft method is about having good family experiences that are sober. While he is adhering to this, and not being high when we meet, I am still feeling terrible after our get togethers. I don’t know what I should be doing at this point. I am tired of paying for breakfast and listening to his crazy talk about how he is getting better, totally ignoring his daily pot use and not saying anything. I spoke up today and it went poorly and I just started crying and walked out. Do I keep having these breakfasts with him as they are the only time we see each other or do I tell him that I cannot right now. They are not good for me and by extension I think they are not good for him. I would love some ideas. He does show up for family gatherings and that is usually lovely. Thanks!!

    1. Your earlier comment on this blog explains that pot and cigarettes are what your son uses. You didn’t mention the cigarettes in this question. Good. For now, let’s focus on the pot.

      I would hate to see your breakfasts go away. This is the time you connect with your son. You didn’t say that he was high at breakfast, just that he is complaining of aspects of his life. You suspect these are the symptoms of pot smoking: being lonely and isolated.

      The last breakfast went badly with you running out crying. Your son gets angry when you mention the pot use when he complains about his life.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response t lucyzara here: